JMT Certified

Choices

What happened to the superb owl?

This month has seen several world ranking events televised.  I suspect my preference isn’t the most popular around the world, or even in my household.  However, it does have some lessons we can learn from.  

One of the biggest events in the USA was screened this week, and that was the 53rd Super Bowl (apparently using the Roman numerals LIII gives it even more gravitas). Apparently, it wasn’t the best spectacle as super bowls go: the half time entertainment was disappointing and the adverts weren’t as good as they usually are. Oh, and the football wasn’t very remarkable either.

My preference this week, however, is to watch the World Grand Prix.  Oh, you’ve not heard of it?  No surprise really since it’s a snooker tournament, which has something of a “niche” following.  My second preference is to catch some of the 6 nations rugby tournament.  

Whatever your preference, whether it is sports, or perhaps the creative arts, or some other expression of skill and achievement, they all have some lessons available for us to learn about choices.  

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin.

~ quoted by Malcolm Gladwell

Apparently, most snooker pros practice for 5-6 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week, and even then only the best make it to the top. In other words, they treat it as a full-time job which, of course, it is (or should be if they want to make a living out of it).  If you’ve not already started before you’re in your teens then you won’t go far. 

There is a similar story for most other activities that we carry through into a career in adult life, including American Football, Rugby, musical performers.  Strangely, the same is also true in engineering, in medicine, in dentistry, in accountancy, and many other professions.  

There is an often quoted benchmark that to become great (or more accurately, to become an ‘outlier’) you need at least 10,000 hours of practice.  To put that into context, that’s 4 hours a day, for 5 days a week, for 50 weeks a year, for 10 years.   You also need a healthy dose of talent and a consuming interest in the activity to carry you through endless hours of practice.  That’s a choice.  I guess that makes some people world class experts at computer games or Netflix, and other people world class experts at snooker, or American football.

“There is a choice you have to make in everything you do.  So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

~ John Wooden

It has been observed that after a concert someone said to the concert performer “I would love to play like you”, to which the answer was “No you wouldn’t.  You wouldn’t really want to put in the endless hours of practice and preparation needed to play like me and perform at this level.”  It’s also been said that: “It takes hours and hours of practice to make this look so easy, natural, and unrehearsed.”

John Maxwell recounts the story in “Leadership Gold” about a plane he was travelling in as it was coming in to land.  All of a sudden it hit an air pocket and plummeted towards the ground, whereupon the pilot immediately went into action to push the throttle forward and pull the joystick back to bring the plane up to avoid ploughing into the runway.  Apparently, when asked the question “When did you make the decision to put the plane back in the air?” the pilot answered: “Fifteen years ago.”  He had been trained for exactly this scenario and had already made and learned the choices that he would make in these circumstances, and practiced them for hours.  

This beings me to our life sentence – both yours and mine.  As we go through life we all face choices all along the way.  For some those choices are which educational establishment to attend (which high school / which university), for some it is which friends to hang about with, and for some it is which hobby they will start to pursue as an “obsession” as other people might call it.  

We can look back on the journey that our life has taken to date and probably see the key choices that have brought to where we are now. We can see where this choice brought a great outcome, and this choice brought an okay outcome, and this other choice brought a poor outcome.  

In the film Alice in Wonderland there comes a time when Alice approaches a crossroads.  Happily, Alice sees a Cheshire cat nearby and decides to ask for directions. “Which road should I take?” asks Alice.  In reply, the cat asks her: “Where are you going?”, to which, Alice replies: “I don’t know.” “Then it doesn’t matter which road you take,” concludes the cat.

When my days draw to a close I will leave behind my Life Sentence.  That’s the sentence that others will remember about me when they reminisce and say: “Do you remember Roger Fairhead?  You know, the guy that … … …”

We can choose.  We will make choices every day that will have an impact on what people will remember.  We can decide to choose wisely.  We can choose.  

In Leadership Gold John Maxwell goes on to explain how he realised three things, and we would do well to consider these as we consider how we would like our life sentence to turn out:

My past choices inform me where my strengths and weaknesses lie, where my preferences lie, and where my challenges lie.  We can’t change where we are today, and we can’t necessarily change what goes on around us and our circumstances.  However, we can choose either to be a victim of our circumstances or to be a victor over our circumstances, by the choices we go on to make from today.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

~ J K Rowling

Although we may wish for all of choices to be obvious and that we are able to have all necessary facts available to make a properly informed decision, however it turns out that life isn’t always that easy.  Sometimes the facts are veiled and other times the right decision leads us to somewhere we don’t really want to go.  We can choose to do the right thing, or not.

“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”

~ Pat Riley

Some choices are pretty unremarkable.  Whether to have coffee or tea during my break; whether to wear black socks or grey.  There are other choices that will have a significant role to play and will change our direction and our future.  In between there are lots and lots of daily choices that will move us a little bit this way or a little bit that way.  For these, the result will be the combined effect of a series of these smaller choices.  Looking at our life sentence so far, which direction have those choices taken us, and which direction are those choices in the future going to take us?

Once you choose, you become a servant of that choice.  You must deal with its consequences, for better or for worse.”

~ John Maxwell

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.