When I was sixteen, I was focused on boys, clothes, makeup, hair, boys and… boys.
At the age of sixteen, Melissa Wu however was focused on catapulting her tiny 5 foot nothing frame, off a 10-metre-high platform into a little swimming pool of water with perfect precision, on the world stage, making her the youngest Australian ever to win an Olympic medal at Diving. Yep, there was definitely something “different” about this girl and it wasn’t a flash in the pan.
Fast forward twelve years to the age of 27 and Wu was still winning medals, this time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It’s fair to say her determination and perseverance are impressive. But throw in a handful of serious injuries along the way including a fractured left arm and a back injury, and her story becomes even more noteworthy.
Another two years on and Wu is now 29 years old, a four-time-Olympian and this year a competitor in the 2022 SAS Australia TV Series, an experience Wu describes as the most rewarding experience she has ever had, apart from the Olympics.
But here’s the part you probs didn’t know. Wu happens to run three small businesses on the side. She co-owns a strength and weightlifting club with her brother Joshua. She also co-owns The Australian Dive Academy with her friend and fellow Olympic diver Kevin Chavez, and she runs her own activewear company called Havok Athletic. Um… wow! And I thought making my own lunch today was a real win.
So, this week Ms Wu got me wondering. Is it possible that she has managed to translate her phenomenal drive and discipline into her business world and if so, how has she navigated this so brilliantly? And more to the point, what can we all learn from Wu that will whip us into better versions of ourselves, living our lives to our maximum potential?
It was this week in particular that Wu had my attention, since she made headlines for suffering an injury during filming for SAS Australia, injuring her back once more and thrusting her future as a professional diver into question. With the July Commonwealth Games fast approaching, another injury is the last thing Wu needs right now as she hopes to defend her reigning Gold Medal title in the 10m Individual platform event. If this is out, then so too could be the 2024 Paris Olympics. Surely this would be enough to rattle her? Surely, she’d be threatening to sue the Seven Network, hire every medical expert under the sun, burst into tears at every given moment, have round the clock masseuses, order in a team of savvy business back up people to manage things while Wu scans Netflix for something inspiring like Chariots of Fire or Marley and Me.
But no, Ms Wu just gets on with it. No histrionics. No stomping of the foot. Not even a block of chocolate or a bowl of ice cream in sight. Who is this woman??? And how do I get this mysterious calm, collected attitude she has?
In one of her many media interviews this week about her recent injury and potential forced retirement from the one thing she has known and loved her entire life (literally, she began diving competitively at the age of 10) Wu has been quoted as saying “I am trying to manage it the best I can. It has been trial and error with things that do and don’t work. The frustrating part is we are treating it the way we have in the past but it isn’t responding well so I am not really sure what will happen.” And the funny thing is, I suspect she approaches her businesses with the same pragmatic attitude. I mean seriously, the woman has been able to stay at the top of her physical game among the best in the world since her teens; that’s not something that happens by accident.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she recently spoke about her strategy moving forward from here. She said “It is a fine line with how much I can push it so I am taking it day by day. I am not hugely confident that it will get better because it has been five months now. It is a physical issue but if it doesn’t get better, it becomes a mental challenge to try and overcome that.”
If we break that down and apply that to our own strategies – to our careers, families, and juggling our lives in general, then it essentially means this: Take it a day at a time, let go of expectations, assess your challenges wisely and use your head! Turns out the little Wu factor has a giant lesson for all of us.