With the World Series underway this week, there’s a great lesson for entrepreneurs in understanding how to play at the level athletes and entertainers call “stadium status.”

Stadium status is a term popularized by musicians and athletes. It’s that elusive place every coach, athlete, entertainer and performer of every type strives to reach. It’s moving from being an opening act to the headliner, from performing on a small stage to the greatest stage in the largest venue possible: a sold out stadium.

It’s the same elusive place every entrepreneur strives to reach. To move from an also ran to the biggest and best in class. From small accounts or a small customer base to a big stadium full of raving fans.

It’s a concept I learned from country musician Granger Smith and his tour manager Tyler Smith. Several years ago, they set their sights on achieving stadium status. To keep their vision top of mind, any time they had a new idea, reached a new milestone or grew their brand to the “next level,” they’d repeat the mantra #StadiumStatus to one another verbally and on social media.

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Why is keeping your vision in front of you integral to winning? To understand what wins we must first understand what causes losing. We create success, or failure, in our minds before we create it in the marketplace.

The event: 1986 World Series game six

The Boston Red Sox enjoyed a 5-3 lead in extra innings and were just three outs away from winning their first championship in 68 years. The New York Mets managed to tie the game and hit three straight singles, when Mookie Wilson hit a grounder that went up the first base line and through Bill Buckner’s legs, allowing the winning run to score.

Just 16 days before game six, Buckner was interviewed by Don Shane of WBZ-TV and he described the pressures of post-season play:

“The dreams are that you’re gonna have a great series and win. The nightmares are that you’re gonna let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs. Those things happen, you know. I think a lot of it is just fate.”

What is now widely known as the most costly error in sports history may never have happened if Buckner protected his confidence and maintained a better vision of his future. What happened to Bill Buckner can and does happen to all of us on a different scale every day.

How to protect yourself

You should utilize affirmations like Granger Smith’s band does. Repeating affirmations of what you want (not what you want to avoid) will enhance your beliefs. When you enhance your beliefs you will enhance your results. If you think it often enough, it becomes a part of you. According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking to yourself respectfully makes you smarter.

In an interview with Smith and his drummer, Dusty Saxton, Saxton shared with me a critical juncture in their journey. A number of years ago, after a show where things went less than stellar, Saxton told the band, “Listen guys, I’ll be playing stadiums one day whether it’s with this band or another band.”

He was reaffirming his vision and in the process refocusing his band mates. As a result, the band now uses the stadium-status mantra not just on good days but also on bad ones when things go wrong in order to reinforce their vision to themselves. I believe, like Saxton, you have a responsibility to have a bigger vision for the people around you than sometimes they have for themselves.

Smith attributes his band members embracing and consistently repeating this mantra as a key to their success: “For a band member who might be doubtful a couple years ago, hearing everyone repeat this is reinforcement of our collective vision.”

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They’ve gone from playing small markets to stadium status and were recently announced as iHeart radio’s On The Verge artist. Make no mistake about it, Smith is an entrepreneur and the lesson for the entrepreneur in Smith’s rise to stadium status lies in this quote he shared with me:

It’s not about talent or work ethic. That’s just enough to get you in the door because a lot of people have talent and work ethic. It’s about strategy too. My talent was good enough to get me in the game, after that it’s up to me how I play the game.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, athlete or musician, you’re either growing or dying. There’s no standing still. Talent and work ethic might get you in the game, but stadium status takes strategy. Your strategy, like Smith’s, must start with a vision.

Nobody starts out at stadium status. Everything starts from humble beginnings before it grows to stadium status. Smith’s stadium-status journey began with his first album in 1998.

Your journey can be intimidating, frustrating, painful and sometimes downright humbling. What makes it a lot easier is having great teammates. All great teams have great teammates. Like Saxton, they help you get your mind right and protect your confidence every step of the way to stadium status.

Food for thought

The only way you can keep moving forward with positive momentum is to protect your confidence every day. One of the best ways to protect your confidence is to be very selective in who you surround yourself with. Who do you spend most of your time with? Who is your peer group? Do you spend time with people who support you and lift you up?

You need to spend time with people who not only share your vision but have a bigger vision that you. That forces you to step your game up.

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