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Think Like An Elite Athlete: Four Lessons for Business Owners


I recently completed a twenty-year career as a tennis player with experience from NCAA Division 1 and European Tennis Circuits in Sweden and elsewhere around the world.

I’ve since joined The Fahrenheit Group, where I’ve noticed some of the most successful entrepreneurs who walk through our doors also possess values that elite athletes share.

Like athletes, business owners have a tremendous spirit, ambition and determination about their passion. Here are some other similarities I’ve noticed:

#1) Has a Willingness to Put in the Work

Waking up before dawn and finishing late in the evening is part of the daily routine for an athlete. Practice, recovery and nutrition are carefully planned accordingly each day. Just like athletes, the most successful business owners are those who put in the time to achieving their goals. Crucial opportunities arise outside of the regular “nine to five.”

#2) Learns From Failures

It is inevitable; there will be winners and losers. Some of the greatest lessons are from losing and understanding how to improve and move on. I’ve noticed the most successful leaders know how to tackle setbacks, improvise, adapt and overcome!

#3) Is a Trusted Coach

Behind every great athlete is a great coach. Many athletes will admit that a coach has been critical to their achievements. Coaching allows top performers to cultivate their skills. It’s what’s best for the team and the individual. Being a successful entrepreneur means having an obligation and responsibility to bring in the right employees, cultivate their talents, and thoughtfully leverage investors and mentors, too.

#4) Focuses On What Can Be Achieved

Dealing with stress is part of life; athletes are often performing at high levels under extreme pressure in front large crowds. Syncing up the mind AND body is key to be successful on the court or field of play. It’s widely known that an athlete’s performance significantly improves when he or she harnesses their thoughts and emotions. Likewise, self-confidence and control are key resources for an entrepreneur to use in pressure situations. Another key to success: Focus on what you can achieve rather than on what could happen if things go wrong.

I’ve learned that being a business owner can be overwhelming and scary at times.  Like an athlete, it can be a struggle to stay ahead of the competition and manage the pressures of keeping the business (or your body if you are an athlete) in top form.

What other similarities do you see? Contact me! I would love to hear your thoughts.

About the Author

Marten Jonsson is a native Pitea, Sweden and a former Swedish National Tennis Champion and a two-time, Atlantic-10 Conference champion at VCU. At Fahrenheit, Marten expands the firm’s financial planning and analysis capabilities, including supporting its mergers and acquisition advisory practice. He holds an MBA in Corporate Finance from VCU.

Contact Marten.