I hope your Tuesday is going well. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him questions about various topics, ranging from covering the news to giving career advice to students & entrepreneurs.
As the Olympics are going on, I wanted to reflect on some of the differences between Olympic Athletes and Entrepreneurs. We had talked a lot about the similarities here when talking about Professional Athletes and Entrepreneurs, but I wanted to get Ash’s thoughts on some of the differences as well.
During the EURO, we discussed some of the parallels between soccer and startups. Watching the Olympics, what do you think is the biggest difference between athletes and entrepreneurs?
Athletes tend to be specialists, they may experiment and try out a myriad of sports early on, but more or less by their teenage years, they need to commit to one sport. For Olympic athletes, they have to commit even earlier, but for college athletes, sometimes you see them continue in multiple sports but by those college years (if not high school), they can’t spread themselves too thin. And when I say specialist, I don’t mean just as in “Joe plays hockey,” but “Joe is a netminder and is obsessed with maintaining his mind and body to keep a small puck out of a net twice his size, while on skates.” As a striker, you’re basically trying to stay onside while converting on the plays your team has made by shooting, deflecting, heading a ball in a large-ish net in the face of world-class defenders trying to prevent you and a goalie who is equally skilled at one main thing. With Olympic athletes, it’s even more specific: Donna is one of the best athletes in the world at the pole vault. That is a very complex thing but also very specific.
Entrepreneurs can allow themselves to be generalists, and support themselves with specialists. When I left AskMen, I launched an incubator called Mojo Supreme and while my gut knew that WatchMojo would likely be what I would focus on, it wasn’t a fait accompli, and frankly, most entrepreneurs experiment at a number of things before focusing on that one thing.
Another huge difference is that as a founder and entrepreneur, you build your own team. As an athlete, you don’t really pick your coach unless you are established, and you definitely don’t choose your teammates…
The other obvious difference is age. Athletes tend to peak physically at 24, entrepreneurs really need experience and mental toughness and while it’s case by case, I would argue that comes in your 30s and 40s when you balance physical and mental strength and stamina. Don’t get me wrong, outliers exist: Sam Walton launched Walmart at 44 in 1962 and the company went into overdrive later…
A lesser-known difference is that with athletes, you train for years but the moments that matter is really very far and few in between. Michael Jordan said he won every day by failing all the time, but the reality is he definitely won in the vast majority of those moments. You saw in the 100 meters race, where a false start eliminated one runner. That is heartbreaking: to train for years and then in one moment, one decision means you don’t even get a chance to truly compete.
Now, that may be devastating for some, but success is really about how you react to adversity and challenges, and how that athlete reacts will determine their ultimate legacy. You also see this with injuries sometimes, which can be heartbreaking. This is why talent is really just one ingredient of success, it takes determination, dedication, and sacrifice. I for example think I had some talent to at least pursue some sports – maybe not all the way to the top leagues, but at least earn a scholarship and maybe turn professional – but I certainly didn’t have the dedication and commitment to devote my youth to practice and training.
This is why I am blessed to have turned on to entrepreneurship, because I only began that “training” in my 20s, and spent my 30s really hustling to find myself in my 40s in a place where I could have more impact.
Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash