This article originally appeared in Emily’s Inc.com column, Own It.
Most entrepreneurs frame the first dollar they earn. But imagine that instead of your first dollar, it’s your first million dollar check. And instead of framing it and taking a selfie with it, you attempt to casually deposit it at the bank drive-thru.
This is exactly what Serena Williams did with her first million dollar check- and the bank teller told her she needed to park and go inside to make such a deposit.
This was one of many stories she shared in an interview with Uninterrupted. But her stories aren’t just fun personal anecdotes, they’re also a glimpse into the business mindset that drives one of the world’s top athletes to perform her best, on and off the court.
1. She prioritizes passion over profit.
Williams says she never played for money. “When I first turned pro, you had to go pick up your check,” she said. “I never, never, picked it up, so at the end of the year, the tournament directors would literally hand me the check because I would never go get it. I just played for the love of the sport.”
While it may be easier to love your work more when you’re a pro athlete, entrepreneurs can benefit from Serena’s passion-over-profit mentality, regardless of if you’re starting your first or your tenth business.
In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that people who follow their passion are more likely to stay with it for the long term and leads to an increase in psychological well-being.
Williams is right. When you are 100 percent committed to what you’re doing — and you’re loving it — the money is an afterthought.
2. She Learned Financial Responsibility From Experience
Williams shared about her first financial lessons that shaped how she manages money today.
“Early on, I learned about money,” said Williams. “From since I was a teenager, I’ve made every financial decision in my life and I’ve had to learn how to make good ones and how to make bad ones, which I think helps you make better ones.”
As many entrepreneurs can attest to, it’s often the poor choices that you learn the most from. While you’re probably not cashing million dollar checks like Williams – you do have resources like NerdWallet and LearnVest that can help you make better financial choices and guide you through some of the more complex issues.
3. She Uses Her Fortune for Good
Even though the paycheck is an afterthought, Williams is also focused on opening the door for the next person, especially, for future women. “You sacrifice so much, just as much as the guy next to me that’s training every day, but he gets to be paid more. How do you explain that?”
She references the legacy left by Billie Jean King, one of the world’s greatest professional tennis players, and her fight for gender equality on the court.
“Honestly at the end of the day if I can open the door for the next person, that means a lot to me too. Hopefully they’ll be able to do better than me. Not everyone has an opportunity and I’m happy to have that opportunity.”
As Williams notes, “it’s a work in progress and we continue to fight the good fight.”