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8 creative biz lessons I learned from basketball

As I watched the Final Four Tournament on Saturday, I was thinking about what basketball and the professional creative arts have something in common. Is it any surprise my mind would go to art when I’m watching sports?

Passion

This is the obvious. These kids love basketball, and for them it is their art. What you pay attention to grows.

Just as the college athletes pay attention to basketball and their skills and love of the game increase, your skill level in your art increases with increased attention. Your knowledge and love of the art grows as you look at more art, go to more galleries, take more classes. And, your skill level at marketing, and your passion at marketing, also increases proportionately to the effort you put into it.

How much effort are you putting into growing your business?

Practice

For these teams to have made it this far, they had to practice quite a lot. It takes discipline to get to this level. Players often spend extra hours in the gym to practice their free-throw or three-point shots.

You hear longarm quilters talk about the three Ps: practice, practice, practice. We can’t expect to get good at anything without putting in the work.

Do you schedule time on a regular basis to develop your skills?

“French pastry” isn’t necessary

I remember the late Al Maguire, college basketball coach and TV commentator, called the fancy moves kids made up and down the court “French pastry.” Sometimes it’s fun to watch all the fancy stuff; sometimes it pays off with a score; sometimes it doesn’t.

At a quilt show, we all ooh and aah at the quilt with all the complicated piecing and appliqué or the quilt with the elaborate feather stitching. It’s a real treat, though, to see that quilt with the simple design that is just exquisitely executed. Fancy isn’t always the answer.

The small guys can become the big guys

At the start of March Madness, the teams are seeded. “Experts” decide where they rank and who is expected to move forward to play in the Final Four. It rarely works out that way. A few times the number 11 seed made it to the Final Four. That means that at least 40 teams out of 68 in the tournament were ranked higher.

We can see this in the art world. All the “big names” started out as “small names.” What makes the difference in moving from small to big is a vision, practice and determination. It’s a cliché to say, “it’s anybody’s game,” but it’s true. You just have to decide to get in the game.

It’s a team effort

It’s not one person on the college basketball team who wins or loses the game. Basketball great Michael Jordan is quoted as saying “There’s no ‘i’ in team, but there is in ‘win.'”

In your creative arts business, you need others on your team to make you successful. It could be the longarm quilter who turns your outstanding quilt top into a masterpiece, the framer who finishes your art so you can get it to the buyer or a show, the group that tests your patterns before they get to market, even the babysitter who watches your kids so you have time to design.

Successful teams and athletes have winning coaches

It’s important at almost any stage of your business to have someone to provide feedback, help you fulfill your vision, keep you accountable, and provide support. Successful sports teams or athletes have coaches that do this.

Successful creative arts professionals also seek help, whether that’s a formal arrangement with a business coach, joining a formal support group like the Members’ Studio, or connecting locally with like-minded artists.

You choose the game you want to win

In college athletics, particularly at the tournament level, the players have decided early on what commitment they are willing to make. Their coaches decide at what level they want their team to play.  They want to play big.

As a creative entrepreneur is you get to decide how big your game is. Do you want a large or small business? Do you want a storefront or an online business? Do you want employees or a virtual team?

You learn to deal with critics

People are going to second guess and criticize you. In Saturday’s game between Virginia and Michigan State, the game came down to the last play, a three-point shot with a foul. The player went to the foul line and then sunk the three shots he got to send Virginia to the final game. After it was over, the commentators were discussing the calls. It happens all the time. The critics come out.

As an artist, you’ll also get your share of critics. I think you can feel especially judged because your art is so close to your heart. You can either listen to the critics or not. You can learn from constructive criticism or not. I say turn off the criticism of the non-constructive kind.

You learn to move on and become better. This year’s NCAA winner, Virginia, was a number 1 seed in the 2018 tournament. They lost to a number 16 seed in the first round. They came back this year.

How you end the game is what counts.

It’s your turn!

What have you learned from watching sports?

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