Sports metaphors lack grace, but I will begin the year with one that those who are fans (casual or rabid) of North American Football. You have just been given a fresh set of downs – what are you going to do with them? If you are a Canadian, you have three new opportunities to move the ball to a new marker at least 10 yards away. If you live in the United States, you get four attempts.
You can run, pass, handoff, lateral, fake, pound straight ahead or use finesse. The choice is yours and will be dictated by your comfort with risk, your flair, and how easily you make decisions. The clock is running and time doesn’t stop often. What you do first will impact how close you are to the next goal, and the results of the first try will influence the second, third, and fourth. There is a bit of pressure but being in the game means that you need to be willing, if not ready, to play.
I am a fan of some razzle-dazzle and appreciate daring offense. The sum of my experience and acquired tendencies would have me throwing down the field on all three attempts on the first series. A new game has started today, and if I take a risk and I fail, there is still time to learn from the results and adapt my game plan. If I complete a throw and score, I will take that information and refine my expectations for the next opportunity that I get. In football, you can create additional opportunities to play offense by playing strong defense and stopping your opponent from scoring. I can’t make stretch my metaphor that far, in life, without adding aggressive competition. I don’t believe that when someone else succeeds, I lose (except in game theory and practice). I favor a more collaborative approach. In this time, in this place, with these people, we should be expecting remarkable results. If we all pull together and apply our energy, intellect, and determination to any problem, I am confident that together, we can find an as yet unimagined approach and solution.
That doesn’t mean that we acquiesce. We should be ready to respectfully defend our position and to challenge the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others. If I do that right, I allow my curiosity to observe, reflect and adapt to new and shifting information and circumstances.
While I am part of many teams and I appreciate the skills and dispositions of others, I need to be the quarterback of my own life. In those situations where the circumstances are fully within my control, and the impact won’t adversely harm those around me, I can/must make my own choices. If I am not observing, reflecting and adapting my own life someone else will be dictating every how, where, when, and who.
My health and happiness depend on my acceptance of and responsibility for the autonomy. I am also accountable for the results that my choices deliver. When they are as good or better than expected, I should celebrate. (Not with some ridiculous touchdown dance but with a moment to acknowledge to myself the accomplishment). When the results are less than expected, I should learn from the moment. What variables didn’t I consider? Do I need additional skills, training or coaching? Is there a nuanced approach that I should try next or do I need to rethink the plan? The key to success is observe, reflect, adapt, and try again. Even when I succeed I can look for ways to add value to the choice and then watch to see if there was an improvement. A 1% increase (whatever that means) for even half my attempts could mean a significant difference after 100 tries.
Some days, my instincts, my intuition, and my experience will tell me that today’s conditions would be better served by running north-south and on other days I might recognize that a series short passes will be a better strategy. There isn’t a magic bullet or elixir or formula that is a one-size-fits every situation, but if we wake up determined to play the game and are aware of the current situation, we can draw from our growing playbook and attempt something we never dreamed possible. When we falter, fall and fail, we will pick ourselves up off the field, check for bruises and then call another play. Being in the game is more rewarding and fun than sitting on the sidelines so as you finish reading today’s post, get up and run a few plays.
Make today and every day remarkable,