I have watched my son play soccer since he was young. I have to admit, all of these years it seemed like a lot of running and kicking but I never caught on to the planning that goes on before and during every match.
This last year was different. My son started playing high school soccer and his coach is a former international semi-professional player. This was also the year of the World Cup that is played every four years, and we watched every game we could. We attended several professional matches in person. My son even bought the Xbox version of the World Cup and began the arduous process of teaching me how soccer is really played.
Here is what I learned. The successful soccer teams plan for success. They have plans for offense and plans for defense. On offense they position themselves across the field so they can pass and have opportunities to score a goal. They plan each play so that each player is in the right position to make or receive a pass, and if that plan does not work, they pass the ball back to the defense or the goalie and start a new plan. On defense each team plans the location of their players to provide opportunities to block the pass and switch to offense. In soccer this all happens very fast, but for the successful teams it is all planned.
I learned that this level of planning extends beyond each goal and each match. It is also done with an eye on the season’s rankings and for accumulating points to qualify for the next World Cup. I hadn’t realized how much soccer was like planning for a successful career. Small wins, lead to bigger wins, which lead to the biggest win.
I have seen first-hand in both areas now that Winston Churchill was right when he said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”
How have you done planning for a successful career? Many find themselves out of school in their twenties with their first job and no plan; wondering what direction to take in their career. Or maybe you have been working for ten or fifteen years and don’t feel like you have your dream job. What can you do to get on track and have a successful career?
Here’s the secret to planning for a successful career:
Begin With the End in Mind For soccer the end could be the World Cup. For Landon Donovan, all-time leading scorer for the U.S. National Team it was something more. He said, “Most of us are in this more than just for playing soccer. We’re in it for the bigger goal, to move it along for the next generation.” Donovan wanted to win, but he also wanted to broaden the popularity of the sport in the U.S.
You have to decide what your ultimate goal is so that you can make decisions that will help you reach it.
In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey uses the analogy of climbing a ladder as activities we undertake. We often hear about people who are climbing the ladder of success. Covey’s main point in this area is before you begin climbing you have to define success.
“If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.” - Stephen Covey.
A successful career begins with defining what you want to accomplish with that career. Do you want to have reached a certain position? Do you want to have worked for a certain company? Do you want to be known for having helped others achieve success? What will say success to you?
Plan short steps that move you in the right direction. In soccer, you only reach the World Cup if you win enough matches to qualify. To win matches you have to score goals and stop your opponent from scoring goals. Sounds simple.
But winning all you plan doesn’t always happen. That is why a good Plan B, is just as important as a good Plan A. James Yorke once said, “The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.”
So go ahead and begin planning for a successful career. It doesn’t matter if the first steps you take don’t necessarily work out. You will learn, adapt and move forward. Remember a goal without a plan is just a wish, and a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
You make progress towards a successful career when you take short steps to move you in the right direction. What do you need to know to move closer to your goal? Who do you need to know to move closer to your goal? What should you do first to move closer to your goal?
Commit to attaining the short steps. Having goals and plans to reach them is just the beginning. You have to execute your plans every day. Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi said, “You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” Make a commitment to do what it takes to achieve the plans you decide on.
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter Drucker
You achieve a successful career by making the investment in hard work. What are you willing to do to achieve your goal? What are you willing to give up to achieve your goal?
Success in soccer or in your career or in anything you want to accomplish in life, only comes trough planning for success.