Playing the Ultimate Game

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Leaderonomics

18-08-2017

6 min read

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Sport has always been a love for me – from being a youth player and weekend warrior to this day while also being involved in the business of sports and community building.

I’ve played the game, been a coach, a referee, an administrator, a fan and everything in between.

Whichever sport it was, the part that I always enjoyed the most was simply figuring out the game.

What I have always found consistent was how each game paralleled life and leadership experiences.

Discovering myself on the pitch or court allowed me to understand myself in life and in business.

In a lot of ways, it was a laboratory for testing and stretching out approaches that were applicable outside the game.

Competition and drive are the basics, but there are infinite nuances similar to those needed on the court or field. Focus, preparation, humility, practice, execution, winning, timing, rest, recovery, offence and defence.

In a tough economy, skills and disciplines like these are even more important – choosing whether it’s the time to make a play or to step back and sharpen the saw.

Applying these lessons to the sport of business has helped me hone my skills in the ultimate game of life.

 

Here are a few that I continue to learn:

Know your position/role

Whether you are part of a corporate team or leading a start-up, understanding your position is fundamental.

Are you the superstar, coach, role player, manager? Where do you add the most value? What is most needed? Towards what are you most naturally inclined?

In high school, I played on the basketball and volleyball teams. I was a decent enough player in those sports for the athletic director to ask me to try out for the football team as well.

Prior to that, the zenith of my football career was playing barefoot in the parking lot near our home with the kids in the neighbourhood where the goal posts were stacks of our slippers.

I was clearly unprepared and, when asked what position I played, I unwittingly offered up myself as a striker.

I was always a play-maker for others so this was not the right move. I couldn’t keep up with the drills, and felt out of place. I performed about as terribly as you would expect.

Being unprepared was one thing, but specifically trying out for that position that didn’t play to my strengths sealed my fate.

 

Years later, the first corporate job I had was as a financial data analyst for Motorola in its heyday. It was long hours crunching data and staring at spreadsheets.

It wasn’t long before my friends would ask me for help on Microsoft Excel.

I was the Excel guy – how did this happen? Looking back, I couldn’t imagine a position less suitable for me.

Though I performed well at the job, it didn’t come naturally to me nor was I was inclined towards thousands of rows of numbers and formulae.

In sports, genetic gifts by no means guarantee success. You may not have the size and speed but you can work hard to compensate and have a positive impact on the game.

Similarly, you may be built like a Greek god but, no matter how hard you work, your physical abilities may have a ceiling.

So, who are you and what are your natural inclinations and abilities? How do I add value to my team and to the business?

If you’re feeling stuck, maybe you need to consider how you can affect the game from a different position. Maybe you’re more of a strategist and playmaker and less of a striker out in the field acquiring customers.

Maybe you’re a role player best suited to support the leader. Whatever your position, there is likely one that suits you naturally better than the others. Knowing it will increase your value and will make you a lot happier as well.

Compete outside your comfort zone

Growth and improvement are critical in getting results and fulfilment. You do not improve without adding to your game.

Nor do you improve by playing the same competition over and over. When it comes to business and professional development, the effects are exponential.

Exposure to how the game is played and how to best approach the game – everything from strategies and practice to your attitude on the court and the concept of competition itself; you can see this everywhere in sports.

Whether it’s Malaysian-born medalled athletes training in the United States and the United Kingdom, or youth training camps with Premier League teams or pro level basketball summer camps.

You cannot elevate your standards if you do not expose yourself to them. In business and corporate life, this can come in the form of meeting someone from a different company, industry or country.

It can be through audiobooks, TED Talks or YouTube tutorials.

It can be partnering with the best brand in the industry. It can be anything, as long as you are fully emerging yourself in that elevated standard and seeking to take yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Put yourself out there and hold yourself to that standard. Try, inevitably fail, rinse and repeat. Make that cold call. Have that tough conversation with your superior. Fire a client. Find a mentor. DM that industry leader on Instagram and ask how you can help.

Whatever it is that elevates you, do it. Only then do we start to achieve change for ourselves and our business.

Pacing

Know where you are in the game. In sports, this is a big part of the coach’s job, but the best players can feel their way through it.

In basketball, unless you are built specifically for it, you don’t full court defensive press the entire game. In a marathon, you don’t sprint for 42km.

Know when to attack. Know when the competition is vulnerable. Know when to get off the field and get in the gym and hone your craft.

Sometimes you need to go for that coffee with that ex-colleague to get some perspective. Sometimes you need to pick up that Tony Robbins book or put on that Tim Ferris podcast.

Sometimes you need to pivot the business. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone right now and make that call. Sometimes you need to just put your head down and get to work.

It’s a marathon and you need to know your pacing.

 

Go for Gold

Finally, play the game with joy and passion. And this isn’t a conversation about finding your passion and how. Nor is it about passion as being necessary to success.

One of pro tennis’ current rising stars, Nick Kyrgios, is one of the top 20 players in the world and yet is infamously known for his disliking of the sport in which he is so talented.

Some have attributed to his youth, but even Serena Williams has expressed in the past that she doesn’t know how she became an athlete and tolerates tennis only because it allows her to pursue things she loves.

So, we know you can be a success even without passion.

That said, have passion in whatever you are doing in the moment.

And stay in the moment – it will give you the energy you need to give your best self to whatever you are giving yourself to.

Kobe Bryant recently talked about how even though he didn’t like geometry class, he stayed focused on the lesson and present in the moment as a form of practice and creating that habit that he could transfer onto the basketball court.

Instead of passion, look for energy. Get outside your head and move. Exercise, work out, walk, play basketball, play dodgeball, meet new people.

You don’t have to read the tenth article on your Facebook feed that tells you that getting active is good for you.

It increases your energy which helps you optimise your output. Output, not results. Lots of output is required for you to hit the positive results you want in life. Things will not go well.

You will put in a lot of energy and effort and passion and heart and you will not get the result you want.

But if you and your body have the energy to continue putting out into the world, chances are much better that you’ll get the result you wanted. Or, even more.

There are sprints of joy and accomplishments followed by spurts of exhaustion and setbacks. Still we run the marathon.

 

Rezhan Majid is CEO and Co-Founder of AirUpThere Sdn Bhd, whose mission is to unite through the love of sports and aims to be the leader in sports solutions in the region. To connect with him, email editor@leaderonomics.com

 

 

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