Growing up as a kid playing basketball, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the life lessons I would learn when the coaches son got more playing time than me.
15 years later, I was working on a $20 million construction project where the General Contractor was being managed by the founder of the company’s (novice) son. The connection couldn’t have been more obvious.
In certain situations, it doesn’t matter how much better you are or how hard you work if you’re competing against your bosses family. In these situations, if you’re looking to get ahead then it’s better to cut your losses and find a new team (or company).
I had already learned this lesson 15 years earlier playing high school basketball.
This is only 1 of many lessons about life that you can learn from sports.
Top 14 Life Lessons You Learn From Playing Sports
- Hard Work Pays Off
Sports and just general exercise are a great example of how hard work pays off.
If you start playing soccer in Kindergarten, and you practice running, dribbling, and shooting everyday until 9th grade. Then you’re likely to make the varsity team a couple years early. And maybe even set yourself up for a college scholarship.
Compared to the average player who starts in kindergarten and only practices during soccer season and then hangs up their cleats until next season. No matter how good you are, if you don’t practice everyday, some else who is practicing everyday will take your spot. It’s just a matter of time.
The same is true in life. Work hard everyday and success is only a mater of time (but sometimes a long time)
- Some People Are Just Naturally Good At Certain Things
Sometimes people are just naturally good at certain things. Some people are naturally athletic and can run, jump, and have perfect hand-eye-coordination with-out ever practicing.
Others can develop these skills, but it may take months or years of training.
The same is true in life. Some people are born leaders and can manage people with ease with-out much or any formal training. Others struggle in management roles, even after years of training.
- Practice Does NOT Make Perfect
You’re heard the saying that “practice makes perfect”. WRONG !
As an example, Shaquille O’neal practices free throws everyday for over 20 years and never got any better. Still one of the work free throw shooters in basketball history. Why ?
Because practice makes permanent. Shaq’s free throw form was awful. If you practice the wrong thing, then you wont get better.
Perfect practice makes perfect. If you’re in business and making bad decisions they your business won’t grow. In sports and in life, you need to do things correctly if you’re going to grow and get better.
- Teamwork Is Critical
The most successful people in the world utilize teamwork to achieve success.
Michael Jordan never won a championship until he learned to pass. Pele had 10 teammates during his 3 world cup victories. Even Michael Phelps had a team of coaches and mentors that helped propel him to his 23 gold metals.
If you want to be successful in life, then you need to learn to work as part of a team. Businesses are nothing more than a large team working together. The more efficient everyone works together the more efficient the business is going to run.
Or if you work for yourself then you’re still part of a team. You’re clients, sub-contractors, vendors, ect.
Your network in life is your team. Choose well.
- Failure Is Part Of Success
Learning to fail is just as important if not more important than learning to succeed.
Sports teaches us how to loose. Even after practicing with your team everyday, you can still come up short. But when you fail at sports and you fail to win, do you quit?
No. Of course not, you shake hands with the winner, acknowledge your defeat, accept reality, and move on to fight another day. You may even re-watch a recording of your defeat in order to learn from your mistakes.
Life is no different. You will work hard towards a goal and fail. It happens to everybody. The trick is, that when you fail in life, or fail in business, you must accept it, learn from it, and move on to fight another day
- Always Be Prepared: Strategy Can Beat Raw Talent
A team with a strategy a less talent can beat a team with more talent and no strategy.
I’ve been on both sides of this equation. My high school basketball team had lots of talent and at least 6 of us were excellent, but our coach had no plan and no strategy. We lost in the state play-offs to a well coached team with only 2 good players.
The lesson here is to always be prepared. You can be born with talent and work to develop skill, but being prepared is a mental game. Like chess.
Those with strategy in life are much more likely to get what they want out of life. Don’t just be talented, have a plan.
- Mindset Is Everything
It sounds cliché, yeah I know. But Mindset literally is everything. How far are you willing to go to win? Are you willing to do 50 suicide sprints a day in order to be faster than your opponent? If you’re not, than the person who is willing will beat you to the ball.
Are you willing to push yourself further and further out of your comfort zone? This has nothing to do with physical talents, this is a mind game.
Are you willing to work 14 hours a day for 5 years straight in order to get your business off the ground?
If you’re not willing to go the extra mile, then you’ll get beat by someone who will. True in sports, true in life.
- Communication Is Key
When you’re on a sports team it’s obvious that everyone must work together, but it’s not always just that simple.
How do you work together? Communication. Each teammate needs to communicate with everyone else. Whether it talking, yelling, pointing, or even just eye contact. If you get beat on defense, you call out for help. If you’re open you put your hand up.
Communication is also key in life situations. The #1 reason for failed relationships is lack of communication. I’ve been in plenty of business meeting where arguments break out over simple mis-communications which end up in lawsuits and waste thousands of dollars.
- You Need To ‘Man-Up’ And Take Responsibility And Accountability.
If you make a mistake in a team sport and blame someone else or try to cover it up, then you will loose the respect of your teammates.
When you make a mistake in sports you raise your hand and say “my bad”. Blaming others or trying to cover up your mistakes will eventually cause resentment from your teammates or come back to bite you in the butt.
- Learn From Your Mistakes
Taking responsibility is a good way to lead by example and earn respect. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes then you’ll keep making them which will hold you back and prevent you from improving.
This couldn’t be more true in the “game of life”. Making mistakes is not preventable, but the faster you learn from your mistakes the faster you will improve and the faster you will learn.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing sports or managing a team of engineers.
Understand your mistakes and learn from them.
- Competition Breeds Success
Sports are built on competition. You want to win, so you compete. If you lose you can either give up, or you can keep working and improving so you can compete again.
This constant process of competition is what leads to great success. The more you want to win, the harder you try and compete. Certain sports are much more popular and therefor much more competitive. For example, there’s a lot more competition to make the varsity soccer team than there is to make the varsity fencing team.
If you want to run a successful business, then your business needs to out compete other businesses. If you don’t then you’ll loose out on business.
Just like in sports, certain industries are more competitive than others. Starting a residential construction company will be much more competitive than starting a lawn mowing business.
- How To Be A Strong Leader
When Kobe Bryant joined the Lakers as a teenager, he commanded some of the older players to start working harder in practice. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with the team.
His coach, Phil Jackson, took Kobe aside. Kobe told Phil that he was ready to be the leader and wanted everyone to listen to him
Phil told Kobe that he was right that the players weren’t working hard enough, but also, that it didn’t matter if Kobe was ready to be the leader, the team wasn’t ready to listen to him. He had to earn their respect.
The life lesson here is that you can’t just demand that people do things even if you’re their boss. You need to treat people with respect if you want to be a leader.
- Growth Takes Time. Be Patient
When you hear things like “hard work pays off” or “keep practicing” or “trust the process” what does that really mean.
Hard work, practice, and growth take time to pay off. You can’t exercise for 2 months and expect to look like Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson. He works out 2x a day everyday for 20 years to look like that.
Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest player of all time because he was born good at basketball. Mike was the best because he spent hour after hour, day after day practicing. After years of that routine he was so far ahead of everyone else and he knew it.
Life works the same way. Warren buffet is the most successful wall street investor in history. His strategy is very simple. Invest in good companies and never sell.
A reporter once asked Warren why no-one else copies his strategy because it seemed so simple. Warren said it is simple and no-one follows it because no one want to get rich slowly.
Basically good things take time, patience, and hard work in order to grow.
- Acknowledge Greatness
Sometimes there are people who just out perform everyone. Whether skill, natural ability, or years of hard work it’s important and humbling to acknowledge someone who is better than you.
Acknowledging someone better than you can motivate you and keep you humble at the same time.
Whether you’re playing sports as a kid or playing sports as an adult there’s always life lessons to be learned.
As a student of life sports are one of the best (and certainly the most fun) ways to exercise, compete, socialize, and learn life lessons all in one activity.
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