If Life Is a Game, Learn To Play It Like a Child

December 22, 2013 / ALWAYS BE LEARNING

If Life Is a Game, Learn To Play It Like a Child

December 22, 2013

Kevin Smoker Associate Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Kevin Smoker is an Associate Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific helping make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. He also serves as CFO for Peak Rescue Institute and seeks challenges of all types be it professional, outdoor, or culinary.

I believe 80% of what I know about being on a team and leading a team comes from my some 20 years as an athlete. The willingness to sit through discomfort, how to work with teammates one loves and others one loathes, and the ability to dissect a strategy to find a weakness in a competitor are all skills honed after tens of thousands of hours on a track, court or field. The basic tenants of athletics though are some of the most valuable lessons athletes take with them beyond the field. Those basics are usually learned in the first few games of a young athletes life, yet sticks with them for a lifetime.

One day as I sat and watched my cousin take the field with a cadre of other five year olds for their first soccer game and I was completely inspired. They swarmed around the ball like a mass of bees moving and pulsing in amazing chaos threating to engulf anything and anyone who came to close. They tromped around in jerseys far to big for such tiny humans, but approached the game with an unrivaled joy and zeal. The game they played was a distant relative of the professional games being played that very same day, but the growth that took place during that one game was far more profound. Lessons learned from the field that day are the same ones we sometimes need to relearn and remember ourselves.

Aim where the ball is going not where it is
Just minutes into the game a number of miniature players wildly swung their legs at a moving ball and missed. After just a few failed attempts the message was clear: I have to aim my kick where the ball is traveling to and not where it is at this exact moment. The fact is the same, as we grow older. We can’t run to where the ball was. Someone not only might—but will—kick it farther down the field. Never run to where the market is now, run where it is going. 

Listen to the right person
Standing on the sidelines of the game I realized the players hear about 30 people screaming directions. Coaches, parents and other players line the edge of the field cheering their player or team along. They scream directions. They scream encouragement. The really negative ones scream frustrations, but no mater what they add to the noise of what the players hear. Learning to filter through the noise and listening to the coach’s voice as their guiding voice of reason is an invaluable skill. But as we grow it’s easy to forget to listen to the right person or persons, and it’s even harder as it is to identify who the right person is. Take time to decide who the right people are and filter out the noise.

It takes a team
No one can’t do it alone. It took all the players on the field participating to score a goal. The coaches highlighted and celebrated the role of each player—no matter how small it was. Similarly, it’s important to remember that no matter how great one individual is, it takes a team to execute a plan and eventually drive business forward.

Know where you are aiming
Before the game began the coaches lined up players in front of their goal with the clear message that this is our goal and we don’t let the ball go in here. Then they pointed to the other goal and said that’s where we want the ball to go. The beauty of a soccer field for these players was the clear two-fold purpose. Each player on the team understood their objective. Later there was some confusion on which goal belonged to which team and lead to a few laughs. Portraying that having clear alignment and directions are paramount to completing an objective. 

Mistakes happen, try again
Perhaps the most critical lesson learned that day was the way players tried and failed, then succeeded, then failed, but they never stopped to dwell on a goal scored or opportunity missed.  The willingness to try again and again becomes increasingly harder as the stakes grow larger, but the lesson to learn and grow from failure is incredibly important. The athletes on the field that day knew what everyone must remember mistakes happen shake them off and get back out there and try again. 

Businesses, leaders, and employees alike can benefit from approaching situations like a child. Just as these five year olds approached their game, no matter the implications by remembering to aim for the right goal, listen to the right people, work with a team, know where you’re going, and bounce back from mistakes when you fail. Will provide a foundation for success. I try each day to play the game the way those five year olds did that day; fearless, unrelenting, and a huge smile on my face. I just hope there are orange slices at half time.

Kevin Smoker Associate Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Kevin Smoker is an Associate Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific helping make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. He also serves as CFO for Peak Rescue Institute and seeks challenges of all types be it professional, outdoor, or culinary.

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