In some areas in your life, you may convince yourself to disregard what others think about you. But, when it comes to your personal brand, the impression you leave on others is one of the most significant decision-makers between success and failure.

There are plenty of ways to ignite positive vibes from your audience. Alternatively, there are many ways to rub your potential fan base the wrong way. With the 2012 Olympic games in full swing, I couldn’t help but to notice my feelings towards certain athletes. It is safe to say that they each portray themselves in a certain light, some more likeable than others. I began to notice which personalities drew me in and which left me disappointed.

Whether we like to believe it or not, competition surrounds us in many aspects of life. You may find yourself competing with co-workers at work or competing to keep up with the Jones’ at home. In any competition, some come out on top, while others fall short. By learning how to handle your shortcomings with class, your personal brand can be positively affected.

Let’s take a look at the competition between U.S. Olympic swimmers, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte as an example:

Phelps and Lochte were one of the most anticipated rivalries going into the 2012 Olympics. In comparison to the Beijing games, people believed that this was the year another athlete, particularly from the U.S., would give Phelps a run for his money.

Phelps won eight gold medals in the Beijing games, yet Lochte admitted to an inexistence of friction between him and the swimming powerhouse. In fact, he stated, “I don’t really have any enemies. Michael is my competitor. Me and him have created a great rivalry, but at the same time, we’ve created a great friendship. And win or lose, after the race, we’re still going to be friends.”

So, when Lochte struck from the get-go and defeated Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley, what was Michael Phelps’ feelings towards the front runner? Following the race, Phelps tweeted, “Congrats to @ryanlochte … Way to keep that title in the country where it belongs!!”

Five days later, Phelps gained revenge by taking swimming faster in the 200-meter individual medley and winning the gold medal.

There is a lot to be said for the Olympic athletes who commit to a grueling training regimen for years, fall short of their goals, yet walk away with their heads held high. With their fair share of losses, the swimmers’ visible disappointment was only in themselves and never towards one another.

One thing is clear, there is no animosity in this rivalry. Their respect towards one another gains the respect of their audience. Regardless of their records, their good sportsmanship facilitates a likeable personal brand.

The lesson here is that friendly competition in your professional world is a good thing as it motivates us and boosts our productivity levels. The best part is, whether you “win” or “lose,” you can always come out on top when it comes to strengthening your personal brand by being a good sport and acknowledging the accomplishments of your competitors.