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Annika Sorenstam

Hope for the Best, but…
The truly great prepare for all possibilities before they step on the field

Annika Sorenstam posted career numbers that practically look like typos. From 2001 to 2005, Sorenstam competed in 104 Ladies Professional Golf Association tournaments, winning an unbelievable 43 of those events, finished either second or third 24 times and in the top-10 an astounding 86 times. When she left professional golf earlier this year, she had 90 international tournament wins to her name – more than any other female golfer in history. She was the highest-earning athlete on the LPGA tour, topping $22 million, over her career.

But rather than resting on her laurels as she prepared to exit the tour circuit, Sorenstam was already looking ahead to the next phase of her career – and taking the necessary steps to make that move just as successful as her playing days had been.

In 2005, at the very peak of her career, Sorenstam began to consult with business strategists and marketing experts in order to build a brand for herself. “One of the first people I was introduced to was Duane Knapp, who has helped a number of great brands develop,” she explained to me in an interview for SUCCESS magazine. “Knapp did some research and put together a plan. He told me things about how I was perceived and explained what it would take to become the brand I desired, a brand that’s about fulfilling a promise and creating an inspiration.”

annika2Even as she was dominating one profession, she was preparing for her entrance into the next, aided by clearly defined goals and tremendous enthusiasm. She didn’t want to leave things to chance – and with the same passion she showed for 16 years as a professional golfer, she prepared every day to become a businesswoman. She poured herself into studying her own strengths and weaknesses and, together with her team, launched the sportswear brand ANNIKA. There also is her golf course design business, her golf academy, her work as director of her own foundation… and even her own fragrance.

Sorenstam understood that success in all of those areas would come through focus and preparation. “I am competitive, but I am just channeling my competitiveness into something else,” she told me. “If you want to be good at what you do, you have to prepare, you have to come up with original ideas, and that gives you satisfaction of achieving or being recognized. To me, that makes me work harder.”

“If you look at the list of athletes who have become brand names, there are people like Tiger, Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer and a few others,” Sorenstam said. “But there really aren’t any women on that list. I decided when we set out to do this that I wanted to be on that list.

“That has become my goal, my driver,” Sorenstam said.

Tips from the Great Ones

Human resource directors, head hunters, and career counselors will all tell you that the average person goes through between four and six phases in his or her professional life. Sometimes, a new phase is simply a promotion or role shift within the same company or industry. Other times, that shift can be as extreme as taking a completely new career path.

annika3The key is to maintain a balance between reaching your full potential in your current job, while simultaneously keeping your eyes on where you plan to go next and preparing yourself accordingly. Sorenstam continued to practice and work hard so her tournament performance didn’t suffer while she worked with marketing experts on her brand. But she did make sure that her efforts were equally dedicated to getting herself ready for the next phase of her career.

What about you? How are you preparing for the next phase of your professional life? Are you doing whatever it takes to be eligible for a promotion? Is there someone you should be learning from and if so have you invited them to lunch? Are you taking on more diverse projects in order to expand your work experience? Have you thought of what you might want to do in a second career? Are you getting yourself ready for the next thing to come?

Take a moment today to evaluate where you hope to be headed next personally and professionally, and consider what steps you need to take in order to get there. What should you be reading? Make notes. Write down a list of actions that you can take to get you to that next stage. Prepare not only your skills, but your attitude, as well. If the next job in your path requires leadership skills, read leadership books.

Sorenstam broadened her sights from her golf game to what she wanted to do with the professional reputation and accolades she’d earned. And she started that process when most would have been happy to just continue playing tournaments.

Preparation is more than just getting ready for what you know is coming. It’s anticipating what might be months or years down the road and taking proactive steps now. The great ones understand that the best way to be ready is, quite simply, to be ready.

Begin today preparing for your next level of greatness.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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