Practice for the Glory. I’m excited about the World Cup.

The video below is called Write the Future and its from Wieden and Kennedy , the advertising firm for Nike and I love it. It’s a must watch. It’s exciting and inspiring to me on several levels.

The first is that soccer is my first love for sports. I played it growing up and was relatively good. I played both offense and defense, but I was exceptionally creative on offense. For instance, during one game a ball was sent to my opponents end line and it was a race between the defender and me. I won the ball, but he positioned himself between me and the goal. We were also well in front of the other players so I had no one to pass off to. I decided to retreat with the ball toward the sideline. He gave chase as I forfeited territory. I sensed his aggressiveness and I baited him to my right shoulder knowing he was going to try to steal the ball. As he got close enough I put my foot on top of the ball, pivoted, spun, and turned back to the direction for which I just came. He wasn’t expecting this at all and his momentum took him by me. He was now out of the play as I moved toward the goal again. I passed to a teammate who put hard laces on the ball, but missed the shot. My creativity generated a scoring opportunity.

The second is that this clip shows elements of what I write about fairly often. Each of the featured stars envisions their expected fortunes when they make a play. Most of them are celebratory (except for Rooney’s first one) and this is in anticipation that they will be the hero or villain of the game. This is hindsight bias (discussed in my Why We Make Mistakes review ). They know that the outcome of the game will  be boiled down to a few major plays and they, being a great player, will make it.

Each of these players expects success – and the glory that accompanies it –  because he has readied himself for this situation his whole life (I say readied because each situation is unique). You can plan, but that only takes you so far. It’s important to know that the opponent has a say in the outcome, meaning the circumstances will be ever changing. Being able to adjust is paramount. And practice enables this capability.

As I note in my personal story above, I was presented with tough conditions for success. I had the ball near the end line with no teammates near and a defender well positioned. I learned tactics in my games in the past so I knew my options were limited. I decided to retreat rather than give up the ball in a forced attempt to score. I gauged my opponent’s response to that move and made a determination: he was over playing me. He should have allowed me to pass off and fortified their defensive wall. But since he played for the ball I relied on my ball handling skill to make him pay. My pivot move worked because I analyzed the setting, was able to quickly discern a decision tree of if this happens then I do this, and reflexively controlled the ball.

These situations don’t just happen in sports either. In business, quick thinkers tend to have a superior grasp of the situation and the facts. They’ve practiced in one form or another to be ready for this unique occasion. For instance, a few weeks back I was reading “The Corner Office ,” which is a weekly interview the NY Times does with a business leader, and the interviewee mentioned a program similar to one my uncle used to be involved with called Learn it Live (out of Rochester, NY). Sharon Napier described how she has her people interact with training personnel who are improv experts. They create a business setting and try to resolve it. The trainers react in all kinds of ways to what is being said. The back and forth is beneficial to the person being trained because it prepares them for anything. Throughout the session are coaching moments as well. Once the training is over the trained individual knows how to prepare and respond. Be a hero, not a villain.

All this practice is for the glory. I’m excited about the World Cup.


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