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All About Me
Sports have been the biggest constant in my life. I practically ran out of the womb with a soccer ball at my feet and not much has changed since. A rough calculation shows that I have dedicated around 5,000 hours of my life to organized sports. However, in the last few years I have also developed a strong passion for entrepreneurship. Since graduating high school (I’m currently a sophomore in college) I have founded a company (sports related… what a surprise!) and won a Patriot League Men’s Soccer Championship (NCAA Division 1). In my experience as an athlete and an entrepreneur I’ve noticed an incredible overlap in the characteristics necessary to be successful as both.
Check out my 5 key characteristics below:
You will be hard-pressed to find a top athlete or entrepreneur who is not passionate about what he or she is doing. It’s because without passion, it is hard (maybe impossible) to put in the type of work necessary to be successful. You need a “pulling” force — so that you get out of the bed at 6 AM to head to morning lift or stay up until 3 AM refining your product. Passion is also contagious. It will draw people towards you and inspire them to work with you to reach your vision — whether that is winning a championship or building the next big app.
“Passion is a huge prerequisite to winning. It makes you willing to jump through hoops, go through all the ups and downs and everything in between to reach your goal.” — Kerri Walsh, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist
“When you believe in something the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals.” — Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
Adversity in sport or entrepreneurship is not a question of whether, but when. I have had three major knee surgeries (the result of 2 torn ACLs, a torn meniscus, and major cartilage damage). I’ve been told by doctors I would never be able to play again. If I allowed my circumstance to get the better of me, I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece. But, that’s just not me — it never has been. I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge or quit when the going gets tough. Your business will fail. You will get injured. You will be told no. You will lose. The question is how will you respond. The best athletes and entrepreneurs not only persevere, but they use their experience to better themselves and their businesses/teams.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan, 6x NBA Champion
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance”— Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Inc.
A “do it myself” attitude will not lead to success in sports or entrepreneurship. The ability to put in the work at an individual level is definitely necessary. However, no matter what you think, you can’t do it all yourself. Trying to do so puts you on track for consistent failure. You have to be coachable. And it is not just a willingness, but a desire to learn. Being coachable also means being a good-teammate and understanding the larger goal. It’s knowing that what you are looking to achieve is bigger than just one person, and that it will take a collective effort to get there. The best start-ups and sports teams are the ones who have a group of individuals who buy-in to the team mentality. Having one person who does not buy in is cancerous and can destroy the entire operation.
“My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn.” — Michael Jordan, 6x NBA Champion
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford, Founder of the Ford Motor Company
You may not associate humility with top athletes or entrepreneurs. But, let’s consider the extreme: Conor “The Notorious” McGregor. The reigning UFC Lightweight Champion is the biggest name in MMA, and one of the most talked about athletes today. Well known for his unmatched trash-talking, the fighter certainly does not exude humility. However, if you take a deeper look at McGregor, you will uncover a humility in how he approaches his craft. He trains with an understanding that if he does not apply an attention to detail, he will be punished accordingly. When faced with defeat he is accountable, assesses his mistakes, and learns from them. He listens to those in his corner and applies their advice to his training. Without possessing humility, McGregor would be no where near the fighter he is today. The same can be, and is, applied in entrepreneurship. Humility is knowing you don’t have all the answers. It is reaching out to mentors, listening to customers, and constantly learning. Being humble protects against complacency, it fuels a desire to keep improving.
“To a winner, complacency and overconfidence can be destructive.” — Bill Walsh, 2x NFL Coach of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” — Gandhi, Leader of the India Independence Movement
5. A Winner
I’m sure you have reached the end of my list and are surprised to not find “Competitive” as one of my key characteristics. Competitiveness is crucial. If you are not competitive, you don’t stand a chance as an athlete or entrepreneur. But, simple competitiveness might not do it either. I believe in a distinction between a competitive nature and being “A Winner.” A lot of people are competitive, far fewer are winners. Winners have a chip on their shoulder, a certain look in their eye. They have a “whatever it takes” mentality that is so important in building a successful business or becoming a top athlete. It’s Mark Cuban surviving on mustard and ketchup sandwiches and sleeping on the floor of a crowded apartment. It’s Kobe Bryant waking up before 4am and working out for at least 7 hours before practice even begins. It’s a combination of the above four characteristics and more.
“Some people say I have attitude — maybe I do… but I think you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does — that makes you a winner right there.” — Venus Williams, Former Women’s Tennis Association World #1
“I love to compete. To me, business is the ultimate sport. It’s always on. There is always someone trying to beat me.” — Mark Cuban, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor, and Owner of the Dallas Mavericks
If you liked this piece, please be sure to hit the green heart and share it with your friends and family. I would also love to hear any and all thoughts, so feel free to reach out in the comment section. Thanks so much for reading!
Founder/CEO @ Gipper. Featured in Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and the LA Times. Colgate E-Fund Winner. Colgate University. Thought Into Action Institute Entrepreneur