The Winter Olympics are here, and figure skating is always one of its most popular sports.
And for good reason. I’m always enthralled seeing how athleticism and artistry combine.
When I was just starting my small business, I was an enthusiastic, though not very good, ice skater. And I found over the years there were many things I learned from skating that helped me succeed as an entrepreneur:
1. Get used to being on the edge. In skating, every turn, every movement requires you to put all your weight on a 1/8th of an inch piece of steel blade. This takes a lot of coordination and courage. Business requires those same traits. You have to get used to taking chances. Don't take foolhardy chances — no triple lutzes — but do get comfortable being on your edges if you want to make progress.
2. Practice. In sports, especially ice skating, practice is a must. Yet in business, we think we have to be perfect the very first time we ever do something: Go on a sales call, supervise an employee, develop a product. We have to practice those things, too. It’s just that most of our practice happens once we’re already in business. That’s OK. Just keep learning. And fully expect that ...
3. You’re going to fall! In business, as in skating, you sometimes end up on your backside. If you get overwhelmed by these setbacks, you’ll never survive. Instead, when something bad happens, ask yourself the question I overheard an ice-skating coach patiently inquire of a crying 5-year-old: “Are you scared or are you hurt?” Learning to to tell the difference — at 5 or 35 — is a valuable life skill.
4. Get used to dealing with people of all ages. I’m about to launch a new cloud-based application, and as you can imagine the world of app development is dominated by 20-somethings. Now, I’m no longer in my mid-20s (and I’m not telling you how long it’s been since I was), but you can always learn from anyone, older or younger.
When I was skating, a 10-year-old — a girl 20 years younger than me — skated alongside and asked how long I’d been skating. “About a year,” I replied. Then with all the patience and encouragement of a wise elder dealing with a toddler, she said, “You’re doing really well; keep it up.” Patronized by a pre-teen!
5. Don’t let others set your limitations. About a month after I started skating, I fell and cut the back of my head, requiring a dozen stitches. A close friend suggested I give up the sport; it was just for kids. Hah! Instead, I devised a helmet that looked like a hat and signed up for lessons on how to fall. I wasn’t going to be stopped.
6. You don’t have to be great to be good. I was always a pretty bad ice-skater. It’s not that I’m proud of that, but I’ve got some very real limitations — physical abilities, talent, amount of time I can spend. That’s OK. I wasn’t aiming to enter any competitions. Many people in business think they have to be great to survive. It’s not true. You don't have to build a Fortune 500 company to make a good living.
As you watch Olympic athletes, whether figure skaters, speed skaters, lugers, snowboarders or skiers, allow yourself to be inspired — not just by their spirit of competition, but by their perseverance, their risk taking, their dedication to excellence. They’re great examples to those of us who want to win gold (or silver or bronze) medals in small business.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of 19 books including Entrepreneurship: A Real-World Approach, just released in its second edition. Connect with Rhonda on Facebook and Twitter: @RhondaAbrams. Register for Rhonda’s free business tips newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.