3 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From College Football

College football season has, at long last returned, and that means that many Americans will be following their favorite teams trials and tribulations on a weekly basis. I know that I will. Anyone who knows me understands that there are two things that get me going:growing my company and Arizona State University Sun Devil football.

While at first they may not seem to have a lot in common, the success of both teams often comes down to one major driver:  psychology.

When I speak to large groups or write about my entrepreneurial journey, I hear the same questions over and over again. How do you generate momentum inside of an organization? Why do errors tend to compound?  Why does it seem to have such a significant impact on teams?

These questions fascinate me, and while I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I have learned a few things that put them into perspective.

Never underestimate the power of psychological momentum

The old adage that “perception is reality” certainly holds true for startups and sports teams. Perceived momentum leads to increased confidence, which may, in turn, lead to more activity and better performance.  The impact is so strong, studies have shown that college football coaches frequently change their overall behavior and adopt a more aggressive strategy after a single successful play early in the game.

I recently saw this same behavior play out when my team signed a record number of new client contracts in the last month. You could feel the energy in the room, and it invigorated the entire team. This sense of momentum did more to improve morale and excite people than any creative incentive plan or motivational talk ever could.

Learn to create and sustain your own momentum

One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read was Richard Wiseman’sThe As If Principle.   The “as-if” principle is as simple as it is enlightening: Your emotions don’t control your behavior; rather, your behavior controls your emotions.  Once again, it’s an idea ingrained in anyone who has played team sports.  Why do collegiate football teams dress formally before a game?  They do it because the sense of professionalism and discipline that goes along with dressing up actually influences behavior on the field.


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