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Business Athleticism

There are many similarities between the dynamic of the business world and the dynamic of the sports world. In actuality, these similarities legitimize business as cognitive athleticism. It’s not coincidental that most entrepreneurs along with their employees follow sports with indiscernible passion.

We know who the first and second string performers at our organizations are. We see the coaches within our organizations evaluate promising future superstars while developing the farm team. Industry scouts survey and draft talent from colleagues while concurrently attracting and procuring talent away from companies they’re in competition with. There is an obvious commonality to athleticism.

Sports fans cast adoration upon winning coaches nearly as fast as they declare their condemnation toward losing coaches. No matter what the sport or business is, coaches are loved or loathed and it can be very lonely at the top. It’s been said that NFL stands for “Not-For-Long.” Many businesses have learned the hard way to identify with that motto; welcome to the business majors.

Haven’t you wondered why there are so many flash-in-the-pan success stories in sports, in business and in the music world? Emerging superstar employees face similar challenges to those experienced by rising superstars of the sports world.

There are unexpected hurdles encountered adjusting to dramatically higher incomes and the cultural changes that come with the rocketing success. This is often one of the most difficult challenges overlooked. Staying focused and fighting complacently are struggles coaches routinely have to defend their players from. New superstars can prematurely peak, stagnate and ultimately worsen. Ironically the culprit is accomplishment. The reason is that accomplishments can far exceed personal expectations early in a career. Athletes can simply lose the will to continue pushing the outer limits of personal potential. The associated continuous enhancement to personal performance stultifies.

Players sabotage their personal performance through negative head games they place upon themselves. A significant loss can devastate an athlete’s self confidence which in turn, victimizes future performance and creates a vicious cycle of self perpetuated failure. It doesn’t matter whether the sport is football, baseball or sales. The consequences of a big divisional game loss can generate negative self fulfilling prophesy at enormous costs to the team and the athlete.

Ask any top salesman how they feel when they board a plane on their way back to the home office. Euphoric adulation follows a success. Losing a much needed opportunity has been known to make some top performers physically ill. Coaches are not immune from self sabotage either. When a coach loses their edge, the negative impact is globally harmful. The top business athletes that consistently outperform their peers have learned to shake off losses. In reality, it is too selfish not to. Truly it’s everyone’s responsibility to win another one for the team.

Top business managers have highly developed skills that mandate success driven behavior from their subordinates, much the same way professional sports coaches do from their players. It is an artful understanding through a delicate balance of encouragement and negative reinforcement transcended from manager to the managed. Vince Lombardi was famous for this.

Leadership is not for the frail. Look around the NFL at the great ones, and then look around the Fortune 500. Great leadership is not elective; it is fundamental and a requirement for greatness within any exceptional organization. Quality team leadership spawns varsity participation and this can be seen regularly in the sports world. Seemingly mediocre players develop into world class athletes under new stronger coaching and leadership. Lombardi took a team of no names and created a deep list of hall of fame players.

Maintaining professional physical condition, a fighting weight, or getting into mental condition for game day, all require proactive effort. It is a safe bet that any NFL coach would tell you it is a bad idea for their players to party the night before the Super- Bowl. Being physically fit facilitates mental fitness. Mental fitness improves endurance and sustained concentration skills that are essential in the majors. Keeping your eye on the ball with a goal line objective is integral to scoring touchdowns. It is the same in the business world; you must remain professional and keep your eye on the prize.

Going over historical footage of past games provides much needed insight regarding how to exploit weakness while maximizing team assets. Superstar salesmen also review game films over in their minds in order to handle objections with elegance. Elite artisans have mastered proactively avoiding objections altogether. This mental review process, although vital, is only 20% of the success formula. A refusal to accept failure is where to find the other 80%.

The truthfulness of that simple statement is so obvious, it has become cliché. Do not underestimate the power of this simple truth. It is often the difference between millionaires and non-millionaires, or performance driven athletes and those on the sidelines watching the game.

Refusing defeat comes more from the heart than anywhere else. This is not a skill picked up only by reading textbooks. You have to place that refusal to fail into your heart and keep it there. You want to be king of the forest? You need the heart of a lion! What kind of heart do you think Tiger Woods has? What kind of heart did his father and coach have?

We all know it’s respectably difficult to make the play-offs; harder yet to get to the Super Bowl. To win a Super Bowl is monumentality challenging and a tremendous lifetime accomplishment. It is as indefinably remarkable as it is statically improbable to win consecutive Super Bowls. There is an amazing statistic.

In the 41 Super Bowls played thus far, no one has ever won more than two consecutive games. The teams who have won two consecutive games are in a very elite club: Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Packers, 49ers, Dolphins and Broncos. The Phil Jacksons and the Michael Jordons of the world command the highest praise in the NBA as does The Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer’s of the software world. None of these men settled for a single moment in greatness. Their greatness is legendary; their legacy historic. Michael Dell, Jack Welch, Sam Walton, Henry Ford and Warren Buffet all qualify to be ranked amongst the top athletes of the business world. They all repeated their successes across many annuals.

Most of us have fantasized what it would be like to be a professional athlete. The reality is; we do not have to fantasize. We can experience the same rewards in business athleticism. Obviously, you need to want it bad enough and must have a certain degree of ability. Most of us hold the required ability for greatness. Unfortunately, we hide it from ourselves. You must have the tenacity to believe in yourself. Most importantly, you need an unflinching understanding that failure might be acceptable in the minors but not at your stadium.