Olympian Neeraj Chopra: Learnings From Sport For Entrepreneurs

India is celebrating the win of its first-ever athletic gold medal at the Olympics by Neeraj Chopra. Let's look at what entrepreneurs can learn from Neeraj and other athletes.


As Indian athlete and Olympian Neeraj Chopra got the country its first-ever gold medal in the Tokyo games’ track and field event, it is the only thing that everyone is talking about these days, and rightly so. Heralding a new era for Indian sports, Neeraj Chopra has made the country proud and inspired millions of up-and-coming players who can now dream of bagging a medal at the highest stage in the world.

But aspiring players and athletes are not the only ones whom Chopra’s Olympic Gold in Javelin throw has inspired. The journey that an athlete has to undergo is quite similar to what an aspiring entrepreneur goes through.

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There is a vast array of sports terminology, like 'Knocked it out of the park', 'The ball is in their court', 'Game of inches', among others, that is used to describe the happenings of business and in the workplace.

So, let’s see how learning from sports can help entrepreneurs succeed in business.

Starting is lonely and often discouraging

It is a fact that every beginner goes through the blues of starting something new. While the adrenaline seems amiss in delving into the new paradigm, be it a new sport or setting up a small business, the beginning seems more challenging due to that fear of new and unknown. But as the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”, the same is true for an athlete and a business. Starting is lonely, but it is temporary. As the journey proceeds, the struggle becomes a thing of the past. It is often replaced by a new set of challenges that can be overcome by the skills acquired in this process. 

Set realistic goals – Know exactly what you’re trying to achieve

Just like some players, entrepreneurs sometimes set grand and lofty goals right from the outset. But it is a proven strategy for athletes to start small and take things one day at a time to reach the end-line successfully.  Entrepreneurs, too, must follow this practice of setting realistic goals and working for them consistently, increasing their chances of success. 

Consistency and perseverance

Along with clearly set and achievable goals, athletes work towards them consistently and perseveringly. It is the inherent nature of sports and practice that makes sportspersons competitive and, thus, successful. And this holds vital importance in the journey of aspiring business people as well. Entrepreneurs should imbibe these values of athletes right from the beginning of their entrepreneurial path to make a successful leap in their careers.

Discipline and dedication

If discipline were a book, it would be an athlete’s Bible. Even if they are not medal bearers or absolute champions, all athletes are strictly tuned to the daily schedules that they have to follow with discipline. The above two points of realistic goals and consistency are primarily driven by discipline. If one is to start a new business or learn about the business world, they must surely follow an athlete’s discipline and dedication.

Focus – Attention to detail

Every well-trained and serious player has one thing in common — an obsession with details. Players know every aspect of their sport as they all are crucial for a good performance. They maintain a rigorous training schedule and pay close attention to details as little details can make or break their performances. Entrepreneurs must also imbibe these values to capitalise on opportunities for advancement and other avenues of success and should be focused and detail-oriented. 

Failure – Learn from losing

The fact of sports (and life in general) is that there are always winners and failures. All athletes know that they are not going to win all the matches and events in their life. It is what they take away from the experience of losing that finally propels them to win. Athletes turn inward and analyse their own performance, scrutinise their lapses and see their failures and missteps as possibilities for improvement.

The same is true for entrepreneurs. Losing is a temporary condition. Every day is a unique opportunity to take in new aspects, grow and succeed. True accomplishment comes when one learns from errors and grows past them.

Have grit

Indeed, the best athletes are the ones who have unique skills and talents and are the most flexible and adaptable – however, other things too separate good athletes from the great ones. The skill of grit makes a lot of difference. Grit is self-discipline accompanied by an emotional commitment to a task and a strong desire to accomplish it. To be successful, entrepreneurs must also cultivate grit, just like athletes do. They must have the ability to withstand adversity and have the grit and determination to achieve their goals.

Realising success and celebrating accomplishments

We can witness the apt comparison between business and sports in an expressive celebration of one’s success. When an athlete brings home gold, s/he is celebrated for the mega achievement, and the entire nation goes into celebration, just like Neeraj Chopra’s recent win for India. In business, too, entrepreneurs must recognise their and their employee’s success. They should find ways to cheer one another on when, say, a co-worker makes new record sales or wins a big client. Not only does this promote unity, but it also gives an incentive for others to accomplish their goals. 

Parallels between an entrepreneur and Olympian Neeraj Chopra

The connections between sports and business are omnipresent. Entrepreneurs and aspiring businesspersons have been learning new teachings from sports for a long time. Whether referring to workgroups as “teams” or managers as “coaches”, sports analogies in the business world are applied everywhere. 

Olympian Neeraj Chopra has been through a journey that was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. His quest began with the aim of shedding some weight as a kid; today, it has reached its summit with a historic Olympic gold in the javelin throw event. This is not to say that his journey has peaked forever. This is just the beginning. And so is every new day for entrepreneurs. They can do anything, anytime, any day – all they have to do is follow the rulebook of success and adopt an athlete’s skills to thrive and succeed in their world.

Aakash Sharma
Aakash Sharma
Aakash writes on Startup Ecosystem, Policies, Legal and Regulatory aspects of business planning. An alumnus of Delhi University, he is assistant editor at Dutch Uncles.

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