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What Sports Can Teach You About Business

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
3 min read
What Sports Can Teach You About Business

“You’re going to climb this rock wall again. But this time, you’re going to do it blindfolded.”

He said with a smile.

I thought to myself, “how is it even possible?”

Before I knew it, I’m all hooked up and ready to go.

“Put on this blindfold,” he commanded.

“This can’t be real!” I told myself.

“Go on! Don’t keep your watch mates waiting!” He barked.

Lessons from extreme sports

Alison Coleman shared in her Forbes article on how four entrepreneurs found inspiration from extreme sports in sharpening their business skills.

From handling setbacks to managing risks. From overcoming fear to sharpening their decision making skills.

There are clear parallels between taking part in extreme sports and running a business, for example, facing your fears, and getting back up when you fall down.

The most extreme of sports I’ve ever taken part is climbing that rock wall in New Zealand blindfolded. I swore I never felt more confident after making it to the top by relying only on my hands.

Lesson from building strength

These days I only engage in activities that build my strength, stamina, and flexibility.

For someone in his late 40s, I’m not looking to bulk mass. I’m looking to built enough strength to carry my own weight.

These are my 5-minute daily workout routine:

  • Push-ups
  • Dips
  • Squat-and-press
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers

Overtime, I’ve built up the strength to carry my own weight with ease. Just like in business. I am a firm believer that I must be able to carry my own weight before I start looking for sub-contractors and partners.

In other words, my philosophy in business is this: you need to know the work enough before you delegate it to someone else. Otherwise, one day you might find out that without the right support, your business will collapse because it simply cannot carry its own weight.

Lesson from building stamina

For the longest time, I’ve been running almost daily, until I had plantar fasciitis.

That’s when I switched to swimming.

Since the beginning of this month, I’ve been swimming almost every day.

For the same amount of calories burnt, I can do it faster by swimming than running. Besides, I don’t have to put unnecessary stress on my feet.

The key lesson here is about efficiency and effectiveness.

In business, you must strive to achieve the same goal in a more efficient way and ideally if it puts less stress on your resources. To do so requires you to not only experiment, but also to base your decision on data and not your gut.

Lesson from flexibility

An incident that happened two years back literally left me in tears.

I was headed out for a meeting. As I bent down to pick up my bag, I felt a slight pull on my lower back muscles.

I brush it off and headed out anyway.

That was a mistake.

When I came home, it was hurting so bad. The only relieve was to lie down.

That was also a mistake.

Because I couldn’t get up afterwards.

I had to use a walking stick to help me get up. I had to use the walking stick to help me walk even for a short distance.

Frankly, I was embarrassed.

After a series of acupuncture treatment, the pain finally subsided and I was up and about again.

You cannot imagine what a relief that was.

I learned that I could avoid it if I’m more flexible, which led me to start taking stretching seriously.

The parallel here is evident. Stay flexible in business because the environment in which we operate in is fluid. Being rigid will inevitably lead to being left behind.

And you don’t want that.

Melvyn Tan

Despite living the good life at midlife, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My aim here is to reinvent midlife, learn new skills, and understand how the world works post-COVID.