5 Takeaways from Tennis Superstar, Entrepreneur, and Activist, Venus Williams
Venus Williams is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats in tennis. She, along with her younger sister Serena Williams, is credited with ushering in a new era of power, athleticism and marketability to the women’s professional circuit. Her duality as a successful athlete and entrepreneur can be measured by championships and sales figures, but she would tell you her greatest impact has been made through her activism for gender equality in professional sports.
As fortunate as I felt to sit down with an athlete I’ve looked up to for years, I was especially impressed by her commitment to personal growth. Here are five meaningful takeaways from the third episode of our podcast, Suiting Up with Paul Rabil.
#1. It’s important to make yourself feel uncomfortable. Venus had a tennis racket in her hand when she was four years old. However being a CEO of two companies is a new and different challenge. It’s one that she welcomes and embraces. Many people think a sport like tennis is an individual sport. Venus couldn’t disagree more. She’s surrounded herself with physical therapists, a chiropractor, nutritionist, skill coach, and sports psychologist. She budgets her programming so that each person can travel with her, and are as much a part of her wins (and losses) as she is. Venus says the fastest route to growth is by “putting yourself in new situations that challenge you to be better.”
#2. Honesty. Early in our conversation, Venus remarked that, “being honest is one of the important things in business.” This is a core pillar of her companies, V Starr Interiors and EleVen by Venus Williams, where her approach to honesty is not just about being direct, but also being empathic. A conscious leader who practices empathy can build deeper, intimate relationships with their staff, which is a breeding ground for success. Trust is a byproduct of empathy. And empathy, like many other skills, takes a lot of practice and mindfulness. More times, however, it takes personal failure to feel the depth of the human experience.
#3. Positivity. Venus called being positive “crucial” in her career and something she communicates with her team. When you start a company you face a lot of adversity; trial and error is a core component to launching a business. To learn from your errors, you need to regularly showcase positivity amongst your team. Inversely, cynicism is a toxic and contagious state. It leads to the inability to see fate and hope amidst glaring problems. As Venus would say, practice positivity.
#4. Travel is no excuse for being unhealthy. When Venus travels, she carries protein packs with her. She refuses to use travel as an excuse for cheating her diet, keeping a disciplined approach to her nutrition. A terrific travel and nutrition hack from the podcast, Venus recommends buying a inexpensive, commercial blender when she lands in a city of non-residence. They’re cheap, costing anywhere from $15 to $35. That’s the price of a meal at the airport, and with her protein packs and a bottle of water, she’s staying lean and mean. For the record, she endorses Jamba Juice 🙂
#5. Authenticity in Business. Venus bought out her manufacturing partners and rebranded EleVen by Venus Williams as an “athleisure” apparel company. She’s focused on making her product exceptional and brand authentic, fashioning clothes that she finds stylish, comfortable and functional for performance. She’s structured favorable deals with the ATP World Tour so she can wear her apparel during matches (an unfair advantage as an athlete and founder), giving her mass-market exposure, proof of product, and some flair.
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