I love sports. Football, Basketball, Ice Hockey, you name it and I'll probably watch it. So it goes without saying that I'm a huge fan of the Olympics. The U.S. has a great record and I'm always proud to watch our Olympians battle for the ultimate glory of winning a gold medal. I know it must take some serious work and more than a little talent to get to the podium.
However, it struck me today as I was thinking about the Games in Brazil (and seriously considering whether to DVR everything!) that there's a number of interesting parallels between the top athletes and those who've been highly successful in business. So here's my take:
To succeed you've got to have the right attitude. I can't imagine that there are any successful business people who have made it to the top without working real hard. It takes blood, sweat and sometimes even a few tears to make it in business and the same has to be said of the athletic elite. No one runs the 100m in record time without training extremely hard. I tip my hat to those who are prepared to work that hard and do what it takes to get where they want to be.
The undeterred desire to achieve something - whether that's Olympic gold or a loyal customer base. I'm in awe of athletes who wake up day-after-day in the dark and run several miles or jump into a freezing cold pool and swim countless laps. In business, it's kind of the same (but usually less wet!) You still have to be motivated to build your business despite the early mornings, late nights and occasional stumbling blocks.
There has to be a certain amount of sacrifice. I read about sports stars who are in their early twenties - their friends are heading out, but they have to stay at home recover, rest and prepare for the next competition or game. They may have to wake up before dawn to train or barely see their families. It's the same in business. When you're trying to grow your company, you’ve got to invest your time in it in order to be successful. There's a lot to be said for work/life balance but it's a tough one to get right.
Aside from a great work ethic, handling pressure is definitely part of the mentality required to reach the top. From fulfilling an order on time to winning a race in front of 20,000 people (different pressures but both equally important), the ability to deal with whatever is thrown at you and emerge victorious, or at least having learned something valuable, is vital.
5. Overcoming obstacles
Overnight successes are rare. Many business leaders have had setbacks, from Yahoo's Mark Cuban to Richard Branson, to Henry Ford. However, it's the ability to get back up, roll up your sleeves and start again that eventually brought them success. In the same way, there are very few athletes who haven't had an injury or a loss in an important event. It's how they overcome these obstacles and continue pushing forward that sets them apart.
So as you can see, there are more similarities between athletes and business owners than you might think. Attitude, motivation, sacrifice, a strong mentality and the ability to overcome obstacles are all part of what it takes to be successful in business. There are plenty more I could have mentioned, but I'm going to get ready to cheer on our guys in Brazil.
Good luck, Team USA!