As I watched the NCAA Championship game last night between Kentucky and Kansas it occurred to me that sports in general are a great metaphor for life and specifically for succeeding in the business world. During the course of the game, many analogies can be made to what transpires in a person’s business life: The ups and downs, the challenges, the adversities and what it takes to meet them head on. Here are some of my takeaways:
1. Learn and Master
Before you can play the game you must learn the basic fundamentals: how to play the game, how to pass, to dribble, run the court and shoot the ball. You have to develop the necessary skills to play at an acceptable level.
Lesson: In business you must also learn the basics. You must establish where you are, what it means to you and want you from it. You must then develop the skills and strategies for attaining it.
2. Prepare: Mentally and Physically
Elite athletes know that you can’t function optimally or win games if you’re not prepared both mentally and physically. You must be in great physical shape to withstand a long, grueling and demanding basketball season. Equally important, you must have mental fitness. Mental fitness includes a positive, willing and winning mindset. One without the other will not win games.
Lesson: Being prepared mentally and physically is equally essential in life.
3. Be a Team Player
Basketball is a team sport, which means it requires contribution and co-operation from every member in order to play well and win. Everyone must focus, work together and fulfill their individual roles for the common good of the team.
As great of a player that Michael Jordan was, he did not win any championships until he learned to involve his teammates by trusting them and distributing the ball.
Lesson: So it is with life. Contribute, co-operate and share.
4. Adjust and Re-adjust
Every great basketball player knows that when your plays aren’t working you have to adjust, and then adjust some more. The varying strengths and styles of different opponents require different tactics. You have to be able to withstand and respond to whichever attacks an opponent uses on you.
Lesson: Life presents us with many challenges for which we must adjust our game plan.
5. Don’t Give Up
Another characteristic common to the brilliance of great players is that they never give up on a play. When they miss shots they retrieve their own rebounds, dive for loose balls, outwit defenders, and make every last second count. They are willing to do the small things that the statistics don’t reflect.
Lesson: Persevere. Never, ever, ever give up.
6. Win or Lose: Accept Graciously
No matter what sport you play, you can’t win every game. It takes blood, sweat and tears to win a championship. If you give it everything you’ve got, no matter what the outcome, you can walk away with your head held high. Learn what it takes to win and come back and try again.
Lesson: Everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins. If you give everything your best shot and learn the lessons along the way, you will come out a winner.