Saturday, April 7, 2018

Villanova Championship Teaches a Principle of Success: There Is Always Risk Involved

Anyone who watched the 2018 NCAA Basketball championships saw a mighty Villanova make mincemeat of its opponents with volumes of 3-point shots from outside the arc. In its showdown with Kansas in the semi-final last Saturday Villanova set a new record for 3-pointers by two minutes into the second half, and they kept on shooting them. They set a new record for three point goals for a season as well.

In Monday's championship game it was a different story though. Against Michigan, eight of their first nine shots were whiffs. Their 3-point game had chilled and Villanova fans began biting their nails.

No worry. This didn't stop their efforts to shoot the long ball, and despite the failed shots they continued to attempt these longer shots, making the necessary adjustments to recover their magic. And here's the lesson. Success is directly proportional to one’s willingness to accept the possibility of failure. If we can’t allow the possibility of failure, we will freeze and never succeed because we are no longer moving toward a goal rather we are moving toward safety. Fear paralyzes confidence. Confidence is an essential ingredient in success.

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In my article Increasing the Odds of Success I wrote, "In short, risk is part of business; there are no sure things. Wall Street does not always lead to Easy Street. Nor does an Internet retail strategy always lead to Internet riches. As Robert Burns noted in his ode to a mouse, 'The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.'"

Risk, by definition, means exposure to danger. This applies not only to soldiers in the battlefield, but also to businesses, as well as the people in these businesses, all the way down to those ground-level grunts who actually do the heavy lifting.

U.S. Grant -- National Archives
Great leaders like General U.S. Grant knew how important those front line foot soldiers were. That is why he sometimes got as close to his troops as possible so he could assess their morale and readiness for another fight. On one occasion, before the Battle of Vicksburg, he parked his horse at the end of a very narrow bridge and watched his men walk across. He had been done his share of front line work in the Mexican War and wanted his men to see he identified with them.

He also knew the importance of initiative. Decisive action is the responsibility of leaders. It's one of the reasons General Patton would get so annoyed with Britain's General Montgomery, whom he called Monty. For Patton, "A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow." Why, because tomorrow never comes. Because of our tendency to overthink things that "perfect plan" never comes.

The Latin proverb "Fortune favors the bold" has been adopted by military leaders throughout history. Boldness involves a willingness to take risks. If there was no risk involved, by definition it would hardly be a bold action or maneuver.

And so it was that Villanova kept at it, shooting those long ball hoops with an almost excessive exuberance, bold and beautiful. 'Twas a season to cherish that produced a championship as well.

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“The greatest risk to man is not that he aims too high and misses, but that he aims too low and hits.” ― Michaelangelo

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