The Mindset of an Entrepreneur – Part 1

Do you have what it takes to be a business owner?

When preparing for the transition from your professional sport career to life after the game, there is an important question that you must consider – “do you go forward as an employee or as an entrepreneur?”

The answer to this question has a strong influence on your second career, and in my opinion, needs to precede questions such as:

  • What industry do you want to work in?
  • What kind of position are you qualified for?

Regardless of how you answer the question, your choice will determine how you prepare for and ultimately proceed through the transition into the next phase of your career. When examining the choice (employee or business owner/entrepreneur) you need to take some time to reflect and decide which path best suits your personality, skill set and desires.

In talking with professional athletes, I have been surprised to discover that many athletes assume there is one right answer, without really taking the time to explore each option. Even more surprising was that the one “right” answer could be either “Of course, I’m going to find a job” OR “Of course, I’m going to start a business.”

In this situation, there is no “wrong” answer. The part that I encourage you to explore is what I call the “of course assumption.” Being a business owner/entrepreneur is hard, but there are great payoffs. In order to be truly successful, it requires both a certain set of personal characteristics in addition to a developed skill set. You can build your skills – but it is much harder to change your innate characteristics without support from a coach.

What is an Entrepreneur?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, an “entrepreneur” is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”

Some characteristics that an entrepreneur exhibits are:

  • Courage and Perseverance
  • 100% Responsibility
  • Leadership
  • A Vision and a Plan
  • The Ability to Organize

In this first installment, I want to take a deeper dive into the first two characteristics. The last three will be saved for part two!

Courage and Perseverance

I believe courage and perseverance are exemplified in the following quotes:

“To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then have the courage to blow past them.” – Picabo Street

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

As an entrepreneur, you will face every fear of failure that you have ever had – it’s the nature of the game. You may try a thousand things that do not work before having a breakthrough and finding what does.

This rollercoaster of a process takes fortitude, faith in yourself and your vision and the willingness to ask for help to fill in the gaps in your own knowledge and skill. You do not need to know how to do everything and you do not need to do it all yourself. More often than not, I see pride get in the way of a professional athlete’s success more than anything else.

It takes courage to admit where you need support and it takes perseverance to push your own growth forward. You need courage to take actions that feel uncomfortable, to take risks that may make you look foolish if they do not work out and to be willing to pivot when the road forward is not working. Perseverance is required to keep moving forward when you hit road blocks and to swim in the discomfort of learning new skills.

You may be used to being at the top of the game during your career in sports. Do you have the courage to start from the beginning and the perseverance to do the work to learn and succeed in a new game – your second career?

100% Responsibility

“There’s responsibility, but there’s also accountability. You have to be accountable for your actions. You have to stand at your locker when things are going bad.” – Derek Jeter

When it comes to your second career, especially one as an entrepreneur, you are accountable for your choices, results and life. Although there are many things that are out of your control, by focusing on what you can control (your thoughts, choices, behavior and yourself), your results will follow suit.

An entrepreneur takes ownership of his/her results personally and on behalf of the whole company. As an entrepreneur, there is no playing the blame game – you are responsible for the results that you get. If you are looking for someone to blame, you will struggle more as an entrepreneur. Instead, shift your focus to what you can learn from any and every experience. A successful entrepreneur is a student, always learning, open to new ideas and challenges.

A successful entrepreneur is adaptable and flexible. Rather than thinking about things in terms of fault, think about them in terms of response-ability. How do you respond to a challenge or obstacle? You can develop the practice of courage and perseverance, although you likely already have them, as you would not have achieved elite status as an athlete without them. As an entrepreneur, you will need to learn to apply those characteristics to new areas and challenges.

In your second career, a shift of thinking from athlete to team owner, manager or coach will also be necessary. Instead of being a piece of the puzzle, you will need to think as the visionary, planner and leader of the team. You can learn to think in terms of responsibility and ownership.

When you leave the game, your life will change. Once out of the game your calls may quickly no longer be taken and the doors that were once open might rapidly close. You must practice being willing to take responsibility for your own results as this mindset will make you a stronger person and more successful entrepreneur down the line.

Stay tuned for “The Mindset of an Entrepreneur – Part 2” coming soon!

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