How Sports Prepares You For Entrepreneurship Part 2/2

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…continued from last post

Focus
In my short life, I am yet to see anyone who has achieved massive success without zoning out people, forgoing pastimes and focusing inwardly. This helps one to understand his/her strengths as well as weaknesses and find a way to use them effectively and efficiently to neutralise the tactics of those he/she is up against. Sports teaches you how to “be in the zone” and close yourself off from distractions. If an athlete/player, whether amateur or professional, can maintain his focus, he has attained a certain level of maturity. As an enterpreneur, focus is important when starting a business. For one to be successful in business, one must stay focused on his/her vision/goal no matter how distracting things might get. And when success is achieved, a focused enterpreneur will have enough in his arsenal to fight laziness and complacency.

Teamwork
For every sports team to excel, the coaches and players need each other. Even athletes that participate in individual sports like tennis, athletics, golf etc need the help of their trainers, coaches and nutrionists to excel. Babe Ruth, the American Baseball legend, once said, “the way a team plays as a whole determines its sucess. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if you don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.” The same goes for enterpreneurship. You may have to do things alone to build your business from the scratch (start-up) but you need people to take it to the next level. Delegating some work to team members, who are hungry for success and take pride in their performance, affords you the time to focus on other things.

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Leadership
Participating in team sports gives one the chance to develop some leadership skills by captaining/coaching a group of players. As a result, an individual can acquire social and emotional intelligence, which are prerequisites in leadership. Hear Eddie Robinson, “Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.” It is important for an enterprenuer to be able to understand his social and emotional make up as well as that of people who are under his payroll. A good enterpreneur must have a healthy open line of communication with his workers. And also maintain eye contact whilst talking with them as this gives an impression of sincerity, honesty and confidence. It is easy to forget about the troubles of others but if one takes time to remember and ask, it goes a long way. People perform best when they know they’ve earned the trust of the leader.
 
Mentorship
There are so many talented individuals out there who have lost their way because they had no mentor/coach to guide them properly. One may be naturally skilled and talented but if the opportunities aren’t there or there’s no one to offer guidance, attaining success will be an illusion. Jamaican Sprinter, Usain Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football at a tender age but his cricket coach noticed his speed on the cricket pitch and encouraged him to try track and field events. Under the tutelage of Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete, Bolt was encouraged to focus his energy on improving his athletic abilities and the rest they say is history. The same happens in business, every rookie enterprenueur needs a mentor to guide and direct him inorder to achieve great success.

Attitude towards failure
Failure happens to us all in one way or another. Even the best falls down sometimes but what really matters is how you recover when you are down. It must be said that failure can be painful and hard to take; it demoralises some and makes them wallow in self-pity. However, it can also spur others to greater things. Former cyclist, Lance Armstrong, once said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” For an enterprenuer, failure can be a wonderful management tool as long as it doesn’t become a habit. When faced with failure, the entrepreneur tries to keep his head above the water and find ways to be successful. Bill Gates co-founded a failed startup called Traf-O-Data with Paul Allen when he was 17. Their failure later became a springboard to success; their next start-up, Microsoft, is currently the world’s largest PC software company.

The entrepreneurial race, just like life, is a marathon (sports) with hurdles here and there. Many startups fail – even those backed by a huge amount of venture funding – at the first hurdle. So participating in sports can equip an entrepreneur with indelible capabilities and skills required to motivate oneself and weather the storm until he/she crosses the finish line.

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Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!

Keep Your Head Up

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I was in Junior Secondary School the first time I watched the music video “Baby Don’t Cry” by Outlaws featuring then recently deceased Tupac Shakur. Tupac Shakur was one of the most influential hip hop artists and poets of all time. So many years later, the lyrics of that song Baby don’t cry, I hope you got your head up even when the road is hard, never give up have come to mean so much to me in this torrid journey of life.

The world is awesome when things are going to plan. We feel on top of the world, get comfortable and possibly criticise others. After all, it is easy to criticise others when you are comfortable. We assume nothing could ever bring us down.

But what do you do when the tables turn? When you try your best but you don’t succeed. When you lose something you can’t replace. When you love someone, but it goes to waste.

You feel so tired but you can’t sleep because you feel trapped by something or somebody. The tears come streaming down your face; you feel stuck in reverse, leaving your vision blurrier than it was before. You start questioning if you can take another step without falling on your face.

When faced with problems, take a deep breath and keep your head up. Believe in yourself and understand that failure prepares you for success. Without failure, we wouldn’t know how gleeful and exhilarating success is.

Failure is an important part of life – it is the rate-limiting step in life. Scientifically, rate-limiting steps are the slowest steps in a metabolic pathway or series of chemical reactions, which require the greatest activation energy. They determine the overall rate of the other reactions in the pathway.

29-year-old Kenyan marathon sprinter, Hyvon Ngetich exhibited this energy on Sunday 15th February 2015. Competiting at the Austin marathon, Ngetich raced into an early lead and seemed destined to win the race at a point. However, with two-tenths of a mile to go, disaster struck. She collapsed.

Unable to walk, not to talk of run, she was offered a wheelchair by the organisers to take some respite and/or throw in the towel but she refused. She crawled on all fours finishing third the race just three seconds shy of second place and ten minutes after the winner Cynthia Jerop (of Kenya) had crossed the line. When asked about the race afterwards, she said she doesn’t recall the final two kilometres of the marrathon or the crossing line. “Running, always, you have to keep going going,” she said.

Life is like a marathon with hurdles along the way. These hurdles can make or mar you depending on how the approach you adopt. You may choose to adopt the Ngetich approach – refuse to succumb to self-pity, apathy and depression – or wave the white flag.

Whatever you are going through that has made you question your existence, always remember there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The moment will definitely hurt but don’t give in to its pain. Focus on your dreams. Never give up and keep your head up!

Procrastination: Good And Bad

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I have been trying to write this article since my last post but procrastination got the best of me and I’ve found myself giving excuses why I shouldn’t.

Sounds familiar? I guess so. You have something important to get done but you keep putting it off till the very last minute.

We are all guilty of procrastination – one way or another. Everybody procrastinates at some point for a variety of reasons, some of which are unconvincing to anyone including ourselves.

Procrastination is a bad habit that can prevent one from meeting his/her deadline or preparing well for an exam/meeting/interview. As a result, it is a basic tool for prioritisation and time management.

As students, we procrastinate for assignments, dissertation, thesis and/or exam at some point. For instance, it’s exam time and you’ve planned to make most of your day but at the end of the day you find out that you’ve actually read for just an hour and wasted time sleeping, watching television, cleaning your room, calling your friends/family, surfing the net, chatting or whatever other diversion you can devise.

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We try to avoid doing an important task by becoming involved with less important tasks. In the end, we feel guilty, race against time and thence put ourselves under unnecessary pressure/stress due to our fire-brigade approach to things.

Fear may be the reason why we procrastinate. The fear of failure or success can prevent one from doing a task even when s/he knows s/he should. We are often afraid to start a task because it appears tedious, or don’t know how/where to start, or feel our effort will not be appreciated.

Fear can make one anxious when faced with a task but imagine the adrenaline rush one feels when a deadline for an important task (that will not be completed because of procrastination) is around the corner. We often procrastinate to avoid stress but are faced with even more stress, anxiety, shame and guilt in the long run.

Completing your work on time gives one a sense of strength, peace of mind and self-control. It saves you from receiving an earful from your boss and also, mental stress which be harmful to your health.

However, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing; it can be a good thing. It is sometimes good to procrastinate. Sometimes it is good to delay life decisions; take a step back, relax and think the whole thing through.

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Sometimes we can get too emotionally attached to a problem and become psychologically drained to come up with a solution. For instance, replying a mail or SMS when one is angry can make one regret his/her actions but procrastination can help one come up with the most useful answer.

Procrastination can give you a break from work which is actually a good thing. Being glued to your work can leave you stressed and out of ideas. Procrastination helps you to take some time out to re-energise thereby improving the quality of your work.

During my Master’s degree, I found my dissertation hectic. I spent months trying to find the solution to a problem. Surprisingly, the solution came to me when/where I least expected it. I took my foot off the pedal, travelled and came up with a solution whilst taking a shower.

Procrastination is a natural phenomenon. Some tasks will always be more important than others on our scale of preference. We have to purposefully prioritise the important ones and defer the less important ones.

Procrastination becomes a problem when it is used as a form of escape from reality or when it diminishes productivity. Learn to procrastinate well.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your view on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Pay Attention To Your Feedback

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As a Nigerian, I have come to realise that one of the things we, as a people, are often afraid of is people’s criticisms/negative feedback. No one likes to be criticised so we tend to develop strong resistance and reluctance to it.

Critiques often trigger strong emotions in us all. We tend to get bitter, angry or try to hurt people who have offered their critiques. We create a defensive stance to protect our self-worth which we feel is under vicious attack.

As a result, we try to disconnect from our social environment and prefer to live in our heads or associate with people who share our ideas and values. We develop an intemperate dislike for other people’s values/opinions and grow insensitive to people’s differences.

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Our environment encompasses people from different cultures and backgrounds who we interact with on a daily basis. We fail to understand that paying attention to our environment is necessary for human survival.

Almost everything we do is for the public – large or small. For instance, an entrepreneur develops his/her products for public consumption, a teacher/lecturer does his job for his students (public), the students do their school work to impress their teachers (public), the public office holders serve the poor masses etc. Thus, no matter what you do, we depend on people’s feedback to forge ahead.

Your ideas/work may seem brilliant to you but without feedback from people, our ideas/endeavours become especial and illusions. Hear American Rapper 50 Cent, “The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they are telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening.

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I remember when I presented a scientific paper about a year ago. In my head, I did pretty Ok amid the response from the audience but the examiners thought otherwise. Although they commended my delivery, they critiqued the information. I was disappointed at first but after meeting with them privately, areas of the presentation that were flawed and needed to be worked on became magnified/clearer to me. 

Just as I had thought, we often deceive ourselves into thinking we have an insight into how the public feels about us/our work but this information is often tainted and false. This is because we prefer to surround ourselves with friends/family or sycophants who may envy or praise our every move thereby creating a distance between us and the real information out there (the public).

For example, our politicians/leaders/public office holders distance themselves from the people they represent, lecturers distance themselves from the students they teach, employers/superiors distance themselves from the employees/subordinates thereby creating a huge communication gap and thence false feedback from the public. Distancing yourself from the public can be tragic because feedback is so crucial to success. By bridging this gap, we encourage direct interaction with the public and allow them to voice their criticisms and feedback.

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It is impossible to please everyone or control what other people will say, whether they’ll approve or share their opinions but the strength of interacting with the public does not come from the quantity but the quality of your feedback. If you have little or no access to the public, then how do you learn from your mistakes? How do you improve? How do you know you are ignorant? How do you know what the people want?

Criticisms and critiques are never easy to receive/accept but they give you an idea how people see you. Pay attention to your feedback, the most important information in the world, and transform it into an opportunity for personal growth, emotional development, time efficiency, improved relationships, and self-confidence.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.