Thinking Like An Athlete

Less brain, more practice.

This post is part of a series on developing a healthy founder's mindset.

Yesterday I wrote about the security trap many founders fall into. Failing to invest and take reasonable risks leads kills growth. Now let's talk about the positive mindset that can avoid that.

The best analogy I've found to describe the entrepreneurial mindset, at least among consultancy founders, is that of an athlete. Athletes are not known for being creative or innovative. Their biggest strengths are persistence and hard work.

The following passage by James Clear is helpful to see how this mindset works:

As best I can tell, to achieve exceptional results you need 4 things:
(1) Quantity: You take lots of shots.
(2) Quality: You take thoughtful shots.
(3) Consistency: You keep shooting for a long time.
(4) Luck: You get a few favorable bounces.

Here's how thinking like an athlete helps you improve each one of those 4 things.

First, an athlete takes lots of shots by forcing action. Rather than setting standards ridiculously high, they aim to start small and just get something done. They ignore negative self-talk. And whenever they get a new task, they ask themselves if they can make it happen immediately.

Second, an athlete improves their shots through deliberate practice. They understand simply working a lot isn't enough to make you a top performer. Whenever they shoot, they focus on developing very specific skills.

Third, athletes add consistency to training by turning it into a habit. They understand habits beat motivation and remove self-negotiation. You no longer expend energy deciding whether to do it. You just shoot those balls, every day.

Finally, with a consistent and strong enough motion you create your own luck. As Charles Kettering said, “Keep on going and chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

I've recently met several consultants who are starting their independent practice and lack that athlete mindset. They want to spend the whole day doing strategy or branding. When I asked one of them when was the last time he went out and talked to clients, he blushed.

Of course, everything requires a balance. Most consultancy founders need to invest more time in strategy, not less. And you will not be able to sustain growth without building processes and systems in your firm.

But to avoid the security trap, you need to get your reps down. Think like an athlete and design a practice routine that works for you. Your consultancy, clients, and bank account will thank you for it.

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