Tallying up my close group of friends – successful entrepreneurs in their own rights, we have a regional hockey player, an NZ swimming representative, three volleyball players – two of whom played for NZ, and myself, a national champion in Canoe Polo – yes, that sport really does exist! We are not friends through our love of sport or a particularly healthy lifestyle, we have naturally gravitated through networking and enjoying each other’s company. It just so happens that we are all business owners and have played competitive sports at an elite level – so why does sporting achievement and business success go hand in hand?
There are many parallels in competitive sports and business. Both are disciplines that require a great deal of hard work, continual self-improvement and perseverance. The athlete, once stereotyped for their masculinity, meaty shoulders, and not much in between possesses the desired traits of a successful entrepreneur.
They’re prepared for the input to achieve
We all want to be the best at what we do, but how many of us are prepared to train at 5 am every day in the cold and damp to compete for an annual title? Athletes! Natural talent and skill will only get you so far. Success comes from behind the scenes and through dedication and continual hard work to always perform better. We can all see the big goals, but success will only come with the willingness to complete the small tasks to get there.
“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” – Biz Stone
Competitive and mentally tough
Competitiveness is second nature to an athlete but that alone is not enough; it’s the confidence to believe you can achieve what you want to. Vigorous training and strict discipline mentally prepares the individual for life’s challenges. Athletes can endure great pressure and still perform.
I’m sure my friends, like myself, would like to spend their time relaxing over a Sunday training session and competing across the country. Just not quite enough to dampen the passion of being part of a team, competing and succeeding. You need drive and passion to achieve in sports as you do in business. Be the best at what you do, enjoy it and always look for ways to improve.
They are willing to take risks and are prepared for the failure
What do Michael Jordan and Lionel Messi have in common? They have missed in times of pressure resulting in a big loss for their team. Yet, they are still considered the best achievers in history in their chosen game. Taking a risk could cost your match, but as every successful business owner will tell you, you have to expose yourself to failure in order to achieve. Athletes do not have time to dwell on the last failure as they may miss the next opportunity.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Unless you excelled in singles tennis, a sport is generally a social event that requires spending a lot of time forming relationships with different personalities. You may not all get along, but the disagreements are left on the sideline and the focus is on the greater good of the team.
They see the strengths and weaknesses in themselves and others and use that to their advantage
Everyone has a part to play in the team. Your tactics are based on strategy and your formations are based on systems. The systems are based on the functions of the team and those functions are based on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual. Each member of the team must perform their duty to cohesively succeed.
Make mistakes and learn
If something doesn’t work, learn from your mistakes and change your tactic. In sport and business, there is always another chance and an opportunity for redemption. When you’re exposed to competitive sports there’s no place for self-doubt, second questioning and blaming others. It doesn’t have a place in business either. You’re responsible for its success and you’re responsible for its failure. Deal with both!
“One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes” – Richard Branson.
A team player is an obvious trait in a successful business, the difference between a team player and a person playing on a team is their ability to drive an idea into an aligned vision and goal. Athletes know what they have to do to perform at their best and they also know what’s best for the team.