What March Madness Teaches Us About Career Succes

It’s March – time for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.  Yesterday, three conference tournament championship games ended in upsets.  Vanderbilt beat Kentucky, the number 1 team in the country.  Florida State beat North Carolina.  Saint Bonaventure Beat Xavier.  On Friday, Syracuse, the number 2 team in the country lost to Cincinnati.  There’s an old adage in sports that says, “Upsets are the reason they play the games.”

I find career success advice in lots of places.  The upsets that occurred this weekend in college basketball are a great example.  Tweet 32 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Stuff happens as you go about creating your life and career success.  Choose to respond positively to the negative stuff that happens.”  Stuff happened to Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina over the weekend.  Let’s see how they deal with it.

No team likes to lose its final game before the NCAA tournament. Yet, three of the best college basketball teams in the country, Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina did just that.  They all have great coaches.  These coaches now have the job of getting their players ready to play in the NCAA tournament that begins on Thursday.  We’ll see if these teams can rebound from an unexpected loss and respond positively in the days ahead.

It will help that Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina – along with Big 10 Champion Michigan State – all received number 1 seeds: Syracuse in the East, North Carolina in the Midwest, Kentucky in the South and Michigan State in the West.  I have Syracuse and Kentucky in the championship game in my bracket.

As I tell my career success coaching clients, it’s simple, really.  Success – in college basketball and in life — is all up to you, and me, and anyone else who wants it.  We all have to take personal responsibility for our own success.  I am the only one who can make me a career success.  You are the only one who can make you a career success.  The players and coaches of Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina are the only ones who can make their teams succeed in the NCAA tournament.

Stuff happens—in sports and in life: good stuff, bad stuff, frustrating stuff, unexpected stuff.  Successful people respond to the stuff that happens in a positive way.  Humans are the only animals with free will.  That means we – you and me – get to decide how we react to every situation that comes up.  That’s why taking personal responsibility for yourself and choosing to respond positively to the negative stuff that happens to you is so important.

Personal responsibility means recognizing that you are responsible for your life and the choices you make.  It means that you realize that while other people and events have an impact on your life, these people and events don’t shape your life.  A loss in a conference tournament final doesn’t mean that you still can’t win the NCAA tournament.  When you accept personal responsibility for your life, you own up to the fact that how you react to people and events is what’s important.  And you can choose how to react to every person you meet and everything that happens to you.

The concept of personal responsibility is found in most writings on success.  Stephen Covey’s first habit in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Be proactive.”  I have a little book called Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People, also by Stephen Covey.  It is one of the most-read books that I have.  I like it because it provides a little snippet of advice from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People every day.

The daily reflection for September 24 goes directly to the advice in this tweet, and it gets to the heart of personal responsibility and life and career success.

“It’s not really what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.  Of course, things can hurt physically or economically and can cause sorrow.  But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all.  In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.”

Dr. Covey provides some great career advice here.  We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to both the positive and negative experiences we have as we go through life.  Successful people choose to make lemonade out of lemons.  Unsuccessful people choose to complain about the bitter, tart taste of the lemons they are handed.  We’ll  see if Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina are lemonade makers.

I know the “lemons into lemonade” line is a cliché.  However, clichés become clichés because they have an underlying truth.  The important point is that human beings are blessed with free will.  As such, we can choose what we do and how we react to the world around us.  We can choose a positive, productive path, or we can choose a path of self pity and inaction – and hurt only ourselves in the end.

The 7 Habits advice for September 25 carries on in the same vein…

“Proactive people can carry their own weather with them.  Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them.  They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.”

I love the concept of carrying your own weather with you.  Choosing to react positively to the negative people and events in your life is the best way to carry your weather – and to take personal responsibility for your life and career success.

The career success coach point here is clear is simple common sense.  Successful people know that they can choose how they respond to everyone they meet and everything that happens to them.  Successful sports teams bounce back from defeats and move forward.  Successful people and teams follow the advice in Tweet 32 in Success Tweets.  “Stuff happens as you go about creating a successful life and career.  Choose to respond positively to the negative stuff that happens.”  I’m looking forward to see how three top college basketball teams, Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina, respond to the challenge of losing in their conference tournaments.  If they want to win the big tournament, and if you want to create the career success you deserve, remember Stephen Covey’s advice.  Carry your weather with you.  In this way, whether it rains or shines on the outside, it will be sunny on the inside.  Choose to react positively to the negative people you meet, and the negative things that happen to you.  When you do, you’ll find that you’ll have less negative things happening and fewer negative people entering your life.

That’s the career advice I took from watching upsets in the college basketball conference tournaments over the weekend.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy day to do so.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular 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 http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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