Why Athletes Make Great Business People

How to Win in Business

Why athletes make great businesspeople

Athletes make great business people? What?!? What about all those pro athletes that go bankrupt once they retire? You know, the ones that have to travel to communist countries as sports ambassadors to keep up their lifestyle.

Yes, athletes make great business people, but even professional athletes can have trouble applying their talents for sports to the business world. Still, we can learn a lot from them.

By now, you've probably skipped ahead and noticed the titles of the paragraphs to follow (Goals, Competition, etc...) and are thinking "Oh no, not another one of those articles. I don't need help with goal setting!"

Just bear with me for a few minutes; you might get your next PR (personal record) in business!


Athletes are incredibly adept at not only making goals, but finding ways to achieve them and actively working towards them.

Now, some of you are business gurus, but for the rest of us, stop and consider this question: When is the last time you sat down, shut off your laptop and phone, and listed out your professional goals? You know the drill; list out 5 short, medium and long-term goals. Then, come up with a creative way to reach them. It sounds so easy, right?

Even if you actually do this, are you setting the right goals? Can you even think of 5 goals? How many of you found that your goals are too generic?

Here is a list of bad goals:

  • Sell more
  • Get a promotion
  • Make more money

Wait, those all sound like good things, so why are they bad goals? Because they are far too generic!

You could sit around all day long, meditating in front of your yellow legal pad, staring at the phrase "sell more", but that's not going to make the phone ring! You won't have a clue as to how and why you should sell more. You won't have a plan!

Why athletes are better at goal setting: Because athletes set specific, concrete goals!

You'll never hear a runner saying "I want to run faster", weightlifters who want to "lift bigger weights" or a quarterback saying "I want to throw good". Ok, I know that last one is silly, but the point is, athletes make very precise goals!

Runners say "I want to shave 3 minutes off my 10K time!" Weightlifters want to increase their 1 rep max by 10 pounds, and quarterbacks want to perfect their spiral and hit their receivers.

If you want to succeed in business, you have to set goals like an athlete!

If you need a little nudging to get going, try taking some advice from one of the greatest athletes ever, Michael Jordan. In one of his more recent books, Driven from Within, Jordan tells you how to succeed, not just in sports, but in business and life.


Competition is a good thing. It's obviously good for the customer, but it's good for suppliers, too. But too often, we shy away from competiton. How many times have you heard, or said: "There're too many players in that field, " or "Let's not go after that account, the 'so and so company' has been in there for years. We'll bid the next one."

Now, obviously, it makes good economic and business sense to enter markets where there is less competition and fewer barriers to entry. But at some point, you need to take a stand and jump in with both feet!

In the business world, competition should drive us to constantly improve ourselves, our team, and our organization. To many people, competition invokes a grimace. We cringe at the thought. It turns our stomachs. "No, not that! Let's do something else!"

Why athletes are better at facing competition:  Athletes face competition all the time. They embrace it. They thrive on it.

Nobody paid to see Muhammad Ali shadowboxing. No one scalps tickets to watch a pitcher throw balls to an empty batters' box. The entire point of athletic competitions is proving you are better, faster and stronger than the other guy!

But it goes much deeper than just beating the other guy. Athletes thrive on competition, both internal and external. It drives them. It motivates them. It helps them fall in love with the process of becoming great. To be a successful businessperson, you must fall in love with the process of becoming great.

At my company, MonMan, we focus on bringing new and exciting products to market. Although we look for markets that aren't oversaturated, we don't mind competition. It pushes us to find the best products, and offer the best customer service. We truly feel that we are the best at what we do, and we work at that fact every day. Competition makes us better, and brings more value to our customers.

How You Work

You might make the mistake of calling it "work", but in reality, you are training, exercising for the big day! That day comes in the form of the being awarded a new contract, scoring a new client and, most personally, payday!

Why, then, do businesspeople spend all day checking emails, adding contacts on LinkedIn, and reading business journals?

There's nothing wrong with any of those things; they're essential these days. But are you following a plan? Are you checking emails according to your schedule? You know, the one that is going to help you achieve your goals?

Why athletes are better at work: Athletes train for the big event in a very specific way to build multiple aspects of their abilities.

A runner doesn't train for a marathon by running a few miles Monday-Friday, and taking the weekend off! They have a training portfolio full of potential exercises for each day, and they string them together to form an overall plan for success. Monday might be long, slow distance, Tuesday might be an intermediate day, and Friday could be speed work.

Runners, and other athletes, know that if they do the same exact exercises all day, every day, they will not accomplish their goals!

And it's not just what they do, it's how they do it. Athletes love the process of getting faster, stronger, better. They love training.

You need to check your goals, and create a plan to meet those goals. Each day should be varied. You should focus on what you're doing at the time, and should be able to justify why you are doing it--How will this specific activity help me reach my goal?

The next time you're watching your favorite team, take a minute to think about how each of those athletes got there. As businesspeople, we could all take a page or two from their playbook.



Good advice. Although you are right, athletes might be very motivated, but they don't always handle their money appropriately.

MonMan is a Division 09, 15 and 16 firm specializing in market entry, sales channel development and service of efficient solutions for mission critical facilities.

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