Decisions are the frequent fabric of our daily design. Studies show the average person makes at least five decisions per minute. Given the ideal goal is eight hours of sleep each night–although since becoming a father to young Will and Maddie, that appears to be more fantasy than a realistic goal–the average person is awake for 16 hours. By those parameters, the average person makes 4,800 decisions daily. But even that total seems severely underestimated.
In sports and in business, the greatest leaders are those who make the best decisions in the most crucial of situations. They are the ones who focus their energy on turning tough decisions into winning decisions.
The University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban incorporates that philosophy and uses it as nourishment… Literally. Saban is so intent on saving his energy and attention for the major decisions, that he eats the same lunch meal each day in order to take one of his 4,800 decisions, literally, “off his plate.”
“A salad of iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped with turkey slices and fat-free Honey Dijon dressing” means that he doesn’t have to take time away from his day to study a menu and decide on lunch. Instead he can add that time to the laundry list of NCAA items a national champion head coach has to handle.
But the lesson on Saban doesn’t end there. In a recent ESPN interview the Crimson Tide coach talked about his demanding style, the expectations he puts on his players, and his team’s chances of winning this year’s national title.
“You coach against perfection, not your opponent and you’ll find you win quite a few,” was the response from Saban that quickly caught my attention.
Legendary UCLA basketball coach– and my mentor– John Wooden used a similar motto 40 years ago. “Don’t focus on your opponent. Focus instead on what you are capable of doing,” was one of Wooden’s many golden lessons.
Both coaches built teams of great respect and success. Both believed that perfection should be the demand at all times. Both believed that success didn’t begin with simply trying to beat everyone else, but rather in trying to be so well-prepared that the opposition didn’t stand a chance.
Saban believes that if you focus on your personal performance on each play, you will find that the scoreboard is in your favor more times than not. Just as he eliminated his own lunch options to avoid seemingly insignificant decisions, so too has Saban eliminated the distractions of championship predictions by challenging his players to focus solely on where they will be at the end of each play. If his team perfects how they execute each play, then the sum of perfection will most likely equal victory.
Too many of us are focused strictly on the end result when each play deserves that same kind of attention. We should all strive to be extraordinary and that starts with a focus on our own capabilities instead of those of our opponents. The myriad of distractions, predictions, and feigned finish lines only create room for disappointment, failure and lack of preparation.
What “play” do you have in front of you today that deserves your full attention? Are there current decisions in your life that should require more of your focus?