6 July 2020 Christian Caldato

Analogy between sport and work. How sport changes the perception of work

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The “reference model” is a kind of lens that we use to see the world. It actually constitutes the way we process information and we decide to categorise it in our heads. It is the structure of our beliefs, within which we are going to enter information. If I think – according to the model of war- , I will have in my head the box of the good, that of the bad, of armaments. And from time to time I will put people in their cells. If I think according to the economic model, I will have income, expenses and profits in mind. And everything will become a number.

Obviously the human being can apply different models, according to the needs. Realizing that certain models can be tight, he creates new ones. But he ends up systematically using those that from his point of view fit better. Like a dress, some models become snug in the right places, and loose where necessary. These representations become more and more part of us, until that point we start to talk about any interpretation, taking them for granted. It is as if anyone could only use our reference model. On the other hand, in our head it fits perfectly, so what reason would a person have to use a different model? If you are not convinced, try to face a political discussion about someone who has a different point of view from yours. And you will understand. Your boxes simply don’t match.

Today I want to tell you about one of my models. It is clearly not only mine, but it is what I inherited from my previous work. For me, sport is THE reference model. And like any good model, it is able to give us a structure that we can apply to the most diverse contexts.

And today I would like to show you how there are 3 points that fit perfectly with the work. For me the perfect points are many more, but as I said at the beginning, the model is mine, and therefore I’m biased.

Goals and targets in the world of sport, and in the world of work

Let’s start from the base. Sport is made up of training. Training makes up more than 90% of any sport. In some cases much more. Try to think about preparing the vault for the Olympics. Vaulting, as an exercise in artistic gymnastics, lasts about thirty seconds. It is repeated twice. If it were to reach the final, there are two other possible jumps. Two minutes of activity, for four years of work. You understand well how much training can weigh in a sport in percentage terms. Consider that according to a 1993 study by Professor Anders Ericsson of the University of Colorado entitled “The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance” it is claimed that 10,000 hours of training are needed to become good at a sport. They are not enough, but they are needed.

If you move it into a working context it means that it takes at least 5 years to become a professional in your sector. This only if you do that job for 8 hours a day. Otherwise the years increase. And you have to commit yourself. And you have to repeat things. And repeat them again. And compete. Confronting others. And repeat. Find who is better than us. And repeat. Only then can we allow ourselves the luxury of thinking that we have become professionals. Certainly not before.

Alex Zanardi: the best recognition for the effort made is not what we get out of it, but what we become thanks to it.

The importance of work planning

At this point we understood that we will have to do our best to excel. The rip-off, however, is that we will not be judged by effort. In the end, in sports, the only thing that matters is the result. And so in the work. Somehow, on the day of your interview, someone looked you in the face and said “I need this and you are the right person for me”. And it is on the basis of that expectation that you will be evaluated. Are you able to deal with that problem? Can you give that support? When the customer asks for a project, are you the right person to complete it? And then we go to see over the years how we behaved. Performance after performance. And it is true that that result may not be an indication of how much you have endeavored. But you don’t get to play in Serie A just because you have made an effort. You arrive because you have made an effort and because at the right moment you show off your skills. Systematically.

The question is hidden in the “systematically”. And this is where society, the team comes in and opens the world to planning. Would you ever run a marathon after doing another? Would you suggest an athlete to mess around the night before a race? The champions must be able to give the closest thing to 100%. And if you start already in difficulty that result is clear that it cannot come. But in the work it’s not so different. If you are always in trouble, every day, do not expect good results. If someone continues to ask you for activities, considering everything equally urgent and important, they will end up consuming you. It’s like playing the World Cup final every sacrosanct day. So expect mistakes. Distractions. Forgetfulness. Poor performance. Precarious health. It doesn’t mean that you can’t suffer, it means that you don’t have to plan a job like that if you want to play at certain levels. It means that it is not by bringing people to exhaustion that the best result is obtained. It means that without planning you don’t go anywhere. And this if you realize it is no longer just about you. But it affects your whole work environment. It’s about your team.

Micheal Jordan: Games are won with talent. But it is with teamwork and intelligence that championships are won.

Championships are won only through teamwork

We understood that training is needed to reach a level performance. But we also know that if we want to play a championship we need recovery times, to be able to give everything when needed. And finally we come to what is the most quoted and feared bogeyman in sport. The head and peak performance. I challenge you to take La Gazzetta dello Sport on any day of the week and read the headlines. I am sure you will find at least one who claims that the athlete “was not there with his head”, “who had a mad blow”, “who no longer finds the mental condition”. You will certainly find them, and when you see them you will realize that the mental is only spoken when it ceases. We note the absence and rarely the presence. But this is due to several factors. On the one hand, it is an excellent excuse for when things are difficult to explain and do not work properly. On the other hand, even today, it is difficult to work on these issues of mental training. There are few deserving professionals in this sector. They are not gurus. They are not opinion leaders. They are professionals in the approach to the race.

And as in an athlete, the approach to the race is crucial, the same is for the worker. Put a worker in a positive context. Create conditions for him to use that head. Do not put the fear of making a mistake on him, but instigate him to try, even beyond his own possibilities. Support him in front of others. Create a path for that wild horse that is the mind that allows it to gallop carefree towards a goal that you have defined together. Then in the end you will realize that the result will come. And it will seem almost automatic. And so you will find yourself after a spectacular FIFA World Cup “Fabio Grosso” kicking the penalty that we will continue to watch as long as we want to experience emotions.

Nadal: mental strength distinguishes the champions from the almost champions.

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