I have to confess that I am a bit of a football fan (soccer for my American readers). I find the complexity of a fast-paced game where 11 players compete against another 11, following well-defined, but often ‘loosely’ interpreted rules, an interesting miniature experiment of life itself.
What casual observers who are not remotely interested in the finer detail of the game often miss, are the complex interactions of the forces that shape a 90 minute event where 22 individuals kick a ball around and try to put it into the back of the net of the opponent. You’ve got the tactics and strategy of the coaches and their teams; the latest innovations in health care and technology to take care of the needs of the football stars; a catering team that ensures the players are fed an optimum nutrition for maximum performance.
You have the interactions between players with big egos, who are being paid millions to perform, but are expected to work together for the greater good; you have plenty of mind games, pressure from millions of supporters worldwide and loyalties being questioned when managers get involved trying to get their clients the best possible deal for a transfer or a new contract.
As you can imagine from all of the above, a mindset of resilience and unphased focus is absolutely key to success in football. The margins between that success and failure are very small at the highest level, when the best compete against the best. And this was proven once again yesterday in the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.
Liverpool were the favourites for the final. They had almost completed an impressive season where they played critically acclaimed football, scoring a record number of goals in the process. Winning the final, would have made this year a highlight in the highly decorated history of the club. Furthermore, they were out for revenge after losing the Champions League final against the same Real Madrid some years ago.
Real Madrid on the other hand, were going through a transitional period. The team didn’t have the superstars of the past and the players were a mixture of experienced but aging footballers over the peak of their careers and young, upcoming talent. They reached the final playing unorthodox, some would say unattractive football, often devoid of footballing logic.
But Real Madrid won the game. They won in exactly the same way they reached the final: with the same defensive, unattractive football and quick counter attacks against faster playing and more ‘attractive’ teams. They took advantage of one of the few opportunities they created to score and win the game.
Would anyone have advised coach Ancelotti to play like that at the start of the season? Highly unlikely. While the fans were happy about their team winning, Real Madrid got criticized for their playing style which, according to experts, is not ‘befitting of a great team’. And yet, here they are celebrating the biggest trophy in international club football.
The coach and his team drew a plan at the start of the season and stuck to it, regardless of the criticism of pundits and other coaches. The plan was based on the team’s ability and talent, rather than the style people thought a ‘top team’ should adopt. It was designed for maximum performance efficiency, rather than for pleasing the eyes of the pundits and fans.
“What is the link of all of this football stuff with me, a humble solopreneur, and my business”? You may ask. Well, I would argue that sticking to the plan is crucial when you launch a new programme, a new product or define your niche. All of the above is (or should be) the result of research, training and building of your skills over a long period of time. There is a good reason why your coaching or therapy programme, new album, skincare product or niche are what they currently are. Because you built them consciously and deliberately to be that way, right?
Yet what I see over and over again, is people changing and sometimes binning all this hard work at the first setback, unsuccessful launch or external criticism. It is remarkable how easily people who have worked for years to create a training programme, a piece of art or a luxury product are willing to give up all that effort when things don’t go as they had imagined.
But there is a reason why you have been planning things that way, and it is likely that you have a written record of that reason, whether recently or a long time ago. Go and find now your business plan, your mission statement, your ikigai. Brush off the dust and remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing the things you do. Only make the smallest necessary adjustments based on the feedback you decide to act on.
Sticking to your plan is much more likely to get you the results you want, rather than changing tactics at the whims of the public or fortune. No one has invested more in your success than you have, and no one knows better what you need to do it in order to achieve it.