It’s true in sports, and it’s true at work. If you want to be great, become the cream of the crop, and rise to the top of your peer group, ultimately getting that promotion or bump in pay, be a student of the game.
Even if you’re not interested in that bump, promotion, or being known for your expertise, but long for a little more fun where you work, becoming a student of the game, in your own business, trade, or craft will absolutely, positively result in having MORE FUN, over time.
I used to watch and listen to my coaches breaking down offenses, defenses, techniques, and the effectiveness of this drill or that one.
Later in life, I found myself sitting at lunch with a Vice President, a mentor of mine, when he said, “You have to have a never-ending thirst for knowledge of your business; dive into as much data as you can get your hands on, and learn as much as you can…”
I don’t think it resonated back then, but it’s crystal clear to me now.
Watch Lebron, Kyrie, Steph, KD, and Draymond over this next week or so. Better yet, watch the role players who are as important and as integral in their team’s success, like David West and Shaun Livingston from the Golden State Warriors or Tristan Thompson and Richard Jefferson from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their “Basketball IQ” is well above average, and that’s the reason these two teams are the last men standing in what has already been one of the greatest NBA Finals in the history of the league.
When we watch the way Lebron effortlessly takes a dribble and a half, off yet another rebounded missed shot, and whips it 90 feet over the heads of three Warrior players, dropping it perfectly into Kyrie’s hands, in-stride, for a layup, it’s remarkable.
When Steph starts out with a few bricks, missing a handful of jump shots, but craftily finds his way in and out and in between and slithering and slashing through (albeit poor defensive efforts outta) the Cavs, ultimately getting to the free-throw line where he was a perfect 14 for 14; we can tell he didn’t spend his childhood, teenage, and even his college and professional years chill’n on the couch. (He ended up with 32 points (7-17 FG, 4-11 3Pt, 14-14 FT) to go along with 11 assists, 10 rebounds and one steal across 36 minutes during Sunday’s 132-113 victory over the Cavaliers. The kids call that, “video game numbers”.)
We could go on and on about their wizardry on the court and their stats. The point is it didn’t happen overnight, and they didn’t get this good by accident. It took hard work, effort, dedication, and countless hours of practice to develop their skills and talent.
They also took a very cerebral approach, to learn and master their craft.
In Ballgames To Boardrooms: Leadership, Business, and Life Lessons From Our Coaches We Never Knew We Needed, I talk about the idea of becoming a student of the game as a sure fire way to ultimately have more fun at work.
Usually when we’re not having any fun, it’s because we’re anxious, worried, scared, or uncomfortable with a particular situation.
Back in the Day, Playing Sports
We might have been uncomfortable in certain situations when we were younger, playing sports, whatever your sport may have been. Remember? On the playground or that time in a game when you and your team were outmatched? The other team had that one player who was a step ahead of you, all over the court or field. Gross. Embarrassing. No fun.
Present Day, at Work, Today
How about today, at your job. Remember when you first started your role, wherever you work or used to work? Remember how everyone else knew every little thing about every little thing going on with the business or in the operation. Maybe this was even last week! Or today! How annoying and how uncomfortable are those meetings when people are dissecting spreadsheets, equations, and using all the buzzwords – all of them – and you’re like, “wait, what…can we back up?”
Little to no fun.
Contrast that with other situations in which you’re up to speed, comfortable, fully understand the questions, challenges, and dialogue. You feel smarter, you’re more confident, you add more value, and my guess is, you have more fun. The difference is usually the level of effort or amount of time you’ve spent mastering the skill, the role, or the craft.
Watch Steph, KD, Draymond, and Lebron, Kyrie, and K. Love for the rest of these NBA Finals. We should add a new, relevant stat to the mix – QUANTITY OF SMILES – giving us somewhat of a FUN-O-METER. I think Steph and KD both would have had a Quadruple-Double on Sunday, with double-figure SMILES as a stat.
They have more fun, because they’ve clearly mastered their craft.
We can do the same thing, in our careers, and have more fun at work. No, really, we can. It just takes a little time, learning the game…
Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Ballgames To Boardrooms: Leadership, Business, and Life Lessons From Our Coaches We Never Knew We Needed, which I hope helps you on your path to HAVING MORE FUN AT WORK:
What does “learning the game and your role in the show” look like? Here’s a quick snapshot. True students of their craft do the following things without fail, every chance they get:
Ask questions and when they ask, they listen intently.
Observe others – high performers, low performers, and mediocre performers, taking note of what they do well, what they could do better, and what makes them great, terrible, or just average.
They try new things, fail fast, course correct on their own, and try again, and again, and again until they’re the Lebron of their craft.
Seek feedback from people in various aspects of their lives – their own leaders, leaders of others, their peers, their friends, family, and even strangers.
Apply the feedback, making changes where necessary in a constant pursuit of excellence.
Flat out execute, every single day, with no excuses.
Become self-aware with personality tests such as Myers Briggs, DISC, True Colors, or through old-fashioned conversations with others, learning how their personality traits reveal themselves in specific situations.
Once aware of their personality traits, they’re intentional about managing their emotions, tempering what comes out of their mouths, while remaining focused on what they can control.
Finally, they know their core competencies, their strengths, and they leverage them as much as possible, leaving others to focus on areas in which they’re not as strong.
Whatever your role and whatever your industry, craft, or trade, become a true student of it. Gain knowledge giving you the confidence to gain the credibility necessary to navigate easily through your day-to-day. You’ll worry less, smile more, and with 100% certainty, HAVE MORE FUN along the way. (…that may have rhymed…somebody call Lin Manuel-Miranda, and see if he needs another collaborator. I’m in.)
Enjoy the rest of the NBA Finals, watching true students of the game.