I can already see your eyes rolling and your lungs compressing after taking a long and hard sigh. I know. The business world almost has as many sports analogies as it does people giving out stock investment advice every day. It seems like every time I have been to a big conference, the keynote speaker brings up her or his favorite sport to tell a story (usually it’s about golf or football). Honestly, I can’t help but share these nuggets with you because I love my sports and there are some really great lessons that I have learned. I have tried to make these a little unique and personal to differentiate myself from every other speaker and writer on business. I hope that you bear with me and enjoy my version of the business and sports analogy.
The Importance of Patience
Most of you may not know, but the sport that I am most passionate about playing is Ice Hockey. I love hockey because it is so difficult to play. In addition to learning the game and its strategy, you also have to learn how to balance on two skates with 1-1.5mm blades. Simply learning how to skate well enough to play in a game took me almost two years and it took me about another five or six years of on and off playing to really feel comfortable. I didn’t start playing until I was 13 years old so I didn’t really become proficient until I was in college.
This sport, simply put, has taught me patience and hard work. The fact that I couldn’t really play for years meant that I had to spend two miserable years falling, slipping and sliding, all while dreaming of a day when I could glide like the older kids. Similarly, in business, it is that critical two-year period before a business starts up when things really begin to form. That two-year period is also really hard because we have nothing to show for our efforts yet. We want to score goals and make plays but the market dictates that we must take our time and lay the foundation before we can do so. I think that, as hard as this process is, my experience in learning how to play hockey has made me able to focus on the long-term goal and not the short-term struggle.
The Importance of Timing and Vision
The other sport that I play is soccer. Believe it or not I have been playing soccer since I was five years old so it comes much more naturally to me than Ice Hockey. I don’t like to toot my own horn but I understand the game a lot without having to think or struggle because I have been playing so long. In my early 20’s I was a lot faster and better but I can still keep up at 31 with my younger compatriots.
The most important part of soccer that I try to explain to the newer players is about vision and timing. A lot of times, newer players come out to play and they try to force errant passes and shots because they are not looking at the bigger picture. Soccer is simply a numbers game. The longer you have possession of the ball, the more likely you are to score and the less likely it will be for the other team to score. Soccer, therefore, involves a lot of backwards and sideways passes which allow for the offense to naturally develop while maintaining possession. Having the vision to see a play develop and then picking the exact right time to start attacking is paramount. We, as entrepreneurs, have to do the exact same thing. We must have the timing and vision critical to slowly allow our plans to develop so that we can make sure that our plan has the highest chance of success. Most of the time, we only get one chance at making our entrepreneurial dreams come true so it is essential that we nurture and develop that chance as much as possible so as not to waste it when we are ready to launch.
The Importance of Sharing
No matter what sport you play or what career you have chosen, there will always be people who are both further along than you as well as those who are behind you in their growth and development. Sports have taught me that competition makes us, as an economy, ultimately better because it forces us all to evolve and grow faster. As a result, I not only try to learn from those who are better than me but I simultaneously try to help those who are behind me to catch up and give them some encouragement. Whether you are a seasoned veteran of your field or a newcomer, simply sharing your story (via a blog, perhaps) can help inspire others follow along in your footsteps. After all, what is the point in learning and growing if we do not share that growth and that good news with others? Paying “it” forward and always trying to improve are keys to our personal success as well as the success of our overall economy.
I hope that the sports references weren’t too boring for those of you who might find sports as interesting as I find C-Span during a Congressional Recess. Even if you did, I hope that you were still able to get a few takeaways from my lessons in sports. If you are a sports fan or athlete, please share your favorite sport(s) as well as a quick lesson or story that you have learned which has helped you in your career. Thank you, as always, for reading. Remember to take a few minutes this week to help someone below you climb up, while also trying to learn from someone further along. This is what it means to truly evolve.
The ice rink where I play at while here in Orange County.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” – Hebrews 12:11-13