Next Play

Duke University’s coach Mike Krzyzewski has won more games than any other men’s college basketball coach in history.  He’s the big cheese.  The top dog.  The head honcho.  His leadership skills have produced unparalleled success and he’s had a tremendous influence on the world of sports.

Coach K

One of Coach K’s key rituals is to declare “Next Play” after every single play in all of his games.  It’s his way of signifying to his team that no matter what happened previously – good or bad – it’s time to focus on the task at hand.  When players allow their minds to wander to a previous action, their intensity wanes and performance plummets.  Here’s how Coach K describes his philosophy:

“In basketball and in life, I have always maintained the philosophy of ‘next play.’ Essentially, what it means is that what you have just done is not nearly as important as what you are doing right now. The ‘next play’ philosophy emphasizes the fact that the most important play of the game or life moment on which you should always focus is the next one. It is not about the turnover I committed last time down the court, it’s not even about the three-pointer I hit to tie the game, it is about what’s next.

To waste time lamenting a mistake or celebrating success is distracting and can leave you and your team unprepared for what you are about to face. It robs you of the ability to do your best at that moment and to give your full concentration. It’s why I love basketball. Plays happen with rapidity and there may be no stop-action. Basketball is a game that favors the quick thinker and the person who can go on to the next play the fastest.”

Naturally, this concept transcends sports.  On the date of LinkedIn’s wildly successful IPO, the leadership team had thousands of t-shirts printed for their team which simply had the new stock symbol (LNKD) on the front and the rallying cry of “Next Play” on the back.  The executives wanted to send an unambiguous message that despite their incredible success, it was time to focus on creating future value instead of basking in past glory.

So often we let the past anchor us down from achieving our true potential.  We allow past relationships, injustices, setbacks, or victories cloud our judgment and hold us back.  The Next Play approach can liberate your thinking and allow you to seize the abundant opportunities in front of you.

This week, wipe the slate clean and approach your efforts with a fresh perspective.  Once you become unshackled, release the burdens of the past and stay focused on the possibilities.  Championships are won this way in sports, business, family, communities, and life.

Next opportunity.  Next idea.  Next breakthrough.  Next Play.