Being masters of our fate
Too often, we in the Caribbean believe that we are not good enough; something is missing; and something special needs to be added to make us worthwhile. And we constantly look externally to find the secret of success even though it already lies within us. At a conscious and unconscious level, we have the inner resources and inner potential to solve our own problems and to bring about lasting and beneficial changes in our lives.
We should therefore tap into that inner potential and design the systems and strategies that would change the path and trajectory of our lives. Modification of the way we think about ourselves and a change in the things we believe, value and picture in our minds would be a first important step. The thoughts and images that we imprint in our minds today determine what we become tomorrow.
In today’s competitive and rapidly changing world, success is no longer possible with just talent, skill and opportunity. Success must first be created in the mind, then planned and pursued diligently over time. It does not happen all at once or in a straight line. It is a journey that takes time, energy, discipline, patience and persistence, and is usually punctuated by ups and downs, triumphs and failures. Enjoyment of that journey is one of the keys to success.
We must enjoy personal success but we must learn to share it with others. We should also derive pleasure from creating the conditions and the environment that will help others to boost self-image and improve performance. Bill Russell, a great American basketball player, once said that he always rated how well he played by how much better he made his teammates play.
Skeptics might say that in the Caribbean these changes are not possible. But often, the only difference between the possible and the impossible is the measure of will, preparation, discipline, work ethic and teamwork. Former West Indies captains, Sir Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd, demonstrated this in the game of cricket. Whatever we do, we must not allow our instincts and conditioning to trap us in the past. History and experiences are very important, but they only tell us what we have done and what we have been; they do not tell us what we can do or what we can become.
Every team and organization should ask itself the following questions because the answers could very well create the platform on which success can be built. First, what specifically do we want to achieve and become and why – our vision and preferred future? And what is our strategy for achieving that vision? Not only will the brain create that vision but it will also subordinate its activities towards achieving it. Vision is a future that beckons and is therefore extremely important, but without discipline it is merely a dream.
Similarly, discipline without vision is just a chore. Self-discipline creates the energy that takes us nearer to our goals and vision provides the force that drives discipline. Discipline separates the doer from the talker. Talkers can always tell a good story about what they are going to do but without the discipline to monitor and follow through, they never do it.
Second, what business or game are we in? What do we stand for and believe in – our principles, values and priorities? What do we believe about ourselves, our ability and our team and country? Beliefs and values are to teams what roots are to trees. Without strong roots, trees fall when they are shaken by high winds.
And without strong beliefs and values, teams and organizations fail when they are buffeted by the powerful winds of change, competition and pressure. Constant articulation of these values is important and everyone in the team or organization should know them. But talking about them is not good enough. Leaders must live them and show by example what the organization really stands for and believes in.
Third, what is our action plan? How do we organize, execute, monitor and debrief? First-class execution requires good preparation, mastery of self, mastery of the basics, and a calm mind and clear focus. Preparation and willpower can at times make up for a lack of skill, but skill alone cannot compensate for a lack of preparation and resolve.
Fourth, what type of leadership and teamwork must we put in place to meet our challenges and capitalize on opportunities? The good leader faces the same complex and challenging situations as everyone else but he doesn’t just drift along and allow circumstances to chart his path. Instead, he chooses where he wants to go and finds a way to get there.
Again, Worrell and Lloyd are good examples of this. Clever leaders learn from the past, are drawn to the future by their vision and act in the present to achieve that vision. They are dealers of hope and they help team members to see beyond what they are at the moment to what they can become in the future. There is one indispensable quality that great leaders possess; the ability to manage diversity and interdependence at the same time.
Fifth, what obstacles will prevent us from reaching our goals? How will we deal with narcissism, corruption, greed, laziness, political battles, infighting and bureaucratic inertia? Performing better is often more about unlearning bad habits, fears, self-doubts, excuses, limiting beliefs and outmoded traditions than learning new ones.
Performance in sport revolves around the principles outlined above but they are equally relevant to performance in business and the governance of our countries. In the case of the West Indies Cricket Board and West Indies cricket, performance revolves around the absence of these principles.
(Dr Rudi V. Webster, a former Barbados diplomat and manager of the West Indies cricket team, is a psychologist)