You Need the Stamina and Mindset of a Professional Athlete to Make It in Business What athletes need to endure the brutal winnowing process on their way to the pros is just what it takes to launch and grow a business.
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Entrepreneurs, close your eyes. You've gone through the pain of starting a business and now it's a reality. But it's time for a hard truth: if you don't have an athlete mentality, your company's not going to make it. Why? Because successful entrepreneurs and successful professional athletes are the same breed. Both types of individuals thrive on passion, tenacity and self-confidence, and they need to be committed to pushing the limits. Having the right personality type is only half the battle.
1. You need a great team, coaches and cheerleaders. I'm not referring to your VP of finance, product and marketing, though the right people in those positions can certainly help your business. A great team is the people in your personal circle that make you successful, like personal assistants and partners. Coaches can come in the form of advisors and mentors. You can bounce issues off of these people, which helps with taking a thoughtful approach. People who are always on your side (cheerleaders) are also important.
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2. You have to take care of yourself mentally and physically. Speaking of cheerleaders, you're going to need someone to vent to and it's tempting for people to turn to their friends or spouse. Don't do this because, chances are, you'll burn them out. Instead, hire a professional. For some people, this is a therapist; for others, it might be a personal trainer. Whatever the case, you need to take care of yourself. The pace of a startup is simply not sustainable in the long term without mental and physical maintenance.
3. When you're weakest, people will try to take advantage. As your creation evolves, you will attract many different types of people. Most of us work in solitude for many years; after a few years of neglect, you'll be dying for attention, whether that is from potential partners or new employees. When you're at your weakest, companies will offer you unfair revenue splits; potential employees will want big titles and equity at your company; and investors will want to control your company. Be aware that it can be difficult to measure people's intent when you're most excited about your new business (and see above about bouncing ideas off of your team).
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4. In most cases, you are your biggest obstacle. There are countless examples of professional athletes who find themselves in press conferences defending or apologizing for poor decisions. While the mistakes of entrepreneurs are often of a different nature, they are no less responsible for us getting in our own way. One of the main mistakes we make is the failure to evolve. When your head's down trying to grow your business, it's easy to miss the fact that your business is outpacing your skill set. It's the hardest part of the job, but it's critical that you constantly and consciously evolve.
5. Those who do the best in the long run maintain control. If you want to stay in the game for the long haul, the best way to ensure this is to maintain control. That includes control of yourself, your composure and your company. Don't get overzealous when someone finally wants to partner with you, and don't be easily seduced. Maintaining control lets you be in charge of your destiny. Ultimately, if you are calibrated and composed, you will always know what's best for your company.
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