3 Life Lessons from the Basketball Court

This weekend’s NCAA Final Four brings out the best that college athletics has to offer.

It’s been almost 15 years since my last college basketball game, and the lessons I learned in college sports have helped me in life and in sales.

In August of 1999, I stepped on campus with the goal of making a college basketball team. Leaving a small west Texas town, I came to a school hundreds of miles from home as a walk-on with only the promise from the head coach of a chance to tryout to make the team.

We started with 20 walk-ons, all with a single goal — making the team. We went through tryouts, practices, weight training, and conditioning sessions. In the end, there were 2 of us that made the roster.

msu-roster

Over the course of the next 3 years, I went from walk-on to scholarship athlete. But the lessons I learned playing have stuck with me and prepared me for new challenges. Looking back, the 3 reasons I made the team are the same qualities that lead to success in sales, in business, and in life.

  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Coachability

GRIT

Grit involves staying determined and persisting when faced with rejection or lack of progress. As a walk-on college basketball player, you have to develop a sense of grit to believe that the time and energy your putting in will eventually lead to results. Ultimately, the sacrifice I made – putting in the work and staying focused on the goal of playing a college sport – paid off and I made the men’s basketball team at Midwestern State University.

In life and especially in sales, you have to know that you’ll face rejection and discomfort. The ability to stay determined and focus on the goal allows us to keep moving forward, even in the face of discouragement. It can be easy to get down and lose hope, however having experienced success because of grit in the past reminds us of what is possible, even when the odds are not in our favor.

Resilience

Resilience and grit go hand in hand. When you get knocked down, do you stay there, or do you scrape yourself off the floor and go at it again? Getting knocked down is inevitable, but getting back up is a choice. And getting up with the right attitude is even more important.

In sales, we face ups and downs. The market changes. Our product has technical issues. Potential customers show us the door. Resilience is getting up again each time we experience a setback and giving it another shot. When you fail and when you fall, can you regroup and bounce back with the same attitude and enthusiasm you had when you began?

Getting up when you get knocked down is possible. Regaining the courage and enthusiasm to go at it again is what takes resilience to the next level.

Coachability

As a walk-on, you have to be coachable – willing to listen, to learn, to adapt, and to do whatever is asked, without questioning or complaining. The ability to take positive and negative feedback and make the changes is one of the quickest ways to earn credibility and respect.

To be successful in your job, you have to be coachable. Listen to those who have been successful and emulate what they do. Whether it’s a manager, a leader, or a colleague, when you step into a role for the first time, you have to do so with gratitude and the willingness to learn.

When you combine coachability with gratitude and humility, you have the opportunity to improve and make a difference.

Developing the walk-on mindset

Trying to make a team by walking on is not an easy thing to do. You have got to show up early and stay late and improve every day. You have to do the little things while showing grit, perseverance, and resilience. Learn to lead up and influence those around you with your example and enthusiasm. Figure out how to add value to those around you by your actions and attitudes.

As we watch the Final Four this weekend, I hope we see the best that college athletics has to offer.  The games are fun to watch. The stories are captivating. And the lessons we learn last long after the final horn sounds.

Develop a sense of grit, bounce back when you fall, and be coachable. Use the mindset of a walk-on to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

 

The Power of Reflection

It was Monday, January 2nd, and my daughter in my office asking me to print off another coloring page. With it being the start of a new year, I wanted my 7-year-old to set her goals for a new year and think about what she wanted to accomplish. So before I printed off another Christmas Puppy coloring page, I did a quick Google search for “Kids Goals Worksheets”. She was not as excited as I was when I handed her the page, but she headed over to the table and started to write.

kids-goals
Link

Of the 3 kids goal sheets that I printed off, one of them caught my attention. This page caught my attention. In the past, I simply move from Dec. 31st to Jan. 1st and start to think about the coming year without reflecting on the last 365 days. As I tried to help my daughter think through the questions, it hit me that I should be doing the same thing.

As we think about the year that just concluded, this exercise requires us to take inventory and assess where we’ve been before we think about where we want to go. I decided that if this is good enough for my 7-year-old, then it’s good enough for me.

OUT WITH THE OLD (2016)

2 Favorite Memories 

3 Things I’m Grateful For

1 Hard Lesson I Learned

1 Thing I Did This Year That I’m Proud Of

IN WITH THE NEW (2017)

3 Places I Want to Go

2 Ways I Can Help Others

1 Thing I Want to Get Better At

3 New Things I Want to Try

As we get older, the comes a day when we quit dreaming. We quit asking ourselves, “Where do we want to go?” or “What is something new I want to try?”. Goals are important, and looking back allows us to formulate a vision for the future. If we allow ourselves to dream, it gives our goals meaning and purpose.

So this January, as I start planning for 2017 and put my goals down in writing, I wanted to take a moment to reflect. By asking these simple questions, I’m able to reflect on the good, the bad, the challenges, the lessons, and the opportunities from the last year. We don’t drive looking out our rearview mirror, and in the same way, we shouldn’t all our energy dwelling on the past. However, the past gives us perspective and helps look ahead if we understand where we’ve been.

In the end, my daughter put down her answers and earned another coloring page. She may forget coloring another My Little Pony page, but I hope she sees the value of reflection and the power of goals.

I hope we all live intentionally with vision and purpose in 2017!