What a Basketball Coach Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

By Jimmy Murray

Three things you need to do every day as a successful entrepreneur.

The week before my freshman year of high school, right after orientation, I mapped out my entire future. I researched the courses I would take for the next four years. I looked at the clubs I would join pre-creating memories. I calculated when I would take the SAT and the ACT, what my essay would be for my college applications, and which dorm I would call home at MIT.

Things changed when I set foot on campus at NC State.

After a tumultuous home life destroyed the future I painstakingly built from 6th to 8th grade, I did some reflecting. It would have been nice to graduate from DeMatha Catholic High School. I made some great friends and would have had an awesome alumni network in my back pocket.

As I pounded the bricks to find my work study job, I came across a Music Department tucked away in a school of engineering buildings. Climbing the stairs and rounding the corner, I found that they were hiring and, great timing, my would-be boss, Susan, was sitting there. I filled out an application and, given my early-seeded entrepreneurial instincts, began my pre-interview. “Even if I don’t have the opportunity to work here, what are ways I can improve?”

I was stopped almost immediately.

Susan, my would-be and quickly becoming boss lights up, “You went to DeMatha?” Unconfidently, I said, “Yeah, I didn’t get to graduate, but I was in one of the last classes to meet Morgan Wooten.” I knew that one of DeMatha’s chief exports was basketball talent, but I wasn’t prepared for her response. “First off, yes, you have the job.” Sweet! Susan continued, “I graduated from NC State in 1983. NC State won the tournament that year because of Sidney Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg, two DeMetha players, led by coach Jim Valvano.”

“Jim Valvano, eh?” I thought, “I wonder if he’s related to this Jimmy V character.”

Cursory research connected some very simple dots for me (Jim Valvano is Jimmy V) and Susan sent me down a rabbit hole of basketball history and fervor that, to this day, still defines six weeks of my life from late February to early April every year, starting in 2005.

My academic career at NC State went about as strongly as it did at DeMatha (a volatile home life led to a huge disinterest in classes), but every experience has molded my entrepreneurial spirit, including one of the greatest speeches in sports history.

Jim Valvano (or Jimmy V, as he’s known to everyone who is not me) was a thousand pounds of personality squeezed into a sports coat. He coached NC State basketball from 1980 to 1990, winning a national title in 1983. A scandal would abruptly end his coaching career and cancer would abruptly end his life, but not before impacting a college, a conference, a league, a sport, and humanity.

In his waning days, ESPN awarded Jimmy V the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage award. His riveting speech brought down the house at Madison Square Garden. The most memorable part of his speech is the three things you need to do every day and we, as entrepreneurs, need to do them as well.

Number one is laugh—you should laugh every day.

Listen. Business is hard. Starting a business is harder. Maintaining a business is stressful. The perfect countermeasure and—this should be in every entrepreneur’s playbook—is humor. Humor is what has led our species this far. To the cavemen who thought a tiger was attacking when it turned out to be a mouse, to USO comedians entertaining the troops while they get the bad guys, to the denizens of SNL and Comedy Central who days after 9/11 said, “No. We will overcome.”

Things are going to go wrong—probably every day. Client rejections, bad receivables, employee goof-ups. You can internalize it. OR. Or you can see the positive in every possibility and make light of it. Humor offers three pieces: stress mitigation, creativity enhancement, and goodwill building.

Number two is think—you should spend some time in thought.

This is fantastically timed as mindfulness and meditation become permanently cemented in our vernacular. Seriously, start a podcast on mindfulness and you’ll probably have 10,000 downloads this month. Your enterprise is going to demand 110 percent of you. That’s what you signed up for. Profits don’t come overnight, and it’s almost a daily battle to stay competitive and stay growing.

My recommendation is an hour a day to yourself. I say that because I know you don’t have an hour, but it doesn’t sound bad next to a 15-minute goal. Just like your body, your mind and spirit need to time to recuperate, to process the events of the day, and to restart all that background noise from the day. As a bonus, you’ll start to connect various brain synapses improving your creativity and problem-solving skills. Maybe your next million-dollar idea is in that next half hour of sitting cross-legged, mind blank, saying, “OM.”

And number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears—it could be happiness or joy.

This one’s tough. It was hard for me to implement at first. Why, having just laughed, would I want to cry? What importance could ocular based cascading water works have? And, rather unintentionally, I started reading stories of inspiration. Nothing too emotional at first, I had work to do, but just simple stories of someone saving a pet or stopping at an accident on a highway or generous tipping at a restaurant.

It was addicting.

I think everyone loves a good hero and imagines themselves as such when they read about it. My productivity was sky high earlier this year when the cave in Thailand started flooding with the young football team. The outpouring of the community and international soldiers and business leaders provided an emotional restoration. I like when my faith in humanity is restored. Humanity has some of my best clients.

But think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day.

It is, Jimmy V. If you’re able to do all three, and I highly encourage you to do so, you’ll find yourself able to build and commit to a solid routine that will keep your mind at ease while your enterprise grows. This three-step approach allows you to take care of yourself while you take care of your empire.

Stay awesome.

Jimmy Murray studied marketing and film and minored in singing before the economic
“Big Fall” of 2007. Since then, he’s taught himself coding and artificial intelligence and has gone from bagel jockey to voiceover artist in four swift moves. His eye for efficiency constantly adds value to any and all businesses. He’s a beast at content creation on all platforms and enjoys teaching people creativity. Above all else, he enjoys motivating people because nothing is impossible. Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @TheJimmyMurray.

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