A few weeks ago I wrote an article called Taking the High Road, about a few guys in the NFC East – non-Giants players – who just impressed me as far as their character. I was sorting through the Giants news last night before bed, and articles leading up to the season kickoff for he Giants and Cowboys in Dallas this Sunday, and I noticed an interesting one from Ebenezer Samuel for The New York Daily News.
Some of you who know me, or who read about my thoughts, know that aside from being a lifelong Giants fan, I put a tremendous amount of importance on the mental aspects of the game (any ‘game’ in life really). The way we behave (or believe) as individuals, teammates, and leaders –translates to the outcome (or results) we see in whatever we are doing.
So as a result of reading the article last night, I find myself doing something I never thought I would do (publicly at least) – and on a week when the Giants go into the season against the greatest of Big Blue rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In my comments in Taking the High Road, I mentioned 2 Dallas players: Demarcus Ware and Jason Witten. Today, I have to say that I suspect that somewhere on this planet, cows have flown, frogs have grown hair and a 7-11 has closed for the day. I am about to say something nice about Tony Romo.
It seems he made some important comments yesterday to reporters. Apparently, reflecting on the ‘burden’ of hosting the Super Bowl (this year’s Super Bowl will be hosted at Giants Sta… I mean MetLife Stadium), Romo said, “I think, more than anything, if you’re already thinking about January or February right now, you’re probably not doing what you need to do in September. For us, you put your head down, you go to work, you get the best week possible.”
The message here: ‘Don’t let your mind race too far ahead.’
And while perhaps his comments were targeted at the Giants, with the Super Bowl countdown clock recently set up in the locker room – frankly, I was not a big fan of that tactic myself when I first heard about it – it’s an important message for anyone. And it’s a theme I have seen many times with winning teams (in and outside of sport) – and in particular, with the Giants during the last couple of Super Bowl runs.
While it’s very important to establish big, long-term objectives, all too often in life, we focus too much of our energy on that big goal, and forget the significance of the small steps it will take to get us there. Each of those steps along the way must be handled with care, belief, and with full commitment. Each step, and each player is a critical part of the journey, with preparation, lessons to be learned, gains and setbacks. But without a careful focus on how to turn each of those steps into small victories toward something much bigger, it can come down to the last minute, and then be very difficult to achieve that final, ‘larger than life’ objective.
To make a non-football example, on enterprise sales teams for large corporations, where often there is one senior sales executive or a small team of people calling on 1-3 very large accounts, sales cycles don’t happen overnight. Typically, a huge quota is established at the beginning of a fiscal year, and the sales reps spend the first few weeks freaking out about how large their quota is and how they can possibly make such a large number happen with only a few accounts. The best teams – the ones who always seem to blow their quotas through the roof by the end of the fiscal year – are the ones who quickly acknowledge the final objective (that monstrous quota), and strategically plan out the steps they will need to take, and the small victories they will need to achieve leveraging each member of the team, in order to beat that quota before the end of the year. Each of those steps must be focused and well thought out, or time will get away from the team. Before they know it – it will be the end of the fiscal year. I have seen this, I have been a part of this, and it rarely fails. (Sometimes luck happens, but don’t count on it).
The same goes for football. It is those teams that acknowledge there’s big fancy game at the end of the season that they would like to play in, but who then roll up their sleeves and get to work – one game at a time – one small step at a time – with preparation, teamwork and focus (and also some important lessons along the way) – that usually are the ones still playing in January and February.
So Tony Romo is not wrong. He definitely has some of the golden keys to success. And while we may want to say: ‘How does he know? He can’t even make it past Game 1 of the Playoffs?’ Every season is a new one. If he and the rest of the Cowboys organization truly plan to work that way – that level of preparation should not be overlooked by their competition. And clock in the locker room or not – as long as the Giants (or any other team) keep that level of focus, with 100% preparation across every member of the team, week after week through 16 games, the chances of standing on the field at MetLife on February 2, 2014 become a real possibility.
Ready for Week 1? We’ve got 2 days of preparation left. Go Giants!
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