The first rule of being a successful entrepreneur is to be receptive and constantly learn new things. Interestingly, most of these learnings do not happen in formal setups. It happens when you’re not connected to your core, doing things that may not necessarily be related to your industry, meeting new people and participating in different activities.
There are a few learnings I have imbibed from a sport that has inspired me and is dear to me—tennis. And so, I’d like to share it with budding and existing entrepreneurs, management students and anyone who is keen to learn.
Power of teamwork: Many people think tennis is a single player’s game, but it isn’t. There is a whole army of people who work towards getting the player in his/her best form. On the court, the player may be in focus, but every member of the team is responsible for the tennis player’s win: from the coach to the physiotherapist, the gym trainer and nutritionist. Similarly, my wife Tejas and I may be the face of our company as its founders, but it is certainly not a one-man show. There is a team of people behind the success of our business, and it is their hard-work, team-work and determination that has helped our organisation become what it is.
The 3 out of 5 rule: The game, much like every work set-up, requires one to conquer ‘mini battles’. For instance, unlike badminton, which is a 21-point game, every match in tennis has sets with multiple smaller games and points. Even if you lose one of the games or sets, there’s always a chance to bounce back. The construct of the game is such that you need to win a larger percentage of the play. If you win 3 out of 5 bets, you’re doing it right. Similarly, in our industry if you’re successful in 3 out of 5 efforts, you’re getting close to the win. The lesson to learn and remember here is to never get disheartened by the losses. In the end, it is all about winning a little more than losing.
Instant gratification vs. long-term success: In tennis, or any sport for that matter, one can notice beginners being restless and trying to be all over the place compared to experts who stay calm, observe, analyse and then go for the kill. This is exactly what enthusiasts of management studies or young entrepreneurs need to be conscious about. There is always a difference between those looking for instant gratification versus those looking for long-term success. The approach and experience towards a situation makes all the difference.
Consistency is the key: If a tennis player wins the game but does not reflect on his/her shortcomings and achievements after, there are high chances the next game will fall flat. Likewise, it’s not about that one fantastic shot but being consistent throughout the game, much like in your professional setup. If I launch a great campaign but don’t follow up on its effect, lead generation and conversion into actual sales, all my effort will be in vain.
Recovery: When a shot is being served from the opponent and is targeted in a different direction, a beginner will move to a different direction and stand still, whereas a pro will not pay attention on the opponent’s side but get back to his original position, which is a calculated range. The takeaway from this situation is: when making a move on your opponent, don’t wait and watch. Make sure to get to a point where you can respond immediately and focus on your next move.
Adaptation: Tennis courts can have different surfaces—sometimes grass and at other times cement—and you have to work your way around it. In the same way, the CEO or an employee can be an expert in their industry, but it is important to understand if they have transferable skills. This is important because it will always help you grow. I was a Cyber Security Leader/Partner with EY and those skills helped me move ahead in life and adapt to a completely new industry (hospitality) where we were rank outsiders. It is the broad spectrum of receiving and applying knowledge that will aid you to succeed and flourish. Always stay curious!
Practice until you reach perfection: There’s a popular saying – “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.” This quote applies both to tennis as well as professional life. Success takes place over a period of time, and it’s almost like a moment of truth after you’ve consistently been working hard.
Urge to succeed: We all know celebrated tennis players who come from different countries and nationalities. The only common factor between all the players is their hard work. Similarly, even at your work-space, it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you’re someone who wants to outshine the rest and is willing to reapply prior skills with a dash of luck, you’re bound to go places.
Relax and unwind: Not just tennis; every sport can be a great way of releasing toxins from the body. The 45 minutes to 1 hour that I spend playing the game when I’m not working is a great way to de-stress. The key thing to identify here is that once in a while, you must take a break. Sit back and relax so that you can put your work face on with a bang!
Learn to trust: On a personal level, the most important thing I’ve learnt from tennis is trust. To think of it, every sport is war masquerading as a game where one is being playful about ‘You vs Me’. The true nature of a person comes through. Interestingly, there are times when there’s no referee and whatever the opponent says stands true. If I say I’ve lost it, I’ve lost it and so, there’s enormous trust. You wouldn’t want to cheat because next time, your opponent will cheat too. (PS: This is my group’s rule when there’s no ball boy at night!).
Learn to make the most of the bond you’ve formed with your client and learn to trust.
Be spontaneous: Finally, when playing tennis, one cannot be distracted for even a moment or overthink a shot. As an entrepreneur, too, one has to always stay spontaneous, brave and intuitive.
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