I really and truly wish I could take credit for this quotation, said by the great football coach Bill Parcells. It follows my last post about denial, accountability and responsibility, and I think is a close tie-in to a major theme we all too hastily discount.
In context of the quotation above, Coach meant that you could have all the talent in the world, or all the future prospects of great potential, but if you’re on a football team that has a 3-6 record, you don’t get credit for having more talent or potential than a team that is 6-3. You ARE a 3-6 team. Plain and simple. If your team has a world-class Quarterback, or a set of skill players who are world-beaters – on paper – it doesn’t matter. You are simply what the numbers and data says you are. Being the QB on a 3-6 means you are exactly that…the leader of a losing team.
This is instructive in the business world, too. And politics. If you have no record or if you have no accomplishments, it means something. It means you’re being judged on nothing having to do with the past, but purely on future potential or belief. Now, I wouldn’t say this is a hard and fast truism in every case as being “bad”. But, past performance does merit some consideration towards what will happen in the future. We can all reform (when denial isn’t play), but if you were a criminal 10 years ago, you might still be a criminal. If you were lazy, you might still be lazy. If you were a great tennis player with a terrible forehand who is thankful that hardly anyone else ever figured out to pick on your terrible forehand, you might still have a terrible forehand. (That last one’s me, by the way).
This second post follows my last one on denial found here. Before, I talked about how much one might believe in someone or something so much based on the past, that they have rose-colored glasses through it all and are in denial when signs that someone or something might not be what they thought are present. I questioned using past performance or past results solely as a barometer to predict future performance and sticking with that mindset for too long before making changes or realizing you might just be plain wrong. Today, I’m talking about something different, yet related: using absolutely zero basis on past performance to predict the future.
As I said, they are completely different…yet related.
One mindset, the former, bases future performance, achievement and success based on past performance and track record, and then discounts poor or sub-par results based on that track record and nothing more, and becomes paralyzed in making hard decisions or changes or decisions that might yield our past mindset as wrong or invalid. None of us wants to learn our opinion might be wrong.
The second mindset, the latter, bases future performance on anything but past performance and track record, and then discounts poor or sub-par results based on potential or talent or what “could be”, and becomes paralyzed in making hard decisions or changes or decisions that might yield our future mindset (or, hopes) as wrong or invalid. None of us wants to learn our opinion might be wrong in the future.
The answer is somewhere in the middle, I believe. In fact, it is based on current situations and current performance. My take is that you need to evaluate your team, your prospects, your clients or your staff at first based on past performance or achievement. Secondly, you need to evaluate based on future potential or talent or what they “could be”. Somewhere in the middle lies the reality of current day which is probably the most important. If you were a 2-14 team two years ago, but you had all rookies, and you think in a few years you could be 14-2, but today you’re 6-10…well, then, you’re a 6-10 team. Below average. You have to make decisions based on being 6-10, not the hopes of being 14-2.
Let’s say your tendency is one towards laziness and entitlement, or that the world owes you something. If your track record would say nothing to indicate this disposition, then you get the benefit of the doubt initially. If your future is bright and you might have the ability to be a total rock star in the right circumstances, then you get the benefit of the doubt again. But if you’re currently lazy and entitled, then your past and future prospects go out the door. You are what your record says you are right now. Lazy and entitled.
Let’s say your tendency is one towards a go-getter mentality always looking to achieve, or that the world is what you make of it. If your track record says you used to be a lazy schmuck, then that’s one strike. If your future is one where you’re waiting to collect an inheritance and be lazy in the future, that’s strike two. But if you’re currently a go-getter and are doing everything you can to achieve at the highest levels, then your past and future prospects likewise go out the door. You are what your record says you are right now. Motivated and energetic.
Doesn’t mean things won’t change in the future. But you are what you are today and that merits consideration.
I honestly have no idea where most people fall. My point is that – like my earlier blog post talking about current-day denial and basing too much decision-making on past performance which may or may not be relevant anymore – being blinded by future potential is just as bad. We, as business people, politicians, voters, managers, employees, and more, need to realize what our or your record says it is and build from that. We must judge on the current environment. We must make decisions on current circumstances with a NOD to past & future.
I’m sure I will get some flack for putting aside the fact that people in business or sports or politics change. They do. Talent can be developed. It can grow. The 6-10 team can be 14-2.
My point is that placing too much emphasis on one’s past record OR their future potential or talent can be blinding in current day. Sometimes you just have to evaluate situations as they are and go from there. I’ll repeat what I said before and add to it:
We forget that every single person on this planet has to wake up and prove themselves over and over again every day as if they had no resume.
I’ll add to that and say that every single person on this planet has to wake up and prove themselves over and over again every day as if they had no future, too.
That’s my point.