Whether on the field or in the office, the keys to success aren’t all that different…
I still remember the first moment that I got truly excited about sports. It was back in second grade and we got the usual handouts to bring home to mom and dad. A little orange piece of paper caught my eye that in big bold letters read: “instructional hockey”. I begged my parents to play, and they accepted. Once I got a taste, I didn’t even want to take the equipment off. I would’ve slept in my pads and helmet if they let me.
That bright orange slip of paper set me on a path. Once I got serious about hockey, it consumed a lot of my day-to-day time and energy. I was always focused on the next thing – making the high school team, securing a spot in Juniors and eventually, holding down my place on the Bentley University team. From a young age, I developed the mindset of always going after it, always seeking the next challenge and rising to the next level.
Why not give it a try? If you don’t take the shot, you’ll never know and you’ll regret it.
As my college career came to a close, I finally reached a point where that next challenge in hockey wasn’t realistic. Like most athletes – no matter the sport – I had to face the reality that I wasn’t going pro. I needed to find something to fill that competitive void. Business helped me do just that.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the same qualities that lead to success on the field, rink, court or course are the exact same qualities that make you a kick-ass businessman or woman. Take risks, set goals, surround yourself with the right people and have the discipline to put in the work each day. It’s why my business partner Matt Fornataro has picked this stuff up so quickly.
Here are some lessons I learned from sports that translate into the business world. Athletes looking to expand their horizons should pay extra attention:
Attitude and drive make the difference
When you really boil it down, success in any task comes down to how hard you are willing to work to not fail. Whether you’re strolling into a morning business meeting or lacing up your cleats to hit the field, attitude trumps all. If you show up to work willing to learn, ready to take risks and eager to apply yourself, you’re probably going to succeed. And if you don’t, you likely just have to find the right role or position that fits your skill set.
Athletes, especially high-level professionals, get to where they are because they already have that innate discipline and drive. Translating that same mindset into business isn’t hard, and the willingness to try new things during your playing career can pay dividends later on.
You’re always part of a team
While they don’t wear jerseys or produce Instagram-worthy highlights, coworkers in business settings are really the same as teammates. Think of a company as a team. Getting everyone aligned is crucial – defining your goals, setting roles, and working together to achieve positive results. If one coworker doesn’t pull their weight, the wheels can come off the whole operation. It’s just like having a negative presence in the locker room – one bad apple sours the whole bunch.
Surrounding yourself with coworkers or teammates you can trust is an absolute must. Everyone has to sacrifice and check their ego at the door to be unified toward your goal – whether that’s winning a league title or increasing revenue year-over-year.
Find the right mentors
Success comes much easier when you find the right mentors to guide your career. In sports, you have coaches and other players to hold you accountable, teach you new skills and make sure everyone’s filling their role. Bosses and managers can have the same positive effects on a business team. In fact, I can almost guarantee that any good boss would be a good coach, and vice versa. Those leadership qualities translate.
The best mentors aren’t afraid of tough love – telling you when you’re not performing up to your standards and pushing you to do more. Whether in the boardroom or the locker room, a fiery speech from a manager or coach can have the same galvanizing effect.
In business or sports, if you show up with that positive attitude and willingness to work, the best mentors will empower you with chances to shine. Athletes looking to branch out beyond their sport should seek out business mentors, just like they go to their sports mentors for advice.
Never stop getting better
Words like “learning” and “education” can make an athlete shutter, and I get it. Reading books or throwing on a suit for a business meeting can seem like a chore. But just like in business, focusing on getting 1% better everyday can make a world of difference for an athlete. I knew my hockey career was eventually going to end, and I found an outlet for my drive and competitiveness.
All it takes is a little effort to start reading a balance sheet like it’s a statline.
Take retired tennis star Maria Sharapova as an example. No one worked harder than her on the tennis court, yet Sharapova still found time to pursue her interests (travel, design, food) during her career. Look how well she’s set herself up for life after tennis from being integrated and involved in brand meetings and learning from them.
Athletes often don’t realize the power and influence they have. A pro athlete can probably get in the ear of any CEO they want. Learning a few things over a round of golf with a business mentor won’t kill you. Matt says it all the time; he wishes he knew the networking power he had during his career.
Just like hockey taught me – take the shot. What have you got to lose?
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