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eta week Oct 1

It is unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you have been playing all your life | Michael Lewis

Pandemic Phoenix Club

I have, recently, had people tell me that despite the pandemic having a disastrous effect on their career and income, they have reimagined their situation and the nett outcome is positive. One even said it was a blessing because it made him follow his passion instead of pursuing the same routine.

This experiences made me recall the story of “The Flight of the Phoenix” It tells of a real-life event from World War 2 in which a twin-engine cargo plane crashed in the Sahara. With no working radio or access to potable water, the survivors ultimately overcome numerous obstacles to construct a smaller airplane, using one engine, from the wreckage and fly it to safety.

I wonder, do you qualify as a member of the Pandemic Phoenix Club (PPC)? Have you overcome the disorder of the pandemic and rebuilt your situation to “fly” again – possibly better this time around? Write to us and tell us your PPC story.

Recommended reading

Surviving to Thriving – Mental Toughness (Steve Harris)

Chapter 1. WHY SURVIVING TO THRIVING? (Continued from last week)

Inches from technology – an option for smarter teams to beat richer teams

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball (2003), points out that we do not know many of the areas in which we can improve our game because we are blinded by the habits of day-to-day activities. He adds we unquestioningly accept conventional wisdom. The book opens with Lewis quoting athlete Mickey Mantle: “It is unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you have been playing all your life” (Lewis, 2003).

Billy Beane, former general manager of Oakland Athletics baseball team, introduced changes that led to victory. The Boston Red Sox went on to use similar variations of these changes and they too achieved success. Beane pioneered a fresh way of using statistics to study performance, claiming that the wisdom of insiders like players, managers, coaches, and scouts, is often limited and flawed (Lewis, 2003).

He suggested that we need more “money ball” type managers that can use statistical reasoning to make better predictions on player recruitment and performance evaluation than the current “experts”. He added we can use this method to identify what is overvalued and what is undervalued in our organization. In so doing he introduced options for smarter teams to beat richer teams using technology. You could say that he presented us with a technology nerd’s way of analysing sport.

Lewis expanded on this performance theme in a follow-up book, The Undoing Project (2016). Passages from the book that caught my attention claim: “we should be sufficiently indifferent to the opinion of experts; the more we are paid the more costly our sloppy decisions become; and charm can mask a deep disinterest in hard work”.

Conference speaking

The first time I presented on Mental Toughness at a conference, an audience member gave me feedback by saying my presentation was nice.

“Nice, I replied, nice is a cup of tea.”

He seized on my metaphor and replied, “yes, and you need to understand that your views won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.” He added that I must expect unintended consequences: “Some audience members might be offended by, or not like, what you say. That is the price for being a conference speaker.”

He was right. I have had occasions when a woke warrior on the extreme left or a righteous enthusiast on the extreme right ’s feedback indicated that a part of the content was offensive to them (not their cup of tea?).  My response has been to accept that social conditions are changing, and my perspective may hurt some people’s feelings. My current way of managing this is to see their feedback as a reminder that I cannot dispense opinions without accountability. I must critically reflect on my content to identify if the complainant was just virtue signalling or if there is sufficient evidence that their view is valid, if so, I will adapt my presentation.

However, I have also had an online audience member complain that he tuned out from listening to me when he saw I was white (my cup of tea was not black enough?). He probably assumed the organizers would have arranged a facilitator from a previously disadvantaged group. This experience of prejudice, based on my skin colour, reminded me of the horrors of racism suffered by so many black people. I acknowledge that I cannot know his actual experience of racism because my white context has isolated me from the systemic racism that most black people have endured. My exposure to black empowerment regulations and the occasional expression of prejudice directed at me does not compare with the barriers experienced by black people.

Back to the audience member that made the comment “nice”. He added that I should tell background stories. He said, “you should tell the juicy, behind-the-scenes, insider stories – both happy and sad. You were part of the management of the Springbok rugby team for years. You have been a world champion in surf lifesaving. You must have many stories, of initiations for example, that will entertain and enthral an audience.”

I reflected on my competitive lifesaving days to identify some salacious tales. I thought about the thirty years I spent competing. I dug deeper into my surf lifesaving memories of local and international championships and, sure enough, I found material that would send Heat magazine into a feeding frenzy. The problem was that they were too salacious. I could imagine the front page of the magazine leading with, “Dr Steve Reveals Surf Lifesaving Scandals.”

I concluded that spicy surf lifesaving stories could not be revealed. What about rugby stories? Surely, I, who went on so many Springbok rugby tours, would have some great stories to tell.

When I reflected on activities involving Springbok players, I faced a similar situation as I did with surf lifesaving. Admittedly, the behaviour of Springbok rugby players was not as extreme as that of the lifesavers in my era, but the stories were still not of the type that I could relay to audiences or in books.

What about stories relating to Springbok coaches? I received my first invitation and then exposure to Springbok rugby when Morné Du Plessis called and asked if I could present to the Springbok team. Of course, I agreed. The moment arrived and I entered the team room with a feeling of nervousness, layered with excitement.

After a sweeping gaze, catching the eyes of Francois Pienaar, Joel Stransky and the late Joost van der Westhuizen, I started in a somewhat customary way by asking, “Are there any questions before I begin?” My request hung in the room. An awkward silence followed, eventually interrupted by a voice with a typical Johannesburg accent. “Ya Boet, I have a question: Who the f*** died leaving you in charge?” I knew I was in for a rough ride. (RIP James).

The years went by and I worked with many Springbok coaches in a variety of roles, my last was an invitation from Peter de Villiers to facilitate his first strategic meeting. In every case, I accumulated many great stories, and in each instance, it would be a breach of professionalism to tell them. From a stories-perspective, it is back to the adage, “What goes on tour stays on tour.” I could never talk about my insider experiences and still expect my audiences to take me seriously when trying to leave take-away value from the talk. I am aware that the situation is different when ex-players or coaches write a book. Then the adage seems to be: “What goes on tour, goes in their book.”

Have you identified how you can use technology to gain the “inches” that stand between surviving and thriving for you?  Write to us and let us know.

The fitness industry has been hit hard this year, especially kids exercise programs. From dojos to ballet schools and everything in between, it’s been a scramble
to adjust and keep afloat. Yet, not everyone has suffered the fate of closed doors and dwindling revenues. In fact, a few industry leaders
are actually THRIVING. What did they do? Join us for this webinar to learn their strategies. 08 OCTOBER 2020 7PM

We all know that the past few months have been really challenging for the fitness industry as a whole.

In an attempt to help this valuable community, I’ve connected with Tania Williams, an expert in the fitness industry with over 20 years of experience. She has some valuable training that could change the game for you.

Tania was a National Champion at gymnastics back in the day but then transitioned into a fitness coach where she has specialised in kids’ fitness. She has a physical, brick-and-mortar gym and an online gym. She knows the industry and more importantly, she understands what it takes to run a successful 7-figure business. She is trying to help fitness coaches, personal trainers and anyone involved with kids’ fitness to adapt to the current changes and grow thriving businesses while they are at it.

If her free training session is something you’d be interested in, then click here to learn more

Fitnastixs Webinar Invitation 8 Oct 2020

Fitnastixs Webinar Invitation 8 Oct 2020


Dr Steve Harris eta College CEO


On Key

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