An Underrated but Essential Success Criterion in Sport & Business

By: David Kargman, @Kargman_SAP

There is no playbook that will guide you to success within the Sports & Entertainment arena. You have the opportunity to create your own path and leave a trail. Cliché perhaps, but in my opinion, valid. Each person’s journey is unique, and the steps taken vary drastically from individual to individual. With this said, one common thread successful people demonstrate along their journey is an unmatched level of preparedness. As former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach once said, “Spectacular achievements are always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”

Similar to high performing athletes, successful business people in any industry have an intrinsic detail orientation and level of preparedness unmatched by their peers. For athletes, this is both physical and mental, whereas for people in the business world, it’s more heavily weighted on the mental side. In any case, having an understanding of the mindsets of these successful people can only help when embarking on your personal journey in sport or business.

This concept was introduced to me at an early age; growing up in a sports-oriented home, the majority of my family competed in collegiate athletics. My father also began a trucking company after college, and I’m proud to say the company is successfully approaching its 40th year. I share this because I’ve seen firsthand the importance and outcome of hard work, attention to detail, and mental preparedness. Throughout my life I’ve tried mirroring this approach both athletically and professionally.

On a recent vacation, these concepts were validated to me after I read a performance psychology book called “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” by Jim Afremow. I found many that there were many connections between how great athletes prepare, how that translates to business, and vice versa. In the book, Jim interviews countless athletes and former Olympians and gives the reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how they became top performers. An important piece of the athletes’ successes came from their level of preparation. Being able to visualize different scenarios prior to execution is a key part of mentally preparing. In his book, Jim referenced a veteran NFL punter who for 10 minutes every other day used deep breathing to relax himself. He mentioned that the player would “see and feel” himself executing successful punts in a variety of game situations and weather conditions (using best, average, and worst case scenarios). He used imagery as a mental walk-through. To take it a step further, the player would picture himself at the specific stadium to get a sense of comfort mentally prior to game day. This allowed him to live in the moment and trust his preparation. In business, this level of preparation should be no different. Getting the layout of the room prior to a presentation, rehearsing your pitch, role playing with Q&A, and other techniques can serve us all well once the lights come on.

In addition to the stories, Jim offers a variety of insightful sports psychology adages throughout the book. When describing mental toughness and anxiety management, Jim offers various strategies to channel anxiety into a commitment to taking that next step. He says “Remember that FEAR means to Face Everything and Respond.” To perform at a champions level, he says you must let the butterflies fly in formation. If you happen to respond and the outcome isn’t what you expected, it’s an opportunity for personal growth. As my late grandfather used to say, “FAIL = First Attempt in Learning”. What attracts me to the countless stories Jim shares is that they are those you don’t necessarily hear on Sports Center, as these techniques aren’t as captivating as a slam dunk or a walk-off home run. However, these techniques are imperative to putting yourself in a position to make these outcomes a reality.

To close, I truly believe everyone has the opportunity to create their own path and have success within the Sports & Entertainment field — whether it’s as an athlete or business person. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, therefore it’s critical to maximize every interaction you have with a coach, client, or colleague to create your own. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Everyone has the desire to win, but only champions have the desire to prepare.” To reach that ultimate state of gratification, whether it’s hitting that home run, closing a deal or simply getting a next meeting, paying attention to detail and committing yourself mentally will be paramount to your success.

I welcome your thoughts on this and other success criteria you deem supreme.

Thanks for your time, and good luck!

Mr. Kargman is currently an Industry Value Advisor at SAP supporting their Media, Sports & Entertainment industry. SAP is the world’s largest enterprise software company. In his role, Mr. Kargman is tasked with supporting Sales by providing industry expertise and executing fact-based business cases with customers and prospects that support investment in SAP technology. For more information, please visit SAP’s Solution Explorer for Sports & Entertainment.