It isn’t often that professional athletes are able to transform their abilities on the field into mogul and entrepreneur status, but some manage to make the leap. There’s Magic Johnson, and there’s Michael Jordan, and there have been others over the years, but few figures loom larger than David Beckham.
You know Beckham as one of the best ever professional soccer players, or footballers, if you will. With more than 20 years of professional play on the pitch, he is regarded as one of the all time greats thanks to his passing precision and his ability to make the ball bend or curl to his liking every time he kicked it. In fact, the 2002 movie Bend it Like Beckham was named after his deadly signature kick.
Beckham is more than just an athlete, though. He’s a model, a businessman, a philanthropist, and a father; he and his wife Victoria (of Spice Girls fame) have four children together. Still, Beckham has managed to take his success as a footballer and carry it well past his retirement. He knows how to be successful, and fortunately, we can learn a lot from his approach. Here are the ten rules of success according to David Beckham.
1. You have to love what you do.
Beckham wanted to be a footballer ever since he was a very young child, and it’s that love that’s carried him through a successful career on the field. If you want to be a success in any field, you have to love your work. In fact, you have to love it so much that you’d still do it even if you weren’t being paid.
2. Sacrifices are necessary to get ahead.
You can’t make everything a priority, and if you’re driven to be successful in your chosen line of work, some other things in your life will have to be put on the back burner so you can focus on your goals. Beckham points to sacrifices he made as a youngster to improve his game, such as skipping outings with his friends on Friday and Saturday nights so he could stay home and watch matches on TV, then get to bed early so he could be sharp and well rested for his own games.
3. Success means not having any regrets.
Yes, there are things in our lives that we may feel badly about, but all of those difficulties and challenges and even failures build us into our present selves. You can’t regret any of them, because they make you stronger, teach you valuable lessons, and are all part of the overall journey (even though they might not feel like it at the time). Beckham insists that he has no regrets, and that’s one of the reasons he’s had such a fulfilling career. He says that even the time he got a red card in an important 1998 World Cup match against Argentina isn’t a regret of his because it showed him the importance of good sportsmanship and not letting his emotions get the best of him.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
Talent will get you far, but if you’re hoping to truly find success, you’ve got to spend lots of time honing your skills and perfecting your craft. It takes hours of practice, along with lots of dedication; according to Beckham, it’s the only way you’re going to get better. In fact, Beckham’s famous bending of the ball is the result of hours upon hours of kicking balls into goals to perfect the move.
5. Understand what success looks like for you.
Success for one person isn’t necessarily success for another, so what defines success for you? Is it a certain level of income? Or sales? Is it being able to give back? Before you start on your path to be successful, spend some time figuring out what’s supposed to be at the end of the road. Beckham, for example, doesn’t measure success by the number of trophies on his shelf or medals around his neck. Instead, his measure of success is if he had fun, if he won with his teammates, and if he feels good about his accomplishments.
6. Never give less than 100%.
Hard work is the only way to be successful. You have to give your all, every time, and turn your passion into effort.. If you do things half heartedly, you’ll get out exactly what you put in. Beckham said when he retired that no matter the ups and downs in his career, he knows that he always gave everything he had on the pitch. For him and for everyone, a complete and honest effort is the only way to achieve success.
7. Family always comes first.
Work life balance is a challenge for everyone, but when it’s all said and done, your top priority has to be your children and your family. Jobs will come and go, and opportunities will too, but your spouse and your kids and your loved ones will be there through it all, and you need to put them first. This is what David Beckham and his wife Victoria do: no matter how much he has to train, no matter how many professional commitments she has, they always put each other and their children first. It comes as no surprise, then, that amidst all the rocky celebrity marriages, theirs has held strong for more than 16 years.
8. Go out on a high note.
For Beckham, the goal was always to leave as a champion. While some footballers and other athletes stay on the playing field until they’re no longer relevant, Beckham felt it was important to go out on top. The same holds true for entrepreneurs of all stripes: don’t let your star dim too much, and don’t let your relevance just fade away. It’s time to walk away when you’re still on top, not when you’ve lost everything and can no longer get it back.
9. If you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible.
This is especially the case when you find yourself in a low place — you’re discouraged and you lack confidence, and you just don’t know how you’re going to ever become a success. But deep down, you do know: you have faith in your abilities, and you know you’re capable, and you trust your ideas and your intuition. You can achieve anything you want as long as you believe in yourself. A favorite expression of Beckham’s that helps to illustrate this point is, “It’s a round world.” What he means by this is that even if things go down, they’re able to circle back around again. With enough time, enough work, and enough motivation, you can always get yourself back on top.
10. Above all else, have a good time.
Beckham certainly believes that you have to be serious about what you do, but he also knows that you can’t be serious all the time. If you’re following your passion, if you love what you do (see rule number one on this list), then you’ve got to relax a little and have fun with it. It lightens the mood, it keeps you calm and centered, and it makes your work feel practically effortless.
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