There are two things I love doing – talking to and helping customers, and playing sports, especially Ultimate Frisbee. Both are vastly different but end up giving me experiences which are similar – humbling, rewarding, enjoyable and on many occasions eye opening. I have honed most of my skills on the sports field, it is where I have discovered my limitations and tried to overcome them, it is where I understood my strengths better.
I have played “serious” Ultimate Frisbee for a while now. And it has taught me some of the most important traits.
Having played a team sport right from the age of 7, I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and trusting other people. On the other hand, it helped me learn personal responsibility and realize that others rely on me to get a job done and that a team requires the same effort from all members to succeed.
Another big learning has been to find a way to contribute using my own talent. I’ve never been a guy who could write code or sell, but I’m a finisher and I’ve managed to find my niche in every team I’ve been a part of.
As much team oriented a sport can be, at the end of it, it’s on you too. Those small individual battles you win, your team wins. It taught me that if we fail as a team, it is not necessarily because of someone else. It made me look at myself before trying to blame someone else for my failings.
Team sports helped me to become more comfortable with making mistakes. My parents have always been told by my teachers that I do not raise my hand in class ever to answer a question although I knew them. I learned through playing that I could make mistakes and still win, or still enjoy playing the game.
This needs a boss who treats employees like how a coach would to his players. I’ve made quite a few mistakes at every job I’ve been in but have had always emerged a better professional at the end of it by learning to fix my mistakes and learning not to make the same mistake again. And like my coaches, my bosses have always had my corner.
Integrity and Trust
Ultimate is a self-refereed sport. Yes, you read that right. There is no referee on the field. Look it up. Every player is taught to self-referee. We trust the word of a player. In many sports “sportsmanship” is a big deal. It’s a euphemism for honesty. Ultimate makes it de facto. That rubs on in real life.
I was a shy kid, and always felt I never fit in. When I played any sport, it was a whole different story. By winning against better players and opposition, I gained self-confidence and also persistence. By losing, I learned to pick myself up and come back stronger.
To be successful at work and feel confident about a new role you get into, you need to stay at it. Make those mistakes, learn, get better. This is a cycle. In a startup world, these must be quick and short cycles.
Playing sports in my late teens and early twenties was largely to find a way to alleviate the almost constant pressure of not scoring great marks in school and college. I found that getting out on that field made me feel better physically and mentally.
Go on, get on the field, try to revive the sport you once loved but haven’t found time for. There are quite a few things it can teach you. And if you are like Calvin who hates seeing life lessons in fun stuff, just do it for fun. You will not regret it.
(Abhishek leads the Account Management team at Exotel and represented India at the Beach Ultimate in Dubai this year)