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What I Learned From Sitting On The Bench

12 Nov

In the world of sports, some guys are starters and some guys are bench riders. I spent most of my life playing sports as a starter, and on almost every team that I played for, I was the best player on the team. But then, this happened.

Sitting on the bench was a humbling experience

Being on a Winner Makes You A Winner

The one real positive aspect of being on the bench is that you get credit for winning games in which you physically did not have to participate. If you never set foot on the court or playing field, but you are attached to the right team then you still have accomplished something special. The last guy on the bench gets a championship ring when his team wins the championship. In a perfect world, your hard work against the starters readied them for opposing teams. Maybe your impact is bigger than you know. And, in real life sometimes it is lucrative simply to put your self into a winning environment. The janitor that worked at Apple and bought stock in his company in the eighties is a millionaire now. He did not contribute to the branding of the company. He did not produce any of the merchandise. However, he did work for the right company. Pick the right team.


Leave the Sinking Ship

Playing on a losing team weighs on people’s psyche, but sitting on the bench of a losing team reeks havoc on the soul. Having to watch inept coaching being wasted on players that are less talented than you can be very difficult. And, quitting for most athletes is not an option. However, there are times when your talents may be appreciated at a different location. There is no glory in being loyal to a team that does not value you, and there is no shame in attempting to find a better situation for yourself. Similarly, in the business world, sometimes you work for a company that is run poorly by people who do not know the talents and limitations of their staff. The experience can be destructive to your esteem and your resume. Leave bad situations before you become stagnant and learn to have a losing attitude.


Go Where You Are Wanted

Only a very special talent can overcome the misconceptions of an authority figure who does not recognize the abilities of his players, and most people do not have extraordinary abilities. The talent that you possess can be missed by your coach or your boss. Only the very best leaders properly utilize most of the talent that their players or employees posses respectively. Since you can not decide what type of production that your boss wants from you, you have to decide who your boss will be. And, you should always go to the place that wants you as an employee. The businesses that pursue you will bend to accommodate you as a professional. The companies that desired another candidate may accept you, but the road to the top may be significantly more difficult. Always go to the place that actively pursues you and make that place what you want it to be, rather than going to the place of your dreams and struggling to compete for a position that your superior wanted to go to a different candidate.


Give Your Boss What He Wants

If your coach asks you to do something, then perform activity to the best of your abilities. Coaches test you by asking the impossible of you and seeing how well you deal with the difficult task. Bosses pile on work to maximize productivity for the company rather than giving you work just to test you, however the end result is the same. You are going to be over-worked and expected to produce despite being in an implausible situation. How much work and perseverance you put into these situations may determine how well you do on that team or in the workplace. These obstacles are more about your bosses judging your work ethic when you are put in daunting positions than holding you to unreachable expectations. A good attitude and stern work habits can serve you well in these instances.


Give Your Boss What He Needs

Occasionally, there is a distinct difference between what your coach asks you to do and what he actually needs. You have to know the difference between the two, and your playing time may depend on what you do next. When you are faced with a conundrum about following orders and writing your own script, you have to tread lightly. And though it is the safe move to simply give your coach what he asks for, you can fulfill all your dreams by giving him what he needs. He told you set screens and rebound, but your talent is shooting the basketball. You have to have enough belief in your own ability to take the open shot even when the coach might disapprove of it. If you provide something that your coach needs even if he does not want it, then he will be forced to use you. Your boss operates the same way. He may not see your full value until you show him. So, though you have to give him the work that asks from you, when you see a need that you can fill, then you should do the extra work too. Giving your boss more than he asked for makes you more valuable to the company. And, value to the company keeps you working.


Understand the Politics of the Office

In sports and in the workplace, there are unwritten rules that everyone must adhere to. There are also groups of people that you must befriend in order to reach the places that you want to go. It is naive to think that the best players always make it onto the floor or field or that the most efficient workers always get the promotion. A good portion of how far you excel is learning to play the politics of your team or your office. If your boss wears a tie and a blazer on “Casual Friday” then you should too. He may not say anything to you personally, but he is watching to see who follows suit and who wears jeans. The old adage of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, is true. Being close to the right person can be your ticket to promotion regardless of your work ethic. And, knowing these unspoken rules can help or hinder your advancement.

None of these bullet points are necessary to your success. Hard work and determination ultimately drives most people’s success. However, understanding the intricacies of your work environment is key to excelling in it, and the parallels between sports wins and personal wins are uncanny.

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