October 11, 2023

Meet the BETA Camp alumni on track to qualify for the Olympics

Lindsey Schiller
Growth Marketing
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What is "mind over matter?"

If you’ve ever watched figure skating at the Olympics, you’ve probably seen some gut-wrenching performances where a skater fell on an early jump, and just couldn’t get their act together for the rest of the program. It’s painful to watch. I know these skaters have performed clean programs hundreds of times. They wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t. So how can an athlete at the top of their physical game completely crash out?

Because they lost their focus — for a split second. And once your focus is gone, there is no amount of physical preparedness that can save you.

This is “mind over matter”. Today, I’m excited to introduce you a BETA Camp alumni who absolutely crushes this concept.

How Mark Zeng became a nationally-ranked swimmer

Mark Zeng splits his time between two countries — Hong Kong, where he was born, and the UK, where he attends school. He’s a top-ranked swimmer in both countries: the third-fastest breaststroker in Hong Kong (and a member of the national team) and the second-fastest in the UK.

“I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember,” says Mark. He learned to swim at a young age, but as he got older, he realized that he wasn’t just good at this sport — it was his passion.

Making the decision to pursue swimming seriously wasn’t one Mark took lightly. “Coming from my Asian background, the pressure to succeed academically is very high,” says Mark. “Culturally and in my family, swimming is seen as a distraction from my academics.”

It was a big risk: what if he pursued swimming and it didn’t work out? “I think that’s just part of pursuing your passion,” says Mark. Doing something big can be scary — it comes with the territory. 

From elite swimmer to entrepreneur

While Mark was...

  • Taking risks
  • Breaking conventions
  • Betting on himself 

…he was also building up all the characteristics of another skill: entrepreneurship. As a part of BETA Camp’s Summer 2023 cohort, he built his app, Fittma Pro, in just 4 weeks. Through entrepreneurship, he was able to combine his love of sports and business. Fittma is a tool that helps elite athletes create meal plans optimized for their fitness goals, at a fraction of the cost of a professional nutritionist.

“Nutrition is very, very important,” says Mark. “It’s a problem I face personally, and one I believe a lot of student-athletes do as well.” He’s right: After just 2 days, Fittma already had 6 paying customers and 30 more on the waitlist, from word of mouth alone.

Mark plans to focus on school and college applications for the moment, but he hopes to continue running his business in the future. In the meantime, Mark is getting ready to compete in the Asian Games next March — and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

How to reach Olympic levels of excellence in anything you do

At the highest levels of a sport, even a hundredth of a second can make the difference between winning and losing. With such steep competition, the greatest tool an athlete has in their toolbox is their mind. According to a 2003 study, mental ability contributed to over 50% of an athlete’s success when competing against others. 

That’s why it’s so important to believe in yourself.

“If you want to succeed… you can’t be thinking about failing,” says Mark. “You really do have to believe that you can do it, even if no one else does. Otherwise, it won’t work.”

Whether your dreams are competing in the Olympics, winning an Oscar or building the next unicorn, the skills you need are the same. Here are the most important ones to master: 

1. Strengthen your dedication muscle.

Reaching elite levels of any skill isn’t a cakewalk. It requires a willingness to:

  • Wake up earlier than most of your peers
  • Train or work at your goal for hours each day
  • Do it all again the next day, without fail

Even Usain Bolt, widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time, admits that there are “days when you just want to stop and you just want to give up.” So how do you keep pushing when the going gets tough? Mark suggests doing a little mental time travel:

“Let’s say I stopped and gave up during a practice,” says Mark. “If I lose in my next race, I do not want to wonder, ‘If I had just pushed a little harder at that session, would I have won?’”

2. Assemble a support squad.

The moment Mark knew he wanted to take swimming seriously was when he realized he had so many people rooting for him: his friends, his teachers, and his coaches. How do you assemble a support squad?

  • Talk to (or study) people who have done it before.
  • Find friends who share the same goals and ambitions you do.
  • Find a mentor who believes in you and wants to see you succeed.

“In anything you do, you’re gonna need people around you that will tell you to keep going,” says Mark.

3. Build the solutions you need.

Nutritionists are expensive, and Mark was busy. He didn’t have time to plan out his meals, but he also knew that his diet was holding him back. He could’ve given up... Instead, Mark built an app that does all the hard work of meal-planning for him, at a fraction of the cost. Check out his BETA Camp Demo Day pitch below!

Rather than making excuses, he built the solutions he needed (with a little help from his pal, AI). Get creative about how you support yourself on the road to success. You might just make something that helps others, too.

4. Manage your time.

Mark is living proof that it’s possible to…

  • Be an elite athlete
  • Get good grades
  • Start a business 

…all while getting enough sleep, too. How does he manage it?

“Stay organized and have really good time management,” says Mark.

Mark uses a digital calendar and sticks to a basic schedule each day, so he can make sure he’s attending to all of his priorities. The last thing you want to do is waste valuable brain space trying to keep track of your priorities. The more organized you are, the more you can focus on being your best. 💯

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