I was pleased to stumble across an article recently, published on Inc.com, titled “What Do Olympians and Entrepreneurs Have In Common? Obsession.” Written by Penelope Trunk, a former professional Volleyball player, she reflects upon how her time as an athlete now helps her in the business world.
Trunk graduated college and, instead of her predicted path onto law school, she moved to Los Angeles to play professional beach volleyball. She describes herself as “an unlikely candidate for the pro beach tour”. She grew up in Midwest Amercia, where there were few beaches, and went to an average school with a division three volleyball team.
“I was, by far, the hardest worker on the pro beach tour. Because I had to be. The rest of the women played division one volleyball and beach ball in the summer. I made up for about five years in two years by playing all day, with anyone I could find, and drilling, against a wall at night when it was too dark to play. Other women played smart. I wasn’t there yet. So I played incessantly.”
Go big or go home
“It took me three years of playing to get on the tour. At this level, it’s all psychological. Every woman on the tour is in absolutely incredible athletic shape, and each has the athletic skills to win the tour. Every woman knows what she needs to do to win that week. Few women have the mental capacity to deliver, shot after shot after shot. Elite sports is about your mental game.”
So how did all this relentless training, discipline and focus shape her as a person?
“For me, it was about process rather than outcome. I noticed that I was more interested in having a life of routine – drill after drill, day after day, with specific goals that I met by executing my plan.There are some situations in life where process is what matters. Getting onto the pro tour, for example. It was all about diligence and commitment. But once you’re there, if you are going to win you have to want to win more than anything else in the world.”
“So you know what I learned from playing our Olympic team? You can’t win big unless it means everything to you. Psychologically, you have to be absolutely obsessed with winning or you won’t do it.”
And we see this in the start-up world, and in those who make a living being self-employed. You have to be completely passionate about getting your idea off the ground and seeing things through. There are times when starting a company, or making money from your passion is tough – but singular focus and insistence on winning is what gets you to the next round.
You can do it too
Penelope Trunk didn’t have the tenacity to be an Olympic athlete, but her experience playing against those athletes shows us all that we can each be a big winner if we find the spot in the world where we do have that tenacity. There was a time when she thought her more competitive teammates were insane for caring so much – but the truth is, that drive to win will always look insane to someone whose passions do not align with yours. But, ultimately, it is the only way to get outsized results from your efforts.
So what do you have in common with an athlete? You have a passion for something – and we can help you earn a living doing it.