I watched my son's 7th grade rec basketball team win a tough match this weekend. And the MVP of the match was most definitely the only girl on the whole court. This girl was consistently fouled by the same big 13-year old dude on the other team. And she kept at it. Drawing fouls, heading to the free throw line and sinking her shots.
What was astonishing to me were a few things:
- How tenacious she was - she kept driving to the hoop through 9 dudes - fearless and tough.
- She kept drawing fouls. She would take it strong to the basket no matter who was in her way. And she landed on the ground a lot. But got right back up again.
- She was clear headed enough at the free throw line to sink almost every shot.
- Only girl out there. And I've watched them all season and she is the only girl in an all boy basketball league. #Fierce
- Finally, and this is the best part, as she was walking to the free throw line for the 4th time in a row, she looked straight at the guy who kept fouling her on the other team and said "that's 4 in a row, 5 and you foul out." Loud enough so he could hear it, but not so loud that the ref heard. She was definitely not intimidated by him. And you know what, he fouled out pretty soon after.
What I love about this is her perseverance.
I was an athlete as a young woman and I credit my coaches and teammates for teaching me how to be good on a team and how to perform under pressure. And wouldn't you know it, there is a body of research that ties business success to experience with sports and especially for women. A 2014 study by EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW found that 94% of C-suite women participated in sports at some point in their life, the majority having played at the collegiate level. And all of these studies point out that sports teaches communication, problem-solving, confidence and resilience, which are critical drivers of business success as well. You can read more on the study here.
But this story isn't really about sports. It is about perseverance. Whether you are negotiating for a raise, dusting yourself off after a layoff, being the sole voice of dissent in a room of yes men, launching your own business or jumping back into the workforce after a hiatus - DRIVE TO THE HOOP LIKE YOU MEAN IT!
Because the road to your goals is long and winding. And your persistence will be the difference between making it or missing out.
I love seeing passion in my co-workers, in people interviewing for jobs and in people who want to "pick my brain" over coffee. Your tenacity can be infectious. Everyone I know who is successful in their own career is a fighter and playing to win. Don't let someone else hold you back, don't let failure define you. Get back up, get out there and fight for what you want.
This is especially true in negotiations. When you are negotiating for yourself at work, you are often raising a problem or issue to your manager. This is not easy and sometimes you can be seen as the problem. Women who negotiate are often penalized more than men. But that shouldn't stop you. Be prepared, have data to back up your ask, have allies, and most importantly, be persistent! No may be just their opening position.
You do not have to be a Senator from Massachusetts to persist when you are being denied. You can be a girl on a basketball court or a female in the boardroom. And your drive and passion is powerful.
This post is dedicated to all the teammates and coaches I've had the pleasure to play sports with over the years. From junior high basketball and softball, to high school field hockey, lacrosse, and basketball, to college Ultimate frisbee, to my triathlon buddies, and my most recent old lady Futsal league!
From you all I've learned teamwork, collaboration, hard work, tenacity, losing with grace, what it feels like to win, how to get knocked down and get back up again and most importantly how to persevere. Thank you!