Will LeBron James ever skate to center ice to accept the MVP award of the National Hockey League?
Will Tiger Woods ever hoist the Lombardi trophy after leading a fourth quarter drive to win a Super Bowl Championship?
Will Peyton Manning ever throw a complete game no hitter to win the World Series?
Though all of the aforementioned individuals are extremely talented in their own right, the answer to all three questions is an emphatic “No!”
Because they are playing the wrong game.
When I ask those questions to people that come to see me for a wealth coaching session, just about everyone (unless they are totally not into sports) gets this concept pretty easily. They’ll say things like, “Hey Rob…Duh! LeBron plays basketball, not hockey. Of course he’ll never win the NHL MVP!”
Or, “Rob, Tiger is a great golfer, not a quarterback. Of course there is no Superbowl in his future!”
Or, “Rob, are you out of your mind? Peyton Manning throws strikes, but he’s a football player not a baseball player. There’s no way he could win the World Series!”
And I get it. I use those questions to make the concept easy to understand.
Yet, when I move on and ask these same individuals to apply the concept to their own lives, suddenly they can’t grasp it as well.
See, in my experience as a financial advisor, I’ve come across many individuals who say that they want <INSERT SOME GREAT LIFE GOAL HERE>, yet they aren’t currently playing, or seem to have any plans to play in the near future, the game that will afford them opportunities to achieve said goal.
There’s the young professional that confidently states that she wants to be financially independent by age 40, but has been stuck for years in a job with no advancement opportunities, a mediocre salary and only cost-of-living increases each year.
There’s the mid career manager that says she wants to be a best selling author, but is too busy in her dead end job to schedule time to actually write the book.
Oh, and I can’t forget about the gentleman who says he has a burning desire to become an entrepreneur and be his own boss, but can’t get around to actually starting a business because he keeps pursuing additional degrees.
These individuals often come back to my office angry, frustrated, exhausted and confused as to why they haven’t achieved the level of success they so desire.
My answer to all of them?
You’re playing the wrong game.
Remember that time in 1993 when Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to the first NBA Championship 3-peat in 27 years, won his 3rd consecutive NBA Finals MVP, and set a Finals record by averaging 41 points per game, then followed that up by retiring from basketball to pursue a career in baseball?
Yeah, I scratched my head too.
Sure, trying new things can be rewarding, but Jordan must have realized that his destiny would not be found on a baseball diamond. He soon returned to the court, won three more championships in a row, three more Finals MVP awards and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
He realized that if his true desire was to be remembered as the greatest basketball player in history then for those two years he played baseball, he was playing the wrong game.
Similarly, if you say that you want financial independence at a young age, but you’re playing the “I’ll-have-to-work-here-for-fifty-years-save-every-penny-invest-and-pray-that-I’ll-have-enough-money-when-I’m-sixty-five” game, how can you really expect to achieve your desired result?
Unless you’re aiming to invent the book the writes itself, not spending time writing will never get you on the bestseller list.
If your chief aim isn’t to break the Guinness World Record for time spent in a classroom, collecting degrees won’t suddenly turn you into a risk taking business owner.
The things you say you want in life have to be congruent with the game you’re playing in order to achieve them. Working hard in the wrong game is simply a waste of time.
“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker
What game are you playing?
I understand. It can be difficult to determine if you’re playing the wrong game.
Many times you’re so focused on the next play, that you don’t realize that you’re on the wrong field, in the wrong stadium, in the wrong league.
One of the best ways to determine if you’re playing the right game is to simply pick your head up and look around you.
Take a look at your boss for example. Is he financially independent? Does she take 10 weeks of vacation every year? Has he achieved the goal you’re after?
Well, guess what, that’s the path you’re likely headed on and it looks like it leads to a place you don’t want to be.
You need to start playing the right game, pronto.
If you apply this simple three-step framework, I believe that you will get yourself back on the right “track” in no time.
1. Decide What It Is You Truly Want
You must always start here. Period. You’ll never be able to choose the right game if you have no idea what reward you want to pursue.
Unfortunately, many people get to the 7th inning stretch of life only to find out that baseball doesn’t hand out the Superbowl trophy they’ve been looking for.
Decide what it is that you want. Now. If you want to win the Indy 500, you better be driving a racecar everyday.
Similarly, once you decide that you want to build real wealth, you’ll soon realize that had better be on an accelerated track in a position with high income potential, have a sales job or other role such as a banker or lawyer that affords high commissions on transactions, or own your own business.
If you will be 100% honest with yourself about what it is that you want, the game that you need to play will become readily apparent to you.
2. Identify Your Superpower
Average players don’t make the hall of fame.
You don’t have to be outstanding at every aspect of the game, but in order to be great, you need to identify the one or two things you are better at than anyone else, and focus on them.
It’s not enough to want to be a great baseball player. Will you be a great pitcher or a great hitter? Will you hit for power or for average? Will you steal bases or drive in runs?
What’s your competitive advantage?
Are you a great designer of products? Are you an amazing communicator? Can you organize large revenue generating events in a single bound?
You may not think of yourself as a super hero. You might not have someone who is constantly telling you how great you are at what you do. But I can almost guarantee that you have a particular set of skills that you perform so flawlessly and naturally that you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
That’s your superpower.
In order to be wildly successful, you must identify this superpower and work tirelessly to accentuate it and use it to your advantage.
Babe Ruth wasn’t the fastest player in major league history, but when you blast the ball over the outfield wall 714 times, you can take your time rounding the bases.
3. Set a Deadline
Once you’re playing the right game, and you’ve determined the type of player you are going to be, you must set a deadline for yourself on obtaining your desired outcome.
Do you want to be financially independent by age 40? You’re going to have to start making more sales calls than you would if you were ok waiting until you are 68 for financial independence.
Do you want to be CEO of your company by age 37? Waiting for feedback during your annual review isn’t going to cut it. You need to be proactively seeking out high profile projects that will lead to your skills being rewarded.
You must know that “one day” is not a deadline. You can’t circle “one day” on a calendar.
If you’re indifferent as to the time it should take to achieve your goal, you are, in fact, indifferent about even achieving the goal all together.
Your goal will require you to be very deliberate about playing the right game with an understanding that you are also racing against the clock.
After all, the time you have to play the game is not indefinite.
And you can’t cement your standing as the best basketball player of all time while you’re playing baseball.