I went skiing recently and as I was (mostly) swooshing down the mountain, it occurred to me that our approach for mastering sports often coincides with and is a metaphor for how we achieve our life goals. We can be cautious or reckless, hopeless or hopeful, confident or self-doubting, too easy or too hard on ourselves.  Whether learning to ski or achieving a life goal, we go through a similar mental process – it starts with a learning curve, followed by challenge, risk, pain and sacrifice…until we’re skiing from the top of the mountain. My experience learning how to excel in skiing helped me see that there are life lessons that we can apply from sports – especially as we work our way through the awkward beginner stage of any endeavor.

The next time you are struggling through learning a new sport, think about how you can channel the mental and emotional agility that helped you move up in your company or start your own business. If you are learning how to market your business, think about how much practice it took until you were able to swoosh down that slope, run that first 10K or hit that hole in one. Achieving mastery in both sports and life requires mental, emotional and physical agility to keep going and not give up.  Following are 8 lessons that serve as great reminders of the steps we must endure to reach mastery, in life and sports and the funny coincidences among them.

The Lessons Sports Application
Life Application
The Experience:
What to Own, Accept or Change
1. Learning Curve
Sports: When you first start skiing, everyone looks better than you, from the 3-year-olds to the 73-year-olds zooming down the mountain.
Life: If you are starting your own business, you’ll notice that your peers have amazing websites, 500+LinkedIn connections and say things like, “I’m so busy that I’m stressed out, but good problems though, right?”
You are supposed to be going through this to get to the next step. Everyone was where you are at one point. The sooner you own this, the easier your life will be.
2. Challenge and Feedback
Sports: This is hard! How am I going to do this? You take lessons; watch others, maybe watch some techniques on YouTube.
Life: As an entrepreneur you ask yourself where you should get started and you seek help from those who have done it before you. As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues and patterns.” Ask others to look at your marketing plan, listen to your pitch, brainstorm with you, etc.
This is a time we seek resources to help us through the learning curve. In skiing, we may realize we need lessons rather than fumbling down another hill. In business, we seek advice and pick the brains of those who have been there longer than us. Accept that you need feedback.
3. Risk
Sports: This is scary! Once you get past the starter slopes to the next level, the mountain looks a lot steeper and less friendly. It’s natural to feel like getting a ride back down on that nifty jet-ski looking patrol machine.
Life: When scared, entrepreneurs ask themselves, “Will I make it? Will I make a fool of myself? Can I handle rejection?”
The truth is, it is a risk. When you transition from the green to blue slopes, you realize you are going fast and there is an element of danger. As entrepreneurs, we need own the fact that there is risk (as well as potential payoffs). Change your view of risk and start seeing it as innovation.
4. Practice and Focus
Sports: It takes time, effort and patience. Take lessons. Keep practicing and dig into your well of perseverance.
Life: In your business, keep doing what you are doing until you perfect it. At the same time, try new things
There is nothing that replaces practice in reaching mastery. Accept it, own it and change any thinking you have that differs from this.
5. Pain!
Sports: Man, this hurts! Falling down hurts and can be discouraging.
Life: Rejection hurts. It may feel like you are banging your head against the wall. Entrepreneurs wonder, “Should I go back to being an employee? It was so much easier. Or, was it?”
Resilience, resilience, resilience. Watch/read/absorb the work of Tony Robbins, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Louise Hays and others who have conquered their life goals. What they have to say will inspire you. Accept that pain is part of the process.
6. Sacrifice
Sports: With skiing, you may wish to call it a day at noon and have hot chocolate at the lodge.
Life: We all know how much sacrifice goes into mastery, whether you are an entrepreneur or employee. You have to give some things up until you master the skill/project you need. Longer weeks, fewer happy hours and less “me” time may be what you need to excel.
Own the fact that if it were easy, everyone would be doing what you are. Make sure to make time for breaks/family/sports/meditation to keep your sanity. Keep the faith!
7. Measurement
Sports: It’s so much easier to measure our progress toward mastery in sports. In skiing, you move from green slopes to blue, to black, to double black diamonds to getting dropped off by a helicopter.
Life: In business, we can of course measure ourselves by productivity, how many clients we helped and how we profited. We should also measure success by tracking how many other entrepreneurs we were able to help. How many introductions and referrals did we make that lead to others’ success?
Change your thinking about success and accept the fact that if we create a holistic system of measurement, we can feel joy in helping others attain success as well.
8. Celebration
Sports: It is important to celebrate progress, whether it is moving to a new level on the mountain, or being able to swing the golf club and actually making contact with the ball.
Life: Let’s say you set a goal of helping a certain number of clients in the first quarter. When you achieve this goal, take the time to celebrate it with your friends, colleagues and family. Make note though, to not get caught up in the, “If I only make 20% above that, I’ll be happy” syndrome. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Be happy now. Otherwise you’ll always be striving toward an external source for your happiness, to which there will be no end.”
Change how you see success so you don’t get caught up in the “I’d be happy only if I could…” cycle. Take a moment to look back at how far you have come every so often and help others who are where you used to be.