Business As Sport:
A New Perspective

Business people and entrepreneurs use money as a way of keeping score, but that has negative consequences for individuals and society as whole. It encourages an emphasis on income rather than activities that actually create value.

Bottom Line

Business is more fun, and more satisfying, if you think of it as a sport, where income is only part of the process of keeping score.

Table of Contents

Business as the Ultimate Sport

After a certain point, money is meaningless. It ceases to be the goal. The game is what counts.
- Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975) Greek shipping tycoon

Each of us, if we would grow, must be committed to excellence and to victory, even though we know complete victory cannot be obtained, it must be pursued with all one’s might. The championships, the money, the color; all of these things linger only in the memory. It is the spirit, the will to excel, the will to win; these are the things that endure.
- Vince Lombardi (1913-1970) American Football Coach

Billions of people around the globe are passionate about playing or watching some sport: football, soccer, car racing, running, gymnastics, yachting, tennis; the list of different sports is almost endless.

Most people also participate, at some level, in business; a fortunate few regard business with the same passion they devote to their favorite sporting interest. But for most participants, business is filled with drudgery, routine, irritation, disgust, and anxiety. And that's wrong. Seen in its proper light, and played the right way, business is far more important, challenging, interesting, and rewarding than any sport.

Commentators from around the world have, for centuries past, recognized that business and the pursuit of wealth often resembles a game.

  • Charles Lamb

Two centuries ago Charles Lamb (1775-1834), the great British essayist, said, "Man is a gaming animal. He must always be trying to get the better in something or other." In Lamb's time, when the pursuit of business, or "trade", was viewed as ignoble, it was literally gaming, in the form of dice or cards, that provided the outlet for man's need to surpass his fellow man.

  • Theodore Roosevelt

When Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing" he was both putting life in the context of a game, by referring to "best prize", and repudiating the idea that a life of moneyed leisure and the pursuit of pleasure was a man's proper object.

This will be a recurring theme throughout this book, as we'll discuss many wealthy people who continue to play the game long after the point that increased riches could possibly improve their already extremely high standard of living.

  • Harry Emerson Fosdick

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), American Protestant Minister, looked at life from a broad and religious point of view and saw it as a game: “One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world -- making the most of one's best.” Others, such as German Political Economist and Sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), have taken a much more clinical and secular point of view: “The pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport.”.

  • Max Weber

But there is nothing at all “mundane” about the passions pursued by entrepreneurs; whether they are motivated by wealth or, far more often, a great challenge, it is Fosdick’s key phrase – “making the most of one’s best” - exploiting one’s potential in the most positive and constructive way – that is the focus of Business as the Ultimate Sport.

I hope to make the idea of business and sport focused and real, going far beyond tired sports clichés to show how to make business more rewarding, and fun, on a day to day basis, by treating the act of making a living as the ultimate sport, including making rules, and keeping score. We’ll give you some examples of well-known business figures who are known as winners – people like Donald Trump – who are really losers. We’ll show you some people who have mastered business as sport – people who can play by the rules and still get results. And we’ll show you other people, like Richard Branson, for whom business is both a platform for great success and great fun.

In each of our profiles sections, we’ll rate the featured person on a combination of their constructive contributions, or lack thereof, and whether they played by the rules, or, conversely profited at the expense of others.

About The Author

John Groom has written about a wide variety of topics for Internet sites and print publications. His essays have been published in The Washington Post, Builder Magazine, Montgomery Sentinel, Philanthropy, Export Today, and elsewhere.

In describing his varied work The Boston Globe said, "John Groom understands that man's nature is contradictory". Playboy magazine has called his essays "entertaining", while Netscape's Netcenter has said that Groom's writing "can brighten even the dullest day." CNNfn says: "Success caught Groom by surprise, but sometimes even journalists find it satisfying to learn that nice guys can finish first."

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Would you like to make your office more competitive, but in a fun, constructive way that everyone can enjoy?

Attitude Media can construct a custom program for your business, no matter what you, to make it more like a sport - fun and interesting, but in a way that all participants benefit. Pricing depends on the size of your business and complexity of the program.



Thanks to rule changes over the past decade, building a World Cup squad has turned into an international talent-grab. German/U.S. dual citizen Julian Green of the U.S. men's national soccer team. Reuters French-born Saphir Taider of Algeria. Reuters Native Brazilian Diego Costa of Spain. Associated Press Players are no longer just born into national teams—they are recruited to them, too. Since 2007, FIFA has processed 174 association changes for male players, as of late March. Now, six players on Klinsmann's 23-man World Cup squad have represented countries other than the U.S. at youth level. The most recent addition to Klinsmann's camp was Tampa, Fla.-born Julian Green, a product of the Bayern Munich academy. The U.S. secured his commitment to the cause in March. Like Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones, two other U.S. players with ties to Germany, Green is the son of an American serviceman who was stationed in Europe. Klinsmann also took Mix Diskerud, a former Norway prospect, and Aron Johannsson, who has represented Iceland. (Neither country qualified for the World Cup.) Under the rules of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, it is perfectly legal for players to switch allegiances one time, provided they meet a couple of key criteria. The first, of course, is that they are citizens of their new countries. (In most cases, it means holding two passports at the time of their first call-up for either country.) The second is that they may not have represented their original country in a competitive game at the senior level. In other words, you can play for a country's under-20 or under-17 team and then switch at any point, regardless of age. Even friendly (or exhibition) matches at the senior level are OK. But play in, say, a World Cup qualifier and you're anchored to that national team forever, even if you're never called up to the squad again. The rule used to be that a player generally could change associations once up to his 21st birthday, with his allegiance set in stone after that. (The age was 18 until 2003.) But since a proposal that was approved in 2009, the age limit has been lifted. The number of players applying for association changes jumped, according to FIFA. In 2008, it processed eight. In 2010, the number was 30. The association behind the rule change—Algeria—should come as no surprise. Algeria is one of the world's specialists in foreign-born national team players. Of the 23 players Algeria took to the 2010 World Cup, 17 were born in France, with about half representing France at youth level. Since 2007, 12 players have switched their allegiance to Algeria, more than any other country other than Turkey. Several other former French colonies take a similar approach. Indeed, the busiest channels for switches include France to Algeria and to Senegal. But this solution isn't just for players who can't quite crack one national team and look for another. The path from small countries to teams with better hopes of qualifying for the World Cup is also well worn. Over the past seven years, Northern Ireland has seen seven players defect to the Republic of Ireland, which is always more likely to make major tournaments. "It's a question of personal freedom," said Mohammed Raouraoua, the president of the Algerian Football Association who proposed the 2009 change and a member of FIFA's executive committee. For more than a decade, he has lobbied to make it easier for immigrants and the children of immigrants to play for their host countries or their parents' and grandparents' homelands. "The flip side," he added, "is that it allows teams to raise the level of international soccer and to improve the quality of international competitions." Things do get complicated—like if the player has yet to acquire the new citizenship at the time he wants to switch. Under those circumstances, he must also spend five consecutive years in his new country after the age of 18. This slows down the process, but hardly makes it impossible. Just ask Spain, the defending World Cup champ. Already stacked with soccer riches, La Roja managed to pad its ranks with Diego Costa, La Liga champion Atlético Madrid's top marksman—while keeping him out of his native Brazilian squad in the process. He qualified for Spain after spending five years there and picked up a new passport last year. His two appearances for Brazil had come in friendlies, which don't count toward establishing allegiance. Costa's final decision to play for Spain—complete with a college-football-style letter of intent—came just as Brazil was trying to call him up for a couple more friendlies last October. For Spain, it was a huge addition. In Brazil, it was nothing short of treason. Unlike native Brazilians who have played for other countries in the past, Costa would have been a certainty to make the starting 11—especially given the side's lack of firepower. "He is turning his back on a dream of millions by not representing our five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil," said Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari at the time. Should it all pan out for Costa, despite a hamstring injury, he wouldn't even be the first Brazilian-born player to lift a major trophy for Spain. São Paulo native Marcos Senna was an important member of the Euro 2008-winning squad. According to his new teammates, Costa wasn't expressly recruited. "He feels Spanish," Atlético Madrid forward David Villa said. "He's spent his whole professional career here." Then again, no country will admit to making a policy of seeking out potentially eligible castoffs from larger national teams. "We don't have a systematic research process," Algeria's Raouraoua said. "Each case is different. Sometimes it comes from the parents, sometimes it comes from the player, sometimes the federation reaches out." Asked whether he worried about players Algeria might lose to other countries, Raouraoua rattled off several players with Algerian roots who had played for France. "We pride ourselves that there are players like [Karim] Benzema or [Samir] Nasri playing for the French national team. Or [Zinedine] Zidane," he said. "I think that the role that they can play on the social front, for integration and immigration, is marvelous." Write to Joshua Robinson at joshua.robinson@wsj.com Toni Mack Popular Now What's This? ARTICLES 1 [http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/images/OD-BC468_MENBEL_C_20140529171549.jpg] Belts: Next Frontier in Men's Accessories? Twitter Facebook Email Comments

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