Why was there such a blowout in this year's Super Bowl? What can we learn from it? A few friends have asked me to comment on this. And I think the great philosophers may have an explanation.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his many players who were formerly unappreciated by the experts in the sport display in their attitude and actions what I consider to be the greatest wisdom that leads to success in any field. If you know anything about the up-and-down career of the coach, repeatedly fired and underestimated at various times in the past, you've seen the great stoic attitude of resilience at work. Contrary to a popular misconception, the stoic philosophers were not all about a grim refusal to experience emotion and a duty to carry on, regardless of the circumstances. They were proponents of inner resilience and of psychological strategies that would allow our natural gift of joy to shine through, regardless of our challenges. Pete Carroll and the members of his team display an attitude and overall personal disposition that I like to call Resilient Opportunistic Initiative. It's the one ROI that's impressively involved with success within any domain of work or life.
Everyone with great talent fails. Anyone with extraordinary potential falls short now and then. People with greatness in their future tend to push themselves and try things that they're often not quite ready for, at least, yet. And so they fail. They trip and fall. But a few are by nature resilient. They bounce. And they always come back. That's Pete Carroll. And that's a characteristic shared by many of his players. The great stoic philosophers of Rome -- Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius -- have taught me the importance of resilience in life and success. And they've taught it to many others throughout the centuries. Successful people tend to be optimistic about what's next. Carroll has often said, in effect, that he sees success around almost every corner. And that's an ingredient of resilience.
The most successful people also tend to be intensely opportunistic, in the best possible way. They look for opportunities and grab them quickly, always moving in the direction of the next potential achievement. Every interception and fumble recovery results from opportunistic action. So does successful improvisation on the field. Most career developments in the world of business that are crucial for subsequent success are not planned, but happen fortuitously. And it's the person who can opportunistically take advantage of the sudden connection or the opening who flourishes.
If I were forced to name just one trait that sets highly accomplished people apart, it would have to be a tendency to take initiative and act, then learn from what results and adjust. Without initiative, real growth and improvement is impossible.
Inertia often seems to rule the world. Amid the roiling change that so obviously envelops modern life, we still remain creatures of habit, most of us, doing today pretty much what we did yesterday, and making tomorrow more predictable than it should be, at least with respect to our own tendencies. Successful people break the mold and take action. That's their Modus Operandi. Whether Heraclitus and Alfred North Whitehead were completely right in their philosophies of change and dynamic process, we all live among conditions that favor action. Those who take initiative, within a Super Bowl game, or in their daily endeavors, tend to position themselves better to succeed than those who do not.
When the MVP of this Super Bowl, Seattle Linebacker Malcolm Smith was recently asked about his own humble entry into professional football, being the 242nd pick in the 2011 draft out of Southern California, and even then, being selected only by his old college coach, Pete Carroll, then at Seattle, he said something very wise. "I guess there's unlimited possibilities," he mused. And adding a comment that applies to any professional failure, or embarrassing stretch of either underachievement or under-recognition that any of us live through, from time to time, he said, "That's not the end of your story. Just keep playing. Stick to what you've got to do, and what you want to do, and how you see things going for yourself."
The great practical philosophers of the ages, from Lao Tsu and Confucius in ancient times, to the prominent classic Roman philosophers, and on through such influential writers and speakers as the quintessential American thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, have given us bits and pieces of a comprehensive and logical framework, or toolkit, for success that I see in the actions of the Seahawks, as well as in the most amazing success stories in every domain of modern life. I've spent the past quarter of a century exploring the ramifications of these conditions for success. And I've had championship athletes across sports tell me frequently what one young Olympic skater once said to me about these seven conditions, that I call "The 7 Cs of Success": "This is what my coach has always been trying to teach me, but never quite had the words for. The philosophers really said it all."
In any challenge, for true success, we need:
1. A clear CONCEPTION of what we want.
2. A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.
3. A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach that goal.
4. A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
5. An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.
6. A good CHARACTER to keep us on a proper path.
7. A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.
Is it possible to have success with a difficult challenge in the absence of one or more of these conditions? Yes. Absolutely. They're not necessary and sufficient conditions for high achievement. Life doesn't work like that. Nor does professional football. They're strong facilitators of success. They position us in the best possible ways for success, but can't guarantee it. They just make it much more likely. And especially, if like Pete Carroll and Malcolm Smith, and so many of the championship Seahawks, we act in accordance with these conditions while also displaying an attitude of Resilient Opportunistic Initiative. That's the bounce. That's the edge. That's the ultimate breakfast of champions.
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