No matter what the industry, people are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their career prospects. There’s certainly a beaten path toward success in business, with many people choosing to pursue a college education, secure internships, and establish connections as their way of breaking into the world of entrepreneurship. Another way people can strengthen themselves as leaders and entrepreneurs, however, is through athletics. More than just a hobby or a way of getting fit, athletic experience can help offer some critical advantages in business.
For an example, look no further than the NBA’s LeBron James. As of 2016, James is the highest-paid player in the league, and Forbes ranked him as the third-highest paid athlete in the world (after soccer superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, respectively) in the same year. A considerable portion of his wealth does come from his NBA salary, but his off-the-court earnings are almost as impressive as his on-the-court performance. He has multimillion dollar endorsement deals with companies like Nike and Coca-Cola, has a minority stake in Liverpool Football Club, and owns the production company SpringHill Entertainment and the digital video company Uninterrupted. When Apple bought Beats Electronics in 2014, James—a minority owner of the audio company—realized a neat personal profit of $30 million.
An athlete doesn’t need to be the face of the NBA in order to apply their skills to a successful career in business, however. From Little League to the Major League, athletics teaches valuable lessons that help give players an edge in the world of business.
Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates had Paul Allen: success in business is always a team effort. It’s the same for athletics, where players need to work as a unit in order to make the next play and secure the win, so understanding how to work well with others to achieve goals gives athletes an entrepreneurial advantage. Beyond simply working together, knowing how to boost the team’s morale when spirits are down, whether after missing a goal or losing a client, is an invaluable talent that can help inspire the entire team to try even harder and succeed.
Hours on the court running plays. Hours in the gym working out. Hours watching game footage and learning about the right way to play. For athletes, success is often a function of how hard they’re willing to work for it. And for business leaders, who may need to spend long hours in the office or with clients, having athletic experience can provide the necessary discipline to get the job done, whatever it may be.
In an article on Entrepreneur.com, Pat Sullivan discusses an athlete’s “failure quotient,” or the number of times where athletes are unsuccessful on the field or simply lose. While failure can be a crushing experience, athletes don’t have the time to dwell on them—if they miss a basket, they need to get right on up and go for the next one. So when athletes trade in the field for the boardroom, they take their ability to quickly learn and move on from mistakes with them.
All athletes have the drive to win at any cost. Business leaders have that same impulse: to outsell the competition, to release the project ahead of time, to be the best. Athletes turned entrepreneurs have the ambition to beat everyone else, no matter what it takes, and that will push them to work harder, take on any challenge, and overcome any obstacle. Whether it’s the SuperBowl or a sales pitch, for an athlete, it’s all about the win.