The Athlete Advantage: Why Competing in Sports Will Make You a Better Businessperson

Training like a competitive athlete is an asset to your business career.

It improves your performance through the discipline of training and hard work. Preparing to compete requires a lot of effort, will and heart and you still may lose. The benefits from the preparation and the physical and mental transformation make the whole process worthwhile for those that aspire to achieve. The ability to get into a focused state and perform your best under stress when there is fear and pressure is something competitive sports and business have in common.

I always played team sports growing up and considered myself athletic but I didn’t really become a true athlete until I started competing in kickboxing. I never had any intention of becoming a competitive kickboxer; I joined with some girlfriends for fitness when I was 14. A year went by and I found myself fighting my best friend in a competition I didn’t want to participate in and won as the underdog.

I went on to win Canadian Women’s Middleweight Golden Gloves in high school. Throughout my time competing, I lost to people who were better than me or at the very least performed that way that day. I experienced the thrill of victory and the disappointment of defeat. The training regimen was the same either way and it required discipline and preparation but with course corrections and improvements along the way. Similar to refining my skills in business in dealing with success and failure and using past experiences as a springboard for forward momentum.

Selling software to hotels (an industry I knew nothing about) then sitting in the boardroom in the hot seat meeting with CEOs of technology and software companies telling them how they should market their company took the same balls as getting in the ring in the early stages of my career. Relying on peak performance (flow, the zone, etc.) and the capacity to be present in meetings and trust in my skills and abilities was required to succeed.

The takeaways from competing in sport that translated into business for me:

  • Discipline: you can accomplish anything you want if you persist and are focused.
  • Knowing how to win and lose: sometimes you learn more from the humility of defeat.
  • Training and getting better than before: constantly improving and refining skills and abilities.
  • Learning how to compete: with and against yourself.
  • Handle stress, pressure, accountability: if you are looking to achieve and grow, you will deal with it ongoing.
  • Responsible for your own results: nothing is ever handed to you.

Training and acquiring the skills and persistence to be victorious and win doesn’t happen overnight, but in training and practice and time.

Success in sports, business and life is never a straight line—and you take your hits along the way—but if you continue to move forward you can push yourself further than you ever thought possible.