Gary Neville, ex Manager of Valencia CF, but more known to us all as being part of the Class of 92, summed this up brilliantly in this video, where he spoke to students at the university of Salford about the topic of 'ambition.' But maybe his approach is a dying breed?
After making his debut for Manchester United he said all his dreams had come true. Everything he had worked whilst growing up was all made worthwhile as he made his dream of playing for the club he supported as a young boy, become a reality. But the morning after making his debut (he was still on cloud nine!) Neville returned to training and was greeted by his academy mentor, Eric Harrison. Eric’s words were along the lines of…’You’ve only made it at this club once you’ve made 100 appearances…’ And when Neville went on to make 100 appearances, Harrison reminded him of how many championships he’s yet to win….and so on and so on.
That message resonated that enough is never enough. There is always more to be achieved and to truly be ambitious is an evolving process for successful athletes, where ambitions and goals are constantly re-set, often supported by coaches and teammates. A team full of characters who have this established thought process of constantly seeking better and always looking for more, will at times feel relentless. However those who stop in the present and feel comfortable or content at the level they are will often find themselves falling by the wayside as others strive for greater ambitions, leaving the rest behind.
This is all well and good in hindsight, but you take the case of football as an example, those who have constantly revaluated and realigned their ambitions during their career, can then feel like ‘they’ve done it and it’s finished’ when they retire. However, Neville brilliantly illustrates the flaws in this thinking and he has taken his approach well past his retirement stage; now as a successful businessman as well as a coach and football pundit.
So, what might be learnt for those going in to work? Or those currently in work? Neville sums it up perfectly at the end of this video – ‘Never allow yourself to be content.’ Celebrate success and then move on to the next ambition. This might just be the difference in thinking and approach of those we class as future leaders.
How in sport or any walk of life do you know when you have realised your ambition? Or in fact have you ever realised your ambitions? Top performing athletes might say never. Once athletes get their first contract, or make their debut, that is one ambition achieved. They might reflect in the moment, but athletes are driven to re-align their ambitions to always give them something to work towards and always strive for something better. This constant re-evaluation of goals and targets is not an easy thing to do for many of us. Athletes have this drilled into them from a young age; they need to in order to succeed. But, can this be taken in to the professional world of work? Do we work hard enough to constantly realign our ambitions? When a promotion comes, or we land our dream job, do we instantly think – ‘Now how can I get to the next level?’ Or do we simply become comfortable….?