Corporate Athletes – How Sports and Business are Alike

Corporate executives are very much like elite athletes. Read the following points and consider how great business executives and world-class athletes exhibit exactly the same traits:

The business executive moves up the corporate ladder by channeling long hours of work and mental focus constantly on the business.  On an extreme scale, corporate work ethic can sometimes be reworded as “workaholic”.  These corporate athletes retain and capitalize on their intense mental focus — their desire to succeed never wanes.

The sports athlete moves up to world class status by employing unwavering effort and thousands of hours of practice, through the appropriate channels in their own sport (leagues, tournaments, competitions).  Sports athletes have an unparalleled drive to achieve, whether at a professional, world-class or Olympic level . They do not let anything deflect them from their goals – they exhibit incredible work ethic, intense focus and a “never-give-up” attitude.


Business executives begin their careers with education in an area of expertise, then progress by gaining varied experience in higher and higher levels of business.  Business training and preparation is both formal and informal. Learning the politics of people, business deals and corporate culture is often as important as any technical education.

Sports training and preparation begins in a similar way, with technical skills development as the foundation, complemented by increasingly complex nuances of learning in a particular sport.  The right mix of training to enable athletes perform using both technical skills (the  “science”) and natural talent/ability (the “art”) is key to elite status.

Broad-based expertise is a key ingredient for successful business leaders.  Decision-making requires expertise in multiple disciplines (marketing, financial, operational).  Mentorship and career development programs are a great way to focus on this broader range of skill building –  MBAs are an example of diversified training in the business world.

In sports, the importance of sport-specific training is always present; however cross-training adds complementary strengths and skills to support an ahtlete’s success in a variety of situations.  Yes, hockey players may employ strength/yoga/core training to complement their speed skating and puck-handling skills.  Bikers and runners will add upper body weight training as part of their overall training plans.


Executives and leaders never stop learning or building their business, it’s a “compound effect”.  Some leaders will never retire – their business has been continuous for decades and stopping or retiring is just inconceivable.  Success to these individuals is often as much the journey as the destination.

Athletes parallel this attitude.  Physical training never stops – the invested effort to achieve peak physical conditioning and elite performance levels is so significant, athletes are usually reluctant to stop or take a break because the decline in performance takes too much effort to recover later.  Often, the psychology of sport is embedded in an athlete’s persona; their love of hockey, basketball, etc is a lifetime passion.

Natural business leaders with an instinct for making deals or obtaining innovative results will achieve greater levels of business success.

The same principle applies for athletes – those with natural ability will excel because they have found their “niche” talent and are tapping it.

Imagine running a multi-million dollar company with thousands of jobs depending on you and competitors trying to cut you off at the knees on every deal you make.  Hundreds of daily decisions are necessary, each with big risks in terms of money, jobs or the business’s reputation – and the days are  always 12-18 hours long.

Athletes experience comparable pressure.  Mental focus and concentration culminates in competition; sometimes years of investment riding on one moment or one event.  Consider what goes through the mind of a golfer in the Masters Tournament, or how a hockey player handles overtime playoffs in the Stanley Cup.

The key to reaching elite status, whether in business or in sport, is the combination of all the above factors:  preparation, hard work, mental focus and life experience all contribute to hone the capabilities and potential of each individual.

Find your passion, then pursue it with determination and planned action!


8 Secrets of Success – guest post by Jim Estill

The 8 Secrets of Success

One thing about blogging is people often send me blog ideas. I really enjoyed this short 3 minute video by Richard St. John – the secrets of success in 8 words.

1 – Passion. Every successful person I know is passionate about what they do.

2 – Hard work. Clearly one of my highest values.

3 – Be good at something. Focus. (I tend to have problem with this one. I am a generalist)

4 – Push yourself. No kidding.

5 – Serve others. Clearly offering high value to others is the only way to success.

6 – Ideas. Be curious. I have tons of ideas. Flies a bit in the face of secret #3.

7 – Persist. Every successful person I know is peristent.

8 – you don’t think I am going to ruin the movie by giving you all of them do you? Watch the video.

Speaking of success… My successful uncle, author, professor, Bruce Kellner has published his latest book. Not my usual business genre I am sure (it’s a love story). I hope now that he is famous he still talks to me although thats likely what he says about me.

posted by Jim Estill @ 2:01 PM

Travel Tips – How To Stay Caught Up on the Road

Business travel – why does it take so long to “catch up” at the office when returning from a business trip? Try tips in these three areas to avoid buildup of workload:

1) Delegate Email:

Delegate emails to one or more subordinates or peers in your “away from office” wizard so  that routine issues can be resolved in your absence.  Studies show that up to 60% of  emails can be delegated and dealt with by staff at home while you are on the road.

Don’t be afraid to delegate.  Sometimes the biggest hurdle is giving up control to others, or taking the time to train others to handle your work.  Try delegating on shorter trips and in smaller amounts at first if you are wary of giving up too much too soon.

2) Clean your office/ in-basket before you travel:

If you can clear your in-basket before traveling, you will reduce the odds of being overloaded upon your return.

Where possible, schedule several hours in the week before leaving to clear up outstanding items and clutter in your office.

Delegate currently outstanding issues to peers or subordinates (before you leave) to ensure that work continues without interruption in your absence.  Think about it: what a great way to clean up your office!

Assign staff to review your in-basket while you are away, with instructions to pass through routine items to appropriate personnel for handling in your absence.

3) Bring work with you when traveling:

Sometimes road trips are the most productive  – it’s easier to complete projects without constant interruptions. Mix up the work  you bring; take easier reading as well as more complex items.  Then, when you need a break from intense work concentration, you will have a variety of items to choose from.

4) Schedule exercise while on the road:

If you can plan just 30 minutes daily at the hotel gym, or plan a brisk walk in your locale, you will keep your energy up and your mind fresh.  Find the time that works best for you – I prefer early morning or just before dinner because changes in meeting times can tend to override priorities later in the day.

5) Strategize to deal with jetlag:

Key tips to manage your body clock while traveling include avoiding alcohol on travel days, making sure your body stays hydrated, using melatonin to support sleep as needed, and taking short catnaps in early days in a new time zone.  If you are sleepless in Timbuktu, catch up on some of the work you brought with you until the melatonin kicks in.

Above all, use your common sense – plan ahead, delegate before and during your travels and maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road.  These are your tools to keep ahead of the business travel exhaustion vortex!

Work problems? The answer = just be a Duck!

Feel overwhelmed with work, pressure, politics, hassle at work?  Sometimes life or work is akin to a storm that continues whirling around you and there is no way to escape.

My advice to peers and colleagues:  “Just be a duck.  Let the rain from the storm wash over your back and off your feathers.  You will survive this and the craziness will pass.”

Nature has designed the duck’s feathers to repel water, and sometimes we ourselves need to mentally repel the negativity or chaos of our own situations.  The goal is find ways to “center” our focus and remain calm – that enables us to think more clearly to deal with the problems at hand.

Use this mental “self defense” strategy next time you are in the middle of a stormy situation – repel the external negativity and refocus yourself on what is important!