Career Advice From a Final Four Loser

The men’s college basketball season ended last night.  UConn beat Butler for the national championship 53 – 41.  The game wasn’t pretty, but it was fiercely contested.  Texas A&M and Notre Dame play for the women’s championship tonight.

Today I’d like to discuss some career success advice that I took from last night’s game.  It came from the losing side.  Matt Howard is one of Butler’s star players.  He will be graduating soon.  He has a 3.77 GPA with a double major in Finance and Management Information Systems.  He is a three time Academic All American.

He has won many games for Butler – including two in this year’s NCAA tournament – one against Virginia Commonwealth, and one against Pitt.  Last night he had a tough game.  He scored seven points and made only one of the 13 shots he attempted.

On the other hand, he played his heart out.  He went up against the bigger UConn players and fought for every loose ball.  Near the end of the game, he fell very hard on his back.  If you were watching, you saw that it hurt him just to walk after that fall.  By this time, the game was out of hand.  He could have gone to the bench and watched the last couple of minutes.  He didn’t.

About a minute later, his leg began bleeding from a scratch.  Players must leave the game if they are bleeding from an open wound.  The referee walked him to the sideline.  I thought that would be it for him.  The trainer covered the wound with tape and he went right back into the game.

I don’t know Matt Howard, only what I see on TV and read on line.  However, I had the distinct impression that this guy was going to stay in the game and keep playing until the end.  He was going to do his best in what had become a lost cause. 

And that’s the career success point for today.  Always do your best.  Be proud of your effort.  You might not always succeed, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best.  That’s what Matt Howard did last night.  Regardless of last night’s score he can hold his head high today knowing that he did his best – right up to the bitter end.

Several years ago I participated in a workshop where the facilitator asked us to write our epitaph.  I thought about it and came up with the following…

Bud Bilanich, he was always willing to lend a helping hand.  He always did his best.

I would be proud if that’s what people thought of me at the end of my life.

Tweet 100 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Care about what you do.  If you care a little, you’ll be an OK performer.  If you care a lot, you’ll become an outstanding performer.”

It takes courage to care. Because when you care, you put yourself out there.  You do your best.  And doing your best can be a scary thing.  When you care, when you consciously do your best and fail, it is heartbreaking – just ask Matt Howard.  But at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you did your best.

I remember when I applied to graduate school at Harvard.  I decided that I was going to demonstrate to myself how much I cared by writing the very best application I could.  I wasn’t going to let myself off the hook if I didn’t get accepted by saying, “I could have written a better application, but I just didn’t spend the time I should have.”

When I put my application in the mailbox – we still did quaint things like that back in the old days – I was proud of what I had written.  I knew it was the very best I could do.  I was also frightened because I knew that my best might not be good enough.  After all, both of my other degrees were from state schools.  Who was I to think that those kind of credentials would get me accepted at Harvard?

I cared about the quality of my application, so I did the very best I could.  Unlike Butler and Matt Howard, my story has a happy ending.  I was accepted and got my degree.  Even if I had not been accepted, I would have been proud of myself because I cared enough to write the best application I could, and I dared enough to admit it to myself.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people are proud of what they do.  They care.  They follow the career advice in Tweet 100 in Success Tweets.  “Care about what you do.  If you care a little, you’ll be an OK performer.  If you care a lot, you’ll become an outstanding performer.”  Does your work show that you care?  Or does it reflect an “it’s good enough” attitude?  Take it from a career success coach, if you want to create the life and career success of which you are capable, make sure that how much you care shows through in every single piece of work you do.

That’s the career advice I take from watching one of the guys who lost in the NCAA championship game last night.  What do you think?  Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.

Bud

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