I played sports all my life and for the most part I thought my natural athletic ability was my key to success. I was quicker, faster or stronger than my opponents. As I grew older and faced bigger, faster and stronger competition I realized how positioning, technique and the mental game were more important than pure athleticism in competing and winning.
Today, when I watch sports, I look for the coach and team that utilizes positioning to their advantage and that’s the team I put my money on. The key to positioning in sports is spacing. How much room does a team allow its players to react on offense or defense? That spacing creates more options for success.
In our work lives are we creating enough spacing to react to opportunities? Sometimes we limit ourselves to only one option for success. Sometimes we won’t try a new assignment or job out of fear we don’t have the experience for it. What we don’t realize is most skills today are easily transferable to other disciplines. For example, preparing budgets of your monthly bills is akin to preparing budgets for a company. And if you are a Human Resource professional, there is nothing that says you can’t move to the budget department if the opportunity arises. Don’t limit yourself.
As we all know, most of us are not working in our college majors (if we have one) anyway. What we all bring to the table is the willingness to learn new things and, most importantly, the fortitude to work at something until we perfect it. You know, the main reason I loved my time in the Army was because it kept me doing and learning different jobs. I was never allowed to get bored or complacent. I had good spacing.
I know the civilian sector, unfortunately, doesn’t have the career management guidelines afforded an Army officer, but we can and must commit to providing that for ourselves. We must always be looking for the next pass, the next assist, the next space, the next opportunity. You cannot get complacent and satisfied with where you are now. There is more out there and you deserve more.
When I was young I had a conversation with a school counselor about what I wanted to do with my life. I was throwing out different disciplines like lawyer, doctor and actor. I was really all over the place. He listened intently. I was expecting him to come back with that line “maybe you should concentrate on something a little less demanding”. But, to my surprise, he said “there is room at the top for anything you want to do”. Wow, what a concept! There is room for me, there is space for me! I already knew this because I had good parents who made me believe it first, but it was good to hear it again.
So that is my message for today, there is room and space for you for whatever you want to do. You just have to do it. Here are my steps:
- Learn the game – whether you are in education, business, the military or any discipline, learn the keys to success in that field.
- Know your strengths – we all bring our special DNA to any situation. That is your strength. Find out what your strengths are. Then develop them to the maximum. Some people spend all their time trying to hide their weaknesses. That is too exhausting. Multiplying your strengths is much more fun and rewarding.
- Develop and commit to your strategy – Everyone needs some kind of strategic plan (goals) for their life. It needs to be a short, medium and a long term strategy. Short means one year. Medium is one to three years and long is three to five. Don’t worry about anything after that. It will change anyway once you accomplish your short and medium goals.
- Practice – The key to getting better at anything is practice. I only know one person who was ever born perfect, and he still had to spend over 30 years learning before he could fulfill his destiny. So practice at different things. Volunteer for different assignments. This is one thing that disheartens me about our young people today. They don’t spend enough time in extra-curricular activities and sometimes, extra-curricula’s are not even being offered. How are you going to learn what you like and are good at unless you try?
- The rest are self-explanatory…..meaning (I’m a little tired)
- Play your game
- Call time out when you need one
- Assess and make halftime (life) adjustments
- Write all this down especially your goals – This is so important I’ve got to describe this one. It’s alright to think something, but thinking is not commitment. When you write something down, it fixes it in your mind. You internalize it. It becomes a part of your body, your mind and your soul. So by writing your goals down, you have committed to the most important person, you.
- Win. Period.