Really Good Stuff

Put these three together today while working on a presentation I will do on Monday to the New South Wales Institute of Sport Network coaches.

Steve Backley, British Javelin thrower

on lessons he has learned (From BBC Sports Website)

1: Know your weaknesses - and do something about them

“The best sportsmen I've met aren't necessarily fantastic at one particular part of the skill - they're just good at everything.

I went to train with Olympic javelin champion Jan Zelezny in 1997, in many ways in search of the Holy Grail. I thought there would be something he was doing that would just be 'it' - the ultimate answer.

But if I found out anything, it was that he was good at everything. He didn't have a weakness, because he'd worked on them all.

Most of us tend to do what we're good at, because that's what we enjoy doing. What's actually more important is to find out what we're not good at, and then redress the balance. “

2: Take your chances

“In any sport, or in life, you have moments when an opportunity opens up in front of you. You have to be ready, and you have to grasp those chances with both hands. At the 1994 European Championships in Helsinki, I wasn't expecting much - maybe just a medal if all went as well as possible. But then I looked around after a couple of rounds of competition, and I could see that everyone was struggling. A window was opening. And I thought, "Right - if you lot don't want it, then I'll have it - I'll drive harder than you, I'll give it a bigger shove." I ended up throwing about 85m, in quite tricky conditions - and winning it by three metres. I remembered that moment for the rest of my career. So if you're thinking, "Should I do the race, or the competition, or play the match?" - well, throw yourself in, because you never know which opportunities might arise, and what might happen.

3: Be prepared

“I used to write down a list of all the things that could go wrong.

People might think - hang on, that's too negative - you have to be positive. And you do. But by having that list, you find solutions to all your potential problems. What do you do if you're doing your shoes up in the Olympic stadium just before the final starts, and your lace breaks? Solution: carry spare laces in your kit-bag. You could cross that one off the list. I would spend two weeks coming up with a long list of everything that could possibly go wrong, work through them all and then end up with a long list of solutions. You would then sit back and think - whatever happens, I've got a plan. And that was a great, great feeling.”

4: Pressure can be your friend

“People tend to view pressure as a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be. For example, in a training session I'd be delighted to throw 80 or 82m. Three days later in a competition, I'd throw 90m. The pressure of competition was worth a good eight metres.

And if you want to escape from pressure, you can do - no matter how bad the situation might seem. At my first Olympics, I was genuinely very, very scared. You've got a billion people watching round the planet, 100,000 in the stadium, the best athletes in the world all in one place - of course you're going to be scared. It's the natural reaction. So what I did was to tell myself that I was simply doing an ordinary throwing session down my local track. That worked for me.”

5: Have a goal

“This sounds simple, but it's the first part of any journey - decide where you're going to. Only then do you think about how you're going to get there. The outcome I wanted was to win whatever the major championship was that year - Europeans, Worlds or Olympics. I'd then ask what performance would help me achieve that outcome - invariably a throw of 88 or 89 metres would be enough to win.

The next question would be: what's the process that'll bring about that performance? And that's where it starts to get really detailed - on your technique, the strength required, the power output you'll need, the nutritional plan. All the time, you have to make sure you concentrate on the process, not the outcome - although all anyone will want to talk to you about is the outcome. Your mates don't want to hear about how your point control is going - they want to know if you're going to win the Olympics, or throw a world record. What's important is to be able to discuss that outcome with your family, your mates and people who want to glamorise the sport, but be able to focus on the process with your coach and yourself. Because if you've done the planning right, the outcome should look after itself. “

6: One man's sacrifice is another man's dream

“The common perception of top sports people is that they have to make huge sacrifices to reach the top. But if you're in pursuit of your dreams, there aren't any sacrifices, because you're doing exactly what you want to do. If your mates are going down the pub on a Friday night but you have to have an early night because you've got to be down the track early on Saturday morning, that's not a sacrifice.

I certainly never felt I was making a sacrifice, because I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. And if there ever comes a point when you want to go down the pub, go down the pub - because if you resent what you're doing, then you're never going to have enough enthusiasm to do what you're meant to be doing anyway.”

7: Believe in yourself

“All great sportsmen have three things in common.

First, they all believe in themselves - neither a bad day nor a great day will affect their self-belief.

Second, they're highly motivated, always pushing hard for the next level.

Third, they're naturally talented.

You might think that last factor is the most important of the three, but I don't think it is. If you look across all sports and ask yourself what their most successful performers have in common, they're all different shapes, different sizes and different personalities, but they all believe in themselves and they're all highly motivated.”

8: Success and failure are not black and white concepts

“At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it seemed all set up for me.

I'd gone bronze in Barcelona in 1992, silver in Atlanta in 1996, and I thought - Sydney, the new millennium - it's all there. It had been my dream to throw an Olympic record - and then in the final, I did.

But I still only came away with the silver, because Jan Zelezny went straight out and broke my new record by just 32 centimetres.

People say to me, "That must have been devastating." But sometimes you can't have any bearing on a result. For me it was all about whether you delivered or not - whether you did everything you planned to do and did as well as you could possibly do.

If you can say to yourself after a competition that you did - as I could after that final - then whether you came first or last doesn't really matter.”

9: Keep changing - whether you win or lose

“Successful sports people keep re-inventing themselves. Whether you win or lose, you always need to get up to a new level - and you can't do that if you're always doing the same old thing. At the end of every season, I would make an assessment of how the season went. You'd then draw up a new plan, and work out what changes you had to make based on what went right and what went wrong. For example, at the end of the 1997 season I decided to join the eastern European coaching system. By doing that, I learned a completely new way of doing things, and that gave me more armoury, more things to fall back on. Get advice from other people. And be creative, particularly if you've been doing one thing for a long time. By the time I finished athletics, we were doing all sort of weird and wonderful things in training, just to stay interested.”

10: Don’t get injured

“It sounds obvious, but it's true: if you're injured, you can't win anything. And injury isn't necessarily something that you have no control over - there are ways to make sure it doesn't happen to you. Go to see a physiotherapist. Get them to assess your physical strengths and weaknesses. Then do the exercises that will protect the areas you'll stress doing your sport. For me in the javelin, it was my shoulder, back and hips that I had to think about, so I had to made sure I did the 'prehab' to strengthen and protect those areas, and keep me healthy.”

Ten Things I Believe

Bob Sutton, Professor Stanford Business School

1.Sometimes the best management is no management at all -- first do no harm!

2.Indifference is as important as passion.

3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can't have both at the same time.

4. Learning how to say smart things and give smart answers is important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.

5. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; self-interest is a learned social norm, not an inherent feature of human behavior.

6. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.

7. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.

8. The best test of a person's character is how he or she treats those with less power.

9. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.

10. Work is an over-rated activity.

The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School
by Michael McDonough

1.Talent is one-third of the success equation.
Talent is important in any profession, but it is no guarantee of success. Hard work and luck are equally important. Hard work means self-discipline and sacrifice. Luck means, among other things, access to power, whether it is social contacts or money or timing. In fact, if you are not very talented, you can still succeed by emphasizing the other two. If you think I am wrong, just look around.

2.95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.
Only 5 percent is actually, in some simplistic way, fun. In school that is what you focus on; it is 100 percent fun. Tick-tock. In real life, most of the time there is paper work, drafting boring stuff, fact-checking, negotiating, selling, collecting money, paying taxes, and so forth. If you don’t learn to love the boring, aggravating, and stupid parts of your profession and perform them with diligence and care, you will never succeed.

3.If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.
You hear a lot about details, from “Don’t sweat the details” to “God is in the details.” Both are true, but with a very important explanation: hierarchy. You must decide what is important, and then attend to it first and foremost. Everything is important, yes. But not everything is equally important. A very successful real estate person taught me this. He told me, “Watch King Rat. You’ll get it.”

4.Don’t over-think a problem.
One time when I was in graduate school, the late, great Steven Izenour said to me, after only a week or so into a ten-week problem, “OK, you solved it. Now draw it up.” Every other critic I ever had always tried to complicate and prolong a problem when, in fact, it had already been solved. Designers are obsessive by nature. This was a revelation. Sometimes you just hit it. The thing is done. Move on.

5.Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.
In design this means “draw what you know.” Start by putting down what you already know and already understand. If you are designing a chair, for example, you know that humans are of predictable height. The seat height, the angle of repose, and the loading requirements can at least be approximated. So draw them. Most students panic when faced with something they do not know and cannot control. Forget about it. Begin at the beginning. Then work on each unknown, solving and removing them one at a time. It is the most important rule of design. In Zen it is expressed as “Be where you are.” It works.

6.Don’t forget your goal.
Definition of a fanatic: Someone who redoubles his effort after forgetting his goal. Students and young designers often approach a problem with insight and brilliance, and subsequently let it slip away in confusion, fear and wasted effort. They forget their goals, and make up new ones as they go along. Original thought is a kind of gift from the gods. Artists know this. “Hold the moment,” they say. “Honor it.” Get your idea down on a slip of paper and tape it up in front of you.

7.When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.
Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble in approaching problems. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power – the power to create things and impose them on the world – is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns.

8.The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.
The world is not set up to facilitate the best any more than it is set up to facilitate the worst. It doesn’t depend on brilliance or innovation because if it did, the system would be unpredictable. It requires averages and predictables. So, good deeds and brilliant ideas go against the grain of the social contract almost by definition. They will be challenged and will require enormous effort to succeed. Most fail. Expect to work hard, expect to fail a few times, and expect to be rejected. Our work is like martial arts or military strategy: Never underestimate your opponent. If you believe in excellence, your opponent will pretty much be everything.

9.It all comes down to output.
No matter how cool your computer rendering is, no matter how brilliant your essay is, no matter how fabulous your whatever is, if you can’t output it, distribute it, and make it known, it basically doesn’t exist. Orient yourself to output. Schedule output. Output, output, output. Show Me The Output.

10.The rest of the world counts.
If you hope to accomplish anything, you will inevitably need all of the people you hated in high school. I once attended a very prestigious design school where the idea was “If you are here, you are so important, the rest of the world doesn’t count.” Not a single person from that school that I know of has ever been really successful outside of school. In fact, most are the kind of mid-level management drones and hacks they so despised as students. A suit does not make you a genius. No matter how good your design is, somebody has to construct or manufacture it. Somebody has to insure it. Somebody has to buy it. Respect those people. You need them. Big time


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