On the culture of effort…..
“If I had to highlight two strong points of Carlos, I would prefer his talent and the culture of effort he received from the team. We succeeded in making him understand that, without effort, talent can be lacking, and that at these levels it is essential to take care of all the details.”
That was from Juanjo Moreno, who is Carlos Alcaraz’s physic when he broke Novak Djokovic’s record as the youngest men’s champion in Miami Open history last year 2022. Carlos Alcaraz, the rising Tennis superstar went on to win the US Opens the same year, his first grand slam, and became world number 1..no surprises.
During the Wimbledon Championships Men’s finals the following year (2023), he again defeated Novak Djokovic (who is still my favorite all-time Tennis player by the way). The later same year (Aug 20th, 2023) at the Cincinnati Masters on the Men’s side finals, Djokovic came out with a win after almost 4hrs of a heart-pounding thriller with the two players executing at an unbelievably high level at every play, point, and game and set. Alcaraz lost and Djokovic won, we would say.
But to me, both of these players were VICTORIOUS.
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
~ Vince Lombardi
Oftentimes, we tend to focus on the outcome or results of the game.
In that tennis match, I just referenced, they both put out their best effort.
Every time you do this, no matter the outcome, you are victorious. This should be the spirit of every game, whether it is a sports competition or a game of life. The focus should be on being thankful for an opportunity to give the best you have so as to be victorious at the end as Lombardi rightly put it, and then grow from the experience.
This is exactly what I emphasize to the teams I coach. it is not about winning or losing. It is about giving your best at every opportunity you have to play.
It is even more important as a leader to remember this and approach every activity with this mindset of the culture of effort. The question is not always about the outcome, win or lose, but whether you have given your best effort on the play, task, activity and what have you….
In A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer, the story is told of Paul Kagame’s attitude towards Tennis. If you are not familiar with this book it is basically a well-narrated story of Rwanda’s rebirth and the Man (Paul Kagame) who dreamed it. He has been driving the culture of best effort and hard work that has contributed to transforming the minds of the Rwandan people and the nation. He is an exemplary leader who doesn’t apologize for pushing his nation hard. I love it.
“When playing Tennis with Kagame, and you miss a shot, you think he is going to kill you” one of his tennis play friends noted in the book.
According to Paul Kagame, “Missing a shot is pardonable but not trying hard enough is what I can’t stand”
“At the end of the day, you can’t control the results; you can control your effort level and your focus.”
~ Ben Zobrist
This attitude and emphasis on the “culture of best effort” is a great one for all leaders to emulate all the time. Hard-work is inherent in this pursuit. I say this because it is something that seems to be losing its charm in the current culture. The culture of shortcut to success or path of least effort.
How can I get this or there without effort? You see this all around. But reaching the peak has always been the same. There is no substitute for consistent continuous effort and dedication in improving every aspect of your “game”, whatever this is.
As illustrated by James Clear in Atomic Habits, when you decide to put in the effort to get 1% better every day, by the end of the year, you will be 37 times better on any aspect that you are working on.
So approach every competition or experience or task or activity as an opportunity to practice this culture, learn, and equip yourself better for the next experience as a result of the current one.
Be excited about effort, be excited about hard-work, it is a sure path to excellence, and I know you want that!
Dr. Bweh Esembeson