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What the World Cup Teaches Us About Life and Leadership

Inspirational Writer and EVP, Content & Business Development, First Media Tbk.

Lessons from the World Cup

Even though the “World Cup Fever” ended two months ago, to this day we still reminisce about the “good times” we had during the month of World Cup. The World Cup is one of those very rare events that can bring people together magically every four years in a way that very few things can. For the love of soccer, people of every nationality and culture put their prejudices aside and watch the game together all over the world.

The World Cup is the most lucrative and most expensive soccer event. FIFA earned approximately 6 billion dollars in revenue from the 2018 World Cup, which is 25% higher than the previous tournament.

After a month of excitement, the memories of the World Cup quickly fade into the background of yesteryears till the next tournament. What can we all learn about life from the World Cup?

Here are my top 5 favorite lessons the World Cup teaches us:

Preparation starts before you get on the field

When soccer fans watch the world cup in excitement, they holler instructions to the players on how to outsmart other players. What we do not see is the countless months and years invested by the players, the teams and the coaches to prepare for this day. Often times, we underestimate the importance of a well-prepared plan and strategy. In the past, I used to assume that as long as I knew the big picture and had some kind of a plan, I can cruise through meetings. However, over time, I have learned to be better prepared. The devil is in the detail and the detail is what makes or breaks our performance. As the saying goes, “When we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail. This is what sets us apart from most people and this is what will change the outcome of our game.

Failure isn’t personal

Winning a game or securing a deal requires a resilient mindset and a “never say die” attitude. Belgium was considered to be a strong contender, which is why they were the heavily-favored team in their match against Japan. As the game progressed, it was obvious that Japan was ahead of Belgium. Despite what seemed to be a near failure, Belgium never gave up even after Japan scored 2 goals. Through sheer determination, they took over the game in the second half and emerged the victor.

As a young boy, teachers told Thomas Edison that he was “too stupid to learn anything”. He was fired from his first two jobs. As an inventor of the light bulb, Edison was successful only after 1000 attempts. Had he given up, we wouldn't have been able to experience light at night time.

We don't lose until we quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit.

Teamwork is critical

Great soccer players cannot succeed alone. Even Kings have advisors and Presidents have their cabinet. It takes a collaborative effort to succeed. In one of his interviews, Collin Powell shared that teamwork is as critical in the boardroom as it is on the battlefield. If anyone violates the command of the commander in chief, his disobedience can cost the lives of his fellow men. Likewise, as a corporate executive, I have to make many decisions on a daily basis. All these decisions have to be in line with the objective of the company. It requires the consensus of the board and the collaborative work of my team to achieve that goal. Each individual in a team is like a particular body part. Each body part has its own function but the body works together in unison to live in harmony.

Maintaining Focus at all times is crucial

The victory of a team depends on many small decisions that need to be made throughout the game. In order to stay on top, we need to stay focused. David De Gea of Spain is seen as one of the best goalkeepers in the World, but in Spain’s opening World Cup match against Portugal, he committed a fatal error. In the first half, Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo got the ball around the top of the penalty box, and fired a shot directly into the goal. De Gea’s error costed Spain as it gave Portugal the chance to win ahead of Spain in the group. It is like watching the reality show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” The answers given by the contestant, his decision as to when to use and trust his lifeline would determine whether he walks away with a million dollars or nothing. Every decision we make needs to be a calculated decision whereby we measure risk in a millisecond each time. Such risk calculation is only possible when we are focused.

Victory requires faith

In a World Cup full of surprises, Croatia is one team that nobody expected will make it to the final match. As the underdog, they were favoured by many. Twenty years after they first made the world take notice of their undeniable talent, they played against France, the same country which ironically denied them a spot in the 1998 World Cup. Croatia finds its strength through faith. The players are children of war who have seen their country rise out of Old Yugoslavia. They have learned that even though life is not easy, through faith and perseverance, they will get very far and so they did. Faith is the engine that helps us leap forward. Faith is believing in the unseen not the seen. Faith is what makes the impossible possible. And faith without works is dead.

Even though the World Cup is a distant memory, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from this entertaining sport that can be transformational. I hope we can apply these lessons in our daily lives that will inspire us and many others for years to come.

•Meena is also an inspirational writer and her quotes and writing can be found on facebook and Instagram (account name : “Strong and Shine”) -

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