A friend who is soccer coach just came back from a soccer tournament in Italy.

I ask him what lessons did he pick up soccer-wise from the tournament?

Two things, he says:

  • Firstly, start training players to perfect the basics at an early age; and
  • Secondly, discipline.

He gives an example of one team from Asia, I forgot the name, their players leave their phones in their hotel on match day. They don’t bring their phones to the stadium.

These two lessons are not only crucial in soccer, but they are life lessons as well.

Over and over again, discipline from an early age proves to be a competitive advantage later in life.

Those who are not disciplined early tend to later pay the price from those who are disciplined early.

It is one thing to deal with the disappointment of becoming the first team in ~50 years to lose a World Cup knockout game after going two goals up.

It is quite another to follow that up with a spotless dressing room and a thank you note written in your host nation’s language [“Spasibo”].


Of course, the Japanese soccer team were not alone in doing this.

Their fans [along with the Senegalese fans] had endeared themselves to the hosts by cleaning up stadiums after their games.

I had two reflections from Team Japan’s behavior.


First, I have thought about the line “leave everything a little better than you found it.” That is very hard to do consistently.

Often interactions with people will leave broken, especially when you interaction with people who are takers.

As a minimum standard, what if we at least held ourselves to the standard of “leave everything at least as well as you found it?” Would we waste less, recycle, and compost more?

Second, the behavior exhibited by the Japanese is not a result of inspiration leadership and great strategy. It is simply a cultural norm: “this is what people like us do in such situations.”

It speaks to the power of setting cultural norms for ourselves, our families, and our teams.

Culture is both strategy and leadership in the long run.

Instead of looking for someone to inspire you before doing something wonderful, consider creating a personal culture of doing wonderful things in you.

Make excellence your culture, not an event.

People like us do things like these.

It is frustrating when people do wrong things [knowingly] and then spend their energies defending and justifying their behaviour.

Why don’t you save the energy of justify wrong actions and instead use it do right things first time. That way, you use your energy efficiently.


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