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What lessons can we learn from the most successful athletes? It’s easy to look at the best in the world and think we could never compare. But the truth is, while we may not have the hand-eye coordination necessary to hit a baseball flying at close to 100 miles per hour, we all have access to the foundational principles of what makes an athlete excel.

Four lessons we can learn from successful athletes.

  • Discipline – Successful Athletes wake-up and do the work every day. Success doesn’t happen without the grind and the effort.

“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”― Carol S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success

  • Goal Setting: Athletes set goals, then create a strategic plan to accomplish them. (Often involving deliberate, disciplined  practice. Then they reassess them as necessary. Successful athletes know that targeted training works. Athletes have seasons within seasons, micro and macro training periods, and swimmers have three seasons per year: Macro cycles, Meso cycles, and Micro cycles for training. Athletes break down goals and set smaller, incremental goals to achieve the bigger goals. Ultimately, have a strategy but DON’T be afraid to fail – utilize a growth mindset to continuously learn and grow.

“Want to know the secret to victory? Fail to make the varsity team.”― Michael Jordan

  • Nutrition & Healthy Living! – On a practical level, athletes embody what our potential can be when we make the best choices for our mental, physical, and emotional health. Take swimming for example. A regular swimming program can result in increased cardiovascular function, increased muscle tone and strength, anxiety and depression relief, improved flexibility, and weight loss. Additionally, when we maximize our nutrition choices, we reduce the long term risk of disease, while increasing energy and productivity in the short term.   
  • Team Work! A lot of companies hire former college athletes based on the above and this factor. Team work promotes socialization, cooperation, and accountability, while elevating individual performance and creating outcomes impossible to achieve alone. It’s easy to recognize that heightened teamwork skills translate to success on the field. It’s important to recognize that these same skills cross over into all areas of life. Fred Northup, Founder and President of Athletes for a Better World espouses these same sentiments in his book, Winning More Than The Game.  “We are all on more than one team all the time: the family team, the work team, the neighborhood team, the school team, and even the national team because as citizens of this country we are all on the same team.”

The bottom line? The qualities that make athletes successful make them prime candidates for the corporate world, and we would all do well to take this roadmap to athletic excellence and apply it across the board in our own lives.


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