March Madness has again come and gone. Ending in a crescendo of applause and excitement that is rife with new opportunity for the players. The players can celebrate their new success and begin to look forward optimistically to whatever new challenges they will face next in their lives. Their success in basketball no doubt came from the hard work, determination, desire to overcome obstacles, risk taking and many other personal values needed to become a champion athlete. Who knows what new journey these athletes lives may take. Some will no doubt go on to find further basketball success in the NBA and begin lives as a professional athletes. Eventually however, they will all retire from basketball and move on to other endeavors. How will the values that made them champions help them later in life?
Most people have been involved with sports at some level (even if not at the NCAA Championship level) and therefore are able to understand the kind of effort it takes to succeed in sports. They recognize that an athlete may have natural talent but they also know how much work it takes to become a champion athlete. Hard work, determination, the desire to overcome obstacles, risk taking; these are the values it takes to become a champion and they are also the values it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Some athletes are able to carry these values over into their next career but others are never able to make the transition.
Likewise, there are people who think becoming a successful entrepreneur comes simply from being in the right place at the right time or because the entrepreneur happens to come from a well connected family. But most successful entrepreneurs, like successful athletes, would say success in business takes the same type of hard work, determination, the desire to overcome obstacles, and risk taking that you see in an athlete. Are there lessons we can learn from sports examples to learn how to apply these same values when applied to business.
We hear lots of sports success stories but they all seem to end once the championship game is over. Unfortunately, most sports stories are cliff hangers that leave us to wonder what the rest of the athletes life will be like. We don’t know whether the values that brought them to the championship was a onetime affair or if the athlete is able to transition these values into the next phase of his or her life with that same level of determination? What would happen if the story were to continue and we were able to follow the life of a champion athlete to see how he transitioned the values that led to his earlier success in sports into entrepreneurial values that brought similar success in business? If we were to look at the lives of one of these athletes, would we find lessons there that could help other non-athletes learn these same entrepreneurial values and understand how to apply them in their own lives?
One of the lessons we might learn comes from an athlete’s willingness to try over and over again. If they lose one game, they don’t quit but rather come back and work harder the next time. We know that athletes don’t usually compete in just a single event. In their sports career they compete in many tournaments and championship events. They apply the same values over and over to become serial champions in the same way serial entrepreneurs build winning businesses over and over. Successful entrepreneurs don’t quit just because one thing doesn’t work for them. They come back, apply what they’ve learned from the loss and then start over again.
Athletes know that overcoming obstacles is part of the game. If one play doesn’t work they continue to try another and another until they find a way to succeed. Successful entrepreneurs need to do the same thing when the obstacle to their success seems too great. Just like an athlete, “no” should not be an option. Successful entrepreneurs continue to search until they find the path to success. Entrepreneurs know that business is not a game and must also understand that winning means learning and applying these entrepreneurial values over and over.