It’s the middle of March, and if you’re anywhere near a TV during the course of your work day, you surely know what that means – it’s time for a barrage of college basketball. March Madness is getting underway, and that means 16 games a day of nonstop action, punctuated by buzzer-beating shots and last second wins.
The annual basketball tournament is one of the most exciting events of the year for millions of Americans, and even for those who don’t care all that much about basketball, the excitement is contagious.
All of this is well and good, but what does it have to do with managing your business? Well, here’s the thing. Basketball is a lot like life. Just like in the real world, it takes a lot of skill and hard work to succeed on the hardwood. The drive and ability to capture March glory can for many of these players easily translate into the drive and passion needed to succeed in business one day.
For example, take Jeremy Bloom. He may never have played college basketball per se, but he is a world-class athlete. Bloom is a former NFL player (with the Eagles and Steelers), an 11-time World Cup gold medalist, a two-time Olympian and a member of the United States Skiing Hall of Fame. In his post-sports days, he’s moved on to the corporate world, and he’s known as the co-founder and president of Integrate, a marketing software and media services firm.
In a recent Entrepreneur guest piece, Bloom asserted that the skills you need to succeed in sports will also translate nicely to business. For example, it’s important to know when to stay loose, even when the pressure builds up.
“The brighter the spotlight, the greater the tendency for us to tighten up,” he explained. “The more we want something, the greater we fear not accomplishing it. And while some level of fear is healthy, too much can cause our mind and body to tighten up resulting in a less than spectacular performance.
Here are three insights you can use to drive your business to victory.
1) Keep a short memory
College basketball is all about compartmentalizing your memories and moving forward. When you play a 30-game season, you can’t afford to get hung up dwelling on every loss – it’ll wreck you. You can’t cry or worry over losing to teams in previous match-ups when heading into the tournament, instead, you have to plan for now and for games ahead of you.
Business works much the same way. You’re going to make mistakes, but you can’t let every mishap ruin you emotionally. You should think about your mistakes and learn from them, but know when its time to move on.
Tim Harford, economist and author of the new book, “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure,” writes that few of our failures are fatal. Mistakes are a part of life, and it’s a losing attitude that lets just one of them take you out of the game permanently. You’ll only have a chance to succeed if you stay in the game and keep giving it your best effort.
Even if you’ve made a couple of bad business decisions, there’s always an opportunity to bounce back.
2) Setting aside your ego
A lot of basketball is knowing when to sacrifice your own ego for the sake of the team. Everyone on the floor in a tournament game wants a chance to be a hero, making the game-winning jump shot that propels their team on to the next round of the tournament. Unfortunately, not everyone can be that guy. Sometimes, it’s better to make the game-winning pass than to take the shot yourself, even if it bruises your ego a little bit.
There are plenty of situations like this in business too. As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of ideas about how best to run your company, and a lot of them are good ones. But there will still be times when you need to forget about yourself and your own demands and let someone else be “the hero.”
According to AOL Small Business, focusing too much on yourself can be a serious problem. Matt Knox, co-founder and CEO of DiggersList, warns people about this.
“While the best idea for your new business may initially come from you, you will be surprised at how many of the best ideas to advance your product will come from others,” Knox said. “Set your mind, right from the start, that the important part is how awesome your product or service is, not who came up with the idea to make it better. Don’t be your company’s bottleneck.”
3) Trust the experts around you
Part of success on the basketball floor is about trusting your teammates. It’s also about trusting your coaches. Guys like Roy Williams and Tom Izzo are household names for a reason – they have decades of experience, they’ve won championships before and they have a lot of wisdom to impart. If you play for a world-class basketball coach, you’d best listen to every word he says.
Likewise, there will be times in business when it’s important to listen to the expert voices in your inner circle. You have people at your company who specialize in sales, or in marketing, or in finance and you have them for a reason. Consider their opinions and trust their expertise.
Esquire recently reported that intelligent people are more likely than others to trust people. Researchers at Oxford University, analyzing America’s General Social Survey, found a link between intelligence and trust. Whether it’s player and coach or CEO and CFO, partnerships based on trust are of vital importance.
These are just a few lessons you can learn from sports and March Madness, but there are undoubtedly many more. What about you – what’s on your mind as you watch the hoops tournament unfold?