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LESSONS FROM THE PITCH

THOUGHTS

LESSONS FROM THE PITCH

Scott Peltin

This year has been a sport fan’s dream as the Winter Olympics went off without a hitch in Sochi; the World Cup demonstrated amazing feats of fitness and finesse as Germany won its 4th world cup; tennis fans saw Rafael Nadal grit out a record 9th French Open title and Novak Djokovic won a thrilling 5-setter beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon; and in golf Martin Kaymer led the US Open from start to finish and Rory McIlroy did the same at the British Open, both demonstrating nerves of steel. From a Tignum perspective, every single one of these examples provides us with some great learnings that we can apply to our business and professional lives. 

In Sochi, security was stretched and logistics were greatly challenged, but the IOC leadership team managed to execute a brilliant XXII Olympic Winter Games. When you think of the games, you probably think of the athletes. But from a Tignum perspective, we focused on the preparation of the IOC leadership team, their Sustainable High Performance, and how they could best support these games with the energy and mindset that the games demanded. The takeaway lesson here is that it is easy to focus on the logistics of a big event or challenge you are facing, but in the end the true execution will be led and executed by human beings and their Sustainable High Performance is a critical factor in whether they win or lose. 

In Brazil, the German National team put on a football (soccer) demonstration that was chilling in its energy and execution. This wasn’t by chance as the team was once again assisted in their preparation by our performance partners, EXOS. On the pitch the team made winning look easy, but this was only because the mindset approach the team employed was to focus on winning every day in practice and then let the games take care of themselves. In an interview in the NY Times (http://nyti.ms/W93fYo), EXOS founder Mark Verstegen said that the German players covered 113.8 km (about 71 miles) on average as a team. In the quarterfinals against France, the German players ran 7.5 km (4.6 miles) more as a team than the French side. This was the equivalent of having an additional 3/4 of a player more on the pitch. The takeaway lesson here is that when you focus on taking care of today, you minimize the mental drama, you purposefully manage the pressure, and you control the controllable, then you incrementally improve your long term outcomes. Even more powerful - in a difficult business environment where it has been cut, cut, cut - how valuable would an extra person be on your team? This is the advantage of Sustainable High Performance, and like the German National Team, it’s a multiplier that pays for itself many times over. 

In tennis, how does a Rafael Nadal win 9 French Open titles at the most grueling and mentally/physically demanding grand slam tournament? Similarly, how did Novak Djokovic come back and regain his greatness at Wimbledon to overcome one of the game’s greatest players ever? For both of these guys, it was clear that the biggest challenge they had to overcome was their own inner dialogue, their own self-doubt, and their own ability to concentrate when it was most important. The lesson here is that everyone is human - even the sports superstars we watch on TV. Even these giants must battle with their own self-talk and constantly reframe their inner dialogue to best serve their deepest intentions. 

Finally, when you look at Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, you see a similar path and a similar lesson. Both guys had achieved #1 one in the world, won a major, and then experienced a fall from the top. There is nothing in sports that is more demoralizing but also more human than that. Often, one of the causes is that the brain sabotages your performance as it tries to demonstrate to you that you really aren’t as good as others had said you were. Many pro athletes deal with this type of setback by meticulously re-creating a new swing (much more tangible than working on a mindset) or they blame their fall on an injury. Both of these guys did it the hard way with no excuses. They went back to the drawing board, they set a clear vision for themselves at their full potential, and then they practiced their Performance Mindset strategies every day until they paid off. When Martin Kaymer won the US Open, he shared that it had been a 3 year uphill climb and this was the pinnacle of daily work and daily affirmations for his mindset. The lesson here is that there are very few (if any) overnight successes. The Performance Mindset is always a work in progress but daily practice and a clear vision of success will pay off. In fact, nobody develops a true Performance Mindset with the mental toughness and emotional resiliency of a champion without failure, without uphill battles, and without consistent work. 

As I look back on great champions and powerful lessons, 2014 will stand out as a special year. Of course, these lessons are only as valuable as the way you apply them. I hope these lessons can help you create the Sustainable High Performance you want, both at work and away from work. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.