You will know by now that I find there’s a lot to learn from sportspeople, especially when it comes to high performance.
They are way way ahead of us when it comes to self-management, particularly self-management of what goes on between the ears.
I first noticed this years ago…
I used to go to football matches with my Dad when it was real. Glasgow. 1976. Not a prawn sandwich in sight.
The talented striker would approach the opposition goal with the ball, trying to find a great scoring opportunity. Sometimes he would score a goal and of course he’s a hero.
But the nature of the game is that the great opportunity often cannot be created and the striker would often end up being dispossessed or some other form of fizzling out would occur. And for this there’d be much tutting from his own fans. Or some other form of chastisement more suited to Glasgow in the 70s.
Whereas the less talented striker…
…can and does avoid this chastisement by taking his (poor) chance as soon as it presents itself with the predictable outcome – the ball ends up in the back row of the stand. But the crowd love him for trying. And no chastisement does he get.
The difference is that the best players are being true to their talent…
They are looking for the opportunity that represents the greatest chance of scoring a goal. They are not playing to the crowd. They are playing to their talent.
The price for this is that often they will be frustrated and all their efforts will come to nothing. And for this they will get no sympathy from the crowd.
I saw a documentary…
…on the telly where Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, said that top players (as judged by their performance on the training ground) are ten-a-penny. But he goes on to say that the player who is true to his talent and looks for the best opportunity to score and in so doing runs the risk of appearing a fool in front of 70,000 people and, when this happens, can pick himself up and continue as if nothing has happened, rather than mentally disappearing for a minute, an hour, a game, a season…that player is truly rare and worth a fortune.
And that’s the player who wins Player of the Year. And that’s high performance that is.
Now the enlightened fan can see if a player is being true to his talent or not.
But for most of us…
…in our work, being true to our talent is not so easily observed by others. It’s often between us and our conscience.
And it can be tempting to not be true to our talent, because being true involves real work. It takes effort to make the most of a talent. Kicking the ball into the back of the stand is easy. It’s no coincidence that the talented people you have heard of are often the ones who work the hardest.
Only we will know if we are being true to our talent…
And we must be, because if we aren’t true to our talent, we effectively don’t have it. And that’s a real shame.