I played rugby for nearly 20 years. I loved the game – both playing and training. When I finally hung up my boots at the age of 30 it was a sad day. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the game and the fact that your team-mates relied on you to perform. There is no hiding on a rugby field. You’re exposed. If you put your body on the line it’s clear for everyone to see. If you don’t it’s just as obvious. The same applies on the training track. Words count for nothing in rugby. You might be a great talker but if you’re aren’t prepared to stand in front of a rampaging opponent and take him down (or at least try to) then you should try a gentler pastime.

Over the years I have trained and played with hundreds of people. A few I remember were incredibly talented but none of these (few) guys reached their full potential. At training they pushed themselves to a point but not beyond. They always held something back. I could never figure it out. In games too, they were always looking for short-cuts and easy options. They were flashy and when the game was running their way they were brilliant. When it wasn’t, however, a heavy burden fell on their team-mates to pick up their slack. Two guys that I know in this category have careers that mirror their approach to sport. They could have been world-beaters in both business and sport. Instead they stopped short, not able to push themselves past the pain, fear and discomfort that would have propelled them into the upper echelons. As my Dad would say they were all “hair oil and no socks”. I call it a waste of great natural talent.

One guy I went to school with could never be accused of stopping short. Early on he was a talented rugby player and athlete, but not exceptional. He was a couple of years younger than me and I watched him with interest throughout his school days. He was an incredible trainer and he left nothing on the training track EVER. He believed in himself and willed himself to be better. He amplified every bit of natural talent he had and through hard work slowly transformed himself into a champion. He was an inspiration to watch. By the time he left school he was captain of the Australian Schoolboys Rugby Team; then he played nearly 200 first grade rugby games and represented his state and country. His business career has been based on the same principles and has been similarly stellar.

Sport and business share one simple fact and that is that natural talent on its own will only get you so far. Success requires you to pay the price through effort and commitment over a long period of time. The legends of rugby were all tough uncompromising buggers who gave their all whenever they stepped on to the paddock. They didn’t care whether they were playing in front of 10 people or 100,000 or were slogging it out at training. They were up for it, whatever the circumstances. Successful business people operate the same way.

So, be honest, do you play sport like you work?

Leave a Reply