The 3 Feelings in Sports and Entrepreneurship

A story about playing in the game of sports and entrepreneurship.


I sat in the gym on a Saturday morning listening to the Yes I Can coaches in Charlotte, North Carolina give a motivational speech to the nine-and-under basketball team. The game had been close, but these kids had lost, and they felt terrible. The coaches knew it, but they also knew what to say to help keep the disappointment from hardening into discouragement.

And I realized everything the coaches were saying could apply equally well in business. This is where sports and entrepreneurship mesh so well.

The coaches’ message was that there are three feelings, or, perhaps, “modes,” in sports–Winning, Losing and Not Participating.

Winning is fun and losing is upsetting, and then there is not trying at all. If you don’t play, you can’t lose. That can make things much easier. But you can’t win, either.

We find exactly the same principle in entrepreneurship. defines“entrepreneur” as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

The risk is the key part. Starting your own business means you might succeed—or you might fail. You might end up feeling fantastic, but you could end up feeling lousy, too. Or, you could play it safe and not try.

How does not participating feel? As the coaches explained to those kids, not participating, when you know you could have gotten in there and tried, brings regret, and that is the worst feeling of all.

It’s a reminder to the kids in the basketball league, it’s a reminder to those that want something great, it’s a reminder to everyone–in order to win, you must risk losing. The only other option is to not play at all.


Photo of Spalding basketball on the outdoor court by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash, which contains photos gifted by generous photographers