It always amazes me; the psychology of sports. As I wrote in June 2013: I am fully aware of the power of the mind when it relates to not just sports, but business…and ultimately success and failure.
How can Olympic records, as they relate to time, distance, and precision, be constantly broken year after year? Do training regiments improve as we learn more about the human body… Sure! Do new technologies in analyzing how we do something or in the material that make skis, skates, and outfits become stronger, faster, and more aerodynamic…Absolutely. The sticking point is that all athletes have these advantages. A record does not get broken for years until one person does it. What was once a glass ceiling is shattered, and suddenly, now everyone can do it …this is a mental phenomenon!
To get to this point, the athletes have spent years honing their skills. If it is a speed skater; it is countless hours going around and around for the physical conditioning. It involves sacrifice, dedication and a burning desire to be the best. For a figure skater, the same holds true and there are endless stories of the ways parents sacrificed and funded their child’s dreams. Athletes moving across the country, leaving all they know and their friends and families to be close to a coach that will give them that edge. All of this comes down to maybe one minute every 4 years. When you see someone fall during a move that they have executed successfully 1000 times, this is not lack of preparation…this isn’t poor physical conditioning…it’s a mental “choke.”
So how can we learn from this and apply it to our everyday lives of business?
Like any athlete, a businessman must be prepared. If in sales, he (or she) must know his product backward and forward. Like an athlete, he must know his competition. Like the athlete, he must know the players and playing field, or in this case, a customer’s wants, needs, and desires. After all, a successful business is one that solves problems and meets needs.
The best athletes never stop practicing to be on top of their game, and a businessman should do the same. There are always new techniques, courses, or ways to make yourself perform better and more desirable. Remember this famous saying: “Green you grow… when you are ripe you rot.”
When an athlete skis or skates, it is second nature. They have done it many times, in practice, events, as well as mentally. They have pictured themselves making every turn, flip, and start. They would never “wing it.” They know both the strategy and the tactical moves down to perfection.
When you make a sales call or a bid on a new project, do you “wing it?” Do you know every objection to what your potential customer might say, as they might not truly understand your product? Are you prepared to handle every turn, bump, or unexpected hole in the course? Do you have the absolute best product to meet their need and you will not stop because you know it is what he really wants and needs? Are you as professional as you possibly can be with follow-up and customer service to discover potential problems or issues that might arise? Do you have a plan on getting new clients or are you hoping to get lucky?
Your mental state
When an athlete slips or falls, they always finish.
I was watching the marathon cross-country skiing event. The last place woman was 7 minutes behind the winner. In a sport that is measured by tenths of a second, don’t you think this woman wanted to stop when it was evident that the rest of the competitors were eating their dinner? She finished the race.
What do you do when you lose a sale? What do you do when business is bad? Do you get up and brush yourself off and say “I’ll get it next time.” Do you analyze what went wrong and try to fix it, or do you blame it on 1000 other things that you supposedly don’t have control over—as; it couldn’t be your fault? Non-professionals love this technique as it is difficult for them to admit that their lack of success is down to them. They will look for any crutch to explain away their failure.
How an athlete handles adversity and in this case how a businessman handles the same, is the difference between winning and losing. Success is easy to handle; defeat is hard.
I challenge you to finish the race. I challenge you to become the best you can be. I challenge you to become a true professional in your chosen field. It is in your power. You have to want it as bad as the Olympians.