In college I was a scholarship athlete with no bills and minimal responsibilities. In 2008 I had the good fortune of being drafted by the Washington Nationals, a Washington, D.C-based Major League Baseball team. Two days later I started my new job as a professional athlete, my life was changed forever.
Here’s what professional sports taught me about life and how that experience prepared me for entrepreneurship.
What professional sports taught me about life
The average person believes playing professional sports is all glitz and glamour. Most will tell you it is easy and that “you are just playing a game!” However, having played baseball at the professional level I know first hand that those people are absolutely wrong. As a new pro baseball player I soon learned that the job was full of responsibilities, hardships, competition and stress.
I quickly received a crash course in”grown-up stuff.” Upon relocating to Vermont, I was abruptly told to “find someplace to live and transportation to the field everyday.” Keep in mind that I had never worried about these things before. Suddenly I was looking up bus schedules, searching for local housing and negotiating a month-to-month lease with no deposit. At the same time I had “the game” of baseball to worry about.
As a new player, at the lowest level of the organization, I quickly realized that I would have to work harder than ever to reach the top.
Not only did I have to outplay my teammates, I also had to think about 200 other players in the organization looking to make the 25-man big league roster. The competition was fierce.
But in retrospect, the hardest aspect of playing a professional sport was dealing with the mental assault of a season. Every single day for 6 months, you have to grab your baseball bag and arrive at the park at noon for a 7 o’clock game. Then you proceed to workout, practice and study scouting reports for the game later that night. There are no weekends off; you may get one day off a month if you are lucky.
Overall, you put in anywhere from 10-12 hours a day and then go right back to the park and do it all over again. This did not include a chocked-full traveling schedule. It’s not uncommon to travel after a game through the night, arriving at sunrise, to nap for a few hours and then head to the park to start all over again.
There was no time for being sick, tired, or unfocused.
At times it was very hard to stay upbeat and positive. But ultimately I understood that I was doing all of this to reach my dream.
Becoming an entrepreneurship MVP
Fast forward to today, and although I did not make it to the big leagues I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. My first job made a man out of me and thoroughly influenced me to become an entrepreneur; preparing me for both a challenging and rewarding lifestyle.
As an entrepreneur I quickly learned, like professional baseball, business ownership has its own mess of adversity.
While most people believe working for yourself — self-employment — is the way to go, the idea of building a business from the ground-up is incomprehensible. When you start a business or launch a startup, your name, reputation and personal assets are on the line.
And while baseball taught me strength and perseverance, becoming an entrepreneur has taught me accountability and responsibility.
When you start a business no one will provide a detailed schedule for you to follow. I used to go to sleep at sunrise, however I now begin my day before dawn.
I figure the best way to make my business successful is to work harder than everyone else, a habit I pulled directly from my baseball playbook.
Most importantly, what I have learned from being an entrepreneur thus far is how to be a leader.
It is a huge responsibility to make decisions for an entire company. As a business owner it is essential for me to do my due diligence, ask for help when I need it, and ensure I make the best choice possible for the company as a whole. Additionally, I have learned that a true leader is accountable for the decisions they make. As such, I alone bear the consequences of my actions.
In my opinion, nothing is more unbecoming of a leader than placing blame. It is my duty to be the leader my business partners, coworkers and customers expect me to be.
I have experienced and learned more from playing professional sports and starting a business than most people will in their entire employee careers. I am also proud to say that despite the challenges, both experiences have and continue to mold me into the man I am today.
The lessons I have learned from high performance athleticism and entrepreneurship will never be far from application in my future business endeavors.
Nick Arata, a former professional baseball player turned entrepreneur, is the Founder of BC Insta_tees, an innovative custom t-shirt company that turns Instagram pictures into custom t-shirt designs with an emphasis on the design process, taking customers step-by-step to their finished product. Nick holds a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Florida Atlantic University. Connect with Nick on Twitter.
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