4 Characteristics of "G.O.A.T" Athletes (#3 Might Surprise You)
From Kobe Bryant to Serena Williams to Greg Norman. The intangibles all top athletes share that help them succeed on and off the pitch.
The road to becoming an exceptional athlete is tough.
To make millions playing your favorite sport is a near-impossible dream for most.
We’re talking a 0.00001 % chance.
Yet, there is a small group of people who do experience extreme success in sports, and to no surprise this often carries over to big achievements post-sports as well.
Michael Jordan earned over $93 million playing basketball. Yet in 2019, he earned $145 million - which far eclipses what he made during his entire basketball career.
Like many other elite athletes, Jordan has turned a successful sports career into a massive enterprise as a retired athlete.
The story is the same for other superstar athletes such as David Beckham, Shaquille O’Neal, and Greg Norman. There are countless examples of individuals earning far more in “retirement” than from playing their sport.
These former athletes now manage companies, market brands, review P&L statements, make investments decisions, and make hiring/firing decisions. Every day they deal with a host of complex issues that most business schools don’t teach.
The lessons they learned through the journey of becoming the best at their sport are far more valuable in business than those gained by someone spending a career climbing up the corporate ranks - in my humble opinion of course.
The 4 Characteristics of Billionaire Athletes
But first - a little bit about why these athletes are unique.
World Champions Are Different
There are thousands of teenagers with dreams of becoming the next superstar.
Despite their age, these future champions are noticeably different. They have an unmistakable aura.
You can tell from a young age that there is something special about them.
They walk with confidence - they look you in the eye, have clarity with their goals, know precisely what they want to achieve, and are committed to getting there.
These are the kids who become champions in their sport and continue to excel well after their playing career is behind them.
As I like to say, they have the “it” factor.
And with that said, here are the four characteristics that I believe differentiate the most exceptional players.
1. They know what they want
Even at a young age, the future champions have big dreams, and they have very high expectations for themselves.
If you asked any of these youths what their goals were - each would respond, “to be number one in the world.”
They prefer not to imitate anybody, not even the world’s best. They want to become exceptional in their own way.
They know what they want over the long term. They have their post-sports life mapped out, sometimes even before they play a professional game.
Let me give you two examples from tennis.
Andre Agassi did not want to be just a tennis player; his childhood goal was to become a global brand. Maria Sharapova always wanted to become a superstar and even mapped out her post-tennis career while she was still a teenager.
The most elite performers are different, because in their minds, the outcomes are real before they happen.
The most outstanding players have always exhibited a very professional attitude towards their work from an early age.
They had established routines, like showing up thirty minutes before practices, and getting physically and mentally ready.
Kobe Bryant and his 4:00 AM workouts come to mind here.
Once organized, they set precise practice goals for every session and work till they achieve them.
Practice isn’t just practice for these athletes.
The champions are a stark contrast from other players, many equally talented, who show up barely on time for practice and unprepared.
Regardless of their age, the most exceptional players treat every session with a rare degree of professionalism.
These qualities of professionalism are so ingrained in the champions’ minds that they permeate everything they do.
The elite have very structured and planned out routines.
3. A high-risk tolerance
The most exceptional athletes are not afraid to make mistakes and to learn from them. They know when to push their limits and when to be conservative.
They understand that becoming a champion means taking risks when it counts.
Muhammad Ali’s fight against George Foreman comes to mind here.
The famous rope-a-dope.
To deploy that strategy against Foreman, one of the hardest punchers in the history of boxing was gutsy.
After taking a beating for a few rounds, Ali pounced and unleashed an attack on Foreman that knocked him down.
Another way to put “high-risk tolerance” is that these athletes aren’t afraid to fail. I won’t insert Michael Jordan’s overused quote here, but even he understood all the failures in his career is what made him great in the end.
And if the risk does not pay off, these athletes forget fast and don’t overthink mistakes, they learn and move on.
These elite athletes understand that if they don’t push themselves and get out of their comfort zone, they will plateau.
4. They outwork everyone else
Elite coaches agree that the most exceptional athletes are the ones who are willing to shoot one more shot, run one extra lap, roll one more putt, and do whatever it takes to get better.
At the end of formal practice sessions, future champions are the ones who stay out in the dark, working on their own.
They never view practices as a chore. Learning and perfecting new skills is an integral part of their lives.
These players understand the significance of extra work and how it relates to outcomes.
Every elite player has built a detailed improvement plan and stuck to it through dedication, self-motivation, and sacrifice.
Even as youths, future superstars hate to miss even a single training session.
These qualities translate to success
There are many traits exhibited by world champion athletes, but the four discussed above are universal in every elite performer.
The best part is that these habits apply to everyone, not just athletes. They can help you become exceptional.
Eventually, there comes a time for athletes to hang up their sneakers, or put away their golf clubs, or stop kicking a ball.
But while they stop playing their sport, they never separate from their deep-seated traits developed over the years.
These championship habits are responsible for translating their extreme success in sports, to excellence in other domains upon retiring.
These are the elements you need to focus on to achieve extraordinary outcomes or help your children or your teams achieve greatness.
They separate the good from the great.
And while the examples in this article are with athletes, the same principles apply to the most accomplished achievers in any field.
I hope you had a nice weekend.
Soak in the lessons from this article and move the needle forward this week.
Let’s get after it,