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Let’s say you want to get good at basketball. You decide to head out to the courts and get in some practice on your free throws and lay-ups. While mastering those moves may be what initially appeals to you the most, it’s not the very first thing you need to work on.
No, the first thing that you actually need to learn is how the sport of basketball works. You need to build up your basketball IQ. You’ll never get good at free throws and layups until you understand the fundamental events in the game that lead to them.
However, even after mastering the fundamentals, you don’t jump right into free throws and lay-ups. Not yet.
What you should do is start focusing on the essentials of the game, the most straightforward mechanisms that allow you to play the sport: dribbling, passing, proper shooting techniques. You continue to practice these daily, every minute on the minute, until eventually, they become second nature to you.
You apply this same strategy to the moves that originally attracted you to the sport—yes, your free throws and layups—while learning and perfecting the complex pieces of the game.
Sure, lay-ups and free throws are what initially interested you. But by this point, if you’re still in the game, it is because you’ve caught the bug. You want to become better.
You want to join a team and actually compete against others. You’ve only just begun the journey to learning how to play basketball. Now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of the game, you can begin to understand how to become masterful at the game, and therefore how to win. The layups and the free throws are now in your bag of tools.
Entrepreneurship is no different. I’ve seen countless first time entrepreneurs jump into this game without first taking the time to learn how the game works. I’ve also seen entrepreneurs who have, against all odds, seen short-term success but failed to grow or last because they never took the time to educate themselves on the rules of this game.
I’ve also seen too many entrepreneurs quickly become complacent with the tools at their disposal, without ever taking the time to learn how to connect those tools to a bigger strategy. Once they found a formula they were comfortable with, they never discovered the new ways they could play the game.
Masterful basketball players think of the game more like a chess match than just an athletic contest between two different teams. If you want to be the best on the court, you learn about defensive and offensive strategies, what a 1-3-1 formation is, which position is responsible for what, when to foul, when not to foul, proper usage of time-outs, the history of the sport…the list goes on and on.
You also learn about yourself as a player. You fine-tune your fitness, your meals, your macronutrients, and your sleeping patterns, all to give yourself that competitive advantage.
You continue to learn and practice. You continue to train, trying to find that edge. You watch tapes of your competition, trying to find weaknesses to exploit.
Over time, you start to realize that you’re not the only one who’s hungry. Your teammates, your coaches, and your competitors all feel the same, work the same, and focus on the same. You use this as motivation to work even harder, faster, better.
Not everyone can be a professional basketball player. There are certain things you cannot build, such as athleticism, size, and natural, raw talent.
Entrepreneurship, for better or for worse, doesn’t create such a physical barrier for inclusion. This creates the illusion that anyone with a good idea can make it in this game. But there is a reason why so few of them do.