When signing a contract, we are always warned that we should also read the fine print, because it is the detail in the fine print that often bites you in the heel when you least expect it.
This is what came to mind last night when I watched the soccer game between South Africa and Mali in the quarter finals of the Afcon cup. After full time and extra time the score was still a one all draw. Then to decide the match came the penalty shoot-out. During the last two minutes of extra time the camera focused on the South African coach taking out a piece of paper and did what seemed like deciding who will be the players to take the five penalties at goal.
After the game we were informed by the commentators that the South African coach did not spend any time on practicing for a possible penalty shoot-out, while the coach of the Mali team spent an hour with his team for such a possible occurrence.
Although I will not give myself to be a soccer expert, I was quite surprised at the Bafana’s game against a much higher ranked Mali team. Even during the thirty minutes extra time they handled the pressure well.
But a penalty shoot-out is like that extra bit of fine print described in the contract, that you may judge as not that important, because chances are 98% that the situation will never occur.
But then! Alas, it does occur, like last night. And then you are not prepared for what’s to come. Let us assume that Bafana spent an hour or two practicing for a possible penalty shoot-out. Before-hand deciding who will be the ones to kick, in what order, perhaps where each one will aim the ball in the goal box, etc., and then practice it. Maybe, who knows, the result may have been different. It seems like it worked for Mali.
It seems that the bigger the occasion, the more important it is to pay attention to every little bit of detail. Nothing is too insignificant to make it off as “not that important.”
A couple of years ago I watched an ODI cricket test match on TV and Shaun Pollock was one of the bowlers. Now Shaun was meticulous at bowling accurately and often bowled maiden overs. This specific game was not against one of the top ranked sides in the world, but at a certain stage in the game, Shaun lost concentration and the opposition scored something like fourteen runs from two of his overs.
We’ve been privileged the last couple of years to be entertained on world cup soccer, -rugby, -cricket, etc. My impression of all these events were, that the teams who made it to the top, were meticulous in everything they did, right up to the final whistle of the final game. If you loose concentration for just two overs, your opponents will smack you.
The same applies to our personal and occupational lives. You may be a well respected lawyer in your town, but one evening on your way home from a friend’s birthday party, the police pull you over to blow in the pipe, and the next day you read it in the newspaper, even if you were only slightly over the limit. Be sure that from that day onward you will be branded as the drunk lawyer and nothing you may do in future, will enable you to shed that image.
To be outstanding in whatever you do, you need to be meticulous and excellent in everything you do.