There’s a lot that can be learned about business from a game of tennis. Because even though you might see owning a successful business as having crossed the finish line, the business world is really more of a game of strategy with plenty of ups and downs — just like tennis. In tennis, those ups and downs might be the nature of the game itself (against your opponent), managing your emotions or stress, or not quitting because of a little rain.
Below are just a few of the business lessons that can be learned from playing, watching, and engaging with tennis:
Practice and Preparation
Like with any sport, you must practice and prepare for a tennis match. Even those who seem to be natural-born athletes won’t get far on the court if they aren’t disciplined. They might be fast or strong, but if they aren’t able to recognize their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses — in addition to their own strengths and weaknesses — and match their gameplay to fit their opponent, then they won’t get far. And to do this, they’ll need to practice.
This translates well to the business world, both in terms of the importance of understanding your business opponents and in terms of understanding your colleagues. Better understanding your opponents will help you to better compete with them. And knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, in addition to your colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses, will help you to make better decisions about your business or in delegating tasks.
Further, you really can’t just wing it in business. You’ll need to practice certain skills like negotiation, networking, and problem solving. You’ll also need to be able to do your research, such as on market trends, clients, or company meetings. If you neglect either of these, you won’t get very far — and you’ll quickly disappoint anyone who is depending on you.
Take Educated Risks
In business, you won’t be able to get by without taking risks. But this doesn’t mean you should be reckless with your risk-taking — your risks should be calculated. The same is true for tennis, from playing a match to placing a wager. Think of it this way: When betting on a match, there are a wide range of different wagers you can place. How do you choose which wager(s) to make? If you want a fighting chance, you certainly don’t pick them at random and hope for the best. You make an informed decision by considering factors like the players’ skills and histories.
In business, you shouldn’t just make decisions on a whim. Proper risk-taking is all about planning, research, effort, and careful thought. This will also help to bring about unplanned opportunities, and you never know when these types of opportunities will pay off. Stay smart, driven, and open-minded about your risks, and you’ll be more likely to see success.
Learn from Failure
More so than anything else, it’s impossible to avoid failure in business. And if you’re taking plenty of calculated risks — as you should be — then you’re going to fail, likely more often than you’ll succeed. You need to be able to cope with that failure, pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and keep going. Only those who are able to respond well to setbacks will see success.
In tennis, it is unlikely you will play or watch a perfect game. Even the best players lose at some point, or make a dumb mistake. No one is unbeatable or exempt from failure. But the key is how you respond to that failure. If you don’t handle your anger or stress from failure while playing a match, you’ll quickly see your performance further decline. And then, if you lose a match, will you refuse to ever play again? No. You shake it off and prepare to start over again. You study the mistakes you made, and see if there are ways you can improve before your next match.