In the summer of 2008, Josep “Pep” Guardiola was appointed as manager of FC Barcelona. At his unveiling at the Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona stadium, Pep addressed the thousands of spectators that had come to see their new manager.
“I can’t promise titles but I am convinced that the fans will be proud of us. I give you my word that we will put in an effort. I don’t know if we’ll win, but we’ll persist. Put on your seat belts, because we’re going to have fun.”
Pep may not have been the typical candidate. He was young and inexperienced. Not exactly qualifications for taking the reigns of one of the most iconic sports teams in history. But he had new ideas for a team stuck in old ways. And most importantly, he had the courage and the discipline to make those ideas come to fruition. We may not be soccer managers, but we still need both in whatever endeavor we pursue.
All of us have ideas that we want to bring forth and give to the world. But we’re self-conscious, scared and unsure of what to do next. I know I am. I’m the first to admit it. I wish I could write like Shane. I wish I could lead like Noam. I wish I was as outgoing as Noah or as intelligent as Mark. But it’s futile to think that way because the world doesn’t need another version of those guys, one is enough. All I can do is the best with what I’ve been given. That’s all I can ask of myself. And if I do that it will to everyone’s benefit.
We have a tendency to overestimate others and underestimate ourselves. We think that the person who published a book, started a company or directed a film has access to something esoteric and almost God-like, and that that isn’t available to us. But the only difference is that those that ventured forward, had the courage to do so. They couldn’t learn how to be themselves from anyone else, so they had to venture on their own to discover that.
In his eloquent and beautiful essay “Self-Reliance”, Ralph Waldo Emerson says:
“Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or do too much.”
Tupac Shakur couldn’t have learned how to be Tupac, he was the only one. Sure, he may have learned things from other people in his space and from various influenced, but he had to be him. Similarly, you’ll never learn to be yourself if you look outside of yourself. You’re all you got. This is it. There is no sequel, no Godfather Part II of your life. So why are we selling ourselves short?
But what’s interesting is that there’s more competition for being average than their is for being exceptional. In The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss outlines the Paradox of Average. To paraphrase, he says, most people compete for the average job, the average spouse or the average anything. And because of that, there’s actually less competition for the truly excellent things. We don’t give credence to what we hold dear and believe because we want that external validation before we venture forth. But the doers, the ones we look up too?, got there because of they didn’t need anyone to pick them, they chose themselves.
Look at Pep Guardiola’s first season. People thought he was going to drive the team to the ground. Who was this guy? Before the season kicked off, Pep jettisoned two of his most important players; Deco and the former Ballon d’Or Winner, Ronaldinho.
And instead of bringing in big names to replace the two, he instead called up two youngsters from the B Team. His least controversial move was probably in deciding to make a then 22-year-old Lionel Messi the focal point of his squad. People knew Messi was good, but can he step up and be a leader?
We all have something unique, something only available to us, to contribute. Our ideas, our thoughts and our work. Not a copy of someone else’s best, but yours. The world needs my ideas, your ideas.
As Johan Cruyff said, “It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.” He knows. He built the iconic FC Barcelona “Dream Team” of the mid-90’s, where coincidentally, he gave a langly, slow footed, youth player named Josep Guardiola his first opportunity.
But it’s not enough to just have new ideas. You need the discipline to follow through, even when you’re going through the fire.
Guardiola lost his first Spanish League match of 2008. There could not have been a worse start. The notoriously demanding Barcelona press and fan base were already calling for his head. He should have brought in big names. He shouldn’t rely so much on these kids. Messi isn’t mature enough to be a leader.
After the opening week loss to CD Numancia, the team racked up an incredible 20 game undefeated streak en route to their first Spanish title since 2006. The highlight of the campaign was a 6-2 victory over hated rivals Real Madrid, in Madrid.
Those kids he was relying on? Pedro Rodriguez, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique would go on to become not only established and critical FC Barcelona players, but they would form an integral part of the Spanish National Team’s historic triumphs at the 2010 World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012.
And Lionel Messi? He’s only a three time Ballon d’Or winner and considered by most to be the best player in the world.
Pep and the new look Barcelona team finished the 08/09 season by also winning the Copa Del Rey and the much coveted UEFA Champions League. Three titles, the treble. Historic and unprecedented. The season was considered one of the finest in team history. Quite an accomplishment when you consider the history of the club and it’s place amongst the world’s best.
Courage and passion gets you started. But discipline gets you to the finish line.
And that’s what no one told our generation. We grew up in the era of soccer moms, participation trophies and “No Child Left Behind”. We were over coddled, never learning to stand on our own two. What they should have told us is that the hard work, the real work, is going to suck. You have to show up everyday and as my good friend Patrick said, “get punched in the face repeatedly and then ask for another.”
Hard work isn’t glamorous. It’s not Romantic. But it’s the discipline, the repeated act of excellence, of composure under duress, that is going to get you to the finish line.
When I was interning at Waze, I wanted to learn sales and be of more value to the team. But I had no sales experience. So I read everything that I could, I watched webinars, I found mentors. I was exhausted. But that was the bare minimum. Now I had to actually close business. So that meant coming into the office at 6am to call on the East Coast, learning how to cold-email, learning how to cold call, etc.
Why did I do that? Why do Patrick and Matt deny themselves luxuries to grow their business? Why would anyone choose a life of entrepreneurship, risk and ruin? Because the upside is worth it. The upside of being yourself. My friend Adam at MyBodyTutor.com has helped me and countless others be more disciplined in what we eat and how we exercise. I can speak for myself that the physical results have been incredible. But the biggest benefit has been that it has allowed me to to take that discipline and transfer it to other areas of my life. As Adam says “…there is no secret to success. It’s just doing the right things, everyday. Discipline.
There’s a fascinating anecdote about discipline in Raphael Honigstein’s new book about German soccer, Das Reboot. In it, Germany manager Jogi Low recounts his side’s preparation against Brazil in the semi-final round of the 2014 World Cup.
‘We met the Brazilians’ deep emotions with stamina, calmness, clarity and insistence,’ the Bundestrainer (Joachim Loew) later explained, ‘and we cooly exploited their weaknesses.’
Brazil began the match by playing quickly, with abandon and fueled by their passion. But after ten minutes or so, the calm and collected German Squad began picking apart the Brazilians, en route to a 7-1 emphatic victory. So immense was the shock to Brazil (an absurd scoreline) that several interesting blogs popped up.
Passion is great for getting us started, but what’s ultimately going to get us to our goal and finish line is purpose, discipline and clarity, things that are only possible once you see past passion.
And that’s the part that no one tells us. You need to show up every day and work on whatever it is you have started. It’s not glamorous and it’s not a Hollywood movie. But if you stick to a plan, it’ will be worth it. Don’t be an amateur in “…having a million plans and they all start tomorrow.”
Franklin Foer makes the case that soccer explains the world. And soon, I’ll show how soccer helps me make sense of myself. So it’s only right that I conclude with one final soccer anecdote.
Guardiola and FC Barcelona began their treble defense in August of 2009 by playing against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Super Cup. After 90 scoreless minutes, the game went into extra time. Nothing was going the Catalan’s way and an additional 30 minutes would be needed to crown a winner.
Before the start of extra time, Pep rallied the team by telling them to;
“Hold on to the ball…play to keep the ball and move forward…stick to our game…do things right. If we hold on to the ball, we can do what we know how to do. And in 30 minutes we will find the goal, don’t worry. Really. Don’t worry about anything. Do what you know. With patience. Let’s not go crazy because they will get to us. Have patience. We will stick to our game plan, as always.”
He told them stick to what they knew and above all to have patience. If they did that, they would find the goal. And in the 115th minute, 5 minutes away from the cruel penalty kicks, Pedro found the back of the net and FC Barcelona held on to win the 2009 UEFA Super Cup.
Courage with ideas and discipline in pursuit. You need both. Without them, you won’t be able to share your “you” with us. You feel me?