There has been no shortage of sporting drama recently. Wimbledon saw the longest tennis match in history played over three days. The Open was won by a 200–1 outsider. A Sri Lankan cricketer took his 800th career test wicket on the last ball of his test career!
It has been a summer of watching the plots of Kevin Costner films intruding into real life – just add music with lots of ascending power chords.
Sport is an excellent metaphor for business. This is just as well because, although business stories may run on similar lines, they rarely make good movie material.
Certainly it is no coincidence that many entrepreneurs are fanatical sports fans, or that many successful sports stars go on to become successful entrepreneurs. Indeed, there may be a stronger correlation between business success and passion for sport than between business success and academic intelligence.
One of the great lessons of sport – and it applies to business – is that success against the odds is possible if you keep trying.
This is important because the other great lesson of sport is that victory usually goes to the better prepared. This is also true of business.
An 11-hour tennis match is possible only because both players were superbly fit and focussed, and because the standard of top professionals is now so high that to have your service broken is considered a major lapse. Golfer Louis Oosthuizen took professional advice on how to improve his concentration in the Open: he is said to have had a red dot on his glove to give him something on which to focus. Cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan must have been motivated, if only at the subconscious level, by the knowledge that the 800 target was within his reach and this would be his last chance.
Mental attitude is the common factor. Yet there is also an external factor. Some call it Luck, others Fortune or Fate or Providence. No one can control it. However, it is not entirely random. There is a lot of truth in “Fortune favours the brave” – so long as you accept that “Fortune” is under no obligation just because you are brave.
Relying on the extraordinary is not a rational basis for a strategy – and certainly no excuse to skip essential preparation. As the legendary golfer Gary Player put it, “The harder I practise, the luckier I get.”