Simon Hughes Visit to Speakers Corner: 5 Things I Wish I'd Known
Looking back, there’s always some life lessons which we wish we could have known back when we were younger, at school or college, starting a career and so on.
A professionals sportsman/woman’s career is quite short compared to others. By the time they acquire the experience they need to support their skills, retirement could be on the way. Aching limbs, injuries, talented younger players coming through can all expediate the process.
We welcomed Simon Hughes, a former professional county cricket player with Middlesex (and later Durham) who is now perhaps best known for his work as The Analyst on Channel 4's cricket coverage (from 1999 to 2005) – especially for those who followed the 2005 Ashes series.
Simon joined Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1980 and played for them for 12 seasons, winning several domestic trophies in the process. A seasoned pro, Simon played with highly talented players and experienced the intricacies of a professional dressing room before psychology, yoga, diets and so forth became the rage.
Looking back, Simon now uses his time to speak on leadership and lessons learnt which can be applied to businesses today. We were fascinated to hear what Simon would like to teach his younger self as a result of his experience, and we’ve summarised some of his key points in this blog post.
Failure is inevitable
We found there was an interesting parallel between sport and business performance in how we approach success and failure. We can sometimes make mistakes or miss a KPI – we try to keep those to an absolute minimum of course, but we very much found its our approach to failure which determines how we turn it into a positive outcome.
Simon felt accepting failure as inevitable, but having a process to deal with this and turn it into a learning opportunity for future success, was quite important to move forwards in a positive mindset as much as anything else.
We used some examples from his cricket career with talented individuals who perhaps struggled a little with this approach, as well as one or two from the business world.
We found the WD-40 story a fascinating example. The product was created in the 1950s inside a small lab in San Diego, California to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry.
However it took 40 attempts to create the right formula. The product, which is now sold over all over the world, may not have existed at all had the team given up after say 10 or 20 attempts.
Or perhaps imagine a world without Harry Potter! Well, that could have been the case had JK Rowling given up after being rejected by 12 different publishers.
So failure is inevitable but we now feel energised to embrace and learn from each experience.
Chop up your dreams
We can at times feel like we’re in a rush to achieve our dreams, goals, KPIs – even at times to finish writing all our blogs!
But, of course if we rush ahead too quickly, we can sometimes do more damage than if we tread a little slower.
Cricket is a slow game, unless you’re watching T20 of course, but key trait successful cricketers have is their ability to play each ball on its merits. Of course, all cricketers want to score 100 runs or take 5 wickets, but by breaking down the goal into smaller targets, the journey becomes less daunting.
This helped us to think about our own roles within the team and wonder if we needed to break down our own objectives into smaller targets which could be met each month for instance.
When we discussed preparation it was striking to hear how Simon’s preparation before a game, or when he arrived at the ground, sometimes contributed to a poor performance.
How we prepare often tells us a lot about our mindset. Do we arrive dead on 9am at the office, or perhaps with plenty of time to get ready for a prompt start?
There was a funny anecdote Simon shared with us how he used to bring his kit and equipment to a game, often stashed inside a plastic bag. The one he brought with him had two left-handed gloves for example!
This got us thinking about how we prepare for work, both before we set off for home and indeed how ready we are to begin work when we arrive. It was an interesting discussion to have when we contemplate factors which determine performance, but Simon certainly felt had he been more prepared at times then perhaps he would have scored more runs, taken more wickets and so on.
It was heart-warming to hear Simon discuss how sometimes his self-confidence prevented him from performing to his potential during a match. Self-confidence is a character trait which some of us have to work on and for others it comes naturally.
One such example is Viv Richards, the famous West Indian cricketer who played in their legendary 1980s team which swept all before them. Viv, when interviewed in a video clip which Simon played to us, felt his self-confidence contributed 70% towards his success. Of course, Viv had enormous cricketing talent but it was his self-confidence in his ability which enabled him to fulfil his potential.
Simon contrasted this with a video clip of the last over in the NatWest Trophy final at Lords in 1989. He bowled the last over, with the opposition (Warwickshire) requiring 10 to win. In the clip below Simon mentions his body language, a lack of confidence, anxiety and so on. It’s not a happy ending for Simon (we’re sorry!) but a good example nonetheless that your self-confidence can go a long way to determining success or failure.
Don’t be a Jelly Fish
This last point made us laugh – but it also struck a chord within the team.
Simon used the analogy of a jelly fish which hasn’t evolved as a species since it was first discovered. What was important instead was to keep evolving and learning from your mistakes, and successes, to achieve your future objectives.
For those of us in the office who share a love of cricket, we spent some time afterwards debating the KP and Ben Stokes situations which were equally fascinating.
It was a pleasure to meet Simon and take some inspiration from his vast experience of top-level sport.