We Should All Be Pro Athletes


When we focus too much on a single option, especially one that is not realistic, we deny ourselves so many other valuable opportunities to succeed.

Recently I served on a state-wide Department of Education commission focused on ways to better prepare all students to be career ready, whatever career that may be. One of the speakers from a metro-area county school system discussed how little students understand about careers and the importance of preparation. In this county, the students were surveyed on career plans and the clear number one career plan for these students was to be a professional athlete.

Pro Football Team in a HuddleEven more interesting, and perhaps unfortunate, was that no one on this commission was particularly surprised by this finding. I know I wasn’t.

For several years I coached youth sports at a local level and found a number of these children were already planning their professional career as an elite, well-paid athlete. The reality that they struggled (or failed) to even make a local high school team did not seem to register. Riches were ahead of them and there was no need to work on any other career plan.

I once talked with another student who explained how baseball would be his ticket to a college education, then to professional sports. This was despite the fact that he was already a high school junior and was not even one of the better players on a small-school team with a losing record. Somehow, he had convinced himself that he could attend a couple of summer baseball camps and it would all work out.

The business lesson in this is that students are not the only ones to think this way. Business professionals do the exact same thing, even if they’ve learned to be less obvious about it.

How do we manage to do this? As humans, we are instinctively wired to fool ourselves. The psychologists call the way we fool ourselves “cognitive distortion.” Essentially, good and bad, we learn to select how we think.

We may include the thoughts we most prefer and exclude reality that does not fit our emotional needs. While these thought actions are instinctive to a degree, these habits can be influenced by others to create an increasingly distorted view on reality. When others share this distorted view, we are further convinced our self-deceptions are true.

Likewise, you can learn to intercept and understand these self-deceptions, thereby gaining much control over them. In the situations I mentioned above, and in business, the first step is not deciding you are crazy or rushing to a psychologist. No, it is to commit to considering information and accepting bad news and reality as equally as the things we find comforting. Don’t jump to an emotion and react based only on feelings. Instead, pause and consider.

Learning to understand your reality can help lead you to your big dreams. The world’s pro athletes worked their way to their position, and that included accepting and acknowledging what they did poorly. With that knowledge, they were able to adapt, address, and steer reality in a meaningful way.

Denying reality rarely ends well. Dreams are great, even critical, but they require work and understanding to come true, not self-deception.


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.