Daily Archives: April 5, 2011

Coaching, playing and the success delusion

Funny how sometimes fastpitch softball and my day job in PR coincide. I was just reading an article in the journal of one of our clients — HRPS (HR People & Strategy) talking about neuroscience research into the brain and how it affects leadership when I came across a description I thought is worth sharing with the softball community. It’s about a phenomenon many of us fall victim to at one time or another — the success delusion.

According to the article, the success delusion follows this line of thinking: I am successful. I behave this way. Therefore, I must be successful because I behave this way.
We see this all the time, especially on discussion boards. Someone will post the results of research that has been completed recently that says the optimum way to perform a particular skill is to do X. Then someone else will get on and comment “I’ve been doing it the old way for 20 years. I’ve had many students/players get colleges scholarships and be the best player on their team. Therefore, I’m not going to change no matter what the science says.”

That’s the success delusion. You ignore the facts because you believe what you’ve been doing has been the key to your success, without a thought that perhaps your players/students would’ve been even more successful had you taught them differently.

Players fall victim to it too. I’ve certainly seen this as an instructor. A parent will bring his/her daughter in for a lesson and I will recommend some changes that will help her reach her potential. But she’s already the best player in her rec league, or on her travel or HS team, so she doesn’t want to make any changes. She has confused success with excellence and therefore has shut the door on making any changes. That’s fine — it’s her option — but she shouldn’t be surprised when one day in the not too distant future some of the kids she used to be above are suddenly passing her. Or that despite her awesome record, college coaches aren’t interested in looking at her.

Success is a good thing. We all like to get that rush from winning; it’s what keeps us going. But it’s also easy to assume a particular behavior is the reason for that success when it could actually be a barrier to greater success.

Never be so caught up in what you’ve done that it prevents you from doing what you can do. Keep learning, keep striving and be open to change. You’ll be amazed how much farther it will take you.

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