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Focus on weak areas of game

Earning respect

Richie Mo’unga is one of the world’s best rugby players. He has cemented himself as the number one All Black first five against extremely strong fellow contenders. He will undoubtedly be a key factor as to whether the All Blacks can win a fourth World Cup later this year. Just this weekend, he came on late in the game against Australia, winning the match with a late (and very difficult) penalty kick.

In The Post newspaper, Mo’unga shares what earns him the respect of his peers. Of course they appreciate his match winning abilities, but what makes them admire Mo’unga so much is his willingness to get better at other parts of his game, the areas that aren’t normally linked to a player in his position, with one in particular being his defence.

Mo’unga could probably shy away from big defensive plays, relying on bigger players to do more of the work. However, he chooses not to and has put a lot of effort into improving this aspect of his game. In the extremely tight matches at the highest level, it will be the accumulation of the small areas of improvement that will make the difference.

Despite not being international sports stars, we can apply Mo’unga’s philosophy to our own lives, where we can look to put more effort into those areas of weakness we have overlooked for so long. Doing this may very well get us closer to where we want to be, earning the respect of others and also earning greater self-respect for ourselves.

Stick with
what works

Manchester United is one of the most successful sports teams of all time. A huge amount of their success came from 1986 to 2013 under the management of Sir Alex Fergusson. However, the initial period under Fergusson took some time to happen; United didn’t win the Premier League [or Division 1, as it was when he first started at the club] for six years. Fortunately the club persevered through the initial tough times while Sir Alex got his systems in place.

When Sir Alex retired, David Moyes was appointed. Moyes had a couple of similarities to Fergusson; he’s Scottish and comes across as quite grumpy. He had been the manager of Everton, a moderately successful club for quite some time before the appointment.

As soon as Moyes came to United he set about making considerable changes. Replacing personnel with those who worked with him at Everton. adopting many systems from his old club and removing systems that had been in place at United for years. The results of these changes were that Moyes was sacked in under a year and Manchester United have failed to have top level success since.

All too often, individuals and organisations look to make changes when what was already in place was working so well. Yes, small tweaks can be made, but the reasons why an organisation is successful is because of what is already happening. The shiny and new looks exciting, but it can be the tried and trusted that is the true reason behind the long term success that we see in so many high performers.

Change your mind

It is incredibly easy to be absolutely resolute with positions we take on all manner of issues. The positions we take can become who we are and people will associate us with these stances. However, what happens when evidence appears that is clearly correct, that proves this position is incorrect? All too often people will double down on their stance, looking for anything to support their belief, even though it’s clearly wrong.

I think back to the way in which I have previously done aspects of my job as an educator. Although I am still very much the same in regards to my core beliefs and values [which stand the test of time] there is one area in which I have changed considerably. Had I not, there would be many who would support this, but the strong evidence clearly shows that what I had been doing was wrong and because of this, both my school and I have changed our practice. Yes, it was and still is confronting, but we know that the path we are now on will lead to better outcomes for children and greater satisfaction for staff.

We should never change for the sake of change and ideology-based fads should always be avoided, but when the evidence is so clear that change is necessary, we should be prepared and willing to modify our stance or practice, regardless of how confronting this may prove to be.

Master one approach

Many years ago, I went on a course to learn about how to teach thinking to students. The course I attended introduced a number of strategies that could be used – it was quite overwhelming.

However, I enjoyed the day and at the end of it promised myself that I would bring the strategies back to school. Additionally, a grant I received enabled me to purchase a large number of books and resources on the same broad theme of ‘thinking skills’ and not long afterwards the resources arrived; I had a burst of enthusiasm, skipped through them, then, to be honest, I don’t know what happened to them, perhaps they are sitting on a shelf somewhere in that school gathering dust, or have been thrown away, as part or a resource room tidy up.

I have since changed a lot. I am far more focused on what I do and very careful about programmes that I personally take on, or that I have influence over in my professional life. It’s so easy to get dragged from idea to idea, from new fad to new fad when, in fact, the most successful people and organisations will focus on doing less but doing less better.

It’s never too late

When I have been on the elliptical trainer in the gym recently, there has been one of those infomercials playing on a screen that is advertising a fitness machine. As I have now seen it many times, I have noticed a segment that shares the success story of a 74-year-old, who started using the machine four years ago and has gone on to achieve very impressive results; he has a great physique, looking like someone decades younger.

I’m not entirely convinced that the example I have shared here can be entirely attributed to the device in the infomercial, but I am convinced that a positive change can be made at such an age and older, if people are prepared to put in the effort. Making this type of transformation doesn’t require expensive equipment; in a town like Masterton everything needed is accessible with a cheap gym membership, or even through free online training programmes.

The most important thing is the desire to make the change, some research into how it can be done, then consistently doing what’s required. I really do believe that anyone can do it regardless of your age and circumstance.

Living your purpose

I’m currently reading the book Centennials, which looks at organisations that have been successful for a considerable period of time. The examples that the book primarily focuses on have been successful for at least 100 years – quite a remarkable feat in a time in which things seem to drop out of favour only a short time after having had considerable success. Remember the Blackberry?

As a New Zealander, it made me quite proud to see the All Blacks as one of those organisations that is discussed in depth, being what is widely considered the most successful high profile sports team in history.

A key factor of those organisations, is that they have a clear purpose that stays very consistent, with the actions of the organisations being in line with the purpose. Everyone in the organisation knows what this is, all feeling that they are playing their part to meet that purpose, regardless of their role. Yes, things do change, but any change is incremental and based on evidence and sound decision making, again closely aligned with the purpose. This builds a sense of integrity and trust, qualities that are so important to those we serve.

We can have a sense of purpose in our own lives as individuals. It has to be something that is important to us, that we know will cause a sense of discomfort when and if we take actions that aren’t consistent with what this purpose is.

More Okinawa wisdom

The people of Okinawa just seem to love life, another contributing reason for their long lives. A significant factor in loving life is appreciating the small pleasures they encounter everyday, the sorts of things that are so easy to take for granted: the smell of the pages in a new book, a morning coffee, an unexpected call from someone you care about … so many of these things can enrich our lives every day.

These experiences may not be huge, but together they make our lives richer – we just need to make sure we notice them.

Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson is principal of Lakeview School and author of the book Small Steps for a happy and purposeful life. He endeavours to learn something new every day by reading books, listening to podcasts, and engaging with a wide range of other content.

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