5 Business Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from High Performance Athletes

If you’re ready to develop breakout potential, here are five business lessons you can learn from high performance athletes.

“Did you see that?! Wow! Incredible!”

These are merely a few things that come to mind when world-class athletes take center stage and set us in awe during transformational moments in sports. Our favorite athletes make their craft look effortless, yet there is something even more spectacular happening behind the scenes.

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There’s no question that high performance athletes have natural talent, dedication, and drive. They devote their lives to their sport in hopes of being the best in the world.

World-class athletes inspire us, transform our ideals of what’s possible and give us hope for the future. “Exceptional skill in others often sparks admiration, forcing us to rethink what’s possible,” says Melanie Rudd of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “But to be truly awe-inspiring, an achievement must be so grand that it leaves us feeling overwhelmed and humbled by greatness.”


High Performance Business Lessons

Can the same high performance fundamentals be applied to entrepreneurs to yield awe-inspiring achievement? I believe so.

The same methodology that transforms raw talent into world-class performance can be “put to the test” in entrepreneurs. So, if you’re ready to develop breakout potential, here are five business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from high performance athletes.


1. Train like a champion

No matter how talented or driven an athlete is, they must train hours a day to perfect their skills and maintain peak levels of performance. If athletes plan on being the “best in the world” they realize the importance of perfecting preparation. And preparation starts with rigorous training. In fact, “The average world class athlete trains approximately 23 hours a week.”

The same notion applies to business. Train like a champion by creating a business regimen that delivers results. Dedicate time and energy to executing ideas, enhancing operations and streamlining your workflow.

And if you need a training facility, look no further than your local business incubator or co-working space to find high-quality environments with accessible facilities to start training weeks or months before the “games” begin.


2. Commit to the process

Most athletes will attest to this fact, “People don’t know the process which [athletes] undertake in their individual sports to reach the [competitive] levels … You get there by sticking it out. There [are] a lot of people that try and give up.”

The same rule applies in business. Accept the process of transformation that occurs when you become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is a marathon – not a sprint. The business development road ahead is rewarding and challenging, but the most important thing to remember is “never give up.”


3. Plan to compete at the highest level

Did you know that some high performance athletes “plan out their training schedules annually and up to four years in advance to make sure they reach specific performance goals?”

Entrepreneurs who compete in business and sports understand this important lesson. “I am planning far in advance so I have a goal to work toward,” says Sydney Owen, the owner of 3Ring Media. With plans to compete in the 2013 U.S. Parachute Association Nationals in Skydiving, Owen has been training since October 2011.

Also, planning is important because it keeps us motivated. Studies indicate that “an individual’s level of success in athletic competition is primarily dependent upon skill and motivation. Therefore, a primary responsibility of coaches is to motivate their athletes to perform at optimal levels.” Goals will do just that.


4. Monitor and analyze daily performance

For competitive athletes, “the numbers rule everything.” Some reassess their performance and plans every 24 hours based on the constant monitoring of set performance variables.

The lesson here? Track everything. Develop success metrics and stay accountable by paying attention to the details. Analytics can improve targeting, marketing efforts, cost-centers, budget projections, customer satisfaction ratings and more.


5. Develop a winner’s mindset

Athletes not only train to reach peak physical condition, they also condition their minds. It’s essential for world-class athletes to have the “right mindset to go up against their counterparts from other parts of the world.”

“Sport psychologists use methods including behavioral analysis, anxiety control, concentration and leadership training to prep athletes for their big day.” In business, mental conditioning is just as important.

As an entrepreneur, your mindset affects everything from – decision making skills to team morale and investor confidence in your ability to deliver results. A commitment to personal development through reading, association with like-minded entrepreneurs and mentorship are great ways to develop a peak performance winning mindset.


As you can see, “There is a direct correlation between athletics and being an entrepreneur,” according to former athlete turned entrepreneur, Evan Kirkpatrick the CEO of Wendell Charles Financial. “You must have an unwavering belief in yourself and your team in order to reach your goals.  There will be times when it appears you have lost, but as we see in sports, anything can happen if you believe.”

What other lessons can entrepreneurs learn from high performance athletes? Let me know in the comments section below.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Visa’s Go World Olympic Campaign. I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s.


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