WW#006: A Sports Mindset

After so many inspiring sporting performances during this Olympics, with athletes truly at the pinnacle of their game, my mind got to thinking about legacy and in particular what learning we can take and positively apply in the world of business.

There really is so much in turning up and being ready…ready to perform. They say medals are won based on that tiny percentage of real estate – the bit between your ears. It’s truly a mindset and preparation thing!

I was fortunate enough to be in the British windsurfing team and competed in the Olympic trials back in 1995. My own sporting mindset, and indeed the ability to perform at my best, was in no small part developed by an amazing coach (thanks Chris if you are reading this!)

I was probably around the age of seventeen, with some raw ability and plenty of passion. Yet, without doubt it was my coach that elevated me to perform at my maximum potential. My coach made such a positive difference to my understanding of ‘what was happening when’; how to manage my thought processes and how to recognise when things weren’t going so well. He also taught me how to manage and learn from these moments.

Roll the clock on ten years, and I found myself applying many of the sporting mindset tools adopted from my coach into the world of business. Yes, they were indeed transferable.

In business, I was starting to go through some really exciting growth periods and in the hot seat leading within my own business. I was experiencing success, however, truth be told, it was hard at times and I was actually struggling with the pressure of leading a scaling company.

I remembered what it had been like to have a coach when I was younger and what a remarkable difference it had made to me in sport. It was around this time that I got a coach to support me in business (thanks Mike if you are reading this!)

This was without doubt a winning decision for me. The positives I experienced as a direct result of working with my business coach were many. The process helped me understand how I thought again; what was happening around me and also introduced me to group coaching – which I found incredibly powerful!

  • Group coaching gave me the opportunity to learn so much from understanding how other people in similar business roles to me worked their way through similar business challenges. It also helped me understand that the challenges I was facing in business were not unique to me and that others were in fact experiencing just the same.
  • It’s true to say that there really is so much in turning up and being ready to perform. Just as with athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, success in business is truly about getting the right mindset and the right preparation in order to WIN (or compromise with a win win !
  • It’s no great surprise that medal winning athletes so often champion the influence of their coaches in their post performance interviews. Medal winning is a big ask when ‘going it alone’. And, I believe the same can be said in business.
  • In sport, I came to the realisation that the right coaching environment would play a large part in getting me ready to succeed. It would help me reach my pinnacle of achievement. In my own business, I found that exactly the same was true. Working with the right coach and being involved in the right group coaching made such a lasting difference to me in business.

And so, fast-forward to today and that’s all led me to what I do now, coaching other business owners to help them achieve their own pinnacle of success. Coaching, just like in sport, is a catalyst for both a winning mindset and being truly ready to perform in business as the best you can be.

Find out how I could help you with planning, mindset, culture & scaling in as little as 1 hour a month...

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James Potten


On a mission to democratise entrepreneurship by providing access to best practice, helping startups sustainably scale up.