playing football better entrepreneur

Chris Gronkowski: 6 Ways Playing Football Made Me a Better Entrepreneur

By Chris Gronkowski

To a lot of people’s surprise, business and sports go hand-in-hand. I learned so much from playing football professionally, and many of those lessons have spilled over into my experience as an entrepreneur.

Dedication and motivation are huge factors to becoming a successful athlete and without those traits, I would not have succeeded in the world of business. Spending a huge part of my life on a team really showed me what it means to work together to accomplish something great. The same goes for business, and I’m always thinking back on lessons from my athletic career while running Ice Shaker with my brothers to help us run this business in the most effective manner possible.

1. Hard Work Pays Off

When working to become a professional football player, I had to devote much of my time to training and practicing to be mentally and physically prepared for the game. There were plenty of times when I had to turn down opportunities to hang out with my friends or take a vacation because I knew I needed to work on my game. I was constantly grinding because I knew how much work and discipline I needed to put in if I ever wanted to be successful.

It’s the same thing with business. I took much of that exact same mental discipline when I decided to start Ice Shaker with my brothers, and it’s paid off. Putting in long hours and having the willpower to sometimes choose work over fun is so essential if you ever want to achieve your goals, no matter what they may be.

2. Never Quit

Throughout both my football and business careers, there have been several times when giving up seemed very easy. You put all this energy and work into something and you don’t always see the results you want right away, so giving up can be tempting — but that was never for me. Whenever I was feeling that way, I just had to remind myself that persistence is the key to success. If you work hard enough for something, you’re going to get it. It’s all about your mindset.

When we started our business, I went through a similar experience. There are many aspects of running a business and creating a product that you don’t initially think about until you’re actually doing it. This can make it tough when you’re just starting out because you may feel like you’re down and out, but you have to remind yourself that the game isn’t over until it’s over. You must be able to push through those moments and just keep grinding.

3. How to Deal with Adversity

As an athlete, you’re always going to have really good games and really bad games. You experience the same thing as an entrepreneur — you’re going to have good days and bad days. In both cases, you have to learn how to deal with that adversity and continue to get better.

On those bad days, take note of what you could have done differently and improve from that point on. Maybe the next bad day won’t be quite as bad. You also have to be equipped to handle those bad days. Don’t let it get you down too much. Just remember that hard work is going to lead to better days.

4. Listen to Advice and Criticism

Talking to people who have been through a similar experience can give you some real insight into how to be successful for both professional athletes and entrepreneurs. When you’re young and just beginning your career, you might feel like you know everything or want to do things your way, but you can gain so much from just listening to people who have already been through it.

Learning how to handle criticism is important, too, though. As a football player, you’re always going to have some people critiquing you, but you need to determine which comments are petty and can be filtered out and which are valuable suggestions. As a businessman, I’ve learned this as well. My friends and family are able to provide me with some great advice and often bring up questions or issues I hadn’t thought of myself.

5. Welcome Competition

A natural competitiveness is something almost all professional athletes are born with, which is important when you’re on the field because it gives you that extra edge that’s essential to winning. In business, you have to have the same level of fight in you.

Competition is healthy. You have to be prepared to work hard enough to create something that makes you stand out from your competition, but you also have to be willing to learn from others in the same market. How can you be better? How can you be different? Without competition, there wouldn’t be anyone pushing you to grow and change.

6. Team Work is Essential

When playing football, you rely a lot on your teammates both during practice and the game itself. When you have to work side-by-side with people every day, you realize how important it is to support and respect each other even when you might not totally agree with everyone’s opinions. There are definitely times when you’ll butt heads, but you learn how to overcome that. When you make a conscious effort to encourage and pay attention to individual team members, the team as a whole gets better.

Working as an entrepreneur, you’re never really doing any one thing by yourself. You need to hear your partners out when they have an idea or propose a solution. Without the support of other people, it’s almost impossible to get your business off the ground.

I’m lucky enough to work with my brothers, so we’re familiar with how each of us thinks and reacts, but sometimes that makes it even more difficult to put personal matters aside and focus on our business. There’s a lot of collaboration that goes on in between. Thankfully, my experience with my football teammates taught me a lot about respectfully interacting with the people you work with and involving everyone on the project itself.

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Chris Gronkowski
A former 3-year starter in the NFL for the Cowboys, Colts & Broncos, Chris Gronkowski is now the CEO of Ice Shaker. Ice Shaker has been featured on ABC's Shark Tank, Good Morning America, HLN morning express, Forbes and others. Chris is the middle of the 5 Gronkowski brothers and has started writing about his athletic and entrepreneurial experiences.

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