With the holidays providing some downtime and the New York sports teams performing at a comical level, I have had a lot more time to reflect on lessons in leadership and execution that can be found in sports and that are applicable to entrepreneurship. A look at recently retired Yankee closer Mariana Rivera’s storied career presents some simple but very easy lessons that are extremely relevant to startups.
When recruited by the Yankee scouts in his native Panama, Mariano was an average shortstop – a far cry from where his talents truly lay. Mariano was then tested as a starting pitcher, then went back into relief, and then stuck to the closing role full time, and is now widely known as being “the greatest closer of all time.”
2. Find your niche, do it well and repeat it.
Mariano built a career on his special pitch called “the cutter,” which is a fastball that increases in velocity as it thrown. It took a little while for him to develop this pitch, which then never left his repertoire. Similarly, startups need to figure out where their product/service offering fit in the grand scheme of things, figure out what they do well, and then do it well over and over again.
3. Adapt, but don’t lose sight of the mission.
Mariano’s rise to stardom is a success story that we all like to admire. He left his small village in Panama without speaking a word of English to become one of the highest paid players in baseball, and probably the highest paid, based on billable work hour.
Throughout this process, Mariano never lost touch with his roots, still maintains a close connection to his native Panama through numerous benevolent ventures, and even speaks publicly in his native tongue, despite the fact that he is now fluent in English, in order to maintain a close tie to his early fans, or in the case of startups “early adopters”. While you may be pivoting from here to there, there should be a greater value proposition that you started your venture with, and that should always be a driving force. If you launched to make a better widget, make sure you are still making that better widget and adapting the ways in which you make that better widget.
4. Maintain a laser-like focus.
Entrepreneurs need to remain focused on the big picture while handling the daily operational rigors. This requires being ruthless with your time, as in this day and age, there is always some distraction being throwing at you. From an economic textbook perspective, look at the opportunity cost of your time. Time is the one commodity that no one is getting back, unless the guys at Google really do figure out the fountain of youth.
While we may never see Mariano pitch again, the lessons of his career can easily be applied to your startup, life, and ventures perpetually. That’s the thing about legends: they tend to live on.
Image credit: dsovercash