Athletics and Entrepreneurship are parallel roads on the path of life. I know this first-hand because I'm a former collegiate basketball player turned entrepreneur, who graduated with an English degree and zero formal business experience. As it turns out, sports cultivated the necessary mentality to become a successful entrepreneur. Practical business knowledge and skills were acquired later through experience and self-education.
According to an article by Pat Sullivan on Entrepreneur.com, "one of the greatest lessons of sport is that a player's failure quotient or FQ is more important than the IQ." In basketball, even the best shooters experience shooting slumps -- but their moxie allows them to shoot themselves out of the funk. Likewise, every successful entrepreneur has endured some type of setback along the way, whether it's an unsuccessful product launch or an ineffective business model -- but they were resilient and learned from their failures.
Sports Breeds Mental Toughness. Mental toughness is the ability to psychologically endure pressure, while still performing at peak efficiency. During preseason, my daily routine was mentally and physically rigorous. My 15-hour days consisted of strenuous 5:30am team workouts, weight-lifting, classes, individual skill development, and mandatory study hall. Although preseason was challenging, the experience psychologically prepped me for life as an entrepreneur and the possibility of 60+ hour work weeks.
Athletics Teaches Systems Thinking. In basketball, we had a series of offensive plays -- this was our system. The designated functions for each position remained unchanged despite player substitutions. All players were required to learn the system so we could perform as a cohesive unit during the game. Our coaches understood individual strengths and weaknesses, and placed us in positions to thrive within the system. In the business world, the most effective companies are built on systems. Each member of the team must perform her duties to drive growth and revenue for the company. All cogs must perform collectively for the greater good of the organization.
Just One More Rep
My strength and conditioning coach's workout regime taxed both mind and body equally. During heavy lifting days -- whenever I was ready to give up and throw down the weights -- he would yell, "Push through it and give me three more!" To my surprise, I always pushed out three more reps. My self-imposed limitations were constantly challenged and defeated.
As a former athlete, I view my business journey through this lens. Market knowledge and skill is not enough to succeed as an entrepreneur. It takes mental toughness and perseverance to win in this game. Even when you think you don't have anything left in the tank, I guarantee you can push out one more rep.