Roger that…

We’ve all memorized the Tiger narrative – Child prodigy to professional master – start young, deliberate practice for a bazillion hours, master your chosen craft, and find meaning as you win medals and make millions along the way. So, today, we start focusing our babies earlier and earlier to find their sport, instrument, or domain of whatever, and hire the best teachers/coaches to make them do what they can. We’ve mostly bought the Tiger narrative, as witnessed by the decline in America’s best High School athletes playing for their actual High School teams. Club sports, Premier leagues, and National/International team play, are where our best and brightest are found. Is this the new road to excellence?

Nope, not really.

When you study the facts around who achieves mastery across any domain, there are a few Tigers and a ton more Rogers; Roger Federer’s, that is. You see, Roger played a ton of games as a child and pretty much loved to do anything with a ball. He loved wrestling, skiing, skateboarding, and swimming too. He didn’t get hyper-focused at an early age. By the time he decided to focus on tennis, most of his competitors had strength coaches, nutritionists, and world class instruction. Roger had his dad, whose instruction consisted of two words – “Don’t cheat.” If you want to learn more, check out the book titled Range, by David Epstein. It will widen your perspective. Good.

At BTL we believe most masters arrive in their domain of expertise by experimenting, just as we did. For me, dabbling in lots of sports as a kid, taught me one main thing about myself – I’m a competitor. So, when college ended and my competitive golf ended with it, I decided the next best thing was a career in sales since it seemed the most competitive. From IBM (briefly) to CompuServe, I learned to master this craft (kinda) and moved into management. Learning how to lead a team and figure out what makes others tick, fascinated me like nothing before. Stumbling into this realization at the Center for Creative Leadership in 1994 was my aha moment – I knew in that moment, at age 34, the domain I wanted to master. I wanted to build leaders and do it better than anyone. So, since that MOT (moment of truth), I’ve been studying, learning, and applying toward that end. Still a long way to go…

Too many Tiger types, burn out young. They discover, later in life, that their early focus was not aligned with their “love to’s,” and so they lose the zest to keep climbing once they’ve reached dizzying heights. Don’t be afraid, friend, of not finding your way. Instead, embrace the ambiguity and experiment early and often. Perform at your place of employ, really perform. Winning affords opportunity. Do the work and do it well. Once you’ve established yourself, try your hand at lots of loves. Play. Experiment. Expand your range. Paint, write, learn an instrument (never done that), travel, and keep your senses open to your energy. When you stumble into what lights you up, what you want to make your labor of love (opus) nobody will have to tell you – you’ll know. So, go on, what are you waiting for? Just do it. Roger that, huh. Roger that.

Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…

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