Vince Lombardi is one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time, and is still revered in many circles for is coaching approach. He never had a losing season, led the Green Bay Packers to three straight Superbowls, and five total, and the Superbowl trophy is named in his honor. He was way ahead of his time in how he treated players, supported gay rights, and made it clear his team didn’t have black and white players, everyone was Packer Green. Lombardi has had many a memorable quote. This is one of my favorites shown above.
The reason I loved books like Winning Ugly by tennis pro Brad Gilbert, The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallway is that they focused on total preparation for the task at hand. I have been around a bunch of famous athletes at times, and the only autograph I ever asked for was to have Brad Gilbert sign the copy of his book I bought. I loved it, and have recommended it to many of my players over the years. It was a thorough approach to getting everything ready in advance before a (tennis) tournament. Obviously I “translated” this advice to racquetball to fit my needs, but they are similar enough that it was an easy switch. The main message, just like Coach Lombardi’s quote indicates, is:
Pay attention to all of the things you can control, and make sure they are squared away. This will allow you to focus on the variables, like dealing with opponents or problems.
As a competitive racquetball player, I took this information to heart. I was always competing out of town, I had minimal resources at times (meaning buying a new racquet if I needed one, etc.) and I needed to make sure that I had what I needed to do my job. By taking care of all of the details ahead of time, down to an extra pair of shoelaces in case I break one while tying my shoes, I had the confidence that everything I could control, I did. I had racquets, gloves, a pair of eyewear and a back up pair, etc. I was the epitome of preparedness, and it took some of the stress away from the competitive environment. Winning matches to pay rent is stressful enough, I didn’t need to make things any tougher on myself.
Now as a business professional, I follow this same advice. I had an important call yesterday, and I did my preparation ahead of time. I spoke to a couple of people who knew this individual I was speaking with, and asked for pointers on things relevant to our upcoming discussion. I looked up information about the person I would be speaking with on LinkedIn and also discovered they had their own website as well. I took notes, I highlighted a few things I wanted to share, such as commonalities that we could discuss. I got dressed up and shaved for this video call; even though we were not meeting in person, I still wanted to make a good first impression. I wanted to show I took this person’s time seriously, and make sure that he knew I was genuinely interested in and appreciative of our time together.
By doing the work ahead of time, I had nothing to worry about during the call. I was able to be present and focused on the task at hand. I could be myself, and go with the flow. I didn’t have anything pulling at my attention, no concerns to persevere over during the call. I jotted down a few notes during the call, but that was it. I focused my attention on the person on the other end of the video call, relaxed, and did my job. By preparing ahead of time, doing the work in advance, I set myself up for success. It is the same thing as being prepared to some degree for a disaster scenario, such as a pandemic. We were ready long before this recent COVID stuff ever hit, and when sh*t got real, we had everything we needed already in place. It definitely muted most of our concerns, again, because we had prepared…
When I was younger, I quickly got good at “winging it” in school. I could skim over a textbook or listen during a lesson and just recall enough information to make it seem like I had done the homework. I even ad-libbed a speech in a Public Speaking class, no preparation whatsoever… It was scary, and I pulled it off to achieve the grade of a B. But I knew that if I could do that, I have no concerns ever about speaking in front of people ever again. But, there is NO REASON to operate in this manner because I can. I am far more functional and effective when I do the work ahead of time. I am not going to allow myself to be lazy and try to get away with it, I have more pride and self respect than that. I could have taken that Public Speaking class over in college if I blew it. In the real world, a do-over is not so easily issued…
Do the work, and you will be better for it. PREPARE, and let the rest fall into place.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.