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Jockeys Don’t Play Basketball

This weekend we hosted some friends for a few days that we hadn’t seen in 2 years. When their 15 year old son walked in and surprised us with his now towering 6’2 height, “Do you play basketball?” quickly rolled off someone’s lips. Obviously not all tall people play basketball, but this young man did indeed and got me thinking.

Wilt Chamberlain & Willy Shoemaker leaning back to back in white dress suits

Tall people play basketball, jockeys are short featherweights, and the sherpas of the himalayas with their unique oxygen processing physiology truck up and down Mount Everest like a porter does the steps of the Trump Plaza.

We all want to experience success and naturally gravitate to our areas of strength, which is why jockeys race high performance horses and don’t play world class basketball. Could Wilt Chamberlain be taught how to race a horse? Sure. Could Willy Shoemaker have been a passionate and capable basketball player? Of course. Would either top athlete be able to perform at the pinnacle of the other’s sport given the same passion, training and focus on skills development they applied to their own? Highly improbable.

There is a broader concept at play here than physical stature that applies to all of our jobs and roles. Gallup Management Journal describes the “Do What I Do Best” concept from the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently as follows, “Full human potential is realized only when people are in a position to use their talents and strengths. Great performance is found when an individual’s natural talents fit his or her role.”

To experience success and fulfillment and to deliver high value peak performance on a sustained basis to our organizations, we must have the opportunity to “Do What We Do Best” most of the time. Many a staff management training corroborates this as they exhort us to focus on drawing out people’s strengths rather than trying to train out people’s weaknesses.

Based on extensive research the book found that mismatching people and roles is the rule rather than the exception. This means many among us are experiencing the frustration of expending inordinate amount of unproductive effort, not experiencing fulfillment nor adding the value they could at their full potential in the right role.

Are things just not clicking? Does it feel like you are constantly swimming upstream? Are you frustrated and burned out?

In Failing ForwardJohn C. Maxwell stresses that failing does not make you a failure but provides you with a valuable learning opportunity.

If you don’t jump out of bed each day, energized by what you are doing then maybe you are a jockey trying to do a lay-up or maybe you need to switch your horse for a basketball court?

How are you doing?

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