Mindset of an athlete

Watch commercials on TV, flip through a magazine or wait for an ad to play before accessing your article online and you'll notice a common business marketing theme: sport. Drawing parallels between business and athleticism is not just a marketing ploy. A recent study by EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW found that a background in sport accelerated a woman’s leadership and career development. Sir Richard Branson also wrote about business lessons from sporting success in a Linkedin influencer blog post.


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In order to learn more about what gives athletes the edge both on the field and in the boardroom, I went to the source: the athletes themselves. Meet six world/national class athletes and the characteristics that are key to their athletic and business success:



Meb Keflezghi, 2014 Boston Marathon Champion; 2009 New York City Marathon Champion, 2004 Olympic Marathon Silver Medalist:

"Sports teach us great life lessons that help us become successful in business.  First and foremost, there is time management. Most of us were student athletes in high school or college. Having to manage all of the studies of our classmates and the athletic component is a double duty that requires great time management and discipline to balance.  Additionally, sports teaches us persistence, hard work and teamwork."



Rick Staback, Masters National Class Age Group Runner & Partner, Hamilton Partners, Inc. Commercial Real Estate Development Company:

Relentless pursuit of excellence is a primary characteristic of my athletic and business success.  However, without self discipline, vision, singular focus and attention to detail, I wouldn't have achieved the level of success I've enjoyed.”



Lauren Fleshman, five time NCAA champion at Stanford; two- time US Champion 5000m outdoor track; Partner, Oiselle; Author, Believe I Am; Co-founder, Picky Bars:

“Strategic thinking in creating long term plans and projections.”



Jesse Thomas, professional triathlete; five-time Wildflower Triathlon Champion; CEO & Co-founder, Picky Bars: Dependency on hard work to feel satisfied.”



George Sperzel, competitive Masters runner; senior executive at GTCR:

“1) Mentoring - find a good coach. You can work hard all alone, but it takes the help of others to get the best out of you.

And 2) Resilience - you don't always win no matter how much you prepare and how hard you try. Regardless, you learn from the experience, bounce right back and can't wait to get back out there.”



Rock Climbing



Alison Levine, polar explorer and mountaineer who has climbed the highest peak on every continent; leadership expert; author of On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership: “The trait I feel is essential to both athletic and business success is ‘risk-tolerance.’ You have to be willing to get out there and take big risks--and get really far out of your comfort zone--even if your chance of success is slim, because it is often through the process of failure that we learn the most about what it takes to achieve big things and have maximum impact down the road.” Are you an athlete and a businessperson? What are some characteristics that you find to be vital to both athletic and business success? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter, mentioning @Concur and @localeikki, or on Facebook!



About the author: Tracy McMillan, CEO & Founder of localeikki, a Concur App Center Partner company, played team sports throughout high school and now challenges her comfort zones through trail running, golf, parenting & digital health and travel startups.   


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