Right now, two powerful forces are competing for American hearts and minds.
But they’re not those promoting or opposing healthcare reform – it’s baseball and football.
Interestingly enough, this athletic contest can also teach us something about building a career.
George Carlin famously outlined the differences between baseball and football, describing baseball as a pastoral game and football as a technological struggle. After all, in the first you wear a cap and in the second you wear a helmet. In football you get sudden death overtime, but in baseball you get extra innings. You try to reach the end zone in football, and in baseball you go home.
But maybe the difference is due to the fact that baseball is a game of spring and summer, when we go out to play, and football is the sport of fall and winter, when we get down to business.
And football is all about getting down to business. I’m not talking about players’ salaries, either. It’s the way the game is played, the concentration on moving the ball down the field and the relentless measurement of progress towards that goal.
Every time a football team takes the field their progress is measured, as in “2nd down and 7 yards,” “3rd down and goal.”
That’s the part I think can be helpful with career development.
What would happen if, each time you sat down at your desk or went to a meeting, you reminded yourself of your specific goal and what you had to do to achieve it?
True, “Two e-mails down, 13 to go,” doesn’t sound like much of a cheer, but you get the point.
I find that I’m much more productive when I give myself specific, measurable goals, such as “Edit 20 pages in two hours,” which is kind of like trying to move 10 yards down the field in four downs.
What makes football different from the way many of us approach our work, not to mention building our careers, is the persistent attentiveness to completing discrete tasks.
This kind of focus is helpful enough, but it also leads to another key to effective goal setting – repetition. Business gurus galore emphasize the importance of setting goals and going over them again and again, to keep them fresh, uppermost in your mind and guiding your actions.
“First in ten, do it again!” anyone?
I’m going to try the tactic with myself. How about you?
by Megan Koehler