99 year old former UCLA coach John Wooden passed away Friday. While most of his greatest accomplishments occurred before I was born, I have a deep appreciation for what he stood for. In a world where “winning at all costs” is a mantra taught to amateur and professional athletes alike, Wooden preached something different: giving it our all and doing our best. I love that he believed that success wasn’t about trophies, awards or even money and status. He believed that only we can determine success for ourselves. While he was coaching, Wooden emphasized practice and the process of becoming the best team possible more than he emphasized winning. This philosophy, ultimately, led to his and his teams’ success.
Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. — John Wooden
Wooden compiled an amazing 620 – 147 record and ten world championships in his 27 years as coach of the UCLA Bruins. But I admire and appreciate that Wooden thought of himself as a teacher first. He taught his players lessons that could applied to their lives just as much as they could be applied to game situations. In other words, he made sure his players were well-rounded, decent human beings.
As a sports fan, this is one of my favorite times of the year…playoffs for NBA and NHL teams. Each year, even if my favorite team has been eliminated, I usually pick a team to cheer for throughout the playoffs. This year I’m fortunate to have a team near and dear to me in a drive for the Stanley Cup…the Chicago Blackhawks. Go Hawks!
Just as the seasons in professional baseball, basketball or hockey can be a long grind, you know that the job hunt can be a grind, as well. If you’re like me, your job hunt season has been a long one. According to a Rutgers University survey of one thousand people, just 21 percent of those unemployed last summer had found a job by March (see story from the Huffington Post here).
With this in mind, it’s time for those of us still looking for work to kick our job search into playoff mode. Here’s how:
1. Choose an Anthem. This should be any song that gets your blood pumping and makes you feel more alive and energized. Throughout history, many professional sports teams have had their own anthem that inspires, entertains and motivates them. In 2005, my beloved World Champion Chicago White Sox used Journey’s “Don’t Stop Belivin'” and even invited original Journey singer Steve Perry onto the field when they won the World Series. I also remember (barely) the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates using “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge as their anthem in the World Series.
Some possible anthems could include the “Rocky” theme song, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, “Indestructible” by Disturbed, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions, “Best of You” by Foo Fighters, “Right Now” by Van Halen. The list goes on, but I would highly recommend something loud and fast to give you a shot of musical adrenaline.
2. Choose a Mantra. Choosing a mantra such as “ohm” when you meditate can help you focus on your meditation. The same can be true about using a mantra in the job search. Saying your mantra during challenging moments can help you to get through these moments a little easier and faster. Possible mantras can include: “you can’t bring me down,” “each resume I send out gets me closer to my next job,” “crush it!,” “make it happen” or “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” It also might be a good idea to put your mantra on a Post-It Note on your computer monitor. This might sound hokey or like a new-age approach to your job hunt, but these reminders can help you stay focused in moments when you need it.
3. Increase your Intensity. If you watch playoff basketball or hockey you know that the energy levels for these playoff games is extremely intense. Most games are extremely physical. The teams that usually win are the ones who bring their “A” game and a great deal of energy. Teams that lose usually appear flat.
Make sure you bring energy and intensity to your job search. This might mean making extra calls, attending more events and making more contacts. This is the time to go above and beyond what you are used to accomplishing…time to turn up the tenacity!!
4. Stay in Shape. Oftentimes, the teams that win in the playoffs are the best conditioned teams. By staying in shape, stretching and preparing, these teams avoid the key injuries and, this ultimately makes the teams tougher to beat. Their conditioning makes it possible to have energy and intensity when it really counts – during the big game.
It’s also important to stay in shape and exercise during the job search. This exercise will likely translate to more energy and intensity on your job search. It will also lead to clearer thinking, better decision making and a more positive, upbeat attitude (see the Wikipedia entry on endorphins here). A good night’s sleep also helps.
5. Make adjustments. In many ways, professional sports can resemble a chess match. Teams that make adjustments to their strategy within games are usually more successful. In basketball, we see this a lot with defensive match ups. The Los Angeles Lakers might want to have Kobe Bryant guard his opponent’s top scorer, but in doing so, it might take away from how well Kobe can score for his own team. No matter what strategic decision is made, what’s more important is the team’s ability to make adjustments if a given strategy isn’t working.
The same is true during the job hunt. If you’ve spent the majority of time in your job hunt responding to online help wanted ads and you’ve gotten little or no response, it’s time to change your strategy. It’s time to make adjustments and spend more time networking and meeting people. It’s time to change things up.
6. Stay Focused. In professional sports, good teams stay focused even when things aren’t going their way during the playoffs. They do not lose their composure or show frustration. These teams have a deep belief in their abilities, an inner compass that steers them toward victory.
Job hunters must keep focused, too. Despite setbacks and a tremendous amount of rejection, successful job hunters need to be resilient and have a short memory. They need to stick to the game plan (or make the appropriate adjustments) and and keep working and moving toward that job. It will happen.
How about you…how have you kicked your job search into playoff mode? I’d love to hear about it.
Creative Commons photo of the original Stanley Cup courtesy of scazon.
In the past few weeks, I will admit that I felt pretty indifferent about watching the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I can still remember a young, sports nerd version of me watch the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team capture the gold medal, snatching glory from the heavily-favored Soviet Union team. As young as I was, I could sense how impossible that accomplishment was. As much as it was a life-changing moment for the young men on the ice that day, it still had a profound impact on my life as I watched in my living room.
Thirty years later, I’m much less impressionable and much more cynical than I was when I witnessed “the impossible” in Lake Placid, New York. But watching the Winter Olympics last week, I witnessed two amazing feats of sportsmanship, talent and pure desire that inspired me and caused me to really take notice.
The first feat was Lindsey Vonn capturing the gold medal for downhill skiing. She came into the Olympics as one big question mark with an injured and sore shin. Somehow, she pulled it together for an amazing downhill run that had her, at times, skiing on one leg. I’ve heard plenty of people with their conspiracy theories that she was never actually injured…but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say that I was amazed to see her flying downhill at a blazing rate of speed. Through hard work, determination and gritty effort, she pulled it off.
The second feat was Shaun White‘s gold-medal winning performance on the half pipe. I must confess, I’ve missed just about every X Games in history, but I was looking forward to seeing what Shaun White was all about. I will say that I was absolutely blown away by his snowboarding talents and abilities. It was obvious to me, a complete snowboarding newbie, that he is miles ahead of his competition. To sample a little bit of his magic, check this video out…
One thing is certain: no matter which sport we enjoy or which country we come from there are numerous stories of sacrifice and practice from countless athletes at the Winter Olympics. The best of the best. These athletes are great reminders to us that they are in Vancouver on purpose, not by accident.
For an interesting video and some insight about how Shaun White prepared for the Olympics, check out this post from author of The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle.