Professional skateboarder Tony Hawk’s journey to legitimize skating as a competitive sport is a masterclass in entrepreneurial success. Today skateboarding- once considered the preferred pastime of juvenile delinquents – is a mainstream event at the Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Hawk is now a multimillionaire who has masterfully parlayed his skateboarding success into big wins in the business world.

Because of his accomplishments in both sports and life, Hawk is uniquely positioned to dispense advice to entrepreneurs and business owners.

Recently, Hawk spoke to about 500 CEOs and business owners at a regional gathering of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where he talked about challenges he faced coming up as a young skater in an activity that was largely viewed with derision, and what he had to do to attain success.

Here are 5 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Hawk’s climb to the top: 

Drive and Determination are Essential

Hawk was faced with the unenviable task of changing the stereotypic perception of skaters as insolent, rabble-rousing teens. Through persistence, he achieved the pinnacle of respect and worldwide acclaim in 1999 when he became the first skateboarder to land a 2 ½-revolution trick known as a 900,  the feat at the X Games. It took a dozen tries, but he refused to give up until he succeeded. Hawk’s advice to never give up and always reach higher continues to ring true. He went on to accomplish milestones that are nothing short of amazing: he won 10 gold, three silver and two bronze medals at the X Games and made history in 1999 when he landed his 900.

Push Your Advantage

Second, Hawk changed the way that skaters are viewed worldwide by showcasing his extreme talent. Known for his inventive, trick-based style of vertical skateboarding, Hawk legitimized skating as a competitive sport, so much so that it debuted at the 2020 Summer Olympics. The lesson here – find your advantage and take advantage of it. Highlight what makes your brand different and make sure you are a standout. Hawk’s example of how he altered the worldwide perception of his sport is proof that making a difference in life and business matters, no matter how big or small the changes may be. Always push forward.

Empower Others

Hawk has used his position of influence and wealth to empower the next generation. Through the nonprofit Tony Hawk Foundation, he spent $10 million to build 652 skate parks in 50 states so kids have safe, legal places to skate. The important lesson here is about the responsibility to use the status and resources that come with success to lift up others as well. Great leaders set out to make a difference.

Visualize Success

Hawk’s winning story teaches us that we must visualize success before we accomplish it. He mastered complicated and dangerous tricks by first visualizing each step of the process and envisioning himself succeeding. And each time he broke through another mental and physical barrier, he was able to replicate that accomplishment. This is an important lesson for budding entrepreneurs, who may stumble many times before achieving success in a competitive field or non-conforming career. Never say die. Keep pushing forward and reach for success.

Learn from Those Before You

Hawk’s success highlights the importance of heeding what others have previously accomplished, learning from it and then doing even better. Since Hawk’s 900, other skaters have accomplished even more incredible feats. For instance, with Hawk looking on, 12-year old Gui Khury landed three full rotations to complete an 1080 at the 2021 X Games. Such a thing never would have been possible had Tony Hawk not shown his successors what was possible.

As a trailblazer in the skating world, Hawk made a huge difference in the popular sport by refusing to ever give up, then sharing the fruits of his success by founding a nonprofit that continues to benefit today’s youth.  Hawk’s relentless determination and peerless accomplishments are transferrable to the competitive world of business and entrepreneurship. Hawk’s model for entrepreneurial success should interest us all, not just those who travel through life on four wheels.