Life Lessons Athletics Taught Me

Lessons Athletics Taught Me

This past weekend, my husband took us to watch the Iowa Women’s Basketball game. It was senior day and their last home game of the regular season. The ladies pulled out a win and ended their regular season undefeated at home. Since it was a special day, the university was honoring the success of all the ladies, especially the seniors. They outdid themselves with feature videos, pirotechniques and a fun interactive light show for the fans. These ladies accomplishments both on and off the court were very impressive. Weather you are a basketball fan or not, it was clear that these ladies have that special something! During their individual speeches, they thanked everyone for the part they played in their success – noting that it was undeniably a team/community effort. It was unclear what their future plans would be, but I can assure you they will be successful in their endeavors. The entire day had me reminenancant and grateful for all that athletics taught me. I find myself applying the life lessons that athletics taught in my daily, personal life as well as my professional life. Here are a few lessons worth contemplation and why:

If you can’t celebrate your teammates success I can’t trust you.

In a world where many things are measured by the number of wins you have, it is important to remember that everyone has a role to play; it takes a team to get most things done – especially if you want it done right, on time and within budget. Great leaders like former President Ronald Reagan understood this, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” Take time to acknowledge all the moving parts and pieces that contributed to success. Delegate authority, but don’t over coach – as long as all the moving parts are working towards the same goal – all is good! Celebrate your teammates and clients on a job well done. Know that just because another person is successful doesn’t make what your doing less important right? Nothing can dim the light within you. Let their light shine. And go ahead shine your light right next to theirs – it makes the world a brighter place for all!

“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” – SETH GODIN

In business you must earn the trust of your customers. If they trust you then the rest will fall into place. If you’re not celebrating your customer’s successes, you are missing out on a great opportunity to build trust and grow your brand authentically!

Winning at all cost isn’t winning at all

Yes we are competitive…yes we want to win, but not at the cost of our integrity. Being a gracious winner and even more gracious loser is a learned skill. There is no lying, cheating, quitting, or crying wolf in athletics or in business. You can’t talk about the life lessons of doing the right thing, and then turn around and walk the ethical line or even cheat. Good sportsmanship is similar to handshake agreement – they are tried and trusted traditions. Let your words and actions match who you are. I think Toby Mac said it best when he said, “ I don’t want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul.”

What is gained from getting into a twitter war with a brand hater if it means you step outside of your authentic brand and into the role of cyber bully to get there? The world of online reviews has opened up a whole new world for public relations and unfortunately, many of the trolls are out there trying to start trouble or get something free from the businesses they attack. Don’t play along – you don’t have to enter every argument you are invited to. Stay authentic to your brand and everyone wins!

Lead from where you are!

Not every good leader has a fancy title or a big corner office. Many leaders can be found at every level of experience and talent. Your title or position shouldn’t stop you for leading your team or company to success. Maybe you are a starter, maybe you are on the scout team, maybe the manager, maybe you are a super fan – you can lead your team to success from where you are. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or to lead. AND leaders don’t discount the information of those throughout your organization because of their title. Remember the iconic Nike logo was created by graphic design student and intern. Where will your next big idea come from? Will you be listening?

For example, we had a team of people working on an educational postcard mailer for a small business. It was a big deal. The gal in the mailroom found a typo for us and saved the day. Had she never spoken up – had we not listened – we would have never had an award winning educational postcard series.

Trust your gut!

Intuition is a big part of the game. Most of us have been working on our craft for years before we became professionals. With that we have practiced, trained and honed our skills daily, since deciding to follow this path. There is no reason to overthink and ignore your gut feeling. There can be a lot of noise out there as distraction, but you just play ball. Just do what you know how to do. (Trying hard not to say Just do it.) You have trained, studied and continue to train and study to perfect your craft – so trust your talents – trust the process. Comparison is the killer of joy. Don’t worry about what others are doing – just do you. Yes competition is out there, but no one can do you better than you! Even the visionary Steve Jobs knew, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

In business, we have to plan to help keep us on track, but from time to time situations like the Toyota California fires call for a Hail Mary. After a viral video of a charred vehicle surfaced with the heroic story of this humble first responder who had used his own vehicle to repeatedly go into the fire in his neighborhood to save his neighbors surfaced – Toyota stepped up to replace his vehicle. Not only was it a great story of goodwill and resilience, but of how their truck could literally be put through fire and still run. They ran the risk of others wanting free vehicles too, but it was worth it. This was not part of their plan, but this quick hitter was a winner.

Don’t let fear or your ego stop you from going for it.

Many successful people contribute their failures for leading them to success. Fear, worry and pride are the killers of creativity and momentum. You can’t let the what if’s keep you from playing the game. Arguably the best basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, said, “I have failed many times that is why I succeed.” He didn’t let people’s failure to recognize his talent or worth deter him from going after his dream. It wasn’t his time to be a starter, he had to play the role he was given to build to the place he wanted to be. Adversity can’t stop you from going after your dreams, because it is not just about you. Your identity isn’t found in your title or what others think of you. So bring that value – just go for it – you will win some and lose some, but don’t let the losses define you, but rather refine you. Grow from it and move on. Do the best with the opportunities you have in front of you. Have a short memory so that you can focus on the big goals.

In business, we get so wrapped up in people unfollowing us on social media or unsubscribing from our mailing list, but why? Why waste your time and effort on those who aren’t tuned in? Instead focus on those who remain. They are your super fans, what do they want to hear?

There is always something sparking beyond the last buzzer.

So Congrats to Megan Gustafson and the Iowa Women’s Basketball Team! You goooo guuuuuuurrrrrllllls! We celebrate you! Thank you for reminding me that my hard work and dedication as an athlete had long lasting rewards far beyond the trophies, medals, accolades and even the buzzer. I am grateful for all the losses and failures over the years – especially the haters and doubters – for they have been my motivation and helped me grow. The ball never truly stops bouncing after the last buzzer; it drives towards the goal in a different arena. I hope you are leading where you are, but if you need help sparking something new, please reach out, We would love to help you.

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