Where did you learn what it takes to be successful?

For me – outside of what my parents taught me – competitive sports had by far the biggest impact.

It’s funny, thinking back to the things I learned in high school, as an undergrad, and in graduate school – not a lot of it has a daily impact on what I do.

But the lessons I learned in sports – they matter every day.

Here are a few of the things being an athlete or coaching athletes taught me:

  • The Ability To Handle Adversity – You can’t go very far as an athlete without having to overcome adversity, and the most successful athletes are usually the ones who deal with adversity the most effectively.
  • Work Ethic – I remember my freshman year of high school going to baseball practice at 3:15 after school and being done at 8. It was kind of a rude awakening for a 14 year old, but I quickly learned that to be successful you couldn’t do just enough to get by. I don’t know anyone who has ever become a real success just punching the clock and working 9-5.
  • The Intangibles Matter As Much As The Tangibles – Many of the most talented athletes I’ve ever played with or coached were huge underachievers when it came to performance. They didn’t have the passion, drive, or willingness to work hard. They couldn’t handle adversity. To this day – I’ll hire intangibles 10 times out of 10 over a great resume.
  • To Keep Score – The beauty of sports is that you keep score. There is a tangible way to measure performance. I tracked everything as a coach because I was looking for an edge. We track our numbers for the same reasons now; if you don’t keep score, you cannot measure how you’re performing and know where to focus your efforts on improvement.
  • Sacrifice & A Team Attitude – If you compete in a team sport and want to succeed at a high level, you quickly learn to work within the framework of a group, sacrifice some of your individual goals for the good of the team, and understand that if you want to be a champion you need to get past selfishness and shortsightedness.
  • You Can’t Hide – In baseball, when you step in the batter’s box it’s a moment of truth. You either put in the hours or you didn’t. As a coach, when your team takes the field, you either recruited and did the job preparing your team, or you didn’t. Too many people make excuses. Sports teach you that excuses don’t get you very far.
  • Hustle Can Make Up For A Lot – As a player I got to play at a higher level than my talent probably would have taken me because I worked hard. As a coach we developed a nationally ranked program with some of the worst resources in the country. If you’re willing to outwork the competition, you will be able to overcome a lot of shortcomings – whether it is talent, resources, or anything else.

That’s just a sample of the things being involved in competitive athletics taught me. If you were involved in sports – what did they teach you?

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