Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Game IS Preparation and Practice

It's a Monday morning. Gray, drizzly and wet here in Petaluma, California. A parade of kids, moms and dads are making their morning march - umbrellas bobbing like so many flowers down Walnut Street past my front office bay window to Saint Vincent's School just down the street. They (the umbrellas) relate the fact that, yes it is winter. Yet they herald news that Spring is just around the corner ... and like buds and blossoms beginning to appear on the trees the umbrellas bring their cheery hues - yellows, reds, purples. Life goes on. People are learning. Things are changing.

This week is a prep week, as many weeks are. But this one is bigger than usual. Thursday, February 15th, is departure day for College Station, Texas where, on Friday and Saturday, will be the second annual delivery of a leadership program for the Texas A&M University Fellow. My host will be Fellow's Director, Dr. Tim Peterson. Readers of past Allied Ronin newsletters will recall that he and I presented at the Gallup Leadership Institute Summit a few months ago. Tim brought me and Samurai Game® to Oklahoma State University (where he was a faculty member three years ago) after participating in the Game at the Organizational Behavior Teachers Conference. He left OK State in 2005 for bigger challenges at Texas A&M. I've been kidding him that if he's not careful somebody will draft him to join Robert Gates (past President of TAMU) at the Department of Defense. Tim just cringes and says, "No way!". Anyhow ... we will co-facilitate the Game for about fifty (50) TAMU Fellows this coming weekend.

Sunday I depart TAMU for Kansas City, MO, and meetings with my client and friend George Hersh, CEO of GMJ and owner of the Sports Associated Companies. Sports Associated exclusively handles all North American expositions of motorcycles and small watercraft for Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati. George is the individual most responsible for the creation of the Allied Ronin Leadership Retreat. The next Leader's Retreat will be July 14-18.

Monday will depart Kansas City and head east through Chicago and London to arrive in Cairo, Egypt on February 21. There I’ll attend the AIESEC International President's Meeting (IPM). The IPM is a 10-day long event. My involvement will be the delivery of a full day leadership program which will include the Samurai Game® for approximately eighty (80) newly elected AIESEC Country Presidents.

AIESEC, the world's largest student organization, is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society. In addition to providing over 5,000 leadership positions and delivering over 350 conferences to a membership of over 22,000 students, AIESEC also runs an exchange program that enables over 4,000 students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and work in countries other than their own. February 2006 was my first involvement with AIESEC when I traveled to the Netherlands to present the Game. As a result I toured Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in November delivering the Game for hundreds of "AIESECers" in their own countries.

So this is a prep week ... and a big one. It, along with the moms and dads and kids and umbrellas, got me thinking this morning about how just important preparation really is. When I was a kid I participated in Boy Scouts. We had a motto then; it was "Be Prepared." Years later I met Jack Cirie, a highly decorated combat veteran and former lieutenant colonel, in a brief encounter that changed the direction of my life. I recall his voice admonishing me and others to - Stay Alert! - a motto frequently echoed these days by George Leonard, president emeritus of Esalen Institute, and author of a dozen books including: Mastery, The Silent Pulse, Education and Ecstasy, Walking on the Edge of the World, and The Ultimate Athlete. My friend, Richard Strozzi-Heckler similarly reminds me of this as we part company especially when I am about to travel internationally. With him it's, "Watch your six o'clock”. Maybe you’d have to have served in the military or on a police force to understand the importance of that one.

Here's what's on my mind. I'm going off in a few days to facilitate a Game, a leadership simulation. One hundred thirty people on two continents will participate in these Games. They will represent almost 100 nations from around the globe. During the fourteen days that follow my involvement, those 130 individuals will directly impact the lives of and bring their learning to over 15,000 people. By day 28 following my involvement the energy of those fifteen thousand will then ripple out to touch over 1.5 million people. Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? Not really. This is a realistic, calculated, statistically sound and even conservative estimate. So given this, how important should my preparation be? With what kind of attitude should I live the next few days knowing what the potential impact could be?

One of the bigger lessons that I try to impart with college level students ... and this is who I'll mostly interface with over the next two weeks ... is that any game (football, basketball, soccer, etc.) does not just occur on the playing field between the referee's beginning and ending whistles. A track and field athlete's race does not just occur between the moment the starter's pistol fires and the instant the runner hits the tape. The Tour d'France does not just occur for only a few weeks in France ... just ask Lance Armstrong. Attaining a certain level in a martial art – especially for black belt - does not happen on the night of the test. It happens during warm up, it happens when one is training with partners you really don’t like, and it happens when you leave the dojo and walk out on the street or into your home and live the lessons of the art that remain in your muscle memory. The "real game" is what happens off the court, off the field, off the track, off the mat … away from the stadium … as one prepares. The Master's Tournament does NOT happen in Augusta, Georgia! That’s where it ends. The Master’s Tournament happens every time the golfer takes a swing … and every time the golfer thinks about taking a swing. Good leaders understand this concept.

A good executive knows that the most important part of any negotiation happens long before she or he arrives in a conference room for the "important meeting." A good attorney knows that the trial will probably be won or lost long before the courtroom bailiff proclaims, "All Rise!" A good pilot knows his or her safety can depend on the important, yet mundane practice of frequent touch & go landings. A good soldier or police officer knows that how she or he is being with squad mates and potential squad mates during off hours can dramatically shape reality under fire. How he or she is being in the classroom or off duty, can be a matter of life or death later, not only for themselves but for members of the public they sworn to serve.

The "real game" is what happens during practice and preparation.

What's your practice? What do you put into your preparation?

When it comes to your attitude, when it comes to people and how you treat them, when it comes to your family, when it comes to your profession, when it comes to your mission, and …

When you think that no one is watching you …

What's your game?

©2007, Lance Giroux

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