There is an African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Success is a team sport with players and coaches, and player/coaches. Leadership at its best is building ladders for others to climb to their success. Although we often think of success in individual terms, it is more like a relay race than a one-person sprint. Sports is a great laboratory for uncovering the knowledge that teaches the fundamentals of successful performances, both individually and as teams.

It seems to be a trick of nature that we are all born with “what’s in it for me” built deep into our makeup, and then in order to get that “whatever” for oneself, we need to help a lot of people. A successful business provides value to others, and the more value and the more people one can serve, the bigger the success. The same holds true for the individual. There is the natural tension in the individual on the path to success to grow beyond mere self-interest into a much more expansive horizon. It is all about expanding awareness of potential, and that entails some growing pains.

Why look to sports for clues to business success beyond the obvious? If you ever played a sport, or learned to play the violin or learned to fix a flat on your bicycle, we all start in a state of ignorance. We don’t know how to do it. Our coaches, parents, teachers and then bosses and mentors taught us something that opened our eyes, a little bit at a time. Leadership is the art of giving sight to the blind! That’s what a coach and mentor does. That’s what a leader does. It is the ability to see potential in others that they do not see in themselves, or the business or opportunity that you are presenting and what it can do for someone. Your success depends on your ability to open first your own eyes, then the eyes of others, to open their minds to possibilities that they not only did not see, but they did not even know existed!

What can we see in sports that can open our own eyes to how leadership can be more successful? There are three phases in our climb through life. The first is survival. We struggle with our growth from the moment of birth onward, and all along the way we are moving in and out of survival. As years of experience accumulate, new horizons find us again as beginners, learning to survive in a new space. Then, with the piling on of successes and failures, we enter a state of success that has as its foundation — experience. We have build a platform from which to engage the world and satisfy our needs. Most stay here. It is comfortable. If becomes familiar and the “what’s in it for me” is satisfied. Then a few take the journey one more step. That is living a life of significance, focusing on making a larger difference to others, serving instead of being served, building ladders for others to climb to success rather that just enjoying our own climb up the ladder of success.

This is where leadership lies. This is the life of the coach, the mentor, the world class leader.

In sports we use tools to get there. It is the mind of the champion and what that looks like. It is standing on the shoulders of others, and being the shoulders for others to stand on. One of the most effective performance systems was developed by Jim Fannin, the SCORE Performance System. Jim has coached more champions to success than any other coach on the planet. SCORE is an acronym for Self Discipline; Concentration; Relaxation; Optimism; and Enjoyment. When a performer is trained to move within these key areas, a state of performance capability is created that he or she can tap into and even control. It allows the skills of the athlete or performer to be used like selected arrows in a quiver. There is a High SCORE and a Low SCORE, states of expansion or contraction. Awareness is key. One must be aware of exactly the state one is in, either expansion or contraction, and move to the state that best supports the task at hand. This is controlling peak performance. This is a pathway to the “Zone,” that elusive state where records are made.

Being coached in SCORE and learning SCORE leads to acquiring the capability to continuously self-correct in all kinds of performance situations. It opens up a tool box of possibilities that can be applied on the fly, when the championship is up for grabs, when the money is on the table and when life brings a decisive moment that will have far reaching effects and results. It supports the hard work and preparation that goes into any career. It is that intangible that turns possibility into reality. It gives sight to the blind. Together, as teams, we give each other sight by first acquiring it, then helping to open each other’s eyes. Together, we can go far. 

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