By keifer | Tue, 07/26/2016 - 15:24
I never expected to learn life lessons from sports, but it happened. I started playing organized sports at 4 and haven’t stopped since. I grew up playing hockey, soccer, and basketball, but baseball was always my favorite. I was a command pitcher. A guy that never threw the fastest but rarely missed a target. It took me a long time to figure out how to be successful in the game, but it taught me a lot about myself and how I react in certain situations.
When I was young, I was a train wreck.
I would get mad at myself, act out and not take any advice from anyone. It became obvious that if I was to continue playing I had to adapt. As I got older, my mental and physical game strengthened. I was listening more to other players and my coaches and I noticed changes in the way I played the game. It was these changes that significantly helped me during my first months in the sales industry. Every day I use sport influenced traits such as hard work, a positive attitude, high confidence, and focusing controllable actions.
This is how baseball prepared me for the real world in the sales industry.
1. Work Hard
The most simplistic parallel between baseball and work comes from the concept of hard work. Without hard work, I couldn’t develop the skills needed to succeed in sport nor work. During my baseball days, I pushed myself every day to be a better athlete. When I got tired, I would refocus and push back even harder.
I wanted to win. I hated losing. I still hate losing. Losing provides an instant closure that someone out worked me that day. So, I took it upon myself to not let that happen. I started to work harder and pushed beyond what I believed my limits were.
I have transferred my effort level to my job in sales. I especially notice it during the days when I am tired and on the verge of a burnout. These are the days that I really push myself to work hard. I know my focus is at its strongest on these days. The mental battle can be a hard. There are days that it takes a while to find focus but once I find my zone, the job is going to get done.
2. Things Don’t Always Work Out
Both in-work and in-sports situations will go awry. It’s a guarantee. Nothing comes easy. You have to be prepared for anything. The best way to cope with these problematic situations is to stay positive.
While playing baseball, I can remember times standing on the pitching mound as my team crumbles. The common reaction is to get frustrated, and in my early years, I did. I would get mad, yell at my teammates and try too hard. It didn’t work. This behaviour would be the start of my demise, usually ending with me on the bench wallowing in self-pity.
In college, I started to realize how my reactive behaviour was affecting my performance. I decided I needed to make a change.
I started to take everything in stride and when things got tough, I stayed positive and even laughed it off. I can recall many times, a tough situation that would have angered me in the past, but I was laughing. My coaches probably hated it, but it led me to more success. I have tried to take the same behavioural approach when it comes to my job.
In sales, the circumstances are constantly changing. During a slow time a salespersons can easily become a negative person; but again the key is to remain positive and laugh the negativity off.
3. Believe in Yourself
Confidence can be severely affected by negativity. Coaches told me, “If you don’t believe in yourself than you have already lost.” For a long time, I didn’t understand what they meant but when I did, I realized it was something I could use everyday. It didn’t matter if I was playing baseball or walking into a presentation, confidence is mandatory for success.
I have had moments during an interview or a sales call where I let negative thoughts take over making me uncomfortable, anxious, and full of self-doubt. These meetings never end well and leave me feeling embarrassed and ashamed.
I have learned that my success will depend on my confidence and ability to relax in stressful situations.
This is not to say that I always have great meetings when I am confident, but they are significantly better and have lead to more conversations. I am still new to sales and if I am able to continue talking with leads, for now, that’s a good start.
4. Letting Go
Being positive allowed me to realize there are things I can control and things I can’t. I have learned to focus on the things I can control and strive to strengthen my weaknesses.
In the game of baseball there are many factors you cannot control. On most occasions, once you release the pitch the ball is literally and figuratively out of your hands. You have no control on what happens next. The same can be said for sales.
Once you have given your presentation or sent in a proposal, you have little to no control over what happens next. It is up to the client to make their decision.
Some decisions will work in your favour and some won’t.
Either way, I always look back and am critical of my work. What did I do well and what do I need to work on? These are factors I can control. I can control myself. It is up to me to work on my weaknesses.
No one is going to hold my hand and force me to get better. This behaviour comes from within.
Baseball taught me many things over the years including hard work, a positive attitude, high confidence, and focusing on controllable actions. If it were not for these traits, there is a good chance I would not be still working in sales. Sales is hard work and can bring out the worst in people.
My current goal is to continue my personal growth in business by focusing on those four characteristics. As my professional career progresses, I know I will always be able to rely on the lessons I learned from baseball to succeed.