In the first part of this series, 6 reasons ski racers are stronger in business (Part 1), I touched on multiple competitive variables, independence, and measuring objective results that most ski racers demonstrate. There are three more traits that ski racers are also armed with that matter in business.
Social skills on a global scale
I grew up in a small paper mill town in the northeastern US that was sheltered from any appreciable diversity, with one exception: skiing. Athletes from around the world would race in both alpine and nordic events at the local ski areas, so there were many opportunities to meet new people from other countries and engage in conversation. It forces athletes to be social with strangers in a relatively solitary sport, and the good news is, it takes about 2 minutes to get down the ski slope and about 8 minutes to ride the lift back to the top; plenty of time to learn about other’s journeys! As a result, skiers become the ultimate networker, pen-pal, and social media precursor as a result! In business, being able to quickly engage with customers, partners, potential employers, etc. is key. Ski racer elevator “pitches” started early on as a chairlift conversation.
The fastest racer is not always the most graceful
Attending one of my first week-long ski camps at the age of 12 with the now Olympic gold medalist, Bode Miller , I learned that the fastest kid on the race course wasn’t always the most elegant (sorry Bode, your style is unique!). I would watch in awe as Bode awkwardly hurled himself down the mountain, right on the edge of an epic crash, only to see his times faster than the pack. His technique was atypical, but his results were legendary. What some racers accomplished with beautiful technique that would make the coaches proud, Bode did with sheer will, muscle, and fight to get down the hill fastest. To this day, I still admire him for this. In business, the same is true; successful businesses don’t always follow all of the rules to success. They accomplish great results with unnatural acts, and I’ve learned to embrace this. Sometimes the best path to success in business doesn’t require a room full of MBA’s to execute, it requires the grit and will to push on toward the finish line..
Preparation is 90% of the race
Ski racing is like an iceberg: the vast majority of the effort top racers put in is done off the slopes or prior to the race where effort goes unseen… the countless hours spent waking up early to do plyo boxes, or run 5 miles, or even worse; hiking the slopes when the lift is on wind hold because training must go on. This is an everyday occurrence for ski racers. .Luckily, business favors the same level of preparation and typically rewards it. There are very few outcomes in business that involve showing up to collect the prize without significant prep-work. Ski racers just get it! Chances are, they’ve endured every task a business faces, only at -30F when no one was watching!
In closing, these core attributes have made many skiers better in business as well as tough competitors on the slopes. Want to help build more young athletes and potential rock star business leaders of tomorrow? Supporting the US Skiing and Snowboarding Association is a great way to help out! Donate to their foundation here: http://foundation.ussa.org/
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About the author:
Brian Gagnon is an ex-ski racer and athlete turned business executive. He studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Maine. Now he spends his time working with technology start-ups as a technology evangelist and business leader. Brian is an active USSA Tech. Delegate and coach as well as assisting with World Cup races around the globe. When he’s not talking tech with businesses or on the slopes, he’s most likely traveling, enjoying the outdoors or exploring on his motorcycle