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Nearly three decades ago, author Stephen Covey published “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, which soon became a bestseller and a must-read for those of us who help organizations and executives in their quest to maximize their talent.

Since all of us aspire to live fully and to generate habits that make us enjoy the ride, this week I invite you to look at sports (and sportspeople) in a different way. Specifically, we will look at the habits that make certain athletes excel and keep incredibly high levels of effectiveness throughout their careers. Not everyone can live like a professional athlete but we can all apply the habits that helped them succeed and transcend.

1) They feed their curiosity

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many athletes in different sports and one of the things that surprised me most is their drive to be constant learners. In fact, some of the biggest readers that I’ve met are professional athletes. Others, such as Pau Gasol, enjoy not only reading (he is an avid reader that shares his favorite books on his social media) but also writing (he collaborates with several Spanish newspapers). If we cannot find the time to read, a good way to find it is by “forcing” ourselves to write. The need to write will trigger the need to read, and the need to read will trigger our inspiration to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.

We can find another source of inspiration in the people we admire. Here are some of the latest readings of many celebrities, including sportspeople such as Stephen Curry.

gasol books

2) They are surrounded by people who think differently and they look beyond their sport (and their job)

Even in profesional sports, where it seems easy for a player to build a network, upon their retirement, many athletes regret not having met more people outside their sport. Highly effective athletes and professionals generate connections with people from various fields, and also with people who think different than them. This not only helps us see the world with a different view but it also enriches us professionally, by fostering healthy meaningful conversations (we will avoid speaking about work all the time, for instance). And it can even make us discover other passions that could become our job in the future.

Gregg Popovich, the acclaimed San Antonio Spurs coach, used to say the following: “Winning doesn’t define me. If I win a game, I’m fine. If I lose a game, it hurts, but I’m fine real quick. It’s not that important”. Coming from someone who hates losing, this becomes a powerful message for those moments where we cannot see anything beyond our work…

3) They constantly reinvent themselves

In an elite and glamourus field such as professional sports we can also find players with the will and the humility to move overseas and become interns at an organization. This is what Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueño did when we moved to L.A. to study and learn from the US sports business at the L.A. Dodgers before returning to Real Madrid as Vice-President and later on as Director of Institutional Relations. There are also athletes that use their vacation time to continue studying (such as NBA stars Chris Paul and Pau Gasol or soccer star Piqué). These small actions prove the importance of constantly reinventing ourselves in an ever changing  world. And more than a need or obligation, this is sometimes the key to never lose the spark of life.

As was the case of my beloved Emilio Butragueño, it is often necessary to leave in order to come back stronger. To start from below in order to get to the top.

Encouraging these three habits will make us have a different look at the present and fostering them in our children will give them very powerful tools in their future. Because it is easier to educate a child than to fix an adult…