Same principles apply in sport and business

I recently met up with vibrant athlete and entrepreneur, Jan Johnson.

Jan is turning 68 years old this year and her goal for 2021 is to win the slalom water-ski event for women over 65 at the Europe and Africa water-ski championships taking place in Ravenna, northern Italy in September.

In chatting with her, I realised that there are valuable lessons to glean from her top-level water-skiing that may be applied in entrepreneurship.

Here are Jan’s thoughts and nuggets regarding setting and getting great goals.

It all starts with a goal. The next of many steps is breaking it down. Pre-Covid it was a matter of training − virtually daily − and getting there to compete. Now getting there seems more difficult than achieving the sporting goal.

Most of Europe is currently closed to South Africans. Getting vaccinated was a no-brainer. Objective achieved. One then must wait for two weeks before travelling.

Getting a visa to travel now is the hard thing. She has been trying since March last year to get a visa to visit her 90-year-old mom in France. One cannot even apply.

Because they are a team of seven 35+ skiers (She is the team captain) they need a letter from the Italian Federation inviting them.

It is a big, prestigious event and South Africa has had many podium wins.

It looks now like they may have to quarantine despite their status.

This means that they leave icy SA, where training has been challenging to say the least, to sit in a hotel for seven to 10 days, at a time they need to be peaking as athletes.

Jan hopes it won’t be long before they can overcome these obstacles and she can compete to win her 9th title in the Europe/Africa champs.

A property developer and keen sportswoman, she applies the same principles in sport and business.

Here are some of these fundamentals:

● It starts with your passion. You will go the extra mile if you are passionate about something.

This passion is what gets you up in the morning, even when everything within you cries out to stay in bed. Do you know your why, your passion? It is key.

● Then set a goal. This is about setting exciting and meaningful goals that pull you forward.

We are familiar with the acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) that refers to setting smart goals, but have you heard of SMARTER goals?

The E stands for exciting goals and the R for recorded. After all, if it’s not on paper… it’s vapour.

● Break it down into achievable bites. “Chunking down” a large goal into small steps or achievable bites is a smart move when working on your goals.

Remember, by the yard… its hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.

● Be resilient. Obstacles will come your way. A frequently heard quote, which has dubiously been attributed to Winston Churchill, but nevertheless still has the ring of truth to it, says: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

It is during adversity and challenge that we learn to flex our resilience muscles.

● Do not give up. Jan has broken bones, torn her Achilles tendon and damaged an ankle. Fix it. Get on. The trick is to get up each time. Not to mention her friends who are convinced that she is nuts.

She believes that it is our duty to be the best version we can be of ourselves, which means make the most of your body and your mind. Both are way more powerful that you think if you use them.

● Keep a calm, clear head. There is a lot of mental clutter out there.

Resilience also means having the ability to think quickly and calmly in a difficult situation.

The entrepreneur will face countless and often unexpected crises. The ability to calm oneself, think objectively and clearly will serve you well on the journey.

● Be a gracious winner. And loser. We all get to do both.

And a final word to women in Women’s Month?

“Well of course you know you are every bit as talented and capable as men,” says Jan.

“You can achieve anything you set your heart on − being a bit realistic too. It may be more challenging, but that is more satisfying. Trust your own instincts and do not be deterred by naysayers.”

● Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at False Bay College. Contact him on