Thursday, February 7, 2013

Steal Without Apology

We are often told that talented people acquire their skill by following their “natural instincts.” This sounds nice, but in fact it is nonsense. All improvement is about absorbing and applying new information, and the best information is top performers. So steal it!!!

Stealing has a long tradition in art, sports and design, where it often goes by name of “influence.” The young Steve Jobs stole the idea for the computer mouse and drop-down menus from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The young Cristiano Ronaldo based his movements learned from Luis Figo. As Pablo Picasso (no slouch of theft himself) put it, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”

Linda Septien, founder of the Septien School of Contemporay music, a hotbed near Dallas that has produced millions of dollars in pop-music talent (including Jessica Simpson, Demi Lovato & Ryan Cabrera) tells her students, “Sweetheart, you gotta steal like crazy.” Just like in the game of futbol, football, futsal, fussball & soccer. Look at every single performer better than you and see what they’ve got that you can use. Then make it your own. As a Coach & Director of Soccer I have acquired over 25 three-ringed notebooks, and a file system with thousands of drills and practice sessions. Some I have developed on my own, but the majority stolen from other top coaches and made them my own!

In plastic sleeves inside the binders, in some cases scribbled on note pads and cocktail napkins, reside tips on everything from the ABCD’s of soccer to how to deal with troubled players and parents (a joke works best).
Stealing helps shed light on some mysterious patterns of talent – for instance, why the younger members of soccer families so often are also the most talented ( example of my two kids, Ali & Kyle) The difference can be explained partly by the windshield phenomenon and partly by theft. As they grow up, the younger kids have more access to good information. They have far more opportunity to watch their older sibling perform, to mimic, to see what works and what doesn’t. In other words,  to steal.

When you steal, focus on specifics, not general impressions. Capture concrete facts: the angle of a players foot as she strikes the ball; the curve of the foot wrapped around the ball when crossing into the box; the precise shape and tension of a goalkeepers grip as the ball strikes her hands; the exact length of time a player receives a ball before delivering the defense splitting ball.

Ask Yourself:
·         What, exactly, are the critical moves here?
·         How do they perform those moves differently than I do?

Buy a Notebook
A high percentage of top performers keep some form of daily performance journal. US National Team Star Ali Krieger and C.J. Sapong, Kansas City Sporting Forward use notebooks; the rapper Eminem and the Choreographer Twyla Tharp use shoeboxes, which they fill with ideas written on scrap paper. What matters is not the precise form. What matters is that you write stuff down and reflect on it. Results from today. Ideas for tomorrow. Goals for next week. A Notebook works like a map: It creates clarity.

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