Sports Lessons Translate to Business Lessons

In 1960 I was a Claremont, California high school sophomore trying out for the varsity basketball team. At 6-foot-2 with an athletic build, my chances appeared to be a slam dunk. Over several weeks of conditioning we were now down to a select group for the final day. But our pre-celebratory cheers stopped as we watched the football players effortlessly run through drills. They had been recruited to tryout alongside us, causing the bench to thin. As the last name was called, reality made its way like aching muscles needing to be iced, and with a sigh of acceptance, 15 of us gathered our belongings and headed home.

As the sting of being cut began to wear off, questions lingered. As with most athletes, there came that moment of discovery – while relatively good at all sports, I was not great in one. What began as a process of reevaluating my body type, natural ability, and willingness to work hard ultimately proved to be my path to a successful life’s journey.

Before my senior year, our family relocated to Los Altos in northern California. Since age thirteen swimming had come naturally but the swim team at this new school had unbelievable record times. When I sought out a top notch coach so I could make the team, he said “If you do everything I tell you to do, you’ll go a 55- second 100-yard butterfly by the end of swim season.” I made up my mind to commit 100 percent and try.

As a result, I moved to 20th in the nation, making the high school All-American Swimming Team. A year after high school I was ranked among the top 10 in the world, setting American records in three butterfly events and a freestyle relay, and having times on par with 5th place in the Olympics. By the summer, I made the U.S. Olympic team as an alternate for the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo.

Sports set the foundation for a great work ethic and time management skills, along with a full ride athletic scholarship to The University of Texas at Austin where I earned the All-American designation in five events, set two conference records and received the Most Valuable Athlete Award. Great coaching, team work, perseverance, self-confidence, and a belief in something greater; this combination helped me transcend from a student-athlete to a successful thirty-year career in commercial real estate.

After earning an MBA at Pepperdine University I bought and managed $3 billion of commercial real estate nationwide. Continuing with the spirit of athletics, today I’m running a diverse team at Madison Realty Companies in Pasadena with talent averaging 25-years each in the real estate industry; all of whom are pushing for their own gold in their personal lives. I never imagined that decades later sports would impact my life and those around me for the better.


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