Who's a fan of professional athletics? Me! Me! I love watching sports that require hard work - it's invigorating and exciting. I'm a huge fan now of baseball, thanks to Tom. And, I always enjoyed gymnastics, given my eldest was big into it when she was a child. My other daughter was a dancer, and that, too, is athletic. Don't you think?
The excellence demonstrated in professional athletics deserves a deeper study, for entrepreneurs like us. You and me. Back stories are told with tears and laughter - stories of challenge and triumph. Stories of determination and anticipation. Stories of failure and disappointment. Sounds like life as a business owner, doesn't it? Just a little?
What do these amazing athletes have that we don't? Nothing. They display the same qualities each of us brings to our prospective businesses - the qualities that make us good bets for business success. And, one of the most important things I, personally, share with these athletes is having the help of a mentor.
For any outstanding athlete, having a mentor is a must. It can be their coach, a trusted teacher, a parent, or a sibling. Whomever it is, it's for sure that these winners depend on that voice in their ear to spur them on to success, to pick them up from failure, and to cheer them on to greater heights.
I, too, depend on mentors...when the chips are down or when fantastic events unfold. As a business professional, I look to my mentors for insight and support to help me grow and achieve.
I am lucky to have two mentors: Bruce Peters and Lee Thayer. These two men aren't necessarily giants in the business world - no Warren Buffet, they. Rather, they're experienced in areas I am not. They're focused on the unfolding of business success, the path to awareness, the need to be sure of which path to take, when you're stuck at a fork in the road.
Bruce Peters is the man behind WCEOhq - an online radio show that demonstrates the power of engagement. His newest venture is First Friday's Live - with Zappos. Stay tuned for more information on that soon!
Each of these two men has mentored me more than once, helping me through some tough times, and cheering me on through my accomplishments. One question I ask regularly is, "What do I do now?" And both have been instrumental in leading me to the next step - by refusing to answer that question. Instead, they will pointedly say, "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know!" I'll exclaim, in exasperation. And what follows is so provocative, it shocks the listener (me) into action.
"Well," they will say, "if you did know, what would the answer be?" Let me repeat that: If you did know, what would the answer be?
You may find that an interesting approach - answering a question with a question. I did. It felt wrong. Why are they taking the easy way out? I thought. Aren't they supposed to 'advise' me?
In the end, I realize that reality requires me to know the answer and these two men, mentoring me through the challenges of two businesses, are not there to tell me the answers. They're there to help me find the answers.
"How do I... raise money...find volunteers...work with contacts?" I've asked, time and time again.
"Well," they say. "What's in it for you?"
Ah! I see you making those faces - that's pretty self-serving, isn't it? "What's in it for you?" But, in the end, the reality is - as CEO of my company, it's up to me to make sure we live to see another day. And so, I have to look at each venture and each partnership with an eye on what's in it for me, for the business's success.
I imagine professional athletes (and even those athletes dreaming of professionalism) do the same. They ask themselves, daily, "Is what I'm doing going to further my goals? Will this help me win?" Because, all else pales in comparison. Do not believe it's okay to just play the game. If you are not in the game to win, why are you there? (I imagine mentors saying that to them...)
Come game time, the athletes will leave it all on the table - it's all or nothing. I get it. I'm an entrepreneur and I live to be successful, too. Bruce and Lee have taught me well. When the fork in the road looms large, I will call them...and they'll put a gentle hand on my shoulder, not to point me in the right direction, but to offer a gentle touch of support.
"Which path goes where you want to be?" they'll say.
And if I answer, "I don't know!" the reply will be, "If you did know, which path would it be?" Then, like an athlete, I'll contemplate, I'll test, I'll remind myself of the ultimate goal and the right path will shine like a diamond in the afternoon sun. And that is the path I'll take - the path to excellence and success.
In the world of business and athletics, there is no other path. It's excellence or nothing.
Disclosure: I am blogging on behalf of Visa's Go World Olympic Campaign and receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa's. This post was sponsored by Visa Small Business. From now through August 31st, visit http://www.inc.com/visa-business-of-the-olympic-games/ to learn about Team Visa Olympic athletes who are also dedicated small business owners. Visit Visa Business's newly-launched Facebook Page; (http://www.facebook.com/visasmallbiz) for more details, and follow @VisaSmallBiz for ways to help make your small business more efficient and successful.
Discover more at http://visa.com/business.