We are always told that whatever we learn will never go waste. Somewhere down the line, it will be useful to us. This is the reason why we are encouraged to take up as many activities as possible at a very young age. Each teaches us something, some value or life skill that will definitely help us years later. The most common example is sports. It teaches us cooperation, team work, and a never say die attitude. All such values are needed in entrepreneurship. We look into these by comparing few examples from both fields.
Autralia showed the stuff they were made of during their outstanding World Cup campaign in 2003. They were faced with a couple of tricky matches at the start, against India and Pakistan, and were likely to miss two star players, Michael Bevan, who hadn’t yet recovered from injury, and Darren Lehmann who was suspended. On the morning of their first game came the news that the great Shane Warne had failed a drug test conducted earlier in Australia and was due to fly back home. Most teams would have carried that state of mind onto the ground; they might have pondered over what could have been instead of what really was. Instead, Australia rallied together and produced one of their best performances ever. The confidence of having won under the most demanding circumstances carried them on the crest of a wave that brought them the World Cup. When the going got tough, the champions had shown their worth. They had the bench strength but they were able to respond to a difficult situation very quickly. The highly respected Cadbury company found itself in a similar situation in 2003. Just before the festive season of Diwali, when sales normally go up by 15 per cent, they were hit by the ‘worms’ controversy. Some consumers complained that their favourite Dairy Milk bars were infested with worms. For a family brand like Cadbury, it could have been a disaster and for a while it was. They addressed the problem directly, explained where the infestation might have come from, invested substantially in new tamper-proof packaging, began an exercise to rekindle trust with the consumer and in doing so actually emerged stronger from a potentially catastrophic situation. Cadbury had the resources but it was their agility, their ability to size up a situation and take immediate action that saved the day. Australia’s cricketers and Cadbury’s managers showed that champions can, and must, scrap as well. It is not a quality that the hugely talented always possess; sometimes talent gets bored when confronted by a situation it doesn’t really fancy. You will see that with complaining divas. Champions dig deep; when the first serve isn’t really working, when the leg break isn’t coming out of the hand the right way, when the wind picks up just at tee off and drags the first shot wide, champions show the virtues of hanging in there. When the booming cover drive or the elegant flick through mid-wicket isn’t really on, champions will scrape, nudging here and there for a run or just blocking for long periods. They are willing to play like royalty, even for a morsel of food. Everybody looks good when they are on top of their game but as Martina Navratilova once remarked, ‘What matters,’ she said, ‘isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.’ This is something we must all ask ourselves because when conditions are arrayed against us, we sometimes give up.
We know of teams that left on assignments believing they had no chance and it came as no surprise that they lost. How good is the food when a chef is cooking badly? An article, when the columnist is going through writer’s block? While an average player looks brilliant when playing well but thoroughly abysmal when bad, a champion‘s head is always above water. Australia and Cadbury, like so many others, are examples of teams that achieved success consistently and success is the most powerful addiction that the world has ever known. The heady feeling that goes with victory is unmatched across countries or cultures and you really need to experience it once to get hooked.
Yet we find that the first time round, difficult as it may seem, is actually easier than the sequel. Replicating success is the biggest challenge and those who have mastered the art of doing this are the true champions.