Five Career Lessons From Lance and Tiger

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Everyone makes mistakes. You can’t go through life without making some poor choices and then having to live with the consequences. Bloomberg Business News, in an article, "Can Livestrong Live Without Lance?” asked the question whether the scandal concerning Lance Armstrong’s use of performance enhancing drugs will cause the demise of his foundation as well as his career. 


While the article goes on to explore the consequences to the foundation and whether or not it can survive the impact of the scandal, there are a number of valuable lessons for non-athletes and non-celebrities who don’t live in the public eye. Armstrong’s downfall an excellent example of how personal choices can have a tremendous impact on our credibility. Not only has Lance Armstrong been stripped of his titles, former sponsors are abandoning ship. 


A career can span 30 or 40 years. The wrong choice at any point along the way can cut short a promising career, lifestyle and dream of retirement. 


  1. A wrong choice can overshadow enormous talent. Lance Armstrong obviously was a talented athlete and cyclist. Whether he would have won all those titles without doping will never be known. In a competitive job market, it is often tempting to enhance your resume by stretching an employment date, a job title or degree. Falsifying information on a job application or resume has brought down heads of universities and corporations. If you don’t have the qualifications, making them up to look qualified can and will backfire at some point in time. When it does, your real credentials won’t matter as much as your lack of honesty and integrity.
  2. The company can live without you. Don’t think that you can’t be replaced. There are hundreds of qualified job seekers willing and able to take your place. Companies create succession plans to prepare to replace key employees for various reasons or on a time schedule. 
  3. Leaders who “fall from grace” can tarnish the company as well. The company’s reputation and standing in the community and industry may trump your long service and positive contributions. Employees forget they are company ambassadors. Leaders can become the company brand, just as much as their products or services.
  4. The world is watching. The internet and social media make it easy to spread a story across the globe in minutes. The media loves a good scandal. You can become a “celebrity” with a few clicks and posts. That kind of negative publicity can reach an employer before your resume, cancelling your chance for an interview.
  5. Reputation is everything. Andre Agassi made commercials featuring the phrase, “Image is Everything,” a classic slogan for Canon cameras. Lance Armstrong created an image of a winner, but forgot that what really matters is reputation. Tiger Woods stunned the golf world when his secret personal life unraveled in full view of a shocked world audience. Regardless of their extraordinary talent and accomplishments, their previous reputation may be lost forever.


Poor choices can end a career. Leaders who make the wrong choices and stay may still have a job but can suffer the loss of respect of their peers, staff and company employees. The best career choice is to be yourself and capitalize on your strengths. Take advantage of opportunities to improve your skills and education. Make peace with your shortcomings. You may not take first prize every time, but you’ll be able to hold on to your honest achievements.


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