Sport is a terrific metaphor for business and for life

I am often reminded of something that happened several years ago. I was a member of the fiercely passionate PepsiCo India team. It was a team that was having fun. There was a tremendous sense of pride. And then suddenly, the pesticide controversy happened. All hell broke loose. Sales plummeted and so did the morale. A team that was high on passion, and used to winning, suddenly looked beaten, vanquished.

And that’s when we heard the magical little story of how a 16 year-old Sachin Tendulkar had battled adversity while facing up to the Pakistani fast bowlers. India was struggling to save a game when Sachin was hit on the nose by a bouncer from Waqar. There was blood on his nose and his shirt. When they offered him the option of retiring hurt and going back to the dressing room, he declined, saying just two magical words, “Main Khelega!” He knew it wasn’t just about him. It was about his team. He may have been in pain, but his team needed him to stay there and fight. And fight he did. Sachin’s words, his mindset and his determination suddenly became the war-cry for the entire PepsiCo organisation. A team that had looked beaten suddenly discovered strengths they didn’t know existed.

That’s the power of sporting metaphors. They can teach us lessons – about winning and losing – but more importantly, they can kindle hope. We can all learn and draw inspiration from how fighters never quit, how champions raise their game, and how the magical glue of teamwork can transform a bunch of ordinary folks into an all-conquering, winning team.

But more than that, sport teaches us that while winning is nice and losing hurts, we must never forget a bigger lesson: In the end, when that great scorer puts down your name, he doesn’t see whether you won or lost – but how you played the game!

Good to remember that. And yes, next time you feel like quitting, think of the master blaster. And say “Main Khelega!”

Prakash Iyer

  • Former MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever |Author | Speaker | Coach

Prakash Iyer is a best-selling author, motivational speaker and leadership coach. After spending nearly three decades working with teams selling everything from soaps and colas, to yellow pages and diapers, Prakash chose to step out of the corporate world in 2014 to pursue his passion for writing, speaking, and helping other people unleash the leader within.

In his last role, he was the Managing Director of Kimberly Clark Lever in India. Apart from being a best-selling author and a leadership coach, Prakash is now an independent director on the board of Xerox India, an advisor to Multiples – an India focused Private Equity fund and also served as the CEO of the Mumbai Indians cricket franchise in their IPL title-winning campaign in 2015.

Passionate about cricket – and people – Prakash speaks and writes extensively on motivation, leadership, story-telling, teamwork and winning. He is the author of two best-selling books: The Habit of Winning and The Secret of Leadership.

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