Top Entrepreneurs & Athletes Overcome The Odds With This Mindset
Updated: Mar 11
Can you recall the very first time that you played your favorite sport competitively? Whether it was just on the playground in grade school competing against your classmates or in your backyard playing against an older sibling – Can you recall that feeling? Were you nervous or rambunctious? Eager or wary?
If you’re anything like me, it was all of the above. I also had those same emotions starting my first venture as an entrepreneur. Initially, there was angst. Immediately followed by excitement.
After years of studying the mindsets of top executives and professional athletes; I discovered that there’s one parallel mindset that they share to help them overcome all odds stacked against them (you can adopt this mindset and do the same).
As an avid NBA fan, I absolutely hated whenever my Golden State Warriors played against any Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers team. That’s because I knew that Kobe’s will to win was maniacal. I knew Kobe was willing to out-train, out-hustle, and out-will his opponents in order to win.
Kobe also had the discipline to outthink any competitor. That’s because he studied his opponents on film for hours – which was something most of his contemporaries weren't willing to do. Coming into every game that my Warriors played against the Lakers, I knew Kobe wouldn’t be coming into the game tired and sluggish because he partied the night before (something I couldn’t say about my Warriors at the time).
As an entrepreneur, Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs had an identical approach as Kobe did – but towards business. Jobs had a relentless work ethic. He was known to work office hours from 7AM to 9PM every day. Which resulted in him outworking his competitors…as well as his own staff.
Both men were so driven to succeed that they often challenged those on their own team that they felt didn’t have a strong enough work ethic to help them win – while also demanding that they perform better. These motivational tactics led to both men leading their teams to the top of their respective industries.
The athletes and entrepreneurs that are the most successful while leading their organizations to victory understand the importance of a strong team. And they know how to get the most out of their teammates.
Whether it’s being vocally demanding like Bryant and Jobs. Or taking a more uplifting and encouraging approach like future basketball Hall of Famer Lebron James and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are known for doing. One thing is consistent, the great performers in both business and sport, know how to inspire their teams in order to accomplish their goals.
Whether you’re a 5’3 point guard trying to make it to the NBA. Or a founder of a startup on a shoestring budget setting out to give Amazon a run for its money. You probably share the one mindset that all of the top entrepreneurs and the most successful athletes have. Which is competitive resilience.
It takes a great deal of confidence to enter any field of play in which you’re at an obvious disadvantage. However, plenty of great athletes and entrepreneurs succeed in their respective fields by using their competitive resilience as fuel – despite the odds being stacked against them.
Two examples of competitive resilience fueling success despite the odds; are NFL running back Tarik Cohen and FUBU founder/Shark Tank executive producer/panelist Daymond John.
At 5’6 179 lbs., Cohen is currently the smallest player in the NFL. Yet, despite his size disadvantage, and coming from a small college – Cohen was voted All-NFL first-team (and made it to the NFC Pro Bowl) in 2018. An honor only afforded to the best players in the NFL.
Daymond John has a similar David vs Goliath story. After realizing an absence of clothing specifically catered towards hip hop culture; John started the clothing line FUBU in his living room in Queens, NY, making tie-top hats with a $40 budget (really folks, FUBU was started with just $40).
John, along with childhood friends Carlton Brown, J. Alexander Brown, and Keith Perrin, sold the tie-top hats on the streets of New York for $10 a piece. As a result of their hard work, the clothing line that John had wished existed – became a reality that he created.
Today, John is a serial entrepreneur worth an estimated $350 million. And FUBU has grossed more than $6 billion in sales worldwide.
How to use competitive resilience as fuel
Whether you’re a novice golfer about to play a round on the course against an expert that has won multiple golf tournaments. Or if you’re the owner of a small-scale t-shirt company looking to be the next Ralph Lauren or Rosalia Mera. Competitive resilience can be used as fuel to drive you past any fears or hurdles that you’ll undoubtedly encounter on your mission as an entrepreneur or athlete.
In his book, Shoe Dog, Nike co-founder Phil Knight stated, “The art of competing, is the art of forgetting. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts. Your pain. Your past. Your internal voice screaming, begging – not one more step. And when it’s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it.”
Competitive resilience is simply a mindset. The belief that you can achieve your goals regardless of your size, status, finances, or the size of your opponent. It’s the eagerness to attack whatever task that you’re passionate about with the self-assurance that no one besides yourself can stop you from accomplishing your objectives.
Everyone can’t be as tall or athletic as the late, great Kobe Bryant. Nor can we all be as brilliant as the late Steve Jobs. But we all can have their competitive and resilient approach to life. It doesn’t require winning the genetic lottery at birth or having a Mensa-level IQ.
The only fee required is effort and persistence towards your goals. Which is a cost that we all can afford –and well worth the investment.