More Career Success Lessons from the Rugby Pitch

This is another in my posts on life and career success lessons learned on the rugby pitch.

Today’s lesson is “kill the ball”.  No, not literally.  You kill the ball by falling on it as it is bouncing around on the ground.  A rugby ball is shaped like a fat American football.  It bounces in some pretty peculiar ways.  It is not easy to pick up while you are running.

Some players want to pick up a rugby ball while they are running – not very easy to do.  Others kick at a bouncing ball – an activity commonly known as “flyhacking”.  Flyhacking is not a smart move because it is difficult to direct the ball where you want it to go.

Therefore, coaches always tell their players to “kill the ball” when it is bouncing around the open field.  You kill the ball by falling on it, gathering it to yourself, and then standing up with it.  In rugby, it is a delay of game penalty to fall on the ball and just lay there.  You have to make an effort to get up.

When you kill the ball you benefit your side because you secure it and allow your teammates to align themselves to begin an offensive possession.  Possession and field position are very important in rugby.

There is one small problem with falling on the ball as it is bouncing.  Other players (your teammates and the other team) are likely to be flyhacking.  When a few people converge on the ball and one falls on it and the others flyhack, the person falling on the ball might get kicked – in the head, ribs, legs, or those places we call  “our privates”.  Getting kicked hurts.  I know from first hand knowledge.

It takes physical courage to do the right thing and fall on the ball in a rugby match.

Let’s take this example out of rugby and into the career success realm.   A bouncing rugby ball is like a work or life situation that is out of control.  It is unpredictable, and can escalate into a crisis quickly.  When faced with a situation that is getting out of control, most people want to take action – to do something.

The only problem with this is that the actions we take in crises are often not well thought out.  They are like flyhacking at a rugby ball.  We are doing something, but we might be doing something that makes the situation worse.  We are trying to pick up a bouncing rugby ball while we are running at full speed.

Flyhacking or attempting to pick up a bouncing rugby ball while you are running is not a good idea.  You are likely to drop it.  In rugby, the ball can be passed only backwards or laterally.  That means that a ball that you drop in front of you is a minor infraction of the rules.  When this happens, the referee signals for a defensive scrum.  Your chances of winning a defensive scrum (one that happens after you have dropped a ball) are less than 25%.  So, while you did something – attempting to pick up a bouncing ball – your actions are likely to result in your team losing possession.  So, while you think you are doing something positive and proactive, so you actually doing something negative

The smart thing to do in a crisis at work is to slow down.  Take a minute, decide what to do, then act on your plan.  This is very similar to falling on the ball in rugby.  When you fall on the ball and secure possession, you give everyone on your side the opportunity to ready themselves to move forward.  When you stop for a minute in a crisis, you give yourself and your colleagues an opportunity to rationally consider your alternatives, choose the best one and then put it into play.

That’s why in rugby, business and life, it’s always a good idea to kill the ball.  Killing the ball leads to your career success.  Don’t just react to crises.  Take a minute to understand the situation, decide what you’re going to do, and then do it.

It takes courage to do this – especially if you’re a leader.  Others expect you to DO SOMETHING!  However, by fighting your impulse to immediately jump into action, you will have a much better chance of making a good decision on how to proceed.

Think about it.  It’s only common sense.

The common sense career success coach here is simple. Crises arise in rugby matches and at work.  The best way to deal with crises and ensure your career success is to slow down, get everything under control and then proceed to address the crisis.  In rugby this is known as killing the ball.  Killing the ball takes courage.  But this type of courage generally pays off – in winning rugby games and in the career success game.

That’s my career advice on slowing down when you’re faced with a crisis.  What do you think?  Please share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb?  It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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