Striving to be number one is an admirable goal. And who wants to be number two? I believe it’s the secret desire of all of us in business to be in the number one position in our market, or field. I think that whether we actually hold the spot or not, many of us have evidence already of our number-one-ness. We claim to have the best range of products, largest inventory, employees who have been trained by the best and more skilled than most, and past experience to weather any storm. Yet with the competition so fierce these days, even if we get to number one – how long can we maintain our position?
In search of inspiration, I was drawn to an article written by Ed Smith in a 2008 Economist – Intelligent Life about Roger Federer. “Federer turns 27 this summer. He has already won 12 Grand Slam singles titles (only the French Open eludes him) and appeared in a record ten consecutive men’s Grand Slam finals. In March, he became Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. If he wins Wimbledon again this time, it will be for the sixth time in a row – beating the record he currently shares with Borg. But recently his dominance has slipped. This year he lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, then in the first round at Dubai and again in the semis at the Indian Wells Masters. Since drifting apart from Tony Roche last year, Federer has not had an official coach. Now the idea is circulating that Federer is losing his hunger. What might keep him motivated?”
I read and re-read that paragraph. It seemed to me that in order to get to the number one spot, having a coach might be a good idea. But in order to maintain that spot – you needed to discover your motivation. Do you just like to win or does mastery float your boat?
I got curious about Federer and so did a search to see what he was up to now since that 2008 article. In a 2010 Bleacherreport.com article “Can new coach jumpstart Murray and Federer” I found some more clues “Presently, Federer has gone as far as he can, relying upon his own instincts and insights. The Swiss needs another perspective for building on-court strategies and for assessing his opponents—Annacone, as a master of the game, can offer Federer that additional pair of eyes. So Federer hopes.”
There seems to be a point that you get to – after you’ve grown on your own that you need an outside pair of eyes in addition to your own instincts and insights. It’s a gamble of course, because you are not always sure what you’re going to get – but you must at some point get help! Michael Katz, owner of Blue Penguin Development sums it up nicely here “I don’t know about you, but I don’t love hiring other people to help me run my business. It’s not that I have anything against other people it’s just that I find it hard to feel in control when I don’t touch everything along the way. Recently, however, life has become more complicated. And so last week, after spending two hours trying to make sense of it all (I may as well have been looking at your EKG), I decided to hire a bookkeeper.” A bookkeeper of course is not a coach but the point here is that we will get to where what we’re doing on our own is no longer good enough especially if we want to maintain our number one position.
In a January 2012 article in an exclusive interview with The Tennis Space, Paul Annacone (still Federer’s coach) revealed what it would mean for Roger Federer to win his first grand slam since 2010. Asked whether they were working on any particular parts of his game? Mental? Physical? Strategy? Annacone said that they generally discuss all areas of the game, what has been successful and what has had some challenges and then they map out a plan of the key things to work on…” Clearly as he talked about mapping strategies, this was not one sided. Coach Annacone complimented Federer’s professionalism and attention to detail as terrific!
What he said has helped Roger with his longevity and also helped with his life is his ability to deflate some of the sensationalism and drama, and really be true to the process that gets you there. “He is a master of this, so when you combine his tremendous physical tools with terrific emotional stability and perspective you get extraordinary results.”
Bottom line – Federer does his part. He is true to the process and I don’t think that it’s any different wanting to get to and maintain the number one spot in business. I am amazed at how many people want you to do the work for them – solve the problems, or just plain make them go away.
If you truly want to be number one – a good coach can get you there but it’s you who will be implementing the guidance and doing the work. It is you who will need to understand that you must be the one with the burning desire to be number one. It is you who will find that excellence will blossom if you do the basics well, understand the process, and keep at it with pig headed discipline and determination. And finally when you arrive at the number one spot, it will be you who will do well to remember that despite the big to-do about your phenomenal success that it would do you well to temper your ego, ‘deflate some of the sensationalism and drama” and continue to listen to the guidance and be true to the process that got you there in the first place!