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Frankly Speaking: Learning the Value of Preparation and Communication

By: Frank Lonardelli

Published: May 11, 2016

Although I’ve not been an elite athlete in the professional sense, I was a strong athlete when I was younger and that’s really shaped me personally to be a successful entrepreneur. Out of that very unique experience, the best lessons I’ve learned – both for business and, I think, for life – were the value of preparation and communication.

When I was in junior and senior high school, I wasn’t a very good student. I was a little hard to deal with. I was, however, a four-sport athlete with a lot of promise and people noticed. I played on most provincial teams and won the freshman and varsity of the year awards.

No matter what sport it was, or what was going on outside of the game, I never thought about how we were going to win or if I was going to score a goal. To me, it was always a certainty: we were going to win and I was going to score a lot. And sure, that attitude brought me some success and I did okay, but I never really achieved as much as I could have.

My athleticism allowed me to do great things, but it didn’t allow me to be very heady. I didn’t really think about what I was doing, but it got me to a certain point, however it held me back from the next level. My success came from my athleticism, but I never spent a great deal of time thinking about what I was doing, I just did it. While this “way of being” allowed me to attain a certain level of success, it absolutely kept me from the highest levels.

Brute force and natural talent will only take you so far, but without discipline and the refined skill of using your mind, you’re going to tap out before you reach your full potential.

I never went beyond the basic limitations of my raw talent because I never did the thinking. It’s great to go in with confidence, however it’s preparation that wins you not just one game, but game after game after game.

When I got a little older, coaches started teaching me about visualization and being prepared before you show up; that the game is won long before it starts. That was a big shift in mindset for me. I learned to ask myself: “Are you prepared? Did you put the time in? Have you thought about what you’re going to do and all the scenarios that will appear from the start to the end of the game?”

Another problem was that I was somewhat un-coachable and most of this came from the fact that I was making decisions for myself and by myself as early as six and seven years old. Coaches didn’t know how to talk to me and I didn’t know how to talk to them. In all fairness, I didn’t really know how to talk to people, in general. I look at old pictures of me as a kid and see that I communicated with my body. I never talked. And when I did talk, often nothing really good came out, which was a reflection of what was going on inside. That held me back. Everything I have been able to achieve to date starts with thinking first, critically communicating through the process and, finally, having a focused disposition to critique and measure everything I do.

The benefit of not talking for as many years as I did is that it allowed me to become an acute listener, and that skill allows me to hear not so much what people say as what they don’t say. It’s given me a skill that I realize many do not, the ability to see around corners.

It’s been an interesting process. I know having people understand what was going on in my mind when I was playing competitive sports would have allowed me to excel far beyond what I was able to achieve. So today, I look at all obstacles holistically as challenges that need to be overcome.

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