The harder I practice the luckier I become
This week I have been thinking about luck – are people just ‘lucky’, or is it the result of dedicated focus and work? I have firmly settled on the belief that luck does not just happen. Many of us reading this will have firmly held opposite beliefs and the truth probably lies somewhere between.
Some years ago there was a well-known South African golfer called Gary Player who famously was credited with having said ‘the harder I practice the luckier I get’. I really get that. When we are at our most successful and achieving our best ever results we are usually working even harder at improving and getting more consistent or achieving even better outcomes.
You will all know great examples of sportspeople, artists, musicians, people from all walks of life who are seen as great achievers and are seen as lucky. Yet you will also know the extraordinary lengths they go to be at the top of their game. Relentless practice and dedication to being their very best.
Why have I been thinking about this? Well lots of reasons but here are just a few. We are seven months in to our financial year and there are second half kick-off meetings starting around the world and across the businesses. Yesterday I sat in and participated in the UK South kick off. It was very clear to me that all the speakers had practiced, some were a little nervous, all spoke of their colleagues’ great achievements and how in the coming months we will get even better goals achieved. One speaker who I know as a very confident person said she was nervous as she stood there speaking to a room full of colleagues all supportive and attentive to what she shared. I asked her afterwards why was she nervous. She said, ‘because this is so important, because it matters’. I absolutely love that spirit, that colleagues won’t settle to be good, instead striving to be great. It’s important because of the pride that we have in our work, our colleagues and the clients we work with. I know the speakers had all practised, prepared and spoke so well to their colleagues. The energy and positivity in the room and from online colleagues was huge.
The previous day Chris Tilley and I had a meeting with our colleagues in the US and India who are ‘Team Amazon’. What we heard and saw was extraordinary. Everyone in the team playing their part, learning relentlessly about what is working well and what can be even better. I have described this process before as ‘forensic’. What also really struck me, because this is a team ‘sport’, was how each team member acknowledged colleagues in the team as being a fundamental reason for their increasing success. It was humbling to listen to. Taking ownership for your own performance whilst applauding the high performance of colleagues elsewhere in the team is a key reason for why this team is achieving such good results.
Going back to the world of sport it reminded me of Formula 1 pit crew teams. When a driver comes in to change wheels during a race and the speed at which this is successfully executed (way under 3 seconds for 4 wheels) there will have been hundreds of hours practice to get to this performance level and it never stops. It relies on everyone doing their part perfectly every time. By the way, that also includes the driver. If the driver doesn’t hit their mark, doesn’t leave the pit box perfectly then the pit crew’s efforts are hampered and races have been won and lost because of pit stops.
There are so many examples across all of our businesses and functional teams where relentless practice of what we do is the reason we are achieving the results we are. It’s not about being lucky, it’s about focus, being the best we can be today and even better tomorrow. Look out yourself for the many examples you will see first-hand and that you are part of too. It’s astounding.
So, as we head to the weekend, take time to rest and relax and do keep safe and well.