If you had told me coming out of college that I would be using the skills and techniques I learned through laying basketball to start my own business in venture capitalism and become an entrepreneur, I never would have believed you. Of course, if you would have told me I would be in the right position coming out of college to start my own business and have it be successful, I never would have believed you either. In fact, life as a whole has been pretty unbelievable. Between playing basketball at a prestigious university like Duke University, under the tutelage of legendary Coach K, and then starting and maintaining a business in the highly competitive world of venture capitalism as a young entrepreneur, I consider myself highly blessed. A little bit of luck and a little bit of faith in something larger than myself, and I’ve been able to achieve my wildest dreams. However, luck and faith were only two of the qualities I needed on my path to success, and there are many others that require more active awareness. Unless you’re throwing up a last-second Hail Mary shot from beyond half-court, you probably aren’t even thinking about luck and faith at all (but boy is it good to have when you need it.) Hopefully, by using some of the other qualities necessary for success, you’ll only need to rely on luck and faith sparingly.
In all, there are seven qualities that I found gave me success both on the court and off of it. Admittedly, these are simple, broad qualities that one could argue any person in any field who is looking for success could find guidance in. To that point, I would agree. Not only would I recommend mastering these qualities for anyone entering the field of sports or business, but to anyone who is looking to take themselves seriously in any field.
We’ve already covered faith and luck, but I’ll include them here in a master list of all our qualities:
Intelligence is a gimme, right? Of course, you need to be intelligent to succeed, but more than that, you need to be knowledgeable, you need to be able to answer questions and spit facts without seeming pompous or pretentious. People like a guy they can go to for information, they don’t like a guy who will lecture them or make them feel spoken down to. It’s also always a good idea to keep some of your smarts hidden, just a little, so the person you are interacting with, be it a business partner or a defending competitor, will have a tendency to underestimate your full potential. Remember, it’s always in your advantage to be underestimated. It is easier to play the underdog, where losing is expected and winning is a massive celebration, than to play the favorite, where winning is expected and losing is an incredible failure. Use your intelligence to your advantage to create whatever dialogue you’d like for an encounter, the important part is having the upper hand regardless of which plays or routes are being called. To continue the metaphor, if you have knowledge of the entire playbook, it won’t be a problem to execute any play that may be called.
In a world where everyone can choose whoever they want to talk to, who they interact with and do business with, it’s important to have at least a small amount of charisma, so that their decision doesn’t have to be as hard. When a coach is having a hard time deciding who gets minutes of playtime, it never hurts to be the one who can make the coach smile or bust a chuckle. Likable people are always better remembered than those that are less likable because people always remember the feeling that a person gives them. Even if they don’t remember your name, they’ll remember if you made them feel good. Charisma doesn’t mean being a suck-up or being goofy or cheesy, it just means putting in the little bit of extra effort into your interactions with people, and turning your already great personality up to full throttle. Puffery is obviously fake, and feels saccharine, while charisma comes from within, and should feel more natural. Just be yourself and it’ll come.
What your mother told you was right, “patience is a virtue.” While the venture capital world is faced-paced and chaotic, many of your plans as a business will rely on long-term goals and long-term investments to be met. Without patience, it’s easy to worry and start needlessly tinkering with your project, inevitably ruining something because you couldn’t simply wait. But this won’t be you, you’ll know that time is always valuable, whether you are running around at high speeds or merely allowing your interest to multiply and letting your money make money while the rest of the competition rushes by, exhausted and without a clue.
When you’re in the thick of it, you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself surprised, and in the rush of competition, it’s always better to be the one surprising, than the one being surprised. Awareness means knowing what’s on your plate and what’s on everyone else’s, too. The best players always know they’re routes, as well as everyone else’s, and the competition’s routes, too. The best way to be aware is to plan ahead and know what to be aware of, therefore practice because of one of the most important parts to preparation. Practice really does make perfect, so stay scheming and you’ll soon find the success you’re after.
Lastly, the best players in any field are always able to adapt to their surroundings better than all those around them. Flexibility and adaptability are keys to success, because, without them, you will surely be left behind. Anyone can come up with one good idea, but it takes a great entrepreneur and businessman to be able to continually evolve with the zeitgeist, and stay relevant in a constantly changing environment.
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