What goes on in the gym?

Over the past twelve months insights from the world of sport and how they can inform business growth seem to have increased in popularity. The world of cycling refers to the law of incremental gains, a particularly powerful framework suggesting that small improvements in performance over a period of time can deliver a world-class performance. Michael Johnson’s comment during the London Olympic resonated with me – “with athletes the race is more often than not won in the mind, way before getting on the track”. How true this is in business as well, many entrepreneurs place restrictions on their own capability by imposing self-limiting beliefs, this hinders progression, promotes a can’t do mentality, resulting in a venture which fails to gain traction. The philosophy of “if you believe you can, you can, if you believe you can’t, you are right” is one all ambitious entrepreneurs should be mindful of.

One of the most important yet highly obvious messages from the world of sport to the entrepreneur is the importance of practice, hard work and dedication. Over night millionaires in my experience are few and far between, most individuals who go on to build successful enterprises have worked their socks off and put in long shifts to perfect their product, create a market, relationships with customers, construct meaningful well thought through business cases to raise money, not forgetting time effort and energy put into developing a high performing top team. No short cuts, they have practiced, put in the hours – it takes time to build a business of value. Stories of challenge as well as success are a source of wisdom for us all.

As Malcolm Gladwell states it requires 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. All too often we don’t see what goes on in the “entrepreneurs gym” – long days and nights, getting it wrong many times before they get it right. I particularly love Muhammad Ali’s comments in a TV interview, he said “no one sees the hard work that goes on outside the ring when I fight, the 5.00am starts and intensive training regime, all they see is the bright lights and the 30 minutes it takes for me to retain my title”.

Hard work and graft is a mindset any aspiring entrepreneur must get to grips with, unfortunately TV and the media and in particular certain formats, which I can’t stand watching, do promote the get rich quick brigade. Glamourisation through TV of being your own boss has possibly helped to get the next generation to think about going it alone, I also know that it has put many off as well.

My advice is look at those amazing athletes who do great things in the training camp, work out what your gym looks like and what you need to practice on. As for TV, I wish Coronation Street would bring back Mike Baldwin.

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