As I was watching SportsCenter one evening a few days before the college football national championship game, the same reporter asked both coaches, Les Miles of LSU and Nick Saban of Alabama, in separate interview (and I’m paraphrasing), “What outside criticism has affected you and your team the most.” Sitting in my chair, I say aloud, “none…” and waited for their answers.
With no shock to me they both answered, “None.” and proceeded to look at the interviewer as if he had a second head. Both, upon realizing that the interviewer wanted them to further explain, they both gave nearly the identical response (again paraphrasing). “We don’t concern ourselves with what anybody does or says outside of our program. We worry about us, and try to improve our team every day.”
It came as no shock because almost all high achieving and highly successful people, in any walk of life, have very little time or concern for those outside of their ‘bubble.’ And don’t kid yourself, these coaches at this level, in this day and age; are highly successful and high achieving people. Their salaries reflect it, whether you agree that they should or not.
It’s not that these two coaches were simply happy to bury their heads in the sand and ignore outside influences. They’re just very good at filtering all the crap around them and set their sights on a goal, and go like mad to get it. I’m not saying you should simply ignore all those around you, those you trust to give you advice and guidance. You should always have a sounding boards and people whose opinion you trust. What I am telling you to do is watch out for opinions that are unfounded and unreliable. I guarantee you these two coaches have that close circle of people they know they can rely on to give them the right kind of criticism. The assistant coaches who work with them, their athletic directors, other coaches they seek out, both in their own sports and outside of it.
Say what you will about Bob Knight, the very controversial former basketball coach of Indiana University, but I KNOW he surrounded himself with other coaches whose criticism he valued. You always saw him with Joe Torre (Yankees), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University basketball) and Tony LaRussa (baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals). I guarantee you he didn’t care one bit about my thoughts on how to motivate a successful team, but he sure as heck picked a good group to surround himself with.
Here’s a brief story to bring it back to our world. Effective marketing is almost always criticized – by your association, peers, spouse, friends and mother. However, the blunt truth is that none of their opinions count. The only opinions that count are those expressed by people who might give you money. In other words, it’s the customer’s response that matters.
Here’s a classic story about Gary Halbert (as told to me by Dan Kennedy). A big company, which was not named, hired Halbert to create a full-page direct-response ad to launch their company. He does and it works fabulously well and is running continuously in USA TODAY, and many major city daily newspapers. He is called into the a corporate meeting where he meets the firm’s new Madison Avenue ad agency, and asked to preserve the ad’s effectiveness but, “tone it down” and make it more “appropriate” for a big, successful company. The owners of the company had succumbed to pressures from outside influences, the new ad agency, investors, etc. to take an ad that was making them money hand over fist and ask Halbert to, essentially, make it NOT work. You see this all the time with big, dumb companies.
Here’s my challenge for the month. Start making a list, whether mental or real (it’s probably best to write it down), of all the outside influences you come in contact with each day in regards to your business, be that spouse, family, in-laws, neighbors, friends, whoever. Make a note of what they say and what the criticism is. Then, next to that write down the qualifications they have to give you that criticism. At the end of the month, cross off all those names who’s criticism is unfounded and unwarranted. Ignore them, and start listening to those opinions that really matter.