The Saturday papers are full of good news from Downunder. The joy of waking each morning to hear of more overnight success has been a real fillip in these dog days of winter. And for any cricket fan who has endured our miserable tours in Australia for the last quarter century the success is especially sweet. It’s just a shame that I can’t seem to find any Australian to have a face-to-face gloat with.
What England’s elite cricketers seem to have pulled off is the Holy Grail of committed sportsmen and women everywhere: consistency. That’s consistency of excellence not mediocrity (the FA’s specialism). I’m fascinated by sport particularly how individuals with similar sorts of gifts end up performing at wildly different levels. And how and why successful teams and sporting brands replicate their success over long periods of time. Why, for example, is Michael Schumacher a multi-times world champion in F1 whilst his competitors are unable to match that achievement.
My ‘home’ sport is rugby union. So I have followed England’s journey since winning the Rugby World Cup in 2003. A dismal story that demonstrates that sometimes the only way when you are at the top really is down. It’s a story that Australian cricket authorities would do well to heed.
A year or so ago I read a book by an american journalist called Malcolm Gladwell. The book is Outliers: The story of success. Gladwell looks at successful and unsuccessful people to identify why there is such a difference in outcomes. Of course much of the explanation is what you would expect: luck; family; and so on. But one factor he alighted on is what he called the 10,000 hour rule.
Simply put he said it took around 20 hours a week of practice for 10 years before achieving excellence. Obviously it’s all a bit more complicated than that but the central message struck home for me. It takes application and time to produce success that is anything more than transient. A message that seems perfectly obvious to all but owners of football clubs.
I remembered the Gladwell book on hearing some of the England players talking about their success. Of course they talked about ‘execution on the field’ which seemed a brutally accurate phrase given what they had done to Australia. But they also talked about preparation. The hard work and sheer graft they had put into being absolutely ready from the very first moment of each match. The 10,000 hours.
Thinking again about Gladwell’s rule I’ve concluded two things. One obvious and one that I’d lost a little sight of. The obvious lesson is that success in job-hunting or starting a business will depend on preparation and application (sorry about that pun). Showing anyone thinking of employing you that it’s the obvious thing to do and not the greatest risk they are ever likely to take.
The less obvious message for me is that after 20 (not 10) years full-time in my professional niche I am actually pretty good at what I do. If I’m convinced about that – despite the knock of being made redundant – I should be more convincing to those I want to hire me.
Time to hit the job-hunt gym.