5 business lessons to learn from professional athletes

They might not seem similar, but if you look closely, you’ll find a lot in common between the two. By Satyaki Sarkar

Professional athletes are well known for their gruelling commitment to their sport and the Herculean dedication that they showcase towards becoming the best. From crushing failures to excruciating injuries, the world of sports can be a dangerous and exhausting place, yet atheletes keep coming back, better and stronger. Now sports and business might not seem to have a lot in common, but if you look close enough you’ll find that there are quite a few incredible lessons you can learn from athletes that will help you in business as well.

Jesse Owens

1. You have to be all in
Whether you are taking up a professional sport or managing your business, success cannot be achieved if you aren’t willing to put it all on the line and go all in. You have to be committed to it, and you have to want it, consciously, without any second thoughts or undecidedness. Four-time Olympic gold medal winner Jesse Owens put it perfectly when he says, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” You have to decide from the beginning whether this is what you want to do, and it has to become a top priority in your life.
Photograph courtesy: United States Library of Congress/Creative Commons

Usain Bolt

2. Evaluate yourself and your goals
Athletes and businessmen alike have to set goals for themselves if they want to make progress and succeed. Without solid goals in sight you have nothing to strive towards. However, simply setting those goals isn’t enough. You need to be able to evaluate yourself based on those goals, and know where you come up, even before you attempt to achieve them. This helps ground you in facts and lets you know how much you need to improve, in order to achieve those goals. World record holding sprinter Usain Bolt not only knew that in order to win the gold at the 2016 Olympics he’d need to run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, he also predicted the time it would take him to complete those 100 metres. That’s how well he knew himself and his abilities. While he ended up being slower than he had predicted, he still walked away with the gold.
Photograph: Richard Giles/Creative Commons

Muhammad Ali

3. Be willing to take risks
In the world of sports risks are a constant, whether it’s the temptation to take drugs, injuring yourself or worse, and the world of business is a bit similar. Critical business decisions can determine the success or failure of a multi-million dollar venture. However, shying away from taking such risks not only stunts your potential, it also eats away at your confidence. Olympic gold medalist Muhammad Ali was once quoted saying, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” The statement couldn’t be truer, as even in a business it’s only when you are willing and ready to take risks, that you are able to reap the rewards, be it taking an unproven, unconventional approach to a problem, or quitting your job to pursue your own business idea or venture.
Photograph: Polish Press Agency (PAP)/Creative Commons

MS Dhoni

4. Adapt to the situation
Athletes aren’t just flexible physically, but in everything they do as well, because in the world of sports anything can change at any time, and unless they can adapt themselves to it, the success they had trained themselves so hard to achieve could slip through their fingers. The same applies in the world of business. You cannot restrict yourself to one approach or wa of functioning. Popular ex-captain of the Indian cricket team MS Dhoni was renowned for his ability to maintain his composure, keep his calm, and adapt to any situation, no matter how insurmountable the odds seemed. As a result, he is considered to be one of the most successful captains that the team has seen, having led them to countless victories.
Photograph: Dee03/Creative Commons

Carrie Johnson

5. Be persistent
Be it business or the world of sports, adversities and obstacles are a given, and as easy as it might be to give in to those hardships and throw in the towel, it’s the ones who are able to keep going that finally achieve success. Olympic kayaker Carrie Johnson was devastated when she discovered that she had Crohn’s Disease. However, for all the risks and possible perils that she faced, she decided to not give up, but instead continued kayaking. As a result, not only did she go on to compete in the 2004 Olympics, but in the 2008 and 2012 ones as well. This inspiring tale teaches us that success is often at the end of the tough road not the easy one.
Photograph courtesy: Carrie Johnson

Photograph (lead): tableatny/Creative Commons 

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