imagesHow does an athlete successfully transition from sports to business? This basic question was asked of the panel comprised of three former athletes. The panel sponsored by BizTimes – a regional media company – included a retired professional baseball player, a retired NFL tightend and an Olympian (me). Most athletes make the transition well, but some might benefit from this post.

Captured below are the dominant themes shared by these athletes turned businessmen. Perhaps these themes can be shared, a useful resource, for retiring athletes who anticipate starting a business career. Moving from a master of your athletic craft to a business novice is an ego shock. And the odd part about this, moving from mastery to novice, is that it is self-inflected! Essential in making a successful career transfer is embracing change and opportunity, as well as these summary items that follow:

  • Literacy:
    • Remember that you are learning a new a new body of knowledge, the language of business that you must master. Business literacy is a must to compete, as the stakes are higher.
  • Change:
    • Be open and flexible to opportunity and coaching around new skills, concepts and projects.
  • Patience:
    • Recognize that progress is often in phases, and often nonlinear. Mastery is a process, and often an innovative one at that.
  • Capacity:
    • Remember your two-a-day workouts? Use “after-hours” capacity to outwork your peers and retool yourself. Improve all aspects of your game after normal work hours.
  • Coaching:
    • Businesses have coaches called mentors. Give someone a reason to invest in you, mentor you: work ethic, team focused, attitude, can-do personality, or interest.
  • Resilience and Tenacity:
    • These attributes should be well forged for any athlete. Sports and business are 90% mental; the clock runs out, not your effort and persistence.
    • Develop a high tolerance for short – term pain and interesting personalities.
    • Failure is not fatal; quitting is!
    • Always take the next step after failure.
  • Clarity:
    • Understand your strengths, define the goal, prepare and execute – then innovate and problem solve (thanks GJ).
    • Success is the final product of many failures and improvements, and requires a plan and patience (pace-setting) so not to burnout.
  • Courage:
    • An early lesson learned in sports was to never walk away from a weakness, as it will come back to trouble you. The same applies in business. Have the courage to face your flaw and fix it.
  • Culture-Team:
    • Surround yourself with high performers to build a winning team – one recruit at a time, and you be the spark!
    • Attitude fist, aptitude second
    • Don’t go it alone: a buddy system helps in talking through tough days.
  • Contribute to something greater than yourself.
    • Give more than you take whether in sports or business.
  • Character:
    • Take the long view in sports and business!
    • Be genuine, find your voice, and stand your ground (you are paid for your opinion).
    • Reputation matters and is another word for sportsmanship.

No Regrets:

When you conclude your career, hold your head high and know that you have given your all, your best energy, thoughts and contributions – essentially the same way that you want your athletic career to be remembered. Here’s to a great career, and enjoy the race ahead!