3 Startup Lessons you Learn While Watching the Australian Open

 

Djokovic Wins Australian Open 2012

Another year and another Australian Open. 2012′s chapter of the epic tennis major came to a close last night leaving me wondering what use my television will be for the next 12 months.

All is not lost. In the midst of the countless hours watching a green ball being pummeled mercilessly across a net, I couldn’t help but find some points of similarity between the tennis and business world.

While tennis set Melbourne alight for 2 weeks, it also reminded me of a few lessons I’m learning in the entrepreneurial world.

 

The Battle is in the Mind

Cliche maybe, but spend 2 hours watching tennis and you’ll see that the game is played not just on the court but also in the mind.

Tennis is littered with rivalries between great players who wage war psychologically as much as they do physically. Roger Federer’s continued inability to believe he can beat Nadal, and in turn Nadal’s constant labouring to overcome Djokovic shows that being mentally tough plays a big part in success.

The same applies to startups. Entrepreneurship is a mental battle. Sure, a solid business idea and excellent marketing campaigns are great, but executing your plans requires immense mental fortitude.

Most entrepreneurs endure the same experiences : sleepless nights, long days of work, financial pressure etc. There is no escape from these experiences and they test the resolve to keep on going.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing some great entrepreneurs and, like tennis players, they display amazingly mental resilience which is surely no small coincidence.

 

The Top Seed Forces us to Be Better

The world of tennis centers primarily on the rankings system. While some may contest the validity of how points are counted, if you’re number 1 you more than likely deserve to be there.

The previous 2 men to be world number 1 are among the best players tennis has ever seen. Federer and Nadal dominated the game for periods of time, sweeping all before them yet somehow their reigns came to an end. While most champions decline because of decreasing prowess,  Nadal and Federer were overcome because other players were simply forced to become better and they did.

In the same way, every startup is that lower ranked player who needs to have an undying commitment to just being better than the number 1 seed. Startups do not have the luxury of waiting around hoping that the market leader slows down. We exist because we believe that we offer something genuinely better.

Kapil Kale illustrates the point in a great article on picking startup ideas based on 3 things :

  • making something difficult easy
  • making something expensive cheap
  • making something entertaining

There is always a number 1 ranked player to be beaten and startups need to be committed to raising their game and always being better.

 

For the Love of the Game

In the words of Jim Courier who commentated throughout the tournament, “Tennis is a brutal game”. While watching players endure 4+ hours of sweltering heat, trading punch for punch, only to lose and say they will come back again, I couldn’t help but wonder.. why would anyone come back for this?

The only plausible answer is that tennis players can’t see themselves doing anything else but competing on that court.

Entrepreneurs are kind of the same way. While most see our lifestyle as risky, crazy and almost delusional at times, entrepreneurs just keep coming back for more. Owning and growing a business is like a life dream so doing anything else seems unthinkable.

Maybe that’s why I like tennis, the pain can seem excruciating but the journey of doing what you love is priceless!

About Ivan Lim

I'm passionate about entrepreneurship, people, education, communications and living purposefully. I've done a few things like founding Vinspi, a startup for Tailored Suits Online and I was ex marketing manager at OZHut. I now head up marketing at Tweaky.com. I'm usually, spending time with friends, reading or eating peanut butter. God, family, friends and making this life count are my priorities.