I watched several of the NFL football playoff games this past weekend. Several things struck me as I watched that relate very well to success in work and in life. I thought I would share them.
First, one game was between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just a quick recap of the end of the game. Cincinnati was ahead by one point with less than two minutes remaining. They had the ball and could, theoretically, run out the clock and win the game. Three things happened that doomed the game for the Bengals: 1) they fumbled and Pittsburgh recovered the fumble, 2) a Cincinnati defender was penalized for a flagrant, illegal hit to the head to a Pittsburgh offensive receiver – it appeared that this illegal hit was connected to events earlier in the game and the defender was looking for a way to “pay back” the receiver, and 3) a Cincinnati player was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting of his “disappointment” for the prior penalty.
In another game, the Minnesota Vikings were attempting a field goal in the last seconds of its game with the Seattle Seahawks. Minnesota was trailing in the game 10-9 and the field goal would have won the game for them. The field goal attempt was short and seemingly automatic. The kicker missed the sure field goal and Seattle won the game.
These events brought to mind 4 key things that can guarantee failure in our work, in our life, and in our efforts in any activity:
- Don’t fumble – We must do the basics well or we’ll certainly taste defeat or failure. In the game noted, the only way Cincinnati could lose is if they failed to do the simple task of holding onto the ball. Yet, a loss of focus on the basics lost the day. We must understand what our basic success factors are. If we remind ourselves that nothing else is more important than “holding onto the ball,” we are likely to succeed. What are our basics that must be done before anything else? What represents the ball to us – that item or activity that we cannot drop? Knowing comes first, then protecting comes next.
- Personal agendas are incompatible with team goals – The Cincinnati player that committed the flagrant penalty was thinking only of his own selfish motives, not what was best for the team. Had he controlled his selfish attitude, his team was likely in a much better position to win. Likewise, we must always put the “team” first. When we begin thinking of what is best for ourselves, we put the success of the entire team at risk. The question on the table is this, “Is it better for you to gain revenge and win your personal battle or for you to put your personal agenda aside for the good of the team?” Hopefully, we all choose the latter, not the former.
- No matter what happens, we must keep our poise and remain calm – The Cincinnati player penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct lost his cool. He lost control of his emotions and actions. As a result, it cost his team the victory. In the same way, we must remember that negative things will happen to us. We make better decisions when we retain our composure and ensure that our thoughts are clear. Only then, can we make decisions that result in the best outcomes.
- Never take things for granted – No matter how near the end or how apparent the victory, it is not over until it is over. The game is not won until the clock reads 0:00 time remaining. Working to do our best work until the project or activity is completed is imperative for us to guarantee victory. Staying focused until the last box is checked will prevent that overconfidence that has doomed many projects.
So, have you ever experienced the taste of defeat when you failed to follow these four principles? Think about the devastating feeling is would be (or is, if your team hails from Cincinnati or Minneapolis) to suffer defeat when your expected victory as these teams experienced this past weekend. Now is the time to examine our own approach before time runs out with us on the losing end of the score
Thanks for all you do! Have a victorious day!