Monday, October 8, 2012

Business Lessons From the Sporting World

I spent this last weekend like I do most of them ... watching the kiddos at their respective volleyball and soccer games. Let me be up front, I’m not a sporto by any stretch of the imagination … in fact, my involvement is more like submission. The Big Guy lives and breathes Chicago Cubs baseball, may this last season rest in peace, but when that’s over he moves on to Iowa Hawkeye football and the MLB Playoffs and then Iowa Hawkeye wrestling and, just about that time, Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona is gearing up again. As far as the kiddos go, one is ready to move on to a select volleyball team and the other will go straight from soccer to basketball and back to soccer.

Most of the time I’m just the Mom - cheerleader extraordinaire and the provider of ice cream following each game. But something really hit me upside the head this week … just how much being prepared and knowing your stuff makes a difference. Sports are just like business. So much so, that they teach the same lessons – lessons you can apply to your own business or life.

Here’s what I observed:

My daughter loves volleyball. Not just likes it – LOVES it. She practices, both with the team and on her own, she reads about it, watches college teams and soaks up whatever pointers she can from wherever she can. She prepares for each game like she’s never played the opposition before and she’s not afraid to try new things if it means making her game better. She has no fear … and her knees may never be the same with all the diving she does on hard gym floors to dig that ball out for a teammate to get over the net.

On the other hand, my son is more of a social athlete. He enjoys the games, knows the basics and can perform well enough … but he much prefers the social time with “the guys” on the sideline, munching on peanuts and talking smack. He is also afraid to deviate from what the coach tells him. If Coach says, “You’re guarding that guy on that side of the field” that is what he does. He believes that moving from that position, being aggressive and going after the ball will get him into trouble … so he plays it safe.

The same can be said for what we do. Preparation, knowledge and a lack of fear are the keys to success.

For many of us, preparation has included returning to school, becoming experts in our field and working day in and day out to continue learning so that we can be prepared and can provide the best services possible to our clients. Some call it “life-long learning” and it’s something I heartily endorse. There are many avenues for being a life-long learner. Some of which are:
        Read. Read everything you can find about what it is you do. From news articles to blogs to professional journals read to find out what the latest trends are in your field and don’t be afraid to apply those lessons to your endeavors. I subscribe to quite a few editing, proofreading, writing, social media and marketing blogs. And, while a lot of what I can do is limited at this stage of my company’s development, I’m not afraid to tweak, change and update what I do in order to provide the best service I can for my customers.

         Talk and More Importantly - Listen. Talk to others in your field and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even within the same field, everyone’s background and experience-level is different. What you may need help with will very probably be someone else’s strength. On the flip side, your strengths may help someone else. Join professional organizations, network and join in discussions. I’ve found in the editing and social marketing fields that there are those who are more than happy to help – not just with the mechanical questions that may arise but also with sharing their wisdom when it comes to what works and what doesn’t.

         Webinars & Online Learning. Follow your professional organizations to webinars and take advantage of the resources they provide. Not all webinars and online learning opportunities are pocket-busting endeavors of limited worth. Many are free or are very low-cost and they are a great forum for learning more about your subject matter as well as for networking with other professionals in your field. The Editorial Freelancers Association and the International Freelancers Academy not only provide forums and learning opportunities but also booklets and reference materials that help me stay up-to-date and mechanically correct.

         School. If necessary, be prepared to go back to school either in a formal setting or through online classes. Our world changes quickly and sometimes self-learning isn’t enough to keep up with the services you want to provide and knowledge you need to have. There are also other opportunities for continuing education such as Stanford University's free online courses they provide each term for everything from “An Introduction to Computer Networks” to “Writing in the Sciences”. You don’t receive college credit but you do get a certificate of completion and an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge base.

Preparation and knowledge are key to being able to provide the best services possible and a lack of fear will let you implement what you learn into your business to make it the best – or as I like to say – to make it SHINE. Like athletes who spend years learning their game and rigorously training to meet the requirements, so must we. And, as my oh-so-lovely kiddos show, the contrast between those who are prepared and those who think they might be but tend to stay with the status quo and skate through is obvious. Not only do we see it when we watch a sporting event – so will your clients when they're looking for someone to provide the services you offer.

Amy Thompson Editing provides proofreading, copyediting and copywriting services to businesses and authors to help make their work shine. For more information about how I can help make your work shine, visit

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