Entrepreneurship and sports might seem like two vastly different arenas, but there’s a remarkable synergy between the two. In fact, there are compelling reasons why all entrepreneurs should embrace their inner athlete.
1. Getting Comfortable being Uncomfortable:
When we’re taking part in team sports or training for an individual event, achieving results means pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We must push ourselves and stress the body and the mind to see results. If completing a marathon felt as easy as a short jog around the neighborhood, then everyone would do it and we wouldn’t derive such satisfaction from accomplishing a “reach” goal.
Entrepreneurs are constantly operating in a zone of discomfort as the path towards success is rarely defined. We make decisions in the midst of uncertainty and we understand that setbacks and challenges are an integral part of the journey. By adopting an athlete’s resilience, we can remain focused and determined in the face of adversity.
2. Goal Setting and Time Management:
Both athletes and entrepreneurs set ambitious goals and work relentlessly to achieve them. The discipline required to set, pursue, and achieve goals is a valuable trait that athletes bring to entrepreneurship. Moreover, athletes adhere to strict training schedules, optimizing their time to ensure they reach their peak performance. As entrepreneurs, we must prioritize tasks and remain laser focused on our key objectives in the midst of never-ending distractions.
3. It’s All About the Team:
There’s a reason that team slide in an investor deck is strategically placed upfront. It’s all about the team and its ability to execute on the business vision. Oftentimes the initial business concept or vision changes and having a team that’s well-equipped to pivot and adapt is critical for future success. Team sports teach athletes the importance of collaboration and effective communication in the midst of adversity and a constantly changing environment. The ability to lead, motivate, and collaborate with a diverse set of individuals is a skill honed on both the field and in the office. The right team builds off of each other, creating an outcome that’s far greater than the sum of the individual parts.
4. Handling Pressure and Decision-Making:
The pressure of performing in high-stakes situations is familiar to athletes. Whether it’s a game-winning shot or a crucial race, athletes learn to manage pressure and make split-second decisions. Entrepreneurs face similar pressure when making critical business decisions. An athlete’s composure can be a game-changer in the high-pressure world of entrepreneurship.
5. Health and Well-being:
Athletes prioritize their physical and mental health, understanding that peak performance relies on both. Sadly, many entrepreneurs often neglect their health due to demanding schedules or the poorly-conceived notion that all-nighters are a true badge of their commitment. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t survive, let alone thrive in the marathon that is building a business if you’re sick, burned out or worse. Adopting an athlete’s approach to self-care can lead to better decision-making, increased productivity, and overall success.
6. Sources of Strength:
Launching and scaling a startup is filled with tremendous highs and lows. Oftentimes, we can look to our athletic accomplishments as a source of strength during those trying times. When faced with a business challenge, I think back to the year when I trained for and raced in an Ironman triathlon. Previously, I didn’t know how to swim (I used to hide in the woods during summer camp instructional swim) and as a former collegiate baseball player, I had never needed to bike or run more than a few miles. I trained 20 hours a week for over a year while working around the clock for Goldman Sachs and I crossed the finish line with an enormous sense of accomplishment and belief in myself. As entrepreneurs, we can leverage our own unique successes and look to them as a source of confidence and strength and confidence whenever we need it most.
I also learned to enjoy the ride. The destination is but a small percentage of the overall time invested – be it the months or years training for a single day’s event or the years invested in scaling a small business towards profitability or an exit.
The correlation between entrepreneurship and athleticism is more than a mere analogy—it’s a winning formula. The traits cultivated through sports are directly transferable to the entrepreneurial arena. While not every entrepreneur needs to be an athlete, adopting an athlete’s mindset can contribute to a more successful and fulfilling entrepreneurial journey.