7 Lessons from the Superbowl

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. You’ve got the hot wings, the dip and chips, and the Flatscreen TV. You’re ready to kick back and enjoy the Packers and Steelers in XLV. It’s great to root for winners on the field. But as you do consider these tips for a post-game plan to post some wins in your own career.

1. What’s your Super Bowl? The dream of playing in the Super Bowl is a powerful one, driving players relentlessly through every game of each season. What dream can you affix in your mind, what place do you want to go to, what shining moment are you striving for? What’s something that will get you fired up to get out of bed early each morning?

2. Put in the time. Everyone likes to talk about their favorite star players and wear their jerseys during a winning season.  But few people take notice before they’re gridiron heroes: when they’re putting in the tough hours, practicing hard when no one’s watching, and persevering through slumps, injuries, and other setbacks. Realize that for pro football players—and for you—there is no such thing as an overnight success, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, it usually takes about 10 years.

3. Have a tantalizing talisman. The Super Bowl ring is the ultimate memento of an NFL career and symbol of success. The ring means more than its 5K worth of gold and diamonds; each ring tells the story of a team, a season, and a player.  Instead of waiting around for the company to give you a gold watch for your retirement decide upon your desirable talisman and affix a goal for achieving it. Put a pic of it on your desktop or Blackberry screen saver. Let it be known that you will obtain it if you achieve your goal. Maybe it’s a new wristwatch, diamond ring, pocket knife, or set of golf clubs. Whatever it is, consider getting it engraved, and you’ll not only have a nice symbol of your success to enjoy, but something you can pass on.

4. You might lose. Imagine slugging it out all season with the Super Bowl in sight then falling short like the Jets or the Bears this past season. Oh, the agony of defeat. And in the big game today someone must lose. Part of the appeal of the Super Bowl is watching the struggles of life play out on 52 inches of Hi Def. A dream will come true for some while for others it all comes crashing down. The fact that many of these players will start from scratch again next season is an inspiration for all of us to start anew tomorrow.

5. Get in the game. Over a 100 million people are expected to tune in to the Super Bowl. But only a few dozen at best will see time on the field. Those players will be the subject of comments and commentary from legions of spectators far and wide. In his famous In the Arena speech Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts.” Instead it’s the person who gets in the ring and takes his  lumps and comes back for more. Focus less on critiquing others and more on the steps you’re taking to be on top of your own game.

6. You might make a mistake. Immediately after the Super Bowl, everyone had an opinion on what the Steelers did wrong, or what the quarterback should have done differently, or who else should have done what.  The best lesson there is that you have to allow yourself to make mistakes of your own. Playing it safe won’t gain you much yardage.

7.  Plan your comeback. Those who didn’t make the Super Bowl are already making plans for next season. The coaches all make that clear in the post-game press briefings. The defeated Steelers are plotting a return to the Super Bowl and the victorious Packers are planning to avoid the perils of complacency. So how about you? Ready to stage your own comeback?

Success and Regret

April 2, 2010

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Success and Regret

Reflecting on the Olympics I’m struck by how many silver medalists dispIay sadness, frustration, and even anger at getting silver. We saw Yevgeny Plushenko’s visible frustration on the podium, and the U.S. women’s hockey team in tears as they consoled one another for their “loss.” For athletes of some countries, anything less than gold can actually mean negative repercussions for the athlete’s family.

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less Barry Schwartz researched the psychology of satisfaction and regret, and points out that Olympic bronze medalists are typically happier than silver medalists with the latter often experiencing life-long remorse.  “If only I had done this, if I hadn’t done that.”

I asked Paul Kingsman, a professional speaker and Olympic bronze medalist about this and he agreed. “Whereas the bronze medalist has the appreciation of avoiding loss, the silver medalist tends to focus on what they feel they lost by not being one place better,” Kingsman says. “The closeness of the downside is more significant to the bronze medalist and tends to outweigh the potential thoughts of ‘woulda, coulda shoulda’ that the silver medalist might be feeling.”

Kingsman talks about how he trained as a competitive swimmer not to beat others, but to win by competing against himself. “We took the view that the objective was to swim two minutes; I had no guarantee that two minutes would be fast enough to win,” Kingsman says. “But I hit my time and on the day, it was good enough for a medal.” As it turned out, he nabbed that medal by only four one-hundredths of a second!

As we wrap up watching the Olympics it’s a good time to think about what we want to excel in. But as we do it’s important to note that winning–be it gold, silver, or bronze–involves factors that are often out of our control. Teddy Roosevelt said that what really counts is to be in the arena. Only then do you have a chance at winning anything.