My recent experience of watching the soccer world cup in Brazil got me thinking about some of the significant similarities that exist between successful entrepreneurs and athletes.
Whilst I didn’t watch every game, those I did all show-cased why passion, teamwork, focus and a deep sense of desire to win is so critical to be successful on the highest stage not only in sport but also in business.
Sure there were clear favourites to win in almost every match and even the tournament but it seemed as though every game was up for grabs for the team who wanted it the most.
Some teams lacked skill on paper but showed unbelievable passion and heart whilst other teams simply didn’t show up and became complacent with the thinking that skill alone would get them through the tournament. Look at what happened to Italy!!
Another good example is the semi final game between Brazil and Germany, which ended up in a 7:1 thrashing leaving the host nation somewhat stunned, confused and full of questions about the heart and desire of their team let alone the skill.
Germany showed why teamwork is more important than individual talent alone and how passion is a major component for success both on and off the field.
Now although being on a soccer field and being in a boardroom don’t seem to have a lot in common in my opinion successful athletes and entrepreneurs all share common traits and qualities.
Successful entrepreneurs are experts in conceiving, developing, launching and marketing a product or service, proud athletes are skilled in delivering particular actions and developing attributes which boost their chances of winning.
Richard Branson, Roger Federer, Steve Jobs, Michael Phelps, Mark Zuckerberg, and Usain Bolt are all good examples of this.
Whilst all of these individuals have achieved success in different fields in business and sport, when you study their journey to success you will start to notice similar characteristics and attitude traits common across all of them.
To gain a deeper understanding into the topic I recently spoke with Frank Cuilui. A serial entrepreneur who has tasted success in both business and sport having exited his previous business and competed as a professional fighter at an International level.
“As a fighter we spent a great deal of time focusing inwardly. Clearly fitness, and conditioning for the ring are important, but we considered this table stakes and expected ALL our opponents to be in peak physical condition.
The only differentiator was the state of mind we entered the ring with, and how deeply we understood our own strengths and weaknesses, and of those who we were up against.
We would break down our vulnerabilities into categories of skill, attitude, and any injuries that could not be dealt with in time for the fight.
In business it was a similar scenario. When competing for major projects we expected that every one of our competitors would bring their A game and that their product or service was equal or better than our own. This allowed us to focus at a granular level and take the fight to a place that suited our own strengths.
It was equally important to focus on the individual mind set of every person in the team, as winning was always the result of the sum total, of every interaction your customers have over time with each of the people in the team.
If anyone in the team was operating from a place of fear or lack of self belief, fatigue, or even driven by personal ego, this would create a weak link that would always leave the team exposed.
In any role that I have worked, regardless of the company size and product capability – whether it was my company or not, when we had all these dynamics right – we won business! Even business that most thought was unwinnable.” Frank Explains
Many thriving entrepreneurs and triumphant athletes have utilized their talents, skills, and knowledge without fail in order to achieve winning results.
Now whilst there are many common traits between entrepreneurs and athletes, over time I have come to realise that there are 4 which are more common than others:
1) Think Long Term
There are no shortcuts to success, the only time you will find this word before success is in the dictionary. To become a successful athlete you have to put in the time and effort. The same holds true for entrepreneurs. Although shortcuts may present themseleves, the benefits will be short-lived.
Only those who are willing to put in as much practice time as it takes to become proficient in their chosen field stand a chance of realizing their full potential.
Success is not always about winning; it’s about doing your very best every time you compete. When you do that, than winning and success will usually follow. You can’t expect to achieve any level of success without giving 100% every single day. In life your attitude determines your altitude. Did you know that if you add up all the words within the word “Attitude” in terms of where they are located in the alphabet it adds up to 100%. No coincidence right?
To be successful in anything you do in life, you must first be passionate about it. Without this nothing else matters. Successful entrepreneurs and athletes are all passionate about what they do and are willing to do what ever it takes to achieve their goals.
Because of their dedication and love of their business/sport, they persist through trying times and fight to achieve the mission and vision they have set. When you’re passionate about what you do, you transfer that energy and excitement to employees, teammates, business partners and customers.
4) Work Ethic
Athletes don’t get the chance to compete on the world stage without countless days and limitless hours of preparation. In order to master their sport, they dedicate considerable amount of time and energy in the gym, field, or training camp with their coaches.
Similarly, in order to build a successful brand and business, thriving entrepreneurs devote a lot of their effort and time to get to the top sacrificing holidays, weekends and long hours in pursuit of business success.