“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.
The term education traditionally refers to what’s learned in the classroom. When I reflect on what education means to me- where I’ve learned to think critically and where the foundations of my character were laid – the classroom is not the image that comes to mind. Instead, it’s the fields and courts on which I’ve spent most of my life playing sports.
I’ve been fortunate enough to continue my athletic career as an adult and balance it with work. Over 8 years ago I completed my Masters degree and officially entered the workforce. Slowly, I came to the realization that sports prepared me for ‘real life’. Whatever skills I brought to the table were cultivated on the court or field as opposed to the classroom.
Here’s a small insight into how being an athlete has guided me in my professional life:
The Pursuit of the Myth of Perfection
There’s a fine line between pushing yourself to the max and chasing perfection. As an athlete you can get tricked into chasing perfection down the rabbit hole. You’re never satisfied because you can always be stronger, faster, work harder, be undefeated, etc.
At a certain point, you realize perfection doesn’t exist because a loss is always on the horizon, and truthfully, you learn more from one loss than an entire undefeated season. However, the will to push yourself to the limit never ceases.
It can be a similar cycle professionally, but once you accept that a loss or two along the way is inevitable it allows you to go after your goals fearlessly.
Pressure is just a word
Any athlete who says they don’t get butterflies before a game is a liar, and you need to call that s%&t out!
I hate the seconds leading up to a game! I want to throw up, I can actually hear my heart beating and I wonder why I’m doing this to myself. But then the game starts, adrenaline kicks in and I got this.
Pressure is just a word and shouldn’t paralyze you with fear. I don’t crumble, but rather through sports I’ve learned how to not fear pressure, but to leverage the energy it creates to my advantage.
Similarly, work is going to have stressful times, but I know that I can handle it because I’ve been exposed to similar situations and succeeded.
The Older the Better
Let’s call it like it is: in sports years, I’m ancient. But age is more than a number, it’s an indication of experience and how many years of training that I have behind me.
I know the game better and have out-trained my opponents. This works to my advantage because the majority of the time experience wins.
While in the professional world I still have a couple years to go until I’m considered ancient, I appreciate that with proper training, I can get better with age. That is something I fully embrace.
You can’t improve as an athlete if you don’t take the time to internalize experiences and consistently analyze yourself. Every tournament, game and practice that I have ever participated in, I replay in my head (I still replay basketball games I played when I was 10).
You’re probably thinking, that sounds crazy and obsessive, and maybe it is. However, constant self analysis creates a self awareness and a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the goal is to progress forward and you can’t improve without self reflection.
As an employee, I apply the same self analysis in order to constantly improve. If I get better, the team gets better, and as a company we succeed.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons in sports is that you can never really be sure of the outcome. The results of a game are just as unpredictable as the results of a campaign or project. The one thing you can control is that you put in the time and effort to best prepare for victory. Also, you best be sure that “All I do is Win” is on your pre-game/ pre-work playlist! Now get out there and get it.