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Why Growth Takes an Athlete’s Mindset

In the world of competitive sports, you learn to become a relentless pursuer of excellence. This builds a resilient spirit, which is equally critical in the world of business.

My journey in the world of olympic-level sailing has provided me with a unique perspective on growth and the pursuit of success. I learned that the strategies used to navigate waters and winds can be translated into guiding principles for business leadership and organisational growth.

Learning from the Winds of Change

From a young age, sailing instilled in me the importance of independence and quick thinking. The sport taught me that when you’re out on the water, the only certainty is the unpredictability of the next wave or wind shift. At the age of 7, sailing my own boat taught me about responsibility and control—lessons that have proven invaluable throughout my career.

This early exposure to sailing, where one must constantly adjust to the shifting environment while maintaining a course, directly parallels the world of business.

For instance, during my time as a coach, I emphasised to my students the significance of detaching from distractions and focusing solely on the task at hand. This ability to focus intensely and adapt quickly is a hallmark of both successful athletes and business leaders.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

My venture into professional sailing as a youth, where I managed sponsorships and marketing strategies, was my first real taste of entrepreneurship. Each competition was not just about performing in the water but also about managing logistics, funding, and brand partnerships. This holistic approach to sports management taught me the intricacies of business operations from a young age.

One particularly formative experience was our attempt to qualify for the Olympics. Despite rigorous preparation and dedication, we missed qualifying by a mere two points. This disappointment, though bitter, didn’t dampen my spirits. Instead, it reinforced a critical business lesson: the journey often holds more value than the destination. This mindset has been crucial in my role as a CEO, where resilience and the ability to move forward, despite setbacks, are indispensable.

Applying Sports Psychology to Business Strategy

The mindset aspect of sports has also influenced my business approach. Just as a sports coach prepares an athlete for the mental challenges of competition, I’ve applied similar strategies to business settings. Pre-visualization, stress management, and mental conditioning are tools I’ve used to enhance decision-making and leadership under pressure.

In the business arena, these strategies have helped shape our company’s philosophy. For instance, at our company, we approach new projects with what I call a ‘PR piece first’ strategy.

We begin with the end in mind, crafting the narrative and goals of a project before taking any actionable steps. This method not only clarifies our objectives but also streamlines the path to achieving them, mirroring the way an athlete trains with a specific performance goal in sight.

Sustained Growth Through Strategic Focus

Our strategic focus, much like sticking to a chosen course in sailing, has been vital in steering the company through competitive and turbulent markets. This focus has enabled us to expand successfully into new markets like Dubai and Saudi Arabia, regions chosen not by chance but through strategic decision-making and learning from earlier failures in other European markets.

Today, our growth strategy is akin to playing in the NBA rather than college basketball. We seek better coaches (experienced executives), refine our team’s skills (employee development), and enhance our playbooks (business strategies). This sports analogy deeply resonates within our team culture, emphasising that the principles of high-performance sports are interchangeable with those of high-performance business teams.

The Road Ahead

Looking forward, our vision is clear. We aim to not only expand our reach but also deepen our impact, focusing on fewer but more significant client relationships. This approach is inspired by the understanding that, in sailing, as in business, sometimes the most significant progress is made by trimming the sails and tightening the focus, not by expanding the crew.

The athlete’s mindset—a blend of resilience, strategic focus, and psychological readiness—is not just beneficial but necessary for growth and success in business. 

Just as in sports, in business, we must be prepared to face headwinds with determination and navigate towards our North Star with unwavering commitment.

Article Written by

Benji Borg

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