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The 2000 Sydney Olympics single sculls gold medallist, who speaks at a Queenstown event today, said sportsmen and women often strive for a single goal.
"You know what date it’s going to be and you know what you need to do to win or to be successful — it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to do it, but you know what that is.
"The interesting thing I’ve found coming out [of sport] is there are so many different things you can do but not all of them are going to be successful.
"And that’s a challenge to all of us in life — to find what you’re good at but, most importantly, find what you might be brilliant at."
Mr Waddell (42) has moved into sports administration, business and public speaking. He is one of the drawcards for today’s Chamber of Commerce Business and Banter event.
Speakers at the $220-a-ticket session, being held at The Winehouse, Gibbston, include political commentator Duncan Garner, entrepreneur-turned-politician Gareth Morgan, All Blacks manager Darren Shand and Icebreaker founder Jeremy Moon.
Mr Waddell — who runs a thoroughbred horse farm near Cambridge with his wife, Sonia Scown, another Olympic rower — has spent a long time in high-level sport, including grinding on America’s Cup yachts.
He said work ethic, quality, mental application, teamwork and leadership used in sport can also apply to business.
"Work ethic in a rowing boat is very different to work ethic in business, but they both require the same thing.
"Tenacity is very important in business as it is in sport, too."