Football season is in full swing, and for those of us who care, it is the best time of the year. This year, as I watched training camp and pre-season coverage, I noticed something. It was most certainly not new, just the first time I really heard it this way. There was a common thread in just about all of the players’ interviews. Sure, they all want to win. They are all hopeful about the changes made in the offseason, and each feels endlessly optimistic about their changes to be successful. But none of those things were interesting to me. After all, I root for a team that has had more scandals than playoff appearances in the last 20 years. What struck me the most about what these players said was this: they were all obsessed with the idea of improvement. Nearly every player in nearly every interview talked about getting better. These guys are the best in the world at what they do, and all they can talk about is getting better. So, who cares, right? These guys are paid millions of dollars and they should be the best, yes? Consider this: only a small percentage of kids who play football in high school make it to a professional league. So we are talking about the elite of the elite—better than anyone else who plays the game—and every one of them is still focused on getting better.
No matter how much money they make or how rich the league is, the commitment to their own growth is impressive. In fact, when I think about, it isn’t just football players who hold this distinction to be inclined toward growth. I hear the same from all professional athletes. I really believe this is more than lip service, more than just what they have to do to keep their jobs, but a real culture within each of their sports.
I started thinking about how the culture of improvement in sports might translate into the regular world—for those of us who do not make millions. Imagine what I could accomplish with that mindset. Instead of spending any energy making excuses about things that I struggle with, I may instead start finding resources that might help me improve in those areas. In the areas that I am strong, why not get even better to aim for being the best?
Recently, I spoke with two former colleagues whose circumstances could not have been on further ends of the spectrum. Both worked in a high profile management position but only one was in an environment where her growth was treated as a priority. She received coaching, resources, support, and was encouraged to be better. In the end, she exceeded her own expectations. The other received none of that. No surprise that the former is more satisfied with her career, and likely makes the most impact.
I may not be working for a multi-million dollar bonus or a championship but this mindset of improvement resonates with me. It inspires me to have a relentless focus on improvement for results, so that I am always focusing on getting better and never being satisfied with having arrived at some mediocre destination that I deem “enough.” Adopting a similar mindset could likely carry me to my personal best in the work that I do. Only thing I have to lose is the opportunity.
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