What Do Executives and Athletes Have in Common?

By March 30, 2016Performance

AdobeStock_55798307_resizedTo many people, the worlds of professional athletics and business could not be further from one another. However, upon closer assessment, each of these careers requires very similar set of characteristics in order to be successful in one’s chosen profession. Whether pursuing a World Championship or climbing the corporate ladder, the following qualities pervade the habits of highly successful individuals in both lines of work:

  1. Passion
    Nearly all levels of success originate from a relentless passion for one’s career. This passion cannot be limited to discrete aspects of the job description; it must encompass the entire pursuit. For the athlete, there must be the same level of excitement for an ordinary workout in the middle of a heavy training block as there is on the day of a race. The same applies in the corporate world – excellence demands a passion for everything in the job description. Some facets of the job may yield more excitement than others, but there must be fervor for the process as a whole. Passion enhances the challenges of the job. Without it, the commitment is lost.
  1. Purpose
    Every elite athlete and business person possesses a concrete set of measurable, long-term goals that shape the path of his or her career. These goals are well thought out after much deliberation, and they are continually re-examined and assessed. In order to achieve these long-term goals, the successful performer supports them with shorter term goals that are designed to steer him towards reaching those ultimate objectives.
  1. Evaluation
    Success requires a continuous cycle of evaluation to determine whether the current course of action is getting the person closer to or further away from the selected goals. Many individuals underestimate the importance of this principle, but without evaluation, they will never know what steps led to positive results or where in particular they went wrong. This evaluation requires attention to be paid equally to good performances and bad performances; both provide an understanding of whether the present approach is leading them in the right direction.
  1. Endurance
    Nothing happens overnight on the road to success, and the flourishing performer has the fortitude and patience to endure the days, weeks and years it takes to master a particular task. Underlying this endurance is a confidence and belief that the steps taken on the journey are in line with the pursuit of one’s long-term goals. Progression does not occur without patience.
  1. Calculation
    No path to achievement comes without hitting a crossroads, and the elite performer must be able to take calculated risks in order to achieve peak performance. There are countless stories in business and athletics of individuals that make difficult choices knowing that catastrophic failure is a possibility, and the willingness to be exposed to that risk without fear often separates those individuals from their peers. Keep in mind that this trait is not haphazard guessing; the ability to use risk as a competitive advantage only comes from proper calculation based on specific evidence and insight.
  1. Resolution
    In any pursuit of value, adversity will eventually rear its head, and how an individual responds to such adversity often determines success or failure. The elite performer has the resolve and determination to withstand these periods of adversity when things don’t go as planned and thrive under periods of stress. Stressful situations are not only a possibility on the road to success; they are a necessary element to a challenging and enjoyable pursuit. In the world of athletics, poor training sessions and races are inevitable, and as a result, adaptability and resolve are paramount. There is no panic when adversity appears; instead, elite athletes learn from those lessons and focus only on those things that they can control.
  1. Cooperation
    Behind every elite athlete is a team of supporters – coach, physician, physical therapist, nutritionist, masseuse, family – that are essential to an athlete’s ultimate achievement. Elite athletes understand their strengths and weaknesses, and build a team that brings expertise in those areas of weakness to increase the likelihood of success. Much like those athletes, leaders in business know that they do not have the answers to everything and build a cooperative network of support that facilitates goal achievement.

Though one performs on the race course or field and the other performs in the boardroom, successful athletes and business people have many traits in common. By understanding what the characteristics are, we can all incorporate those lessons into our own pursuits as we strive to achieve peak performance in whatever avenue we so desire.

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