You didn't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate and enjoy the epic World Series Game 7 between Chicago and Cleveland. Two teams with tortured fan bases going back and forth, with players from both teams stepping up in the most pressure-packed moments and delivering performances that will be talked about for years to come. A perfect example of why sport is so compelling.
With the Cubs ending a World Series championship drought of 108 years, we would be wise to dive into how they did it. And the way they did it starts with their manager, Joe Maddon. I offer up three lessons taken from Maddon's mantras:
1) Embrace the target
Coming into this season Maddon knew the expectations for his club were going to be through the roof. This was "the year". And outside expectations can be a source of tremendous pressure. But they don't have to be. In the very first team meeting at Spring Training, Maddon offered his team a mantra for the season: Embrace the target - embrace the expectations and the pressure as a positive sign that you're right where you want to be. From Maddon: "Why would you ever want to be in a situation that doesn't require a little bit of pressure added to it, or expectations?"
This team didn't have a choice about having a target on its back and the pressure that comes with it - they did, however, have a choice about how to view the target, and Maddon urged them to embrace it. If we are pursuing greatness in any endeavor we will face expectations and pressure. Embrace them.
2) Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure
This one is beautifully simple. Never allow the pressure of performing to exceed the pleasure of playing the game. Baseball (or your sport) is a game - it is meant to be played. Whether it was having the team dress up for Halloween on the brink of elimination or having "American Legion Week" where players were forbidden from arriving at the ballpark early, Maddon did a masterful job of keeping this message in focus throughout the long season. Where can you find ways to stay connected to the pleasure of playing the game?
3) Do simple better
In competitive sport it is so easy to overthink. In fact, it's easy to overthink in any area of our life, whether sport-related or not. We are wired to overanalyze. To me this mantra of "do simple better" is all about incremental improvements in the basics. Simplify the game down to your footwork, your mechanics - the nuances of performing. The way you do small things is the way you do ALL things. Never underestimate the power of your attention to detail.