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Athletes Know Better Than to Work Without One

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My two favorite sports are in full swing.

Serena Williams looks to cement her mythic athlete status by completing a single-year Grand Slam at the US Open. In Europe, qualification games for the European Soccer Championships are played around the clock.

My eyes are glued to the television set in Germany with my mom, watching the Germany-Poland game. The poetry of a sport well executed stirs my soul.

Infinite lessons as I watch athletes who excel at what they do. Business lessons. Life lessons. Two factors, in particular, define the athletic edge.

A Mastery Mindset

Athletes train and train and train. Most start with a healthy dose of natural ability, but athletes work harder at their trade than the rest of us do. This commitment to personal mastery, to intentional practice and incremental improvement, is their differentiator. Most of us reach a plateau, often a fine one, and coast.

I have a mastery mindset when it comes to physical exercise, thanks to my trainer. I have it when it comes to writing, thanks to my study with a troika of writing luminaries and editors who elevate what I turn in. In most other parts of my life I coast. Sometimes great fun. It does not yield the rewards of mastery.

A Coaching Mindset

Athletes avail themselves of a coach. Since Serena hired French tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou, her performance has reached new heights, at an age when many tennis players have peaked. Joachim Loew, the coach of Germany’s National Soccer Team, took a group of largely rookie soccer players and molded it into a World Championship Team.

A coach provides rigor and accountability. A coach strengthens an athlete’s assets and hones the skills. A coach charts a clear execution strategy. A coach provides clear mental focus.

Athletes know better than to work without one.

I don’t wish to win any Grand Slams. Don’t need to excel at everything. But here are my rewards when I work with an athletic mindset.

  • When I experience a sense of mastery, I get more joy out of the task I perform. I savor the increased ease with which I get things done. I relish the sense of making progress. I taste the poetry.
  • When I chart my professional path with a coach, I stay more conscious of everything I do. I am prone to take more risks. I discover more about myself. I taste the poetry.

Like an athlete, I stay resilient when things don’t go my way. I play the game of life knowing that mastery hasn’t slipped away because I have a bad day.

Athletes know.

You may not feel the need to master anything. You may not have a coach.

Embrace the mindset, anyway.

It sweetens the ride. It shows you the edge.

That’s a good thing no matter how you roll the dice.

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