04 Aug What Soccer Can Teach You About Success
The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off June 12th in Brazil. And for the month that followed, die-hard football fans and casual soccer fans from around the world were captivated by the Beautiful Game. Sunday’s finale was no different. Germany, who many consider the best team in the world, squared off against Argentina and Lionel Messi, largely considered the best player in the world. In case you missed it, Germany won. The better team won. The spectacle of this year’s World Cup, the shocks and disappointments, the nail-biting twists, all made me consider the sport’s parallels with success.
The World Cup is long over (and forgotten by casual fans), but the lessons to be learned from The Beautiful Game will endure.
As in soccer, the success or failure of an individual or company is dependent on many variables. Some of which can be controlled. Others, not so much. Even if things don’t go your way, there are things you have to have in order to give yourself the best chance to win. Continue reading to learn what soccer can teach you about success.
Any businessperson will tell you that a solid team is necessary for output, quality, and cohesion, and essential to fulfilling a company’s mission. You need everyone doing their part, in their area of expertise, to move the organization closer to its goals. In soccer, you need management to put together the right players, the coach to capitalize on individual player strengths, the captain to set the example by doing the right things and, of course, perform at a high level, while the other players shine in their respective positions and roles. The same is true in business: the CEO has to create the vision, managers have to lead, and employees and partners have to bring their best effort to every project. You can’t achieve success alone. It takes a team.
Once an organization has the right pieces in place, they have to get about the business of achieving their goal. The way to make that happen is with a well-thought out and executed strategy. Think about how awesome it would have been for Netherland’s coach Van Gaal to make that gutsy move only to have his goalie fail to perform. Not so much, right? Every company has to determine how it can best meet its key objectives while also focusing on other goals such as expanding its target market, becoming environmentally friendly, increasing profits, etc. If the goal is to increase brand awareness and boosting its social media presence, the company’s decision makers will be able to eliminate most (if not all) options that don’t involve mobile and online exposure. Having a strategy saves time and money. It forces everyone involved to focus. And when done right, you win.
We’ve all heard that “practice makes perfect”. Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers suggested that dedicating 10,000 hours to something greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll find success in it. Although his argument has been refuted, the concept has resonated with millions. Let’s take Germany’s football talent production line. Following an embarrassing defeat at Euro 2000, they set out to find and nurture the most gifted and talented football players in the country. These young players were taken in and trained as world class athletes. They were steadily improving and tweaking their game until they hit their stride. And we see how that is paying off. Entrepreneurs and other professionals can certainly relate to the seemingly mass of failures that occur when first setting out to pursue their ambitions. Whether it’s hiring the wrong people or wasting money on an ill-advised marketing campaign. There’s no doubt that more can be learned in failure than in success. Once you see where you’re at, you can better determine how far you still need to go. You can tweak your efforts and improve towards a winning formula.
Sometimes, no matter how great we are or how much we prepare, we lose. It can be devastating and embarrassing, ie. Brazil’s lost to Germany. Let’s take another look at Germany’s retooling of its strategy to bolster its position among soccer’s elite: It took losing at Euro 2000 to bring about that change. When suffering these setbacks, it’s important to reflect on what role you played and how you can use it to your advantage in the future. What’s been beneficial for me is something I learned from Uncle Rush: you are only in control of your efforts, not the results.
In knock out play, matches consist of 90 minutes of regulation, 30 minutes of extra time (if there is a tie), then heads to penalty kicks, if necessary. If a team is down early, there is no reason to fret (unless it’s Brazil vs Germany). There is plenty of time remaining to tie things up and even comeback to win. It’s the same in business. Being down early (or at all) doesn’t mean that all is lost. Maintain focus and press forward. Quitting is the only way you truly fail, right? Greatness takes time.
In life, sports, and business we’re all on a mission to win. The satisfaction that comes with being the best is priceless. To know that you endured when others quit and were victorious where others failed is remarkable. Regardless of your motivations – the recognition, the money, the lifestyle – you are driven to be great. With teamwork, strategy, practice, resilience, and patience, you can achieve your goal on and off the field. Just look at Germany.
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