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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sport is Life: Focus

Family –

As we continue our mini-series on “Sport is Life” I want you to understand that these ideas are merely my own personal observations. These are things I have experienced as an athlete, business professional and now as a coach/mentor/educator. Your experiences may be different… but then again maybe not.

Here goes…

Let’s examine our first intangible – Focus. If you clicked on the link of the highlighted word in the intro blog post you saw Focus defined as: “a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity.” Seems pretty straight forward right? 

Let’s probe a little deeper into the definition.

From childhood we were expected to “pay attention” and “focus” during class. Not doing so came with serious reprimand or a trip to the principal’s office if we continued to be disruptive. Obviously, some classes were easier to pay attention in since we either enjoyed the subject or liked the teacher. The same held true as we got older and participated in sports maybe at the junior high or high school level. If we weren’t focused and getting the job done in practice or during a workout our coaches added a little “incentive” to get us going.

At some point sport took on its own identity and required a specific level of “focus” that many of us had never seen. We began to understand what it took to be successful and further what our coaches expected from us as athletes, students and members of the community. We took on a whole new level of responsibility in sport. We learned everything there was to know about our sport, our opponent how to effectively prepare and how to capitalize on every weakness to give our team an advantage. Ultimately we wanted to win… and winning required sacrifice.

We've learned valuable life lessons
through sport that apply in our
adult lives today.
This whole being focused thing commanded something that was a bit more challenging for a young person…discipline. I’ve heard discipline defined as “doing what you should do, when you should do it, whether you like or not.” Between me and you I can honestly say there were many things in athletics that I didn’t like… specifically the grueling workouts. Of course the games were fun… but the suffering it took to get to the games at times seemed insurmountable.  Ugh! 

Nevertheless we continued to push ourselves through those times and learned that in order to get to the fun we would sometimes have to endure some occasional discomfort and pain… we learned “life lessons” through sport without even knowing it. Wow… what a concept – there must be more to sport than just winning and losing!

Let’s fast forward to the end of our playing days and catapult ourselves into the “real world” that many of us have come to know as Corporate America. What do you think would be a key ingredient in being successful? Yup…you guessed it – Focus!

Since I’ve been in sales most of my life, let’s use sales as our medium of explanation.  As a salesperson you need to focus on your plan of attack.  The institution of sales embodies many other key characteristics that we find in sport. For example: fearlessness, determination, motivation, heart and teamwork are all character qualities that coaches love to see in athletes.  Hmmmmm….. Just so happens that national sales managers love to see those same character traits in the salespeople they hire. What a concept! Again sport has become the conduit for learning skills to be later drawn from in life!

In my humble, yet assertive opinion there are five (5) simple questions that should be asked with respect to narrowing one's focus on the desired success track:

1.      What makes you different from everyone else out there? I’m special because…..find, use it, own it!
2.     Who is the competition and what do they do well? Know everything there is to know about them – trust me, they know who you are!
3.     What about the product or service gives you an edge on the competition? What are the bells and whistles (key components)… remember to sell the sizzle… not the steak. Passion sells!
4.     Do you know everything there is to know about your product or service? Clients have different hot buttons (needs) and this will require you to know every intricate detail about what you do – knowledge IS power!
5.     To reiterate the definition of focus – are you centered on “activities” that will yield the results you want? Are you coming to work to work or are you coming to work to wait? Someone is making it happen…why shouldn’t it be you?

Geez…. Sounds eerily similar to those same steps we took in our preparation for a game against an opponent doesn’t it? The many hours of practice, training and studying had a specific purpose with a desired outcome…to WIN.

I’ve heard it said, “It’s impossible to plant an orange seed and grow an apple tree.” With that same thought in mind, it’s impossible to have a definitive plan for success, work that plan and fail. As simplistic as it may sound everything we needed to learn about life we learned in sport… ultimately because – Sport is Life.

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