I grew up a shy kid who, in his early days of elementary school, ate lunch in the bathroom – until I decided to join the baseball team. The camaraderie of sport helped break me out of my shell. From that moment on, baseball was special to me, and I made it my life mission to become a pro baseball player.
This dream of playing professional baseball did not seem like a distant dream; deep down I firmly believed it would become a reality. And I wasn't delusional – from little league to high school I was a standout at each level, and by my senior year, I was one of the top players in our area. However, I had zero scholarship offers and was not on the radar of any pro scouts. I was cut after a brief walk-on stint with the Indiana University baseball team, and scouts showed no interest after several professional try-outs.
I graduated college and began working full-time, but still could not let the dream die. I knew my best odds for making a team would come from pitching, because scouts are always looking for left-handed pitchers. Finding myself even more determined, I recreated myself into a left-handed pitcher, training tirelessly on top of my 50-plus hour work week.
My perseverance paid off. I took a personal day from my day job to attend a private workout for the New York Mets the next day, and flew to Florida for spring training three days later to be a free agent pitcher for the Mets organization.
The qualities and lessons I learned in sports have led me through the rungs of the corporate ladder. Today, I am the CEO of Real Property Management, the leading property management franchise in the nation. And in an industry that is witnessing staggering increases in demand, I am quick to remember the perseverance, confidence and work ethic I learned in the bullpen.
Here are four key takeaways I learned along the way:
1. Do not be afraid of failure.
My journey to play for the Mets organization was not an easy one. In fact, I faced failure at almost every step of the way.
The same determination is critical for business owners. The journey in building a business is both a challenging and rewarding experience. Along the way, entrepreneurs will face a wide range of challenges. The most successful will show their resolve by working through the challenges and finding ways to improve and grow.
2. Be a confident leader.
Surprisingly, the common thread among athletes who thrive is not just talent, it is their confidence and ability to remain focused. The same can be said for a business owner. Employees and customers who notice a positive, strong leader will respond in ways that support future successes. Additionally, that confidence helps you to be more resilient to the inevitable bumps in the road you will face as a business leader. Being focused on the goals of your business, your team, and most importantly, yourself is critical to long-term success.
3. Be prepared.
You cannot control whether you are the smartest or most talented person in the room. However, you can control how you prepare. I was still pursuing my dream while in the workforce working over 50-hour work weeks, but my workouts were always my first priority after a long workday. This relentless approach paid off in my baseball career and has also served me well in managing my career. In life and in work, Murphy's law of what can go wrong will go wrong plays out more often than we all would like. Being prepared with contingency plans is an important part of being an agile business that can persevere through setbacks.
4. Work as a team.
Teamwork is an important lesson in sports and in business, because in both cases, you must understand the big picture while also knowing how individual performance contributes to overall success. The understanding of collaboration and humility (playing the designated role that the team needs you to play) that makes good athletes can also help make good business owners.
Although my professional baseball career was ultimately short-lived, the skills I developed as an athlete – like perseverance, confidence and preparation – have been instrumental in my path to becoming CEO, and can also help business owners in their drive to succeed.
About the author: Lukas Krause is the CEO of national franchise organization Real Property Management. The company has more than 300 offices in North America managing over $14B in assets, and its offices specialize in managing single-family homes, townhomes, condos, multiplexes and small apartment buildings.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.