Monday, July 14, 2014

You’re Never as Good as You Think You Are

Go for BHAGs, but don’t forget basic blocking and tackling

My dad had a great saying whenever he used to drive me home from a game or a meet growing up: “You’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re not as bad as you think, either.”

If Dad sensed I was getting overconfident, he’d remind that me that there’s always someone better around the corner, and that the competition would only get tougher with each new level I ascended. But, if I was down in the dumps after a tough loss, he’d focus on one or two things I did well and remind me how much better I’d gotten since the year before.

That was helpful in college and the early years of my career. I was captain of my high school track and cross-country team and got named to many All-area honors team. I thought I was pretty talented until I got to college. Guess what? The other 30 guys were also captains of their high school teams, and I quickly went from leading the pack to barely keeping up with the back of the pack. Mind you. I was running faster than I ever dreamed possible, but your perspective changes when you’re getting lapped instead of standing on the winner’s podium.

I later learned my Dad was a city champion swimmer in high school, but lasted only one season at an elite college program when he found out how "real swimmers" trained.

BHAGs and basics

I bring this up because now is the time of year that many of you are holding, or planning to hold, your offsite retreats. You’ll spend a few days away from the daily grind to clear the air, review your strategy and make BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the next fiscal year.

Just don’t pull a Brazil.

Even if you’re No.1 or close to No.1 in your niche, don’t think you “own” that niche or are entitled to the top spot based on past performance. You’ve got to stay hungry and earn the business every day. The minute you let your guard down and forget how to fight for new clients (and retain existing clients) is the minute you get blindsided by a savvy upstart or a new wrinkle from a longstanding rival. 

BHAGs are great motivators. Just don’t forget the basic blocking and tackling that go your firm to where you are today. Also, don’t throw in the towel if you’ve recently lost a big client or key employee. No great team or company revolves around just one player.  Empower everyone else to step it up a notch.

Lessons learned from the World Cup

In case you missed the end of the FIFA World Cup of soccer this weekend, host nation Brazil, the country with the most World Cup championships in history--the country that invented the term jogo bonito (Portuguese, for “beautiful game” and internationally popularized by Nike commercials) thought it was their divine right to win the World Cup on their home soil this summer. No Way Jose. Or as the Brazilians would say, “imagina na copa” when things go horribly wrong.

Brazil showed up, but they didn’t show up to play. Big difference.

In the semi-finals against eventual champion Germany, Brazil was missing two key players (one for injury and one for poor sportsmanship) and basically threw in the towel before the game started. A brief defensive lapse let in a sloppy goal in the 11th minute of the game. But, instead of regrouping against the disciplined and well-coached Germans, Brazil conceded four more goals in the next 20 minutes of the game and had one of the most infamous meltdowns in global soccer history. As my former colleague Ron Rudolph posted the other day: “Brazil Is Getting Waxed

It will take years for much of the Brazilian population to get over their 7-1 humiliation to the Germans. But, they had a chance for redemption just a few days later in the 3rd place “consolation” game against highly regarded Netherlands. Again, this game was for bragging rights to be the third best team in the world at the planet’s most popular sport. The Dutch relished the opportunity. The Brazilians turned down their noses at it. Apparently the third place game was beneath Brazil’s dignity and they left the tournament with their tail between their legs, 0-3 losers again.

*** We also recommend David Brook’s recent op-ed piece
Baseball or Soccer. Sometimes the non-sports writers give you the best take on the big game.


Brazilian soccer will eventually return to the top echelon of the world stage. But it will take a rebuilding effort like Germany’s that was 12 years in the making.

Key Takeaway: Show up every day ready to play. You never know who or what you’re up against. Always look through the front windshield, not the rearview mirror, and great opportunities will find you like open space on the soccer pitch.
Best, HB

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TAGS: Brazil soccer meltdown, Brazil getting waxed, Ron Rudolph, BHAGs, You’re never as good as you think, David Brooks Baseball or Soccer

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