Defeat is a part of life. Yet surely so is victory.
Perhaps nowhere more readily can we see the ups and downs of life than in sports, where you and your team are always measured by the last game you played.
Take baseball, for example, in which an all-star year at the plate typically involves failing 67% of the time: one must learn to appreciate process rather than mere outcome.
My business partner and I are both athletes: she a champion figure skater, and I a former college hockey player. The levels at which we competed were different, to say the least, but the lessons we learned through sport have been critical in the development of our business, Snoxx Socks, which we recently launched.
You learn that in life, good things take time to build, and failure (read: experience) is a pre-requisite to success. Here are four lessons that winning athletes and entrepreneurs have in common.
1.) Failure is not the end of the game; it’s one step in the process.
Just because you try something once and fail doesn’t mean you won’t eventually succeed. Failure is only failure if you accept it as such. After all, it’s the experience that is most important. Angry Birds was the 51st game that the video-game maker Rovio launched. It has been downloaded close to 2 billion times. Imagine if they had stopped at game 50. You have to trust the path you’re on and believe in your vision. Sasha and I failed more than a dozen times with our prototype before we got the thickness of the material and colour patterns exact, but we trusted our design intelligence and eventually made the right tweaks to get the product we wanted.
2.) It takes a village
Any substantial accomplishment requires a team. Athletes are required to learn how to work together, play a role, take direction, be leaders, and do what’s best for the group. And almost all of them have coaches. Regardless of how good Michael Jordan was at basketball, it’s tough to think of him without Phil Jackson.
And no matter how profound Sir Richard Branson’s vision, when asked what makes a great CEO, he stated that he has learned “to delegate to others so [he] can have time to focus on the bigger picture.” Both player and coach know that they need one another in order to support the team’s collective goals.
3.) “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
My ice hockey goaltending coach, who was also one of my greatest mentors, always told me that if you fail to prepare you will not be prepared to succeed. The above quote was something that he wrote on the wall of the barn where we used to train, and it has always stuck with me.
Tiger Woods used to hit 1,000 eight-iron shots a day to prepare for tournament play, knowing with exact precision what he needed to do to hit a specific shot with that club when the moment required it. Michael Dell, in building his computer business, woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to prepare for the day. When his competitors were asleep, he was gaining advantage.
The late Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, planned out his entire week every Sunday knowing that what he scheduled became his reality. Why leave the most important things in life up to any greater chance than there already is? In preparation for the launch of Snoxx, we attended Kickstarter networking events, spoke to other successful project founders about how they met their funding goals, and developed a media plan weeks in advance of going live. Preparation doesn’t guarantee success, but it increases the odds.
4.) Last but not least: Patience is a virtue
We often overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade. In my own experience, my greatest victories required time. It had always been a dream of mine to play college hockey. I applied to 12 schools, was rejected by 10; and when I finally got to college, I was cut from the team, and then played two years before I ever made it into a game. Far from how I expected things to unfold, but what I learned during that process was the greatest reward.
Over the past year, our previous experiences in our respective ice arenas have helped prepare us for our work outside of them. Loss or defeat was never the final result, but merely one rung in a ladder of outcomes. All the times we were told “no” before finding a manufacturer, or rejected before we got a meeting with a large retailer only served to reinforce our conviction about the brand we were creating. Knowing that “no” wasn’t rejection, but rather merely part of the process, allowed us to go on with a sense of ease believing that we would eventually get to where we wanted to go.
All which brings us to here: we launched on Kickstarter April 16, and at the time of this article are 30% funded. Each accomplishment that we have made up to this point has raised the bar and has only set the stage for a new chance to fail (read: learn). But we understand that each step is a part of the whole, and that goals are meant for moving forward, but process is meant for appreciating life.
At the end of the day, when you get knocked down, what is there to do than to get back up and try your hardest (and smartest) again. The enhanced perspective and experience should position you even closer to the outcome you desire.
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