Sport is the biggest teacher of it all! The first lessons in one’s life generally come from sports in the form of games and activities in one’s childhood. The learning continues with our growth and I can say with confidence that some of our best lessons in life come from having played some sport or the other.
The corporate world is no stranger to learning from games and sports. There have been numerous management lessons from sporting events, be it Cricket, Football, Chess or Badminton.
There has been a huge sporting action in the last three months and one of the major events was the Asian Games 2018. This multi-sport event not only reaped the rich medal haul for India, but also have given us many lessons from Indian sportspersons that can be well applied in management and business. In the following few paragraphs, I share with you a few of these lessons.
Hit the ground running – Early bird gets the worm! In today’s competitive and fast-paced business world, being first and fast yields tremendous results. The javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra proved this point well. While he was the favourite to win the event, he was expected to face a challenge from Chinese and Iranian throwers. But, he put all the doubts to rest by starting with a bang. His first throw was upwards of 83 meters and put a lot of pressure on other sportspersons. This also gave him a huge confidence and boost to go beyond and he managed more than 88 meters in his third throw to seal the first spot and the gold medal. So, when you start your career or any enterprise, go full throttle and hit the ground running.
The Final Thrust – While hitting the ground running gives you an edge initially, accelerating at the right time surprises your competitors. Manjit Singh proved this well in the 800 meter run. He had the 8th fastest time in the heats, while another Indian Johnson Jinson (favourite to win the event) had the best timing. When the race started, all eyes were on Johnson, the Qatari and the Iranian runner, who were leading till 500 mtrs. Suddenly Manjit came from nowhere like a bolt of lightning and left all others behind to finish first. So, know when to accelerate and push yourself to capture the final frontiers.
Bouncing back – Setbacks push us back and demoralise. Many a times they demotivate us so much that it becomes difficult to get up and get going. But the ability to bounce back is what separates the brave from the also-ran. Johnson Jinson was a living picture of this in the 1500 meter run. Having been left in the second place by fellow Indian Manjit Singh, Johnson was more determined to prove a point. He ran a superb heat to have the second fastest time of 3:46:50 in qualifying and in the finals, ran a race of his life to win in 3:44:72. Remember, one setback is not the end of the road, but can be a push that you need to come back stronger.
Persevere to Perform – Crisis and challenges are part of the business world and persevering and not giving up helps you overcome many of them. Both the Men’s and Women’s Archery teams showed this in an exemplary way. Having gone without a medal in the individual competitions, their confidence was at its ebb. However, keeping persevering and keeping their calm at the right time reaped them rich dividends and Silver medal in both the team events.
In the women’s semi-final, the team was trailing by three points (a huge lead in Archery) at the start of the fourth and the final set, but a trio of young archers scored 58 points (including two Bull’s eye) to win 225-222. In the final against the world champions Korea, they came close to upsetting the Koreans only to falter at the last minute.
In the Men’s event semi-finals, the team kept its calm and hit the bull’s eye thrice to beat Chinese Taipei 231-227. In the finals, they were up against the mighty Koreans and no one had given them a chance. However, their perseverance and composure brought them on the brink of glory and they lost out in a shootout after being tied at 229-229.
So, do not give up when you have had a failure, but look ahead, persevere and the victory is yours.
Taking a Step back for long term benefits – While moving forward is the key to success, at times, the situation demands taking a step back. And especially if taking a step back is for a long-term benefit, it must be done. Boxer Vikas Krishnan was India’s sure shot at the Gold Medal in the 75 kg boxing. However, an injury to his eye in preliminary rounds forced him to miss his Semi-final match and give up on his hope of adding one more gold medal to his tally of medals. He had to settle for Bronze. While the decision to not play the semi-final must have been very difficult, it was prudent to do so not to aggravate the injury and cut short his career. A small step back at times helps you bounce back stronger. So, do not hesitate and do so if required to achieve your long term goals.
Never-say-Die-attitude – This one skill can make a difference in anyone’s life. The Women’s squash team amply demonstrated that. In the individual event, both Joshna Chinappa and Deepika Pallikal lost their Semi-final matches to the Malaysian players (The world champion Nicol David being one of them). While talking to the press after the match, Joshna mentioned that Nicol is a world-beater and a tough opponent, but not unbeatable. And Voila! In the semi-final of the team event, both Joshna and Deepika defeated the same women that they had lost to in the individual event. Moral of the story is do not give up and never-say-die and you can win against all odds.
Optimism – It is a mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavour will be positive. The Table Tennis teams had performed very well at the Commonwealth games and had returned with a huge medal haul. However, Asian Games are different as you have the top players from China, Hong King, Korea, Taiwan, Japan competing in the event. Before the games started, no one gave Indians a chance to even reach the quarterfinals stage, however, the Men’s team made it to the quarterfinals and went on to beat Japan to reach Semi-final and win its first-ever Asian games medal in the Table tennis event. The same optimism also gave Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra their first individual bronze Medal at the games. Never lose hope and believe in your capability to achieve what others think is impossible.
Complacency kills – While we had many positives in the Asian games, there were a few setbacks as well. And the biggest of these was in the Men’s Kabaddi. The seven-time champions were touted as favourites and the Indian media had crowned them as the world-beaters before the games began. The team started well, however was becoming over-confident and complacent and the result was a crashing loss to Iran in the semi-final. Complacency is the worst enemy of performance and effectiveness and can bring one down with a thud.
And last but not the least,
Old habits (skills) die hard! – The Indian Men’s pair went on to win the Bridge gold medal. This proves the point that old skills never die and right from the Mahabharata times, we have not lost our edge at the game of cards!!