As I watched the Final Four Tournament on Saturday, I was thinking about what basketball and the professional creative arts, specifically quilting, have something in common. Is it any surprise my mind would go to quilting?
1. Passion. This is the first obvious. These kids love basketball, and for them it is their art. What we pay attention to grows. Just as the college athletes pay attention to basketball and their skills and love of the game increase, our skill level in our art increases with increased attention. Our knowledge and love of the art grows as we look at more quilts, go to more galleries, take more classes. And, our skill level at marketing, and our passion at marketing, also increases proportionately to the effort we put into it. How much effort are you putting into growing your business?
2. 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, and I know of players who spend extra hours in the gym to practice their free-throw or three-point shots. I often 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?
3. “French pastry” isn’t necessary. I can remember the late Al Maguire, college basketball coach and TV commentator, call 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.
4. The small guys can become the big guys. By the time the teams in the basketball tournament made it to the finals, none of the top seeds were left. One of those teams (VCU) was seeded number 11, meaning that at least 40 teams out of 68 in the tournament were ranked higher. We can see this in the quilt world. All the “big names” started out as “small names.” I think 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.
5. 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.'” Most of us in quilt or creative arts businesses need others on our team to make us successful. It could be the longarm quilter who turns our outstanding quilt top into a masterpiece, the group that tests our patterns before they get to market, even the babysitter who watches your kids so you have time to design.
6.Successful teams and athletes have winning coaches. I thinks it’s important at almost any stage of our 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 or a local support group with like-minded artists.
I can think of other comparisons between basketball and our business. I’m sure you can, too. Please share them here.
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