5 Lessons From Lutalo Muhammad’s Keynote at EngageX Europe 2021

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At Bullhorn EngageX Europe 2021, the online conference experience, a thousand recruitment industry professionals came together for a day of conversations, insights, and learning about the trends shaping the industry and how technology plays a crucial role in running and growing a recruitment business.

Our keynote headliner, Lutalo Muhammad, British Taekwondo Olympic Medallist, took the (virtual) mainstage at EngageX Europe, sharing his unique experiences and perspectives with attendees. Lutalo drew on his Olympic career to discuss turning adversity into opportunity, following your passion, and capitalising on your skills and strengths in the new world of work.

Read on for a recap of Lutalo’s EngageX Europe 2021 keynote, including five lessons he’s learned throughout his Taekwondo career.

It’s not about how you start. It’s how you finish.

Lutalo’s first competition took place when he was seven years old; he was so nervous that he threw up as he approached the ring. His father took him aside and taught him an invaluable life lesson: nerves are nothing to shy away from and nervous energy can be channelled and directed into the fight. Lutalo ended up winning his first competition and never looked back. 

“It’s not about how you start. It’s how you finish,” Lutalo said in his EngageX Europe keynote address. “Don’t worry about how you start your journey. There will be bumps, and it’s never going to look perfect. If you keep persevering, you’ll get where you need to go.”

Coming from a family of black belts in Martial Arts, Lutalo noted that his core motivation at the beginning of his Taekwondo career was his parents and the sacrifices they made for him during his training. He added, “Those early sacrifices laid the foundation to live the life I have today.”

Visualise your goals, write them down, and be clear about what you want to do.

Watching the Taekwondo Final at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000 ignited Lutalo’s dream to become an Olympic Games Champion. He recalled, “My dad leaned over to me and said, ‘You could do this one day. You could go to the Olympic Games and win’.”

When Lutalo was nine, he drew his dream on a piece of paper titled, ‘Olympic Champion 2016.’ As it turns out, Lutalo would win Silver at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. “I never thought about the Olympics not happening. I felt like it was my destiny,” Lutalo said.

“I never had any doubts; it was almost like a given,” he added, remembering that he used to sign autographs in school and tell everyone that he was going to the Olympics someday. “I’m here today because of the power of visualising: visualising your goals, writing them down, being clear about what you want to do. I had tunnel vision for what I wanted. When you apply that to yourself, you’ll attract the people and the tools you need.”

Focus on what you can control.

11 years after he started competing, Lutalo made it to Great Britain’s Olympic team. Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, significant media coverage surrounded Lutalo, putting additional pressure on him to bring home a Gold medal. He even trained with loudspeakers playing crowd noises to prepare him for his Olympic matches.

Looking back on this time in his career, Lutalo recalls preparing for and competing in the 2012 Olympics, in which he took home a Bronze medal, advising: “Focus on what you can control, block out the noise, and do what you have to do.”

Difficult times create strong people.

At those 2012 Olympic Games, Lutalo learned a valuable lesson: “Difficult times create strong people.” After losing his final match in his hometown of London and taking home the Bronze medal, he remembers feeling defeated and wanting to quit the sport altogether. 

“My first Olympics taught me a lot about myself, about focusing on what I can control, and going all-in on any opportunity you get,” he remembers. 

While going home with a Bronze medal wasn’t what Lutalo initially wanted, his coach urged him to focus on the positives: “treat your Bronze medal as if it was a Gold medal.” He channeled this message into preparing for the next Olympics, determined to learn from his previous experiences.

When new opportunities come, be prepared to pivot quickly.

In the build-up to the 2020 Olympics, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lutalo remained focused on his goal to bring home a Gold medal. But after sustaining an injury during the qualification tournament, he could not qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Instead, he was faced with a new opportunity: join the British media as an analyst for Taekwondo matches at the very Olympics he was training for. 

He resolved to put the same passion into his new Olympic role that he would have put into competing. After a successful Tokyo Olympics as an analyst, Lutalo is turning his attention to the Paris 2024 Olympics: “Even if it doesn’t happen, and a new opportunity does come, I will be prepared to pivot quickly.”

To close out his EngageX Europe keynote, Lutalo summarised what he’s learned during the most recent phase of his career: “When new opportunities come, be prepared to pivot quickly. Accept the reality of the situation, lean into it, and make the best out of it. Be ready to pivot, recognise that plans change, and grasp new opportunities. Take the bull by the horns.”


Thank you to all attendees, speakers, and sponsors who made Bullhorn EngageX Europe 2021 an incredible and unforgettable experience. For more highlights from EngageX Europe, check out our full event recap.


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