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I have seven brothers: Mark, Simon, Andrew, Brett, Nathan, Bernard, and Hamish. Growing up in Australia, all we did was play sports. What sports? Any sport. Football, cricket, tennis, soccer, swimming, running, basketball, volleyball, golf, table tennis, cycling—you name it, we probably gave it a try. Were we competitive? Yes, we were. Ultracompetitive.
My father loved sports and one of his favorite things to do was watch his sons play. I believe it gave him a tremendous sense of pride and filled him with great joy to watch his boys out there competing.
I began playing competitive sports when I was five years old. Every time I went to training and every time I went to a game, my dad said the very same thing to me: “Matthew, listen to your coach!” Every time. He never forgot. If he was traveling, he would call me on the phone sometimes before a game to wish me well, and to remind me to listen to my coach.
When I was about sixteen years old, he was dropping me off for a soccer game while he went to park the car. As I walked away from the car, he put down the window and said, “Matthew, don’t forget—” I turned around, interrupted him, and said, “I got it, Dad—listen to my coach, listen to my coach!”
A few weeks later, Dad and I were talking, and I asked him, “Dad, why do you always say, ‘Listen to your coach’?”
He didn’t miss a beat. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Because nobody achieves excellence at anything without coaching.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You can get good at something just by working hard at it. If you’ve got some talent and you work hard at it, you can get really, really good at it. But excellence, peak performance, being the best you can be at something—that doesn’t happen without coaching.”
My father was a student of excellence. He loved excellence, wherever it could be found. He would point it out to us, in business, in sports, in the arts, in politics, spiritually and academically. He was a student of excellence and he taught us to be students of excellence too.
So, I’ve got two questions for you: What do you want to be excellent at? and Who is your coach? Nobody achieves excellence at anything without coaching.
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