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Laws of the Jungle

The following is a near-transcript taken from the Process2Perform podcast S3E11...

Last year I created a webinar, the 'five shifts' that we can make with our aspiring athletes, musicians; basically anyone who is dealing with a skill based, repeatable, competitive endeavor. We are always looking for the simplest way to create change for the positive. In my experience as a participant in many highly competitive environments; the difference between the haves and the have-nots is mindset.

It's the old story about the lion; why is the lion the king of the jungle? The lion isn’t the biggest or the strongest, not with elephant and the tiger roaming around. The lion isn’t even the fastest cat in the jungle, cheetahs are remarkably faster.

So what makes the lion the king of the jungle? The two traits the lion has also make the biggest difference in our world. The first is mindset. The lion believes they are the kings of their domain. And the second is the reason why. Unlike the tiger, or the elephant, or even in most cases the cheetah – lions are pride animals. They rely on their inner circle for strength. They know that alone they are strong, but together they are impossibly dominant.

That’s how I want our athletes to feel. Alone they are strong, but they are not alone. They have their inner circle, they have their mentors. And these people are here to push them, to support them, to help them live the life of a lion. One thing that my inner circle has taught me is that there are three laws of the jungle we need to live by to become our best. I want to share them with you today. These rules are just as applicable to life as they are to athletics.

When you are fighting for your future, you will come across a handful of people in your field that are lions. They are smart, but not overwhelmingly smart. They are cunning, but nothing you haven’t seen before. But there is something different about them, and good fortune has taken notice. Here’s what those people already know that most of us have to learn.

Couple ground rules here – expectations are high, and like I have said before this is not for everyone. There are no right answers to this test, only what each individual is willing to commit to. I want to point out three laws of the jungle today that are absolutely necessary for success.

The first one is simple – keep your eyes up. Survey the landscape. Don’t be caught looking at the ground when life is right in front of you. We can make some sports connected comments about seeing the field, finding the spaces, bringing in all of the external information you can, instead of looking at the ball. But there’s more to this statement.

Know your market, understand your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis for your business. Know what the competition is doing; where, when and how. Keep working on you or your business, and make that the focus. But never miss an opportunity to pop your head up and see if the situation has changed. Life is more than capable of passing us by.

(Side note – I am not always a huge fan of using analogies to make associations with different environments with obvious similarities, especially when most people find it easiest to talk to athletes like all we can understand is the association between our sport and anything else.) I try not to do it, but I do want to highlight just how much your athletes can learn from competitive sports about the rest of the world. They are shades of grey and politics that can muddy the waters of anything we pour our souls into; that does not diminish the opportunity to improve and learn from these experiences.

Number two – fortune favors the bold. Or another way of thinking about it; those who hesitate are lost. Now let’s look at sports on this one. There are an absolute ton of kids who practice, who have great technique, who have personalities that every coach and teammate want to be around. And most of them fail. They fail because when the moment comes, and they have to deliver…they hesitate. These athletes don’t take the open look, they hitch before throwing the ball and miss the window. They don’t go for steal when all their cues said go for it.

There are so many of these athletes. They have the missing ingredient – confidence. They have put in the time, but maybe too many of their coaches restricted their inhibitions, or yelled at them for making the wrong decision. Time not spent stretching your limits is time wasted when it comes to sports.

In some team sports a lot of kids get down the road making the safe play to the star player. Then, at some point, the kid who has been taught to always take the shot without hesitation – they move on while the safe athletes stay put. We are assimilated into roles that are for the good of the scheme, and this is a necessary evil. But if assimilation occurs too early...tough for that athlete to break a bad habit that involves being more bold.

One of the most difficult lessons to learn in life for sure is take your shot, don’t hesitate. If you have put in the work, at some point you have to see if it is working. And you will never get a true feeling for the process if the output effort is not genuine.

I could be talking about anything; launching a new product or show, public speaking, moving up the corporate ladder. Those who play it safe rarely have the same story to tell as those who learned how to take the shot. It isn’t for everyone, like we discussed this isn’t for everyone. But for those who want to taste that rare air reserved for the best of the best; you have to be more excited to make it than you are afraid of failing.

That is the hardest one for athletes these days. Everyone wants the highlight video, but when it comes to shine time, not a lot of people have put in the time to execute on game day. That is one of the big reasons I got into this game; because cracking that code with athletes really is the final frontier. How to get them operationally fit upstairs so they can execute when it really matters.

The last one - we think we grow out of this, but really it can stay with every person out there through adulthood. Take the blame, or OWN YOUR ACTIONS…humans appear at times, to be natural excuse machines. We do this with everything in our lives that doesn’t go our way. It has been scientifically proven that humans are more likely to take credit for good outcomes and pass the buck on poor outcomes.

This is no way to go about your life. Think about the best people you know; not the ones with the most money necessarily, or the fastest car. The people who seem to have it figured out. What is the common thread that ties that group together? More than likely it is that they are willing to take control of all parts of their operation, whether it be work, relationships, etc.

There are levels to success for athletes just as there are for those sitting in regular jobs. Work/life balance decisions for example, might make you less financially successful but more satisfied with your overall life. Think about how that transitions to athletics – you can skip a training, or a weight session, in terms of something social that keeps you more balanced.

Now if you decide to make those choices, there is a good chance that over time, those decisions will catch up with you on the court or the field and you will set your ceiling. But as we have brought up before; all gas-no brakes is not a recipe for sustainable balance in your life. The important part is that you are comfortable with your decisions. If there is a cap on your ceiling, you have the maturity to follow the bread crumbs.

I have had a few good, aspiring athletes flat out tell me that they didn’t think 15 minutes of dedicated, focused individual work on their own stuff everyday was worth it – the effort wasn’t worth the result. I don’t argue with them, but when they aren’t making progress, it is our collective responsibility to follow the bread crumbs. It isn’t because coach doesn’t like you, or that you aren’t the best athlete on the field…it’s a number of things, including things outside the scope of your control. Their isn’t just one reason something good or bad is happening.

But here’s where we have to be at our best.

When something happens, good or bad, we have to always take a look at ourselves and figure out, objectively as we can, what we can do to improve that situation. That’s the only possible way forward. What choices or decisions could we make to create action towards a more positive result, or a longer-term positive result?

That’s all that really matters. Shed away all the blame and the frustration, and take responsibility for your decisions and your actions. We always talk about preparing with passion and assessing with objection. That is self-assessment. What can I do better to improve our outcome?

To recap. Keep your eyes up, be bold, and own your actions. No matter what you choose to do, be it a professional athlete, an entrepreneur, anywhere that creates market competition; these three simple laws of the jungle, if followed, will create the conditions for lasting success.

Keep working!


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