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Lessons We can Learn from the World Cup to Help Develop our Career

Category: Career Development | Date: | Total Views: 4333

The worlds most watched sporting event- FIFA world cup 2018 is well underway into the knockout stages; and well what a tournament this is turning out to be! Giants like Spain, Argentina and Germany are out, and underdogs like Croatia and Russia are edging on, with unexpected flair.  While you are being entertained watching some of the biggest sport stars perform in the biggest sporting event, there is also much you can learn from these heroes of football.  

Here are three things you can learn from the FIFA world cup in regard to career development:

1. Composure and a positive inner voice: A great quality developed by many successful athletes is an ability to be calm under pressure. Take Russia vs Spain in the knockouts as an example. Spain was clearly expected to outperform Russia. And on such a stage, 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich scored an own goal in the early stages of the game in front of a huge home crowd. You can imagine the pressure on Ignashevich and his team then. Yet the Russian team remained composed and stuck to the game-plan; eventually equalizing and coming out victorious in the penalty shootout.

Composure has a huge part to play in achieving success in your job as well- whatever it may be. Nerve-racking events and situations are common in any professional field and how one handles such situations determine success or failure to a large extent. “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going” is a quote to remember in any difficult situation.

In order to remain composed, it is first necessary to have a positive inner voice. If you keep telling yourself that you can fail, it is most likely that the slightest obstruction will create frustration and anxiety- eventually leading you to failure. Tell yourself you will be successful no matter what, and it is more probable that you will find ways to succeed in the most difficult situations.

2. Focus on only what’s in your control: Football is a team sport of 12 active individuals (counting the manager) in a side. Thus, the possibilities of what a single individual can do to influence the final result of the game is quite limited. We all witnessed this as the greatest two footballers- Messi and Ronaldo, fell short in carrying their nations to the conclusive stages of the tournament. To be fair, Ronaldo played exceptionally well throughout Portugal’s games, but many other internal and external factors such as better performances by the opponents, or relatively inferior performances by teammates respectively, led to their loss. In the case of Argentina, I believe many would blame the manager for their sad outcomes.

Just like in football, an organisation is also a team where every individual is assigned to perform specific roles. The results of your organisation’s works is also similarly dependent on numerous factors that are both external and internal. If the greatest footballers cannot individually create a worthwhile impact in a small team of 23 players, you can’t expect to do more individually in an organisation of 50, 100 and more. Hence, instead of focusing more on results, keep your focus primarily on your roles. Put in efforts to perform your duties and tasks to the best of your abilities, no matter how others are influencing it. Focusing on other things that are beyond your control only causes you to lose focus on your own work, which in turn damages your own career.

3. Embrace a growth mind-set: According to a psychologist Carlos Dweck, there are two types of mindsets in a person- fixed mindset and growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their qualities are fixed traits that cannot be changed. Alternatively, those with growth mindsets believe that experience and learning can make them stronger and smarter, no matter how weak they initially are.

Let’s go beyond just the world cup for this one, and consider the life-story of English striker- Jamie Vardy. Did you know that Vardy was rejected as a footballer by Sheffield Wednesday- a second tier league team, in his early days? He was told he wasn’t good enough to be a footballer, so he went to work at a carbon factory. He could have given up, but he never stopped training. He instead opted to work on his shortcomings that got him rejected, until he got his first break at Stockbridge Park- an eighth tier team in the English league system. He began his journey from there, which was full of mistakes and bad experiences. Yet he eventually went on to win the Premier league with an underdog club, Leicester City. At the age of 31, he is now playing in the World cup as England’s striker. He may not be the first pick, but that is only due to the presence of Harry Kane- a favourite for winning the golden boot this tournament.

The point here is that Vardy could have easily decided we wasn’t good enough (fixed mindset), but he instead embraced a growth mindset, whereby taking every incident of failure as an experience of learning and growth.

Such a mindset can be adopted in the workplace as well- where you can view every bad presentation, every missed deadline, or any other failure as a chance to identify your mistakes and weaknesses, and make amends to be better at your craft- whatever it may be.

People with growth mindsets also view challenges as opportunities for further personal development rather than deciding they are not up to the task. Working with such a mindset can eventually reach you the biggest stages of your career, similar to Vardy at the World cup. 

Our careers are thus, a roller coaster of a ride similar to the World cup. One instance we are champions and the next we fail to meet the tiniest expectations (like Germany!). All we can do is to remain composed, focus on performing our best at our assigned tasks, and learn from all experiences- even the experiences of others.

Let us know what else you feel can be learnt from the world cup in the comments below.  

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