Student of the Game

by Stephen T. Messenger

June 22, 2021

Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential. –John Maxwell

We were teaching our young son baseball the other day at a minor league game. He was enjoying it but had no concept of the rules. As batters came and went, he was asking all kinds of questions. It was apparent that if we put him on the field, he would be one of those kids who ran to third base after hitting the ball. He simply didn’t have the knowledge.

That night, he began studying the game. After about the fifth inning, you could see a lightbulb go off. He was watching every pitch and the reasons behind the activity on the field. He slowly began to understand the players’ actions and what to do as a batter and fielder. While the most excitement from the evening came from the ice cream stand, his ability to play baseball increased exponentially in three short hours.

We all have that ability at work to grow in knowledge of the game. At your job, there are rules and details that guide your daily activities. Some employees know them all and can recite the manual. Some know only the simple concepts. However, it’s painfully clear that those who are students of the game are more successful than those who are not.  

Richard Sherman, current cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, speaks about the importance of knowing all aspects of your craft. In this video, he shows how he took his achievements from ordinary to extraordinary by outstudying his opponents. Pay particular attention to Sherman talking to his teammates on the practice field.    

His peers have no idea what he’s trying to convey, and the confusion is evident. Yet it’s instinctual to Sherman as he can essentially see the future. Not because he’s naturally talented, but because he aggressively studies his job and strategizes with his team.

This interaction is the like difference between a player who knows the rules of chess and a player who studies chess. The one who knows the Italian Game, Sicilian Defense, and the Queen’s Gambit has a significant advantage of predicting the other’s response.

By studying hard and applying your skills, you could be the same type leader who outperforms goals through knowledge. You could be the one to explain the nuances as others sit there confused. The highest achievers are students of the game:

– Know the fundamentals. You have to work on the blocking and tackling to get to a championship. My son needed to know which way to run after you hit a baseball. Much later, he’ll continue his study and understand different pitches and utilizing bullpens properly. But until you know where first base is, you’re not going to get very far. This is a continuous process, and it always needs revisiting.

– Dig into Regulations. Every job has standard operating proceedures, regulations, and doctrine that no one reads. These are more than the basics. If you want to outshine your peers, study the details and be able to quote these documents instead of your own opinion on how things should be done. Be the subject matter expert in your organization.  

– Adjust Off Doctrine. Only after you know the rules, can you use them to your advantage. Try new techniques. Learn from your peers. Talk to industry leaders. Sherman knew where the book said he should play, but he leveraged this knowledge to bait quarterbacks into interceptions. Develop best practices, see what works and what doesn’t, and capitalize on your successes. You’ll only get there by reading, studying, practicing, and assessing.

Think of it as a cycle: Know the history of your organization, read the doctrine of how to operate, develop theories for success, and put them into practice. This creates new history, leading to start the cycle over again.

The best leaders know their craft, inside and out. Don’t just get by.  Study your job and exponentially increase your ability to lead and help the organization. There is so much knowledge out there to help achieve your maximum standard. Put in the effort to study hard and be a student of the game.   

One thought on “Student of the Game

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: