My Heartfelt Advice To The Graduates On How To Triumph For Yourself
“You have to bring your ‘A game’ when it really counts, Chris,” cautioned my colleague before a critical meeting. He was off track. Adding value is NOT about nailing big moments. That helps. But THIS is what REALLY counts if you want to have a great career.
I have been preparing a speech to give to a group of ‘communications’ graduates soon, when I chanced upon an article about the greatness of All Black rugby captain Richie McCaw. One sentence summed up the most critical ingredient to his awesome success, and to career success- and will form the message of my talk to the graduates. Here it is:
“The greatness (of Richie McCaw) is not in the magic of the moment but the ability to repeat what he has been doing game after game…year after year….”
“Not for him the flash of brilliance,” wrote Stuart Barnes about Richie. “His is a case of breakdown after breakdown and contact after contact, collision after collision and victory after victory.” McCaw just keeps on keeping on.
Not all agree. They cruise for much of the time, and then lift for that moment in the sun- and nail the big moment. The peanut gallery cheers, and laud the moment, but those in the know shake their heads with melancholy smiles. They know the truth. The ‘big moments’ specialists don’t survive longer term in business. It’s just not enough.
Here’s the message: If you want to be ‘on the team’ all the way to that neeeeext World Cup… contributing, valuable, wanted, energized…. then you quite simple have to bring your A game with you every day.
But wait- there’s more.
Yes- bring your A game every day, but also do what Richie does so brilliantly- he cheats (now New Zealanders- calm down Possums, settle, and read on):
“Richie played his entire career on the thin line between what is and what is not legal. He’s the greatest open sider flanker of them all, and the greatest cheat of them all. The latter is a compliment,” writes Barnes, ”not an insult.”
And that’s the second message for today, borrowed from Calvin Klein. First, bring your A game every day, and second, make sure you always take the opportunity to Dance With Controversy. Flirt with that line between what is ‘normal’ and what is ‘at the edge’ of what you do. Push it out there.
As Tom Peters once wrote: “If you want a career on the high seas, don’t join the navy. Become a pirate instead.”
I am feeling more energized than ever. With help, I have rebuilt confidence, self-respect and self-esteem after a tough patch of second guessing myself. I feel invincible – clarity of purpose, of my value, focus and options. It feels great. Some of my mates were saying they were looking forward to ‘slowing down.’ I feel exactly the opposite- I want to speed up!
I feel blessed at the palate of opportunities that lie in front of me. I love (most of) what I do now, and clarity of options is empowering. I am grateful to feel this way as I approach my 54th birthday. Then again, maybe it’s true that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
I have worked fricken hard at bringing my A game on as many days as possible, for 30 years now. I have never rested on my laurels, have always judged myself on what I deliver NEXT. And at the same time, I’ve loved pushing boundaries along the way. Has not made me universally loved. Has been huge fun though- and no regrets. Well- few regrets.
For those young graduates, my hope is they get the same opportunity. The opportunity of opportunity. They can have it. Just bring your A game along every day, and remember, don’t always salute that bland, follow all the rules ‘navy’ flag every day- maybe be a pirate sometimes. Way to go! Worked for Richie. And I salute him today.