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.
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 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 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.
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.