There is a fantastic similarity between peak-performing athletes and peak-performing founders.
Notice that I wrote “peak performing”. Not “good athletes”. Not “athletes”. But “peak performing” athletes.
Stick with me and you’ll learn how I find the traits of peak-performing athletes in peak-performing founders and how you will too.
And yes, founders - this is a cheat sheet for you too :)
Peak-performing athletes are easier to spot than their founder counterparts because they are in highly visible positions in highly visible environments.
They’re the swimmers and gymnasts who win medals in the Olympics, they’re the soccer players who play for Champion League Teams, they’re the basketball players in the NBA and WNBA, they’re the gamers in League of Legends Worlds… you get what I’m going for.
With founders, it’s not that easy to spot who is a peak performer and who is not. Yeah i know some of you will point to pedigree, a great school, years in special forces, and so on. But i’ll show you below that pedigree is not enough, and is sometimes detrimental. There are certain characteristics and traits that make peak performers the way they are.
BTW - I’m not writing this from my own perspective and prism. I was a very good athlete (100m Butterfly was my thing) won medals and all, but not a peak performer. I am lucky to call these 2 in the pics my friends, Neta Rivkin (black and white) first Israeli to win a medal at the Gymnastics World Championships and an Olympian(!) and Shay Doron, (sticking her tongue out), the first Israel in the WNBA, and we’ve been talking about what makes athletes and founders the best in the biz.
1, Insatiable hunger to be the best. This is not an “I want to succeed” type of hunger. It’s not “I’m doing my passion” hunger. It’s not even “I really want this” hunger. It’s INSATIABLE. It’s relentless. It’s a hunger that consumes you so much that for you, there is nothing else until you achieve your goal/ medal/ championship. You’ll keep going no matter what. Even when the money has run out and you’re in debt, even when your body is aching and broken, even when the whole world is telling you to give up, you’ve lost. You will never ever stop.
2. Extreme competitiveness (jealousy). Peak performers aren't the kind to look at a competitor's success and go “oh, good for them. Well done”. They're just not. A competitor's success hurts and burns them, like a stake in a vampire's heart. It drives them crazy. They feed on it and it compels them to work harder, faster, and better, until they win. They will also drive their teammates, forcing them to do better, berating them when they think they aren’t giving 110%, or not being disciplined enough.
3. Discipline. Hardcore, ultra-intense discipline. Never miss a training session. never slack off. Always strive to improve on the last performance. The day-in and day-out grind of being better and better at what you do. Some of them even do it WHILE IN MID COMPETITION. Just watch Tony Hawk at the Olympics in this video. The event is over, but he won’t stop until he achieved what he set out to achieve. BTW - if this video didn’t give you goosebumps, I’m not sure we can be friends.
4. Game recognizes game. Peak performers recognize each other's skills immediately, like 2 samurai facing each other on a bridge. And they immediately want to team up with each other or seek and destroy. They also immediately recognize those that are not peak-performers, and when in team sports, they are notoriously impatient with those they deem unworthy or stand in the way of their achievements. They will actively push them out of the team and won’t think twice about it.
5. Creativity: peak performers are way more creative than the regular athletes or founders. And I’m not talking about creativity as in “they can write creative ads”. They are more creative in finding solutions, in ways to think about next steps, in ideas to improve themselves, their training, their team. Their heads are buzzing with ideas and they love trying them out.
The 5 characteristics mentioned above are extremely apparent and recognizable in an individual, it’s not something they can or want to hide. The flip side is not so easily spotted, but the consequences can be… well, I call them heart breaking.
If you don’t have that insatiable hunger, you might quit when the going gets tough. Find a nice job at a google or Meta, leaving investors, team mates, friends and family disappointed and sometimes livid.
If you don’t have the creativity, you’ll have a really tough time moving your company forward.
And if you don’t recognize game - your team will be B players at best.
One of the things you should do as a founder is to be honest with yourself as possible and ask yourself, do you truly have those traits? Are you a peak performer? You don’t need to have them all - but you do need to have the first. That insatiable hunger to win!
And if you’re looking to work with or invest in the best of the best founders, those with the highest chance of success, you’ll be looking for these characteristics in them.
But be warned - the same characteristics that make these individuals winners, also sometimes make them unbearably hard to work with. Is it worth it? Hell yeah.
By Guy Poreh