When you think of LeBron James, a handful of images probably pop into your mind -- throwing down a vicious slam on an opponent, hoisting up the NBA Championship trophy or even opening up the I Promise school in Akron, Ohio.

LeBron is involved in a wide variety of projects, both in sports and the business world, but you probably wouldn't associate him with a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago.

Yet, when interviewed on Tim Ferriss' podcast in November, James revealed a key part of his pregame ritual is reading and reciting Roosevelt's famous passage from his speech, Citizenship in a Republic. The passage is called, "The Man in the Arena". Here's an excerpt:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..."

James doesn't stop there though, he writes the words "Man in the Arena" on his sneakers before every game, and even has the passage pinned up in his locker as a constant reminder.

Why? Well, the message within this famous passage illustrates the importance of blocking out the noise, and criticism, from those who've never been in your particular position -- or "in the arena".

In LeBron's situation, the criticism could come from reporters, bitter fans or social media trolls, but he chooses to tune it out because they'll never know what it truly means to step inside the arena. Unless they've stepped foot on an NBA court in front of thousands of screaming fans, their opinions shouldn't sway the mindset of an NBA player, or get them out of focus.

Coming from one of the most accomplished athletes in the world, this piece of leadership advice can certainly be applied to business. Here are a few insights that entrepreneurs of all kinds can learn a lot from this pregame ritual. 

1. Limit the number of people who influence you.

As an entrepreneur, it can get exhausting trying to sort bad advice from good advice. Whether you read an amazing book, watch an inspiring YouTube video or take a killer Udemy, we're always looking for new ways to help catapult your business to the next level.

While the intentions behind content consumption are well and good, the execution is usually where shit hits the fan. Each and every day as a business owner, it seems like there are thousands of outside forces pulling us in different directions -- from investors, to thought leaders to mentors, and this problem only gets worse as your company gets bigger.

At the end of the day, you as an entrepreneur should listen only to your team, your conscience and your customers. The rest is, very likely, just background noise.

Because of the intricacies each company has -- from social dynamics to quarterly profits -- it's unlikely many people will know your specific situation enough to give you sound guidance. The only people who can are you and your team. The only other group to pay close attention to is the one paying your bills: customers.

2. Connect with people in the same position you're in.

A key takeaway from James' pregame ritual is the importance of connecting with individuals who are going through similar experiences as you are. Your employees, your close friends, even your spouse, might not be able to fully understand all you go through as a business owner.

Because of this, it's important to interact with other entrepreneurs on a regular basis -- even if it's just for dinner once a month. To start, you can look for local events for entrepreneurs on Meetup.com and Eventbrite, or consider joining organizations like IVY, EO (Entrepreneur's Organization) or Tiger 21.

Camaraderie with other individuals who have been in "your arena" will help you feel less alone and keep your mental health in a good state, enabling you to run your business more effectively.

3. Develop your own rituals.

If you read online content regularly, chances are high you've seen countless blog posts and studies on the importance of forming good habits. With the formation of beneficial habits, optimizing your life almost becomes second nature. One of the quickest ways to develop habits is through the practice of rituals. 

Whether you practice your ritual before every sales call or before you give a presentation to your team, having a pregame ritual will help you get into a positive state of mind faster than you would be able to otherwise.

No matter what kind of business you own or operate, taking bad advice or letting criticism get to your head could result in disaster for both you and your company. By applying the lessons learned from LeBron's pregame ritual to your professional life, you just might find the extra push you've been looking for. Best of luck.

Published on: Jan 19, 2019
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