29 September 2020
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What we learn from grand finals

Peter Switzer
30 September 2016

On a grand final weekend, two teams will stand triumphant holding up the holy grail trophies they have worked so hard for over a year. For most of the players it’s been a virtual lifetime.

Too many spectators, when they shake their head at a kick that misses the goal or a ball that’s dropped, never think about what that individual has given up and done to be on the MCG or ANZ stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

All too often we remember the players’ mistakes – on or off the field – but we forget how they have sacrificed, been disciplined and have made the changes to themselves to be excellent enough to play in the first grade.

Despite their often poor grasp of the English language and the niceties of polite as well as sensible society, they’ve had the guts and determination to do what most of us would love to do but might never come close to.

The man who once beat Muhammad Ali, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, summed it up neatly as someone who put in the hard yards to achieve at the highest level: “Champions aren’t made in the ring, they are merely recognised there. What you cheat on in the early light of the morning will show up in the ring under the bright lights.”

When these great sporting weekends come along, I like to reflect on what we learn from these high achievers and the standout lesson for me is that they are committed to self-improvement, they’re not wasting time and they have submitted to a coach or someone who knows more than them and who’ll raise them to a higher level.

I’ve always linked these people to this age-old line: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” This is a cliché thought to have originated from JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy. After 25 years talking to, analysing and learning from great business builders in Australia and around the world, I’ve always thought it was my job to explain what the words “get going” mean!

In simple terms, the outstanding entrepreneurs who have built extraordinary businesses from say a garage in Silicon Valley, in the case of Apple’s Steve Jobs, or an inconspicuous office in Parramatta, as with John Symond of Aussie Home Loans, often faced enormous competitive challenges. It was how they responded to these challenges that explains their success.

Steve Jobs faced the might of Microsoft, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, while John Symond took on our big four banks. Jobs had to deal with the technological explosion of the computer then the internet-age, while Symond responded to the changes that came with financial deregulation, which were not only a threat but an exciting opportunity.

When I look at the 10,000 case studies of outstanding entrepreneurs I’ve been involved with, the standout characteristic, which made their “get goings” work so brilliantly, was their willingness to think outside the square. But more importantly, with this vision of the opportunity, they were prepared to get outside their comfort zone and take action.

A standout characteristic of successful people is that they understand that everything we want is just outside our comfort zone. These people find the guts to get uncomfortable for success!

The failure of human beings to turn great ideas and intentions into actions explains why most Australians won’t retire with enough money, why most businesses will be good but not great and why so many individuals will die wondering what it is they could have achieved.

It also explains why most of the people at the MCG on Saturday will be spectators!

In his book Life In Half A Second, Matthew Michalewicz looked at “the science of success”. His research showed that success got down to:

1.     Clarity of goals

2.     Belief you could achieve your goals

3.     Desire to achieve them

4.     Accessing the knowledge to achieve them

5.     And, crucially, taking action.

Matthew showed that goal setting is critically important but you need more than that – the burning desire to be a success has to be matched by action.

The best of breed in business do not pass up any opportunity to maximise revenue. The best in sport seek out experts who have the knowledge on physical fitness, the right food to eat, the wisest on motivation and so on. They’re driven by wanting a competitive advantage and so they take action.

Sure, they might not always see how they can achieve this but, once shown, they use the knowledge to make their goals or dreams a reality.

I have no intention nowadays to try and teach an accountant or a dentist how to do their trade better but I always try to provide as much inspirational and educational opportunity from the best business builders the world has seen, so anyone who wants to grow his or her business will start to see what’s holding them back.

That’s the knowledge I share on www.switzer.com.au each day, on my Sky Business TV show and now my 2UE radio show Monday to Thursday between 4-5pm.

Lots of businesses and industries have had it easy for a time and, when threats come along, the leader of the organisation has to step up and lead.

The first step in leading others is self-leadership and requires you to be objective about your shortcomings, which is damn hard. You must be prepared, however, to engage in self-development.

It might mean challenging your “I know everything” inclination, “I’m too old to change” mentality or your “I don’t want to pay for advice” tightwad ways. These are just a few of the discomfort zones that explain too many under-achievers.

Once upon a time, I used to do speeches and show the audience great case studies such as John McGrath when it came to real estate. I’d profile his challenges and how he overcame them, but it was a bit like going to the Australian Open to watch the world’s best tennis players and then do nothing in your life any differently as a consequence.

My years of talking to, analysing and writing about outstanding business builders showed me what I could copy but now I know the most important change I have to make is to me! I have to do a SWOT on myself – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and then I have to have a plan to change myself. And if it means getting experts to help me, well I do that. I once was scared to invest in myself or pay for success but not anymore – that’s been a real outside the square piece of thinking for me.

When we decided to grow our financial planning business – the Switzer Financial Group – we looked for a partner to help us do it and we found Paul Rickard, who started a ‘little’ business called CommSec! That cost us, as we gave away equity to get his capital, expertise and connections but it was worth it.

Successful people are always looking for ‘coaches’ who can show them stuff to improve their competitive advantage. Think of great sportspeople who looked finished until they changed teams and flourished under a new coach.

And, of course, there are plenty of stories of horses that have been transferred to a new trainer and a dromedary became an out and out champion. Legends like Bart Cummings were famous for performing such acts of transformation.

The poet Robert Frost wrote a line in a poem that I’ve always used to make people think about what they have to do to go to the next level. It goes like this: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”

If you’re not happy with your performance in life, business, sport, family life or whatever look for a coach, an adviser, a mentor or a life partner who will take you down a road that will help you attain your goals and your potential.

And one final thing: if you get disappointed at the performance of your team and their players this weekend, note this from one of America’s greatest presidents, Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Go Swannies!

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