Jack of All Trades Master of None

Jack of All Trades Master of None Perfectionism

My book The Athlete within You is almost ready to go to press.  It was a long journey.  It is interesting how I feel about it.  Writing over the years has been a real pain in the ass for me.  Call it perfectionism, fear of failure or whatever you would like.  When I was in graduate school back in Virginia we had a discussion about this very topic.  The gist of it was that my professors laughed at the idea that I was a perfectionist.  They said, as I obviously put so little effort into my technical writing, that while perhaps I feared failure, I was just a lazy, though brilliant, student.

Over the years working with many people, I have determined in my own lazy, but brilliant way, that as I thought back then, they were way off base.  I think people can become so perfectionistic that rather than attempt to do something to their own unreachable standards, they just shut down.  Moreover, because they fear failure, the move on to another activity.  When they find success there and start to master that area of their life, they may become once again caught up in this cycle of perfectionism and fear of failure.   Perhaps this is where we find the saying Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master of None.  (please comment at the end with your Perfectionism stories)

The fear of failure aspect is just part of normal attribution theory in that a person reaches a certain level through natural talent and sometimes because they do not attribute success to work and talent, they begin to become uncomfortable with their lack of success.  This leads them to decide the activity or their own ability lacks worth and they move on.  I think the same thing can be said for someone that is perfectionistic as well.

The perfectionist views a task, like writing or playing basketball, with a view that they should be able to accomplish something based on their ability and work.  Though they may believe in success through hard work, they toil over what success actual means to them.  They struggle with making sure every sentence is right grammatically and in making a point.  Words should not be wasted.  Mark Twain once apologized to a friend by saying “if I had more time, this letter would be shorter”.   For a basketball player, perfectionism is a tough.  If every shot should go in there, is an obvious issue.  In baseball, the best hitters in the Major Leagues hit just over .300.  That means they fail seven out of ten times they step to the plate.  Failing this often can be a problem.  I have seen parents and youth coaches really hammer their players when they fail to get a hit.  For some athletes this teaches them to not only fear failure, but to feel like nothing but perfection will satisfy them.

The combination of both of these attributes certainly contributes to a person drifting from one thing to another.  Usually they are good at what they do, but cannot seem to make themselves remain dedicated to their goal.  The closer they get, the higher the expectation to be perfect.  The harder they work and not reach perfection, the more they fear failure and the unreasonable expectation for success (only measured by perfection).

I realize that I very often post things where I spend a great deal of time explaining an issue and a very short explanation for a solution.  So this is part one of two.  Next post will look at ways to help someone or yourself over this kind of issue.  You cannot expect it to be an easy task.  That would be unreasonable, you might say perfectionistic.  So from one that has been known most of his life in sport as a Jack of All Trades, I’ll be back with suggestions on overcoming perfectionism without giving up a need for achievement.

What I would like is for people to share their perfectionism stories.  Let’s look and see if there are common treads.  It will be fun and of course we put ourselves at risk by sharing something of our vulnerability.  But that after all is what this blog is all about.  So forget about shame, leave fear behind.  Share and help others understand perfectionism, from your own experiences.


Defining Core Values and Goals for a Team

Defining Core Values and Goals for a Team

I recently had the pleasure of working with a highly competitive all-star team.  The athlete’s are from teams that regularly compete against each other and then come play as an all star travel team.  This takes place during the season.  We were meeting to discus roles and goals which lead us in the direction of setting up core values and goals.  I’ll do a blog on goal setting soon.

In business we might define this as our mission statement or company philosophy.  For an athletic team I think core values hit it pretty well. Define who you are as a team, not so much in terms of what you want to accomplish, but to establish the backbone of the team.  This way win or lose you have a foundation from which you can deal with most any situation.  Core values can be modified over time, but serve to assist in continuity for new team members and changing rosters.

My suggestions for the team went something like this and I hope that this outline is useful to others.

1)      Develop some Core Values for a Team

2)   Write out this year’s and next year’s goals Performance & Outcome

3)   Write out Process goals fitness, practice time, strategy, etc.

4)   Everyone writes out their personal goals to help the team (individually at home) they can share one or two in a      group session

5)  Agree to and sign goals and core values

6)  Agree to hold each other accountable for actions.  This works as a team, and in pairs or groups of three.  Sometimes 3’s are better, but it depends on team dynamics.

7)  Visualize working as a team, striving to reach goals

8)  Imagine greatness Remember to imagine what it will taste, feel, smell, or sound like reaching your goals

Their next step is getting together to brainstorm core values and write team goals.  I believe this is beneficial in many team situations from the youth level up. Coaches and managers can develop the core values for teams.  As players join the team they start out understanding these values.  It helps avoid conflict down the line.