Life and Career Lessons from … March Madness?!

Thinkstock North Carolina State stunning Houston in the 1983 championship game (and beating future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in the process). Villanova downing defending champions Georgetown in the 1985 championship game (denying another future Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing, of a second title). Connecticut, just last year, ascending from a #7 seed and subsequent long odds to upend Kentucky and win it all. Anywhere you look, the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament – more commonly known as March Madness – produces amazing upsets like few other sporting competitions across the world.

As PR professionals, we can learn a lot from March Madness and the crazy twists and turns it takes each year – lessons that we can apply to both our careers and our lives outside of the office. Such as:

  • Prepare for the Unexpected: We mentioned just three of the upsets that have taken place in the NCAA Tournament throughout its history, but there have been so many more (my busted brackets accumulated over the years can confirm that). And we’re guessing that as a PR professional, you’ve run out of fingers and toes counting the surprises you’ve encountered during your career – be it a New York Times editor suddenly calling you out of the blue to discuss a pitch you didn’t think they had the time to read, or an industry-changing piece of news turning your week upside-down. While you can’t know what’s around the corner, simply knowing that anything can happen is all the preparation you need.
  • Take a Break to Enjoy Yourself: It’s such an old and tired cliché, but it applies here – “PR isn’t ER,” and any job that doesn’t involve saving lives should probably not be treated with a constant, manic level of urgency. It’s not only okay to take a breath to get away and immerse yourself in something completely unrelated to work, but it might be good for your health and your level of focus.
  • Live in the Moment: The NCAA Tournament produces a wealth of memorable moments each year; heck, there was a song written about the tournament called “One Shining Moment.” Countless athletes and coaches who have won the national title talk about how they “lived in the moment”: essentially, intensely focusing on what is needed to be accomplished while also taking the time to enjoy the experience. Your job should ultimately be enjoyable and rewarding, so make sure to savor those moments when you land a huge media hit or the event you ran turned out to be a huge success.

As a huge sports fan I’m biased on this topic, but I truly believe that there’s a lot to learn from sports outside of the final score of a game or how Team X matches up against Team Y. And I guarantee you that all you need to do is watch some of these March Madness games to understand what the tournament – and your career and your life – should be: enjoyable.