Seneca, Lombardi, and Luck!

Vince Lombardi: Ancient Roman philosopher?

Although this post will touch briefly on the topic of football we are not discussing any sort of mock football drafts – in other words, we are not talking about Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback likely to be the number one pick in this year’s NFL draft.  However!  We will be talking about some other smart guys – some of whom could even have gone to a place like Stanford had they not, y’know, been born like almost two thousand years before Stanford opened its doors.

See, it occurred to me that in your travels across the web today you probably hadn’t had run across any wisdom passed down from a Roman philosopher.  Well, you are in … luck … because that’s what we’re talking about today.

And, not just any Roman philosopher, either!  We’re talking about … yes … Vince Lombardi!

Okay, not really.  We’re talking about Seneca, who lived some 1900 years before the great Packer coach, and he knew nothing of the Power Sweep.  He did, however, have a thought on the subject of luck.

Seneca supposedly said, “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.” (And, to be fair, Lombardi did say this, too … and I’m guessing most of the guys who played for him had never heard of Seneca, so it was just as well that Lombardi updated the quote for his players, though, I’m certain he led if off with “Men!” so it probably went more like this, “Men!  Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity!”)

We talked at length a couple weeks ago on about the need to give yourself time when preparing email projects.  However, preparation is more than time.  In keeping with the football analogy in honor of this weekend’s upcoming Super Bowl, think about the amount of time the average football player spends watching film, looking for the opponent’s habits and tendencies.  Think about the amount of time the players spend practicing each play and running through numerous game scenarios.  Much of their practice is repetition – repeating the same actions over-and-over until those actions become second nature.  During the game the players don’t think about their plays and responsibilities – they react.  It’s all preparation.

In Mark Bowden’s instant classic The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL, the author shared a great story of a young Raymond Berry, the Colts’ star receiver in 1958, working from sheets of notebook paper and running pass routes on a deserted football field.  He ran those routes over and over until his routes were perfect.  The author went on to describe how Berry and Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, while both were still back-ups early in their careers with the Colts, would practice together … constantly … until Unitas could throw the ball not to Berry, but to the spot where he knew Berry would be.  Later in the book, during a key moment in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, Berry makes a sensational catch that amazed those who saw it.  But, it didn’t amaze Unitas or Berry – they expected it.  Lucky?  No.  They’d practiced it until it was second nature.

By the way, at the time, that type of personal preparation on the part of NFL players was fairly revolutionary.  Today it is the standard.

Think about your daily routines.  How much preparation are you doing?  Yes, I know, we are all working hard taking care of our day-to-day priorities.  But, what about the proverbial film study and practice?

Are you studying?  Study can take many forms, of course.  From a marketing and direct marketing standpoint you can take classes – both online and at local colleges.  You can read the trades to see what other in your industry are doing.  You can attend seminars.  You can read relevant and interesting blogs (ahem).

Are you learning?  When was the last time you learned a new program or application?  A lot of us use Excel, which, much like the human brain, it seems most people only use about 10% of it – have you done anything to be able to leverage the power that program has to offer?

Are you listening?  Yeah – it sounds simple and easy, but, are you really actively listening and open to new ideas?  I know that all the awesome readers of this blog are brilliant (after all, you’re here) but, do you allow others to impart their wisdom to you?  It’s one thing to hear … it’s another to listen … and learn.

Are you repeating the same successful actions until they become second nature?  Repetition is important and repetition of the details – the little things that most people won’t see or register in the moment – are often the most important part of any task.  Do you stop what you are doing and smile when you answer the phone?  Do you spell/grammar check your documents?  Do you re-read for content and clarity?  Do you make eye contact when you speak to clients?

There’s your luck.

Seneca knew it.  Lombardi knew it.  Maybe you already knew it.  Now go get prepared and find your opportunity!

Speaking of all that – what do you do to study, learn, or be prepared?

Tim Burnell

About Tim Burnell

Tim Burnell, principal owner of Complete Medical Lists, has been helping clients reach their targeted markets through direct channels for over 20 years. He believes offering high quality data and unsurpassed service are the keys to Complete Medical’s success. He also believes all his CDs should be alphabetized by artist and then sorted by release date. Except for the Beatle CDs. They get sorted before all others.
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