Startup Snapshot

Small Wins, Big Celebrations: Why every startup needs to unleash their NBA player party vibes

Sports psychologist opens up about why startup founders should adopt the NBA post-win parties tradition

Dr. Alex Auerbach-Startup Snapshot

Dr. Alex Auerbach

This piece is part of Alex Auerbach PhD’s four-part series on what stressed out CEOs can learn from elite athletes. As a sports psychologist working with high performers in the NBA, NFL and Olympics, Alex shares the vast insights he gained from working with these professional athletes, helping empower founders to perform at their best and achieve unparalleled success.


Doing anything meaningful – whether it’s reaching the highest level in sports or building a company that changes your life, your teams’ lives, and even the world around you – is hard. And when things are hard, we tend to focus on what’s left ahead to complete rather than the progress we’ve made.
Yet, making meaningful progress on our goals is one of, if not the, best predictor of well-being. If you never take the time to recognize the progress you’ve made and to celebrate it, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to boost your mood, team morale, and optimize your performance. That’s why, after every win in an NBA season, as soon as the last player enters the locker room, there’s a little party that takes place.


These parties are about more than just having a good time

These parties signal belonging, send a message about an important accomplishment, and acknowledge and appreciate the hard work that goes into meeting a significant milestone. Each of these features helps to sustain well-being and stave off stress over time.

Of course the party must come to an end. The team has to move forward – there’s another game in, sometimes, less than 24 hours! But imagine how devoid of meaning and energy a sports team would be if after every loss they beat themselves up, and after every win, everyone just went home and acted like it was expected. What you’d get is a bunch of players that don’t want to show up for games, because the hard work wouldn’t mean anything or be worth anything. There’s nothing good or fun to look forward to.

You don’t want to create that experience for your startup team. You want a team that’s energized to be together, that works hard, and recognizes a job well done. After all, reinforcing good work with a celebration does also signal what qualifies as a good job and makes it more likely that the standard will be met the next time around. You want the journey to feel meaningful and the hard work to be worth it.


Party it up in your startup

Same as with NBA players, you don’t want to create that experience for your startup employees. Give yourself and your team 24 hours to appreciate a job well done, and then refocus on the task at hand. By building in markers of progress and acknowledging the success of your team, you’re both increasing the odds of future success (dubbed “the winner effect”) and keeping chronic stress at bay.


About the Auther: 

Dr. Alex Auerbach is a performance psychologist with over 10 years of experience working with professional athletes, Olympians, elite military units, and start-up founders. He’s also the Chief Medical Officer of the Founder Mental Health Pledge, a non-profit dedicated to helping founders improve their mental health. Dr. Auerbach received a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Mental Performance Consultant.

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