Be your own biggest cheerleader. I’m not saying be braggadocious. I am saying to have confidence in yourself; that confidence will lead to others having confidence in you. Have the WILL to succeed.
As a part of our series about the work ethic lessons we can learn from professional athletes, I had the pleasure of interviewing Misdee Wrigley Miller.
The multi-faceted Misdee Wrigley Miller is a business owner and a gold-medalist-winning equestrian athlete who competes internationally in Combined Driving Events. She is the owner of the Kentucky-based Wrigley Media Group, which conceives, creates, produces and distributes all forms of media content under one roof. Misdee also owns the Kentucky-based Hillcroft Farm. A fourth-generation horsewoman, Misdee helped Team USA win its first gold medal at the World Equestrian Games in combined driving and she was also the first woman to win gold in the sport.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My childhood experiences perfectly explain how and why I became the person I am today: I started riding practically before I could walk, and my family was deeply involved in the broadcast business.
I was fortunate to have grown up with horses, first with sturdy ranch horses who were on our cattle ranch and then on what was to become a prominent Arabian Horse breeding and showing operation.
The broadcast business was also a constant in my youth. As owner of the local CBS affiliate and for many years, president of the CBS affiliates group, my stepfather often brought business home with him: frequent dinner guests included actors, top network executives, and my favorite, Walter Cronkite. As a teen, I would accompany my parents to the Affiliates meetings and became fascinated with the business.
Although my college experience started out in Animal Science headed for vet school, I changed majors and universities and ended up graduating with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete?
Just to be clear, I am not a professional athlete; I participate as an amateur, for the pure love of the equestrian sport. However, I do compete against professionals in each of my equestrian disciplines.
Without a doubt, my mother was my inspiration. She instilled in me at a very early age that I could achieve anything if I worked hard and believed in myself. I know that she was smiling from heaven the day I became the first woman to win a gold medal and helped the United States to win its first gold medal in the sport of Combined Driving.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I have been very blessed to have wonderful coaches and horse trainers through the years. However, my current coach, Boyd Exell, himself a multi-titled driver, gave me tremendous confidence and saw no reason why a petite woman of a certain age couldn’t compete successfully in a grueling sport. He pushed me when I didn’t think I could go any further and the results were, well, historic!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
The WORST mistake I have made in the driving sport was during my first world championship. The object is to have the lowest score after three days of competition: with the best score of two of the three team members counting each day. On the final day of competition, I was leading Team USA to a very respectable finish, however, I went off course, was disqualified and our Team fell substantially in the rankings. I had let nerves and lack of concentration let my team and everyone who helped get me there down. It was a hard lesson, but it has never happened again!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you tell us the story of your transition from a professional athlete to a successful business person?
I have not made the transition; I still compete with my horses.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects new you are working on now?
Being in the media space means we have several exciting projects. Wrigley Media Group was among the executive producers and helped film Drew Barrymore’s latest film, “The Stand-In”. It was great fun to bring a little bit of Hollywood to the Bluegrass State! We have a few other great projects, but I’m sorry, because of NDAs with the networks, I can’t talk about them yet.
Do you think your experience as a professional athlete gave you skills that make you a better entrepreneur? Can you give a story or example about what you mean?
The athletic skill that has made me a better entrepreneur is patience. Success does not come overnight and never without setbacks. Having the patience to accept that, regroup, refocus and restart is key.
Ok. Here is the main question of our interview. Entrepreneurs and professional athletes share a common “hustle culture”. Can you share your “5 Work Ethic Lessons That Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Athletes”? Please share a story or an example for each.
2. Be your own biggest cheerleader. I’m not saying be braggadocious. I am saying to have confidence in yourself; that confidence will lead to others having confidence in you. Have the WILL to succeed.
3. When you think you can’t work any harder, push yourself to do more. I heard a good expression, “Pain is just a sign of weakness leaving the body.” That applies whether it is a physical workout or a mental one.
4. Never stop learning, never stop perfecting your skills. The most successful people I know, whether in athletics or business, are curious: always asking questions, experimenting with new techniques and innovating. Seek out successful people in your field — those positive connections will keep you inspired.
5. Always act with integrity, fairness and truthfulness. Period.
What would you advise to a young person who aspires to follow your footsteps and emulate your career? What advice would you give?
Advice to young people: There are so many distractions in the world today, do not lose focus on what is real and what the end goal is. Always be clear about where you are heading. It is like sailing a boat: stay true to your compass — you might have to take a different tack, but never lose sight of your destination. Otherwise you will lose the wind in your sails and you will be dead in the water.
You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope I have used my success to bring goodness by creating good businesses and giving people — the majority of them younger people — opportunity and success in their own lives. Nothing brings me more happiness than to see others succeed because something I have done has led to that achievement.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There is not enough space here to describe the movement I would like to create! (Actually, this is already being done in some areas, but I would like to bring a formality and organization that could be used nationally.)
Here is an overview: I would like to see businesses develop a mentoring/internship/apprenticeship program to be part of a college program. There is nothing like the experience of working in a chosen field to be able understand if that is where you want to spend your career.
Wrigley Media Group has a vibrant intern program and it has been a win-win situation, and I know other businesses have successful internship programs. I would like to see that grow and become a comprehensive program among many different types of companies. As part of that, business leaders could take a few hours a week to mentor a class, share experiences and give the “real world” perspective.
I was fortunate: I was laser focused when I graduated, many young people are. But too many get out of college with a degree they really don’t know what to do with and have nothing to show for it but a mound of debt. It would be wonderful to help those young people make the right choice for what will affect the rest of their lives.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Life lesson quote, from Audrey Hepburn: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are correct.” Sums it all up.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
The person I would most like to meet to have a conversation with is Peyton Manning. To me, he is the ultimate successful athlete who has used his fame to make the world a better place; all the while keeping his humor and humility. His Peyback Foundation, in which he is personally active, helps disadvantaged children, and he seems always willing to lend a helping hand where there is a need.
I would love to ask him the same questions you have asked me!