2015  February 8

Tapping In

Today I got to sit with James Bottom, who runs a startup accelerator on USC campus at the Annenberg School. During my tour of the surrounds, I got to see a whole building dedicated to the many football wins by the USC Trojan -- it was there that I learned that a younger James was once the team captain of the USC football team, and he showed me his Rose Bowl trophy. I am not a sports fan, but I am a fan of leadership paradigms embodied by a friend of mine (“Coach Ralph”).

James shared with me a couple of things from his experience playing under Coach Pete Carroll -- I had to look him up on the Web, and when I realized that he was the coach of the Seahawks, well ... I got the picture that he was a big deal.

The first thing I learned was how James and his teammates were taught to celebrate when they won a game -- but only for that evening. Because by the next day, the win needed to be completely forgotten. I thought this to be a winning formula -- to let oneself feel the win temporarily, but to not let the win settle into a sense of comfort and complacency. It made me think differently about how being hard on oneself doesn’t mean you can’t let yourself be a little happy with yourself if just for an evening.

The second thing I learned was the concept of “tapping in” to the game. James gestured with his two fingers tapping on the top of a doorsill. It was to signal when entering a game that no thoughts from outside the playing field were allowed into the game -- that each player’s undivided attention was demanded to be 100% present on the task at hand. I often experience how easy it is to let my mind wander and let myself (and others) down by preventing myself from being being fully present with the task placed before me.

With respect to the second point, a lot of what James described to me sounded similar to what Andy Grove wrote in High Performance Management with respect to how when you lead, you always need to lead at the top of your game.

So I feel the importance of "tapping in" to the work I have at hand. Good luck with tapping in to the work that you have at hand, too! -JM

Everyone needs to bring their best selves to the matter at hand.

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