As some, not many, of Mountain Media’s clients know, I’m a former high school and college athlete, a swimmer, working my way through the professional world after having survived four of the most physically strenuous years of my life known as my collegiate career. While my former athletic glory ended several years ago, there are still plenty of times throughout a normal work day when I actually stop and think about something and realize, “Hey, I learned this from swimming all of those years!”
Unfortunately, there are some things I never learned, and will never learn, about the real world from my sport – like the fact that I cannot, actually, eat whatever I please and drink whatever I please and never gain a pound, that working out isn’t as easy to fit into your daily routine as it once was and that not every man I meet will look as good as a Division 1 swimmer in a Speedo (bummer). But there are some truly amazing life lessons that I’ve learned from sports that I will never forget, and that have helped to shape me into the young professional that I am today. I figured my company’s lovely blog would be as good a place as any to share these lessons with all of our loyal followers, and all of you athletes with bright professional futures out there!
You know that feeling that you get when you’re in a game or competition (or, in my case, a meet), and you glance over at one of your competitors and just stare them down because you want to beat them so badly? That competitive drive isn’t a bad thing – it’s something that good athletes are born and bred with, and it’s something that I’ve found really helps me in my problem solving skills, believe it or not.
When I’m faced with a problem or situation that I don’t know how to solve, I feel that same competitive drive within me to challenge myself to be better than I think I am and solve whatever problem it is I’m facing. I dig deep, I mentally pep-talk myself into believing that I know the solution, and I do things that I sometimes never thought I was capable of doing. That’s the competitor in me – no problem is too big to beat, even at my job.
When you’re preparing for a big competition, the butterflies and knots in your stomach are natural, because you know how badly you want to win and you know the work that you’ll have to put in to accomplish your goals. When you finally get to game day, the nerves get even crazier, then turn into great energy that propels you to win.
The same is true in the professional world. When I have a big presentation or meeting that I’m preparing for, I feel nervous. I want to sign new clients and impress existing ones, and I can relate that feeling back to the way I felt when I would step up on the blocks to race. I turn my nervous butterflies into internal energy that drives me to put in my best efforts to prepare the right way for whatever it is I have coming up. Then I use the nerves to my advantage – they give me more external energy during presentations and meetings that show an excitement for what I do, and that excitement shines through to current and potential clients.
Probably one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in a sport is that sense of family that you get from your teammates. My teammates were my family – we lived together in college, we trained together, we ate together, we partied together. They were my life. And when I would be in a race, I would see and hear their cheers the whole way through, knowing that they were there supporting me while I struggled to beat the girl in the lane next to me.
Even though swimming was an individual sport, I learned so much about teamwork because I could never have swam the races that I did without the encouragement of my teammates. The same is true here at Mountain Media – I couldn’t do what I do without my team. Everyone contributes, everyone’s ideas count and everyone is there to support each other when one of us is struggling. That’s the only way that we succeed, that we win, as a marketing department – when all of us work together. Thanks, swimming, for teaching me how to be a part of a team!
To be honest, I was a broadcast journalism major in college. I studied writing and interviewing and I learned how to speak well in front of a camera. I always thought I was terrible at math, but I’ve been wrong all along, and it took working here at Mountain Media for me to realize that.
As a swimmer, we train on interval times, and our workouts consist of “sets” of repetitions of specific distances. Long story short – there’s a ton of math involved in a swimming workout. I never realized this until suddenly I started breaking down numbers at my job like it was nothing – things like hours on a project, hourly rates, the amount of work that should be done under a given client budget, analytical numbers, ROI statistics, etc.
My point here is that my sport taught me about something that I never considered myself to be good at, and it took me until my fourth year in the real world to realize all of the skills that I possess that I’ve never really put to use. Don’t sell yourself short in any aspect of your professional life. Your sport might have taught you something you never knew until you try it at your job!
Every athlete has good days and bad days, both in practice and in competition. And it’s hard not to walk away from a bad practice feeling frustrated and disappointed in yourself for not performing to your usual standards. But despite that feeling, you go back the next day for more, without missing a beat.
Even in the professional world, it’s perfectly fine to have good days and bad days, and everyone has them. What sports taught me was how to move past the bad days and keep on the track towards totally rocking at my job. Nothing can bring me down for more than a day at a time.
Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my swimming career came from one coach that I had from the time that I was about 11 years old all the way through my college career – “Early is on time.” As terrible as it was to drag my tired self out of bed at 5am for morning swim practice, I knew that I couldn’t be late, because if I was, there would be a treacherous punishment just waiting for me when I finally arrived at the pool (have any of you ever done 1,000 straight yards of butterfly in a pool? A recommendation – if you don’t know what it’s like, don’t find out!).
As a result, I was never late. Ever. Not for practice, not for classes in college, and now not for work or meetings or presentations or anything else. In fact, I’m usually 10 or 15 minutes early to the things that are most important to me (social events aside, since we all know that being fashionably late is way cooler than being the first one at a party – duh). It’s this engrained little seed in the back of my mind as a result of that one coach – being 15 minutes early to everything means that you’ll always be on time.
While I may not be quite as ripped as I used to be in college, and I can’t eat my way through rough days without facing the consequences, I can still relate a lot of what I do in my professional life back to my sport. I’ve grown up since my major swimming days (I do still train and compete, but it’s for me now, not anyone else) and I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I know that the majority of elite athletes out there have futures in something other than their sports. So take what you can from your sport and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person, and a better professional, in the long run.