“When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” Have you ever heard this saying? If you’re a sports fan, you probably have (though you it’s rarely exemplified by any of the professional athletes you see on TV). Taken literally, it means that if you happen to find yourself playing football and happen to score a touchdown, you shouldn’t dance around like a fool who is seemingly surprised by his newfound success. Suggested protocol? Hi-five a teammate or two, sure, but then hand the ball right to the referee and get back to the bench and your job.
This adage obviously has its roots on the football gridiron, but since very few of us are going to be scoring touchdowns anytime soon, let’s focus on the deeper meaning. “Act like you’ve been there before” is a reminder that personal success should be expected – not come a surprise to you or to anyone else. Why is it expected? Because you’ve worked your tail off to get there! It’s also a call for humility, recognizing that you are where you are due to, in large part, the efforts of your entire team. And I’d say that these two personality traits – humility and hard work (with the confidence & expectation that it will lead to success) – are two critically important qualities to have, whether you’re an athlete or a PR practitioner. And if you disagree, ask yourself – would you really want to have a desk next to someone like DeSean Jackson?
Back to professional athletes for a minute. Recently, soccer fans had a rare opportunity to witness the “act like you’ve been there before” adage unfold before their eyes. Tim Howard, of Team USA World Cup fame, was tending goal for Everton, his English Premier League team, two nights ago during a home game. Standing just in front of his own net, Howard fielded a ball and let fly with a booming clearing kick. Partly due to a sudden and intensely high wind, the kicked ball flew through the air for a full 70 yards, to the opposite end of the field. It took one bounce, clear over the head of the opposing goaltender, and inexplicitly found its way into the back of the net. Goal, Tim Howard, from 90+ yards out.
This being a remarkably rare feat, cheers erupted from the home crowd, the Everton team and even the announcers. Conspicuously absent from this celebration, however, was Howard himself. Take another look at the clip. Frankly, he couldn’t seem to care less.
Sure, Tim Howard’s goal seems to have as much to do with luck as it did hard work – but aren’t there almost always factors outside of our personal control that contribute to our success? Sometimes, it’s teamwork that helps get us to where we want to be. Sometimes it’s chance – but then again, Jen Prosek has been known to say, “chance favors the prepared mind.” If anything, this goal – and the subsequent reaction of its scorer – is more of a reminder that personal accomplishments are rarely solely owned by us as individuals. So why should we celebrate as if they were entirely our own personal doing? And why should we act surprised that we did a good job? Expect it!
So, the next time you land that great cover story for your client, or sign that amazing piece of business, remember Tim Howard and the end-zone adage. Of course, appropriate celebrations are certainly in order for either of these momentous occasions – but just remind yourself that your hard work WILL get you there again in the future.