Daily Thoughts

Remember what got you to the dance

There is always a temptation to reinvent oneself. To invest in the new or perceived right way of doing ‘things’ when you hit a roadblock or setback.

There’s a famous saying one would use to advise others in times such as this, “Remember what got you to the dance in the first place” which basically translates to, focus on the basics which brought you the success you have now.

History is littered with many examples of this.

From the boxer who loses his first professional fight, decides to change everything about his style and preparation, in the hopes of victory in the next bout to the technology company that seeks to acquire more customers through the expansion of functionality outside of their field of expertise.

The result of most of these examples is not what the person or company had in mind. For most, this ends in another setback. But, why is this? They might spend lots of time analysing where it went wrong and why. Yet, I believe in most scenarios, the answer is quite simple.

They forgot what got them to the dance in the first place.

It’s a common human trait to want to do something even more extraordinary once you’ve reached a particular level of success or achieved a goal.

Let’s explore this through both of the examples I mentioned at the beginning of this thought.

First, the boxer who hits their first setback and/or defeat. It’s a common expectation in the world of combat sports, that after a setback or taste of defeat, you need to throw everything you’ve been doing to this point out the window and reinvent oneself.

Granted, this pressure and conversation is mostly from those who have nothing to do with the athlete. Mainly the press and keyboard warriors, but nonetheless, a full revamp is not uncommon in these situations. Many head trainers and coaching teams have found themselves out the door in these scenarios, yet, it rarely solves the problem.

What generally transpires is that the athlete overhauls everything they’ve been doing for the majority of their life up to this point because that’s what you do when there’s a setback right, you’ve got to change everything because what you did before was obviously the problem?

Not always…

Life as we know it is unpredictable. The unexpected happens but that does not mean that the work we have been doing up to this point was wrong. It might just be that in the choices which life gave us at that moment, we chose the wrong option. It happens to us all.

Knee jerk reactions to volatile situations can create even more chaos. As in this example with our boxer. Changing coaching teams, time tested routines and systems does not always yield the expected positive results they seek. In most cases, it causes more chaos.

What we find in this type of scenario is that a lavish overhaul of oneself or revamp of the way you do things was not the answer. However, what does turn out to be the smarter course of action, is getting back to what got you to the dance in the first place. A translation of this phrase for those who are not familiar with this would be – focusing on doing the things that got you to the place you are now originally. 

In many cases, this is focusing on the tried and tested basics which put you in the position for success. In the case of our boxer, it is not finding some magical combination or slick new move which will turn the tide of their fortunes. No, it is remembering what got them to where they are in the first place – the basics.

I’ve heard many a fighter say that they didn’t perform well because they abandoned the basics. The simple routine things they have done day in and out in favour of a new on trend style or slick movement philosophy. They always seem visibly frustrated as they admit that the reason for their setback or poor performance is because they stopped focusing on what got them to the dance in the first place.

They abandoned the actions that built the foundations for their success and paid the consequences. Many find that getting back to those basic principles which they abandoned and remembering to focus on these daily is the way to get back on track.

You can also flip this scenario. History is also littered with stories of combat sports athletes who forget what got them to the dance in favor of focusing on the flashy new styles or trendy methodologies. Only, to find themselves on the receiving end of a setback due to their breakaway from focusing on the basics which formed the foundation of their success in the first place.

You might say, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and for many combat athletes this has been true.

Examples of this aren’t confined to the world of sports. History has provided us with many stories of businesses who have decided to move away from their core operating principles which brought them their original success, only to find that this decision produced the most unwanted consequences.

A brand that many of us will know is Apple. The creators of some of the most revolutionary pieces of technology in our history. Although giants now, it was not always this way.

In its early days, just like now, Apple was known for its game changing products and innovations. They had a clear vision under Steve Jobs and the team. They knew what they were good at and kept improving on this. However, when Jobs was controversially ousted from Apple, they descended into a 12 year period of chaos where the company decided to branch out into so many product lines that it nearly destroyed itself.

It’s hard to believe now but Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy 23 years ago.

During the period of Jobs exile, the leadership team at Apple appeared to forget what got them to the dance in the first place too. They moved away from the simplicity of their operation and invested in so many lines of products with bloated features that they had all but forgotten to invest in the basic principles that had brought the company so much success.

The mission moved from creating great products and services to pursuing everything and anything that might bring commercial success.

As we now know, this turned out to be a dark time in the company’s history and it was not until Jobs returned in 1997 that Apple found its way again. One of the key influences to Apple’s return to being a technology leader was down to Job’s taking them back to basics and reminding them what got them to the dance in the first place.

Jobs killed a large percentage of the bloated product lines that had been invested in during his exile and instead aligned the product portfolio to what Apple did best.

This philosophy runs through the DNA of Apple, even today, 9 years after Steve jobs death. 

The leadership team focuses on the basics, keeps things simple and always invests in what got them to the dance in the first place. In Apple’s case, this has been building great products and services that connect with users, and push the world forward.

What does this mean for us?

There’s a key lesson that all of us can learn from in this thought. 

When we find ourselves in the midst of despair or panic at the task at hand or an unexpected outcome has thrown us off course and we aren’t sure which way to go. Say to yourself, “remember what got you to the dance in the first place” get back to focusing on the basics that laid the foundation for your success.

Not everything that breaks needs an overhaul, revamp or complete change of character. Sometimes, we just need to unplug. We just need to reflect and remember how we got to where we are today. Re-focus on those brilliant basics that have allowed us to be at our best in this moment and re-invest in those actions, the behaviours which have brought us here.

Never forget what got you to the dance in the first place.

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