Lessons to be Learned from the Rivalry of the Ages

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I am a huge college football fan and, if you are as well, I am sure you heard something about the “great rivalry” between the University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame. The reason it was making more headlines than usual is because this past weekend would be the last meeting between the football teams of the two schools – for now, at least. There are lessons to be learned from all that surrounded this game that can be applied in our lives and our businesses. Consider the following lessons to be learned.

1. Be skeptical of the hype. If you were not a huge fan of either football team but you heard the reports leading up to, and following, this game, you probably made some assumptions based on what you heard. For example, you heard or read headlines like, “historic rivalry,” or “one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” or “The end is near: ND vs. Michigan prepare for final meeting.” Unless you went to either school or lived near them, you probably didn’t know that even though the two schools first met in 1887, they have only played each other 42 times – 42 times in 127 years! Based on the hype, many assumed they played each other practically every year.  Not hardly. Since they have only played each other 42 times in 127 years, there have been breaks in the series. In fact, at least 4 times they have taken multiple years off from playing each other.

The Lesson: Be skeptical of all the hype and do not make assumptions. Our culture is a “hyped-up” culture that seems to thrive on sensationalism. The problem is this: the sensational must get more and more sensational each time because we become numb to the headlines. Don’t fall into the cycle of sensationalizing everything. Do what you do well, work on doing it better and then deliver. That is what wins and keeps customers.

The only important thing is your client. Anticipate their needs and meet them now, or your business will become a thing of the past.

2. If you hype it up, you need to back it up. I realize that neither Notre Dame nor Michigan is primarily responsible for all the hype around the game and the rivalry, but they were responsible for the outcome – Notre Dame shut-out Michigan 31-0. I would imagine much of the country turned the channel on their TVs mid-way through the 3rd quarter.

The Lesson: In business or consulting, you are responsible for the hype and you better be able to back it up. I have seen consultants that promise the world then deliver some boiler-plate “solution”, much to the disappointment of their clients. Many times executives will promise things that they, nor their company, can deliver and it puts the company in a very difficult position. Being unable to deliver on the hype does not win friends or influence people!

3. Don’t let your business define you. Michigan must put the loss behind them and correct the things that went wrong. Notre Dame should learn from their win but avoid becoming over-confident because of it. In other words, even with all the hype, neither team can afford to let that game define them. The rest of the season lies ahead.

The Lesson: Sometimes we get caught up in things that do not benefit the business but we let those things define us. We may enjoy the prestige of a certain office space, so we let it define us. Or, we let the way we have always done things define us. Instead, we should find out what our clients need and meet those needs – better yet, anticipate the needs of our clients. That is how we should be defined.

Mistakes-Precious Life Lessons

The truth is, Notre Dame and Michigan will likely play each other sometime in the future. Just as they have taken four breaks in the years past and resumed the “rivalry”, it will likely happen again. Honestly, a year from now, ten years from now, will it have mattered? Not really.

Don’t let all the hype around your business or your industry lull you into a false sense of self-importance. The only important thing is your client. Anticipate their needs and meet them now, or your business will become a thing of the past.