Over the weekend, while watching the NCAA wrestling tourney on TV, I was reminded of my dad, coach Jimmy Miller. Serving as Cornell’s head wrestling coach for more than 25 years, he oversaw many young men with intense goals. And many of them found success. During those years, he frequently made two comments about semifinal versus final matches.
One interesting, one wise.
First, he felt that semis almost always bested finals in excitement, passion, and intensity. He’d say that an athlete’s strong desire and goal to make it to the last round made a semifinal match way more fun to watch. He was right, and it wasn’t just in wrestling.
Think about the 1980 USA Olympic hockey victory over the Soviet Union: a semifinal never to be forgotten. Many people who were alive then and watched that game on TV, have no idea who the USA beat in the finals for the gold.
Take a break from your day and enjoy a few minutes of sports history and USA pride.
My father’s second observation—the one full of wisdom—was this:
He always said his boys needed to stay vigilant in their semifinal bout, or they would be at great risk. The risk was founded in a wrestler thinking prematurely about the finals match—a match they hadn’t yet earned.
My dad recounted the story of one of his best athletes competing in the 1958 NCAA tourney. The Cornell wrestler was so intent on getting to the finals and so concerned with who he might wrestle there, he wasted time and energy during his semifinal match looking to the mat nearby where the other semi was taking place.
I think about that story often, as it’s provided me 5 lifelong lessons on achieving goals:
1. Be clear on the goal to be accomplished now.
2. Achieve the goal in front of me before moving to the next.
3. Focus all of my thoughts and energy on what I’m doing.
4. Strive to do and be my best in the current moment.
5. Concentrate my talents and abilities only on what I can control.
No rocket science there—just the fundamentals of success. Good stuff.
What’s the takeaway from this message for you and how will you apply it?
John, great perspective and framing with the NCAA Wrestling tournament of the 5 lessons on achieving goals. The semi-finals are indeed often the most exciting event in sports. I can remember some very exciting NFC Championship gams our Minnesota Vikings have played in – some they won, and some they lost (obviously I am not including the 41-donut game against the NY Giants in that list). Alas, there aren’t any memories of exciting Super Bowl games that the Vikings played in. Ouch. Thanks John!
Oops – I meant NFC Championship games – not gams. 😀