There are many uncanny parallels between the world of business and the world of professional sports. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that famous athletes are often hired as motivational speakers for corporate events and company team building initiatives. It is also quite possibly the reason that many former pro athletes transition to entrepreneurship after retiring from their particular sport.
Professional athletes may not initially seem to have a lot in common with the corporate executives who button up their suits and work in a highrise for 80 hours a week, but they actually display many of the same skills and personality traits as successful businesspeople do—including tenacity, drive, discipline, competitiveness, and resilience.
These skills and traits are sometimes genetic, but most often they are a result of determination and lots of practice. Mental strength is as important in professional athletics as it is in more cerebral industries. In fact, many business owners and founders could learn a lot from the mindset of an athlete.
Here are 10 important lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from professional athletes:
- Investing in your health is crucial. Professional athletes teach us that taking care of our bodies is extremely important. No matter what your profession, it is much harder to be mentally disciplined or to achieve your goals if your physical body is feeling tired, burned out or undernourished. As an entrepreneur, it might feel easy to sacrifice your own health in order to put in those extra hours or meet that next benchmark, but in the long run it isn’t worth it. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first.
- Setting incremental goals is critical for success. Athletes build their physical strength and agility slowly over time then work hard to maintain and upkeep it. In the business world, straining too hard or shooting too high might actually be counterproductive. If you want your entrepreneurial success to be sustainable, you have to set small manageable goals for yourself and then scale up.
- You need support. It goes without saying that professional athletes need to learn how to work with their support system—whether that be teammates, family, friends, coaches, agents or managers. Professional athletes have mastered the skills of collaboration, trust, and communication, and these skills can be directly applied to the business world, especially to small companies and startups. Entrepreneurs sometimes feel they need to do it all alone and wear all the hats in their business. The reality is that they could likely outsource some of the burden—even if it is simply the emotional or psychological burden of running a business—and both they and their company would be better off for it.
- Keep your eye on the ball. Professional athletes need to perform at their highest skill level in the midst of noisy crowds, distractions from the competition, and the psychological pressure from friends, fans and managers. They learn how to keep their eye on the ball and remain calm and focused under pressure in order to achieve their goals. It can be easy to get distracted by the stock market, the economy, the competition or even the next big business opportunity as an entrepreneur, but it is important to stay connected with your priorities and your long-term vision.
- It’s okay to fail. Most athletes are intimately familiar with failure. In order to achieve success in the sports world, athletes have to overcome many obstacles, including their own physical pain and mental limitations. Business leaders who have created successful brands also say they experienced a lot of failure and many setbacks before they finally found a solution that worked for them.
- Schedules = success. Athletes have rigorous training and practice schedules that they follow religiously in order to help them meet their goals. As an entrepreneur, your schedule may feel flexible or inconsistent, but it is important to set boundaries for yourself and work in time blocks so that you can maximize productivity and minimize burnout.
- The details matter. In professional sports, a sliver of a second or a minor miscalculation of an angle can determine the outcome of a game. Because of this, athletes train themselves to pay minute attention to detail and to be extremely precise when acting or reacting. Learning to be detail-oriented, especially if it does not come naturally to you, can lead to major payoffs in the world of business.
- Flow state is crucial. Studies have found that achieving “flow state” is critical to making enormous breakthroughs and meeting goals. When athletes are in flow during training or a game, they can keep calm and clear headed even under pressure and push their bodies to the max. This type of meditative flow state is also important in business, especially when stakes or the goals are set very high.
- Don’t forget to celebrate. Athletes celebrate their victories with teammates and supporters, and take the time to acknowledge their big wins. In business, it is important to celebrate your successes, however small, and use your victories as a way to inspire you toward the next goal.
- Take time off. Professional athletes have an off-season and an on-season. That means there are times in their life when they are extremely busy and focused, and other times when they prioritize training, maintenance and strategizing for the next season. As an entrepreneur, make sure you schedule time off for yourself so that you can regroup and prevent the burnout that so often comes along with running a business.
Entrepreneurs and founders can learn a lot from the habits and lifestyle choices of pro athletes. By applying these concepts to their work and developing skills such as focus under pressure and the acceptance of failure, entrepreneurs can dramatically improve their well being as well as their businesses outcomes.
Athlete on Demand connects organizations with motivational sports celebrities for a range of events and speaking engagements. We empower current and retired professional athletes transitioning to entrepreneurship by eliminating middle men like booking agents and giving athletes more control over their business careers.