Why amateur athletes make the best entrepreneurs

The Olympics are over and athletes have left Rio for their home countries – many returning to day jobs now that the event they so rigorously trained for is done.

In order to succeed in their chosen sport, athletes have a particular mental toughness that helps them work to clearly defined goals as they train – a skill that no doubt helps in a professional atmosphere.

This is particularly the case for entrepreneurs who often work late and long hours to get their businesses off the ground.

The team at Six Park are not Olympians, but coincidentally we are all triathletes and have competed in ironman distance triathlons around the world.

The average ironman finishes the race in about 12 hours and 40 minutes.

The mental stamina involved in swimming almost 4km, riding 180km and running a marathon has certainly held us in good stead as we launched into the market this year.

Triathlon is not a job requirement at Six Park, it just happens to be a shared passion: Hugh, our COO, has completed the Kona Ironman World Championship race, and Dave, our director of strategy and analytics, finished the Melbourne Ironman in 2015.

We believe teams working at startups will find more success if they maintain a life away from the business – particularly if they are focused on goal-driven sports and athletic endeavours that challenge the body and mind.

Surround yourself with a great team

I do triathlons because I like to take myself out of my comfort zone and achieve things I didn’t think would be possible (making it through the swim of an Ironman distance race would top that list. I swim like a gorilla in water).

While race day can be a solitary endeavour, the training is very social, and I couldn’t make it to the start line of an ironman without a great team of training partners and coaches.

Months of training together builds tremendous friendships, but also teaches you to appreciate the perspectives, views and needs of others. This has proven useful when considering how our investment management service can meet the needs of prospective investors in the marketplace.

Training has also taught us the benefits of pulling together a highly motivated, goal-orientated team to tackle a big challenge. Like achieving a personal best in a race, an entrepreneur has the best chance of success by building a team that will challenge and support them throughout the arduous startup journey.

Diversify and never give up

Core to Six Park’s investment platform is the concept of diversification. By diversifying our customers’ portfolios, we ensure they minimise the negative consequences of putting all their eggs in one basket.

I also apply that principal to my life outside of work.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be able to surf. Oddly, an injury paved the way for this to happen. Instead of giving up on training all together, one year ago I decided to set myself a new goal to learn to surf.

One year later and I’ve just returned from a surfing holiday in Bali where, for the first time, I took off on a beautiful five-foot wave and rode the green face for a few hundred metres.

It was magic. These are the moments that keep one motivated in the face of tough challenges.

I have the same mentality as my team and I build Six Park. It is integral to our success that we also try new things and have a diverse range of talent building the company. In order to understand what customers want, we try new offerings and gauge user reactions.

De-clutter your mind

Balancing the volatility of a startup environment with goals and challenges outside of work helps to avoid the flat spots that can emerge if you focus too much on one thing.

Triathlon, surfing and yoga help clear my mind of the many distractions that arise at start-ups. Every day, work presents our team with an array of challenges, difficult decisions, unexpected twists and turns, big wins and setbacks.

Exercise allows us to look at decisions, opportunities and challenges with a fresh and clear perspective. Sitting on a surfboard beyond the break as the sun is rising settles my mind and helps me to approach work with a positive and fresh perspective.

All entrepreneurs should have their own version of these special moments and activities to stay motivated, both in and out of the office.

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