Maybe Thinking Big Isn't Right For Your Sports Career

thinking big for your sports career

Listen to enough career advice speakers and you’ll hear a similar refrain – something along the lines of think big.

To be truly successful you are supposed to have massive dreams, overwhelming thoughts of grandeur and visualize great importance in your future. Even the magnets you stick on your refrigerator remind you to “aim for the stars, and even if you come up short you’ll end up on the moon”…or something cliche like that.

In our staff meetings at Work in Sports we set Big Hairy Audacious Goals – because it feels right to have everyone focused on a major accomplishment down the road. We all visualize what our business will look like when, and if, we hit the big goal - its titillating even if it's sometimes irrational.

Having everyone focused on a humongous purpose brings clarity to the operation…or so the thought goes.

But what if that is all wrong? What if thinking big is the incorrect way to frame your mind around the future?

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a known contrarian, seems to think so.

42 years as a coach in the NFL, owner of a near 70% career winning percentage as a head coach, 5-time Super Bowl champion (more than any other coach in NFL history) and holder of multiple other historic achievements sees the goals of his team through a much different, less fanciful lens.

Asked before a recent minicamp practice, three months before the start of another season defending a Super Bowl title, "With all you have accomplished in your coaching career, what is left that you still want to accomplish?" the gruff Belichick responded:

"I'd like to go out and have a good practice today. That would be at the top of the list right now."

A simple goal focused on the present, where he and his team are right now. It’s as if he is saying, the building blocks to our future start with the small steps, the minute details, the preparation and the process…not the visual of holding a trophy high above your head.

The question posed what he wants personally, he could have taken the bait and spoke about winning more games, another Super Bowl ring, polishing another coach of the year award. But he didn't.

His big dream, his think big goal...was a good practice today.

Star quarterback Tom Brady isn’t much different.

Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, now an omnipresent analyst covering the league in all forms of multimedia, recalled a story about his experience in practices with the Patriots.

“I will never forget: every time I was at center, Brady would look at me in the huddle and he’d say, ‘All right, Ross. You and me first. It starts with a great snap.’ Even though they asked Brady to do literally everything in an offense, in terms of re-declaring protections, re-declaring the Mike [linebacker], all that stuff. This was before he would call the play. I would look at him, and I didn’t say this, but in my head, I was like, ‘OK Tom! This is going to be a great snap!’ Like a little boy. At this point, I am 26 years old; this was my sixth year in the NFL; I had started 24 games, all that stuff.

“Everywhere else I had been, the snap is sort of like the most mundane thing you do. We’ve been doing this since we were 8; no big deal. But I guess it was the way he looked at me. Brady did not want a good snap. He did not want a great snap. He wanted a perfect snap.”how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

The snap between the center and quarterback is one of the most overlooked plays in the game. It just happens. No analysis or scrutiny necessary.

But in this case, the Patriots and Tom Brady focused on that detail, belabored its necessity and ensured it was executed perfectly.

Here’s another saying for your refrigerator: the devil is in the details.

What does that really mean you ask? The biggest problems in life come from not giving the details of any task the attention they deserve.

Leave the details out of your focus, welcome the devil to your door. Dramatic, yes, but most cliche's are.

It makes no sense to set yourself a goal to be an anchor at ESPN, or a sports agent to the stars, or general manager of the Colorado Rockies - but never focus on the details to get there.

Thinking big is great, but that's not going to be what changes your future.

Instead of focusing on the big bold goals you plaster on your wall and tap every day as you leave the house, maybe Bill Belichick is telling us all to focus on the most important thing we can do today towards that "thinking big" goal.

Consider the steps in the journey and how you can execute them better than anyone else, and when you master the little steps your big goal will become achievable.

It all starts with a good snap.

What does your good snap look like? Tell us in the comments below.

UPDATE 6/13/2017: Asked about the Patriots Super Bowl ring ceremony, Belichick said,"It was a great night, but really, we need to move on to 2017. We've had enough parades, enough celebrations, and enough everything. This '17 team hasn't done anything yet. None of us have. So we really need to focus on what we are doing this year. There have been a lot of great moments in the past, which is great, but none of that is going to help us this year."

He's a model of living in the moment and focusing on the little steps that will get you to the next big moment. Step by step, no skipping.   
By Brian Clapp | June 12, 2017
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