The Miracle O’ Nice: Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8

In an earlier post on the importance of organizational fit to being successful, I wrote about Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll:

Pete Carroll, the head coach and executive vice-president of the Seattle Seahawks, has for the past several years been implementing his dream of fundamentally changing the team environment by changing the way players are coached. He’s adopting a people-positive approach: “I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” His strategy includes an interesting mix of sports psychology, brain performance testing, meditation and visualization, yoga, and an overall focus on the mental as well as physical well-being of the players. It’s an unorthodox, Moneyball-style fresh-thinking approach that I’m betting will have a big payoff.

Many had doubted that Carroll’s approach would pay off. Some thought it was coddling the players – that successful teams were fueled by fear, anger, and aggression.

But here we are, at the end of Super Bowl XLVIII, and it’s pretty damn near a blowout: the Seahawks beat the famed Denver Broncos, 43-8.

During the Winter Olympics in 1980, coach Herb Brooks led a team of amateur and collegiate hockey players to an upset victory over the Soviet team that came to be known as the Miracle On Ice. Brooks did rely heavily on aggressive challenges and confrontation to toughen the team, but also worked to unite them into a cohesive yet flexible team “that could grab whatever opportunities came its way”. Carroll’s positive approach to getting the best out of people and uniting them under his vision has achieved a similar miracle.

Let’s call it the Miracle O’ Nice.

Extreme perseverance: 64-year-old Diana Nyad’s 5th try at the “Xtreme Dream” of swimming from Cuba to Key West

Imagine being at the top of your game, doing what you love – and then abruptly walking away.

Diana Nyad, the long-distance swimmer who set world records in the 1970s, did just that. From 1969 to 1979, she was arguably the world’s greatest long distance swimmer, breaking numerous men’s as well as women’s records. On August 22, 1979, Nyad set an open sea record for both men and women by swimming 102.5 miles from Bimini in the Bahamas to Jupiter, Florida without a shark cage. That day was her 30th birthday – and her last competitive swim.

For 30 years she didn’t swim a single stroke.

Speaking about it in 2010, Nyad said  “I was so burned out. You couldn’t pay me to take one more stroke.” But 30 years later, she had a change of heart and mind. “I was having an existential crisis about being 60,” she said. “I told myself, ‘You have to get real with life’s lessons, one of which is, you can’t go back.’ ” But, she realized, she could in a way go back – by going forward to complete her dream swim between Cuba and Florida. In 1978 she had attempted the 103-mile journey from Havana to Key West, using a shark cage. After almost 42 hours though, Nyad had to stop: she was so far off course due to high waves and strong currents that completing the swim would have been impossible.

The distance per se would not be the goal this time: she’d already successfully completed that open-water swim of almost 103 miles in 1979. The goal was finishing what she’d started in 1978, but upping the ante in two ways: 1) going slightly farther than she did in 1979, this time not with favorable winds and currents, but through strong shifting currents and 2) swimming through those shark-filled waters without a cage.

Training for this swim would test far more than her physical endurance – it would test her mental toughness, her resolve, her ability to find that razor’s edge between realizing your utmost, fullest capabilities and accepting limits. Continue reading

It’s not enough to do what you love: Russell Wilson, Keith Olbermann, and the importance of organizational fit

Last night in his interview of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on ESPN’s new sports show ‘Olbermann’, Keith Olbermann noted admiringly that Wilson went in last year as a rookie and, before playing a single game, provided a list of goals to his coaches, including a goal of winning multiple Super Bowls. “Where,” Olbermann asked, “does the confidence come from to do that, before you’ve played a game in the NFL, and did you give them a new list this year?” Wilson’s response:

“Well, I think, for me, I’m a self-motivator. At the end of the day, you have to be a self-motivator if you want to do something great and, I’ve got a long ways to go. You just take one day at a time, you take those steps, and just continue to climb and continue to grow. And so, I think, you know, I definitely want to win multiple Super Bowls, but to do that you have to win the first one first and…to do that too you have to win the first game, the second game, and keep going on from there, and when you get those opportunities, when you have those game-altering plays – I call them GAP plays – when you have those GAP plays, you’ve gotta capitalize on them and when you have those game-altering situations throughout the season, you have to, you know, do the best that you can to be successful and that gives you a chance, and that’s where I’ve started, that’s where our football team starts.” (The full interview can be heard here starting at 31:30.)

Break your goals down into shorter goals, and break those down into action steps. Develop discipline. Motivate yourself. Plan your work, work your plan. Capitalize on opportunities. It’s all true. Hearing the words, you know he’s right. He’s an inspiration. You want to believe. **I** want to believe. But many of us – Olbermann included – have the career scars to demonstrate that talent and discipline are not always enough to carry the day. As it turns out, there’s more to Wilson’s story.

It goes without saying that talent – or at least decent competence – is the first requirement for any amount of success at what you do. (Note that I said success. Let’s set aside for now any snarky discussions of people who get jobs solely based on connections or favors; by definition, they’re not performing well.) And discipline and motivation are the oil and gas that get the engine running. But there is a third critical factor: the work environment. If there is a mismatch Continue reading