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Building an Aspirational Culture: 3 Life Skills from Competitive Sports

Sports have molded my development since I was a child, and the skills I learned from competitive sports are priceless. They’ve helped me focus on and see through obstacles as my career progressed. As important, countless hours with teammates and in practice taught me how to lead others and the value of attention to detail. At early ages, and throughout college, I learned life lessons that have directly contributed to both my personal and professional success.

Our business environment has changed immeasurably since 2020, and we’ve often tried to be proactive rather than reactive. The need to communicate effectively, demonstrate empathy, and adapt are at higher levels than ever. I don’t believe you’re born with these traits; you hone them over time. Not coincidentally, these skills are part of our value system here at Blue Sky Network.

Looking back, I now recognize the advantage I gained because of the ‘extra’ time I spent in the pool or on the football field. Not only did I have a support group of peers who looked out for me, but I was also fortunate to have mentors who were invested in helping me mature from a very young age and continue to do so today.

Here are three skills that sports taught me that I use every day:

1. How to compete

There are two types of competition: competition with others and with yourself. Football and swimming teach both, albeit very differently. When you face an opponent, you have to study film (research) and think critically about how to beat them (game theory), come up with a game plan (planning), and make that plan come to life (execution). In the water, you have to be thinking critically and moving fast at the same time, otherwise, it’s very easy to lose ground (in the pool or open water). Training and preparation are essential because it takes so much effort to make up distance once you’ve lost it. Did I mention you do this while holding your breath?

Individually, you need grit and determination. Nothing comes easy. In fact, the better you become – or the more you put yourself out there – the more people will try to knock you out of the way. That, in itself, is pressure enough to improve.

2. How to be disciplined

From the schemes our coaches drew up, to early-morning pool workouts, to the focus required to keep my grades above a certain level, I needed discipline for every aspect of my life; otherwise, I’d fail. By the time I finished college, I had no choice but to understand discipline and reinforce it throughout the rest of my life.

I struggle every day to be more disciplined. Stress affects each of us in different ways and a solid foundation will help you re-center. Take the time to step back, breathe, meditate, or disconnect. The cumulative benefits of a break are amazing – and supported by data.

3. How to work (really) hard

It’s cliché and it’s not. Ninety-nine percent of resumes say “hard-working” somewhere on them. This isn’t to say sports are the only way to learn hard work, but it’s a great start. One builds a reputation by outworking their teammates and colleagues. It’s a life lesson that’s accessible to everyone by simply changing one’s mindset.

In summary, when you pursue greatness, you’ll inspire those around you to align or select out. It’s simple and builds a great culture—a vibe we all want to share in. Since I joined Blue Sky Network, we have matured as a company and significantly altered our roadmap. This journey has been both exciting and necessary.

I think about sports each day and I draw upon my experiences to ‘win the day.’ When I lose, I reset. This helps me cope with the obstacles (big or small) that bubble up every hour, every day, and every week. Keep up the great mindset and I hope my story resonates with you. Thank you.

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