Being Great is a Continuous Path

        If you like finality, greatness probably isn't for you.  There is no foreseeable finish line because the path doesn't have a neat and tidy ending.  Greatness's path is riddled with peaks and valleys.  There are times when you feel like you're on a steep incline burning the legs of your efforts.  This is like when you're making those mechanical adjustments to your swing and they just won't seem to click in competition no matter how many swings you take.  On the flip side, there are the times where all is coming easily like cruising downhill on your bike as a kid (or your hoverboard today).  It's the ten game winning streak your team goes on where you just continue to find ways to win.  The book Legacy by James Kerr tells the story of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team through a series of themes all connected both New Zealand culture and the team.  My Highlights section may as well be the entire book because there is so much I love about the story and concepts.  One quote, among the many others, really stood out to me.  The words were from a section discussing the cyclical process of culture.  Here is the quote:  "The key, of course, is when we're on top of our game, to change the game; to exit relationships, recruit new talent, alter tactics, reassess strategy."

        I love it, and I think it's something coaches, teams, and organizations who want to create long-term, sustainable success do.  They don't allow things to get stale.  Think about Nick Saban.  He has been ridiculously successful over a long period of time at multiple places.  Coach Saban is someone who is constantly on the cutting edge of what is next and how the University of Alabama can best help its student-athletes.  It's impossible to ignore the obvious advantages the school has over many others, but they're in place largely because of Saban's continual stressing of improvement.  Major League Baseball organizations are always on the lookout for the next great thing that could provide a competitive advantage.  You may have seen the recent article about the Toronto Blue Jays and the holistic, individualized approach they are taking with their players.  They just had their best season in quite some time last year, but they're looking for ways to do things even better.  They've altered and reassessed.  From the perspective of the individual athlete, great ones are constantly making improvements to their games.  Steph Curry, the basketball darling of the  NBA right now, made comments midyear about ways he could improve his game.  He was already playing at a historic level!

        So how can you go about moving forward consistently on this path to greatness?  Reflect, reflect, reflect.  If reflection seems like a common theme in my writing, there's a reason for that feeling.  Reflection's a great way to create a plan for improvement.  You have to know who you are currently as a team or organization in order to know how you can improve.  What are you already doing well?  What aren't you doing well?  What can you do moving forward to do things better?  Great ones reflect, and they do so rationally and specifically.  They have enough trust among themselves to be able to think critically about the job being done.  In my opinion, this is a difference between short-lived and long-term success.  It's easy to find places for improvement when things are bad.  When you've just won a championship, however, it's hard to think of ways to improve.  That's because if you're only about winning championships then there is no way to do things better.  If you're about continuous improvement, you're able to move forward without the expense of enjoying the wins and championships.  I wonder when I see some of the legends of coaching making comments about the frustration of coaching today's athletes.  Is it really that different from the adjustments to new generations they've been making for years?  Or is  it, rather, that the coach who has been doing things for so long is finding it more difficult to continue to evolve and improve?  Something to think about and maybe expand upon at a later time.  In the meantime, I'd encourage you to enjoy the path to greatness if it's greatness you seek.  The "When" section on the Invitation to Greatness reads "Now-?" so you may as well enjoy the ride along the way.


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