“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”– Charles Darwin
With the start of the 2021-2022 football pre-season, sports news is flooded with stories of players waiting to finalize their contract extensions or get picked up by a new team. Through all this noise and uncertainty pro-athletes need to focus on being best at what they do and not get tied to one location or team. And, if they are smart, they are thinking ahead and planning for what comes next for them once their football career is over.
Now I am not, and never was at any level, a pro athlete but I find this mindset intriguing. Too often business professionals find themselves stuck in a position without the ability to advance, uninspired and “retired in place.” They sometimes value loyalty to the current boss or position over focusing on the long-term career goals and taking steps to achieve them. Another roadblock to career success for some is failure to take responsibility for their own career and ask for what they need. Business professionals can certainly take a page out of the pro sports playbook to move beyond these challenges.
Just as with pro sports, there are those in business who seem to have broken the code for success both personally and professionally. Maybe those that succeed in pro sports and in business share a mindset that sets them apart? I once worked with a senior business executive who said he always keeps things simple and thinks in terms of three because it is an easy number of things to remember. Following that concept, I offer three key ingredients that make up this winning mindset:
1. Define success. Everyone has their own definition of success. Whatever your definition is you can’t expect it to just happen. It takes focus, planning, energy and action to make success a reality. You also must stay true to your own definition of success and your own values; not let others define success for you.
2. Invest in yourself. Even when an athlete or businessperson has natural talents and abilities, they must invest time and energy in those abilities to nurture them and fully realize their potential. This may involve having a personal coach or trainer, dedicating time to honing your talents and abilities, or investing in education. Often, we also must make investments to acquire skills or knowledge that we don’t have naturally to achieve our future goals.
3. Perspective. Having a healthy perspective of your own capabilities and keeping your overall goal in mind can help when there are apparent setbacks (e.g., you get traded or fired). Evaluate your situation to understand how it impacts your overall goals and definition of success and make necessary adjustments to get back on track. We are not defined by the position we hold, even though sometimes we may feel like that is true.
In reflecting on my successful career, it is easy to see where I could have been more successful if I had focused on these three concepts. For example, we went through a reorganization (which happens frequently in business), and while I was focusing on figuring out my new role and how to perform it well, I also could have been evaluating my situation against my overall career plan and making necessary adjustments. Instead, I spent longer than I should have in a role that took me down a side path from where I was headed. I eventually found my way back to the main path, but I may have gotten back on track much sooner if I had the perspective of how the situation was affecting my overall goals.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Like the coach who gets fired from a team because they lost a few games who then goes to another team where they become champions, keeping your definition of success in mind, investing in yourself, and maintaining a healthy perspective will keep you on track to be a champion in achieving your own goals.
At Seasons Leadership, we believe strongly in leaders taking charge of their own growth and success. If you would like to learn more about the leadership skills we nurture and other topics, become a part of our community at www.seasonsleadership.com.
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