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Entrepreneurs Find Inspiration From Sports

Many of my followers are not really sports fans per se.  Some proudly state “I don’t watch sports!”  Hey, that’s cool with me!  I am not here to change you.

What I would like to discuss with your permission is share a few recent stories you may enjoy reading about from the sports arena.  The main reason is there are lessons to be learned by entrepreneurs from the wide world of sports.  It just so happens a few of these stories are taking place right now.

This is the time of year called “March Madness”.  The best college basketball teams from the men’s and women’s college programs compete in bracketed tournaments all across the country to determine which teams are the best in the country from the women and from the men in the NCAA.

Geno Auriemma is the head coach for the University of Connecticut, UCONN – Huskies, NCAA Division One Women’s Basketball Team.  He has been their head coach since 1985.  His coaching record is amazing. UConn has won 6 National Championships under Auriemma (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2009) and made the Final Four 11 times[ (1991, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010). Auriemma has also guided UConn to 15 Big East regular season titles and 14 Big East Tournament titles. The current team has been undefeated since a game in the season before last season ( 2008-2009 ). In a recent interview, Geno was asked what keeps him going.  Here is what the six time Coach of the Year said: “The fear of Failure.  I always think, if we don’t do this or we don’t do that, I will be found out and I will be considered a failure.”  This statement as his UCONN Huskies prepare to play for the NCAA Women’s Championship on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas.

As an entrepreneur, do you ever think about failure?  Here is one of the games best coaches ever, saying he is driven by his fear of failure! How do you motivate yourself and not get caught up in the fear of failure?

Coach Krzyzewski is the head coach for the Duke University – Blue Devils NCAA Division One Men’s Basketball team.  He has been their head coach since 1980.  He is another coach with a phenomenal record.

Nicknamed “Coach K“, Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to 3 NCAA Championships, 11 Final Fours (tied for second most in history), 12 ACC Regular Season Titles, and 12 ACC championships over 30 seasons at Duke. Krzyzewski has amassed an NCAA-record 76 NCAA tournament victories, while averaging more than 25 wins per season. On March 1, 2008, Krzyzewski became the sixth men’s basketball coach in NCAA history to reach the 800-win plateau. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame following the 2001 season.

In a recent interview by ESPN, Coach K was asked about the Butler Team he was about to face in the NCAA Championship Game at Indianapolis on Monday, April 5, 2010 on CBS Sports.   Coach K said what was special about Butler, a school with a total enrollment of less than 4, 000 compared to Duke with almost 4 times that number, was the fact that every single player believes that they are going to win.  The media and everyone else thinks they, Butler, are underdogs, except no one told the Butler players or coaches that.  They just believe, in fact, know in their hearts, that they are going to win every single time they step on that court.

Do you believe, as an entrepreneur, that you will be a success?  Do you know you are going to fulfill your dreams and goals no matter what anyone else has to say?  How do you turn off the noise from the naysayers and follow your dreams?

Brad Stevens has been the head men’s basketball coach at Butler University – Butler Bulldogs – NCAA Division One since 2007.  His record places him near the top of the list in the history of NCAA men’s basketball coaches in terms of his record in his first three years as a head coach.  The real inspirational story about Coach Stevens is how he became the head coach at Butler.  He held a well paying position as a marketing associate at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis.  Stevens felt that something was missing.  This job just was not what he was meant to do.  In June of 2000 he left Eli Lilly to pursue a career in basketball coaching, joined the Bulldogs’ staff in 2000-01 as coordinator of basketball operations under head coach Thad Matta.  He was offered a full-time assistant coaching position by Lickliter one year later.  He did not become the head coach until April 2007.

Are you following your calling as an entrepreneur?  Do you know this is what you are meant to do?  How have you ‘cut the cord’ so you would be able to really commit and focus on your entrepreneurial dream?

I hope these stories provide inspiration to you.  They do for me.


  1. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes belief and sometimes its sticking at something until you win. Whatever motivates a person, encourage them!
    Good article Mitch.

  2. I love your comment about “knowing they are going to win”. That’s a great tip and reminder to believe in oneself/myself 🙂

    • Joanna, The mindset one carries and their self talk – I am certain – are at the top of the list of those who attain the highest levels of success.
      Thank you for your comments.

  3. Hi Mitch,

    You almost lost me at “sports” but being a good sport, I read on. 🙂 I think there are some great psychological tactics used by coaches and teams and I love the information about not being intimidated by fear. So, I can see that I do have something in common with some pro athletes after all. I admit, though, I still just don’t get “fandom”. Hmmm.

    Thanks for stretching me outside of my comfort zone to expand my thinking.

    Write on!~


    • Lisa, You are a champion in my book. Glad you found a meaningful area in the sports analogy stories. It is good to go outside our regular routine once in awhile.
      Thank you for allowing me to take you somewhere you might not usually walk into.

  4. I love that you use sports as a way to illustrate a story.
    We can learn from everything and everyone!

    I also love your analogy of ‘cutting the cord’ for entering the entrepreneurial life~ that is truly how it felt when I left my secure job to become a full time soul artist!

    I’ve never been happier in all my life!

    • Laura, Yes, the ‘cutting the cord’ is so key to success as an entrepreneur. Thanks for sharing your personal story.

  5. I can’t say I don’t follow basketball, Pat Summit would kill me, LOL! I really like the points you make, Mitch. Sports can teach you much, whether group OR individual. I learned a ton about myself growing up as a competitive swimmer.
    Sue Painter

    • Sue, It seems to me there are lessons to be learned from all areas of life. Those who have competed in sports have unique attributes that help them throughout their lives. Thanks Sue.

  6. I’m with Lisa – the sports facts got my eyes glazing over but the lessons were good! I really liked the one about not being intimidated by fear.

    • Trudy, Good to see you overcame your ‘fear’ of reading through the sports facts to see the message Thank you.

  7. Mitch,

    Sometimes I am motivated by sheer stubbornness – just go ahead and tell me I can’t do something, or that my idea is crazy and watch me succeed!

    Of course, at some point I shift the motivation to belief in my own abilities and ideas. That way I can truly experience the sense of accomplishment.

  8. Having been a basketball player, I really enjoyed the context you used to make your point. Your article was thought provoking and inspirational. It made me stop and think. What motivates me?

  9. I guess I never considered the possibility of failing. I just made a decision to be a success and stuck with the plan. I could imagine that the fear of failure is probably up there with fear of death for most people. Thanks for the great article Mitch.
    Dr. Robert Fenell

  10. I don’t understand why anyone would even consider failing when just starting out. I knew when I stepped out as an entrepreneur that I was going to succeed fueled by my goals and dreams.

  11. Coach K is the man (of course, I am biased about another West Point Grad)…

    To Christine’s point…I see many entrepreneurs – especially those coming from comfy corporate jobs – that are VERY hesitant about success. They say “I will give it a shot…” or “I will try it out…”

    To me, that verges on admitting defeat before even starting.

    In the immortal words of Yoda “There is no try. There is either do or do not.”


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