Beat the Ref

Beat the Ref

Chapter 16 of the QBQ! book

My father, Jimmy Miller, was head wrestling coach at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., for more than 25 years. When he sent me out to the mat, he’d always remind me I had three people to beat that day: my opponent, myself, and the referee.

That I had to beat my opponent was obvious. By “myself” he meant I had to overcome the fears any athlete naturally has. About beating the ref, he’d say, “It doesn’t matter how close the match is, John. Even if you lose in overtime by one point, even if he makes a couple of questionable calls, you cannot blame the man in black and white.” He’d conclude by saying, “If you want to win, you must be good enough to beat the ref!”

Good enough to beat the ref. That means being a salesperson who has the maturity to say, “I was outsold,” instead of complaining about product, price and the lack of advertising. It means serving as a team member who never says, “Why don’t others pull their own weight?” It means being a manager who doesn’t complain, “Why aren’t my people motivated?” It means being people who don’t complain about management saying, “Why don’t they tell us what’s going on?”

Who is the “ref” in your life? What person or situation beyond your control is standing between you and success? Could it be a supervisor who over-manages, making it difficult for you to do your job, or inefficient systems built into your organization that waste a lot of your time? Or maybe it’s a personal situation that saps your energy.

No matter what we’re trying to accomplish, there’s always a barrier of some kind to overcome, and it’s often something over which we have no control. Instead of focusing on the barriers, let’s work to become so good that we’ll succeed no matter how many bad calls the ref may throw at us.

If you want to win, don’t complain about things beyond your control. Just be good enough to beat the ref.

… excerpted from the QBQ! book.


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