Leadership Lessons from Cristiano Ronaldo’s 4-Goal Performance in Euro 2020 Qualifiers

Earlier this week, in Lithuania, 4 shots were taken that will impact a nation for at least 2 decades.  Cristiano Ronaldo scored 4 goals in Portugal’s Euro Qualifying match against Lithuania, which saw the nation move up in their group standing to 2nd place for the time being.  While the result in the present is very exciting, something else happened during that same game that will impact the team for years to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo is 34 years old and this coming February will be turning 35.  He is beginning his second season at one of Italy’s top clubs, Juventus, after leaving Spain’s La Liga back in the summer of 2018 in order to test himself yet again, looking to prove that his success and skill transcends teams and leagues.

So, on this night where Portugal faced Lithuania, at 34 years old, Cristiano delivered one of the best performances of his national team career.

Most of you might be thinking, “well, isn’t this just another day at the office for one of the greatest football players the world has ever seen?”  Not quite, 4 goals is more than just another day in the office, but what makes these 4 goals special is the impact they will have for decades to come.

Starting and playing alongside Ronaldo was 19 year old Joao Felix, who some consider the potential future of Portuguese football.   Joao Felix was born in 1999, just a 3 years before Ronaldo made his professional senior club team debut.  In his barely 20 years of existence, he has managed to score 15 goals in 26 games for Portuguese club Benfica, represent Portugal at the senior national team level, and secure a contract with Atletico Madrid at a club-record $137 million transfer fee.

On this night in Lithuania, Joao Felix experienced first-hand, within the closest proximity possible, some of the greatest examples and lessons any 19 year old could ever learn.  The following are the biggest lessons in leadership, determination, discipline, and pure will that I believe Joao Felix and countless other young Portuguese players will carry with them for decades to come.

Play as if You are Losing

With Portugal needing a win to keep their Euro qualifying hopes alive, they get a penalty in the 7th minute that puts them up 1-0.  At this point, Ronaldo and gang could consider this a done deal but he and the rest of the senior members of the team continue to take shots on goal and push for a second goal.  Leadership Lesson – don’t get comfortable, continue working hard, as if you are still behind, because if you close your eyes for too long, you might find yourself behind again.

Never Give Up, Continue Pushing

Approaching halftime, Ronaldo, who is firing shots like a machine gun, can’t get one passed the goalkeeper, but that doesn’t deter him as he continues his attack which includes looking for open teammates to set them up for goals.  At this point, Lithuania has already tied the match at 1-1.  Leadership Lesson – you never give up, whether you are winning, losing, or tied, you give your absolute best and never ever lose hope.  Ronaldo physically demonstrates this best by physically keeping his head and shoulders up and encouraging his teammates to keep fighting.  He can often be seen putting his two index fingers to his left and right temples, signaling “it’s all in our mind, we can overcome this!”

If You Keep Pushing, The Results Will Come

In 61st minute, Ronaldo takes a shot that doesn’t look like his best, but a fumble of the ball by the goalkeeper has the ball go into the net.  A goal is a goal, it doesn’t have to be pretty.  Portugal will take it.  Leadership Lesson – if you keep trying, keep pushing, and get up after each knock down, you will have the best chance of success, the results will come.  Don’t give up!  Now, let’s get back to work, this game isn’t over.

The Fundamentals are Fundamental to Success

In the 65th minute, Ronaldo converts a pass from the flank and the score is 3-1, things are looking up, momentum is building, the effort is paying off.  Ronaldo made sure to be in the right place at the right time and kept his touch of the ball basic and simple.  Nothing flashy here.  Leadership Lesson – If you focus on the basics, the fundamentals, and keep doing them, the dividends and rewards will come.  Keep pushing, keep persisting with the fundamentals that are known to deliver results.  Do not make things more complicated than they need to be.

Don’t Take Success for Granted

In the 76th minute, Ronaldo with a one-touch effort off a great pass, bends the ball around the Lithuanian goalkeeper to score his 4th goal in the game.  Leadership Lesson – don’t take your foot off the gas pedal.  Keep pushing, do not take the success or momentum for granted.  Bonus Lesson for Joao Felix, this particular goal was also an example of an incredibly difficult shot.  This shot also happens to be exactly like a shot Joao Felix attempted earlier in the game and missed by inches.  His mentor and leader showed him how it’s done.  Watch and learn.

Proximity is Power

For Joao Felix, this was also an opportunity to witness what is possible.  Joao Felix, at 19, has a unique opportunity to not only be inspired by this, but more importantly to learn directly from Ronaldo how one becomes great.  Leadership Lesson – Joao Felix, on this night, witnessed what is possible – to be approaching 35 and continue to dominate thanks to determination, leadership, discipline, and pure will.

Those 4 goals will forever be etched into the mind and experience of Joao Felix and if he uses it wisely, those 4 goals will deliver an incredible return in the form of what I am sure Cristiano Ronaldo hopes will be an even better career for the young player and his future Portuguese teammates.

Questions For You

  • Who is close enough to you that you can inspire, teach, and empower to become great in the years to come?
  • What are you doing to inspire and teach them?
  • How can you be more intentional about turning your victories and failures into lessons for the next generation?

Change Your Life, Do One Thing Differently Today

DecisionsLast night, I had three intriguing firsts. One occurred because I chose to turn left instead of right. Another occurred because I chose to go upstairs instead of downstairs. A third occurred because I trusted someone’s suggestion and said yes. Each of these decisions led to outcomes that were significantly more valuable than the cost of the decision itself. The decision was not complicated at all, it was nothing more than changing or tweaking one thing and trusting in one person’s suggestion without question. The return on this investment however was quite spectacular given how minimal the investment was to begin with.

This made me think, how close are we every day to significant returns if we do even ONE thing differently?

If we choose to praise instead of criticize?

If we smile at one stranger instead of walking right passed?

If we order a tall drink instead of a grande?

If we take the stairs instead of the escalator?

If we text him or her instead of waiting for him or her to text us?

If we call instead of text someone?

If we visit instead of call someone?

If we listen instead of speak?

If we motivate instead of manipulate?

If we inspire instead of intimidate?

If we coach instead of criticize?

If we stop to compliment one service provider (i.e. waiter, barista, doorman, etc.)?

If we choose to get off the subway one stop early?

If we choose to simply trust one person on one thing today?

If we apologize for one mistake we make today?

If we simply go left instead of right today?

Small tweaks, small changes, minor decisions, left instead of right, up instead of down. What if we invested this small change once a day? What about twice a day? What would the returns be like? What if changed that typical linear path we live each and every day, the same things, the same outcomes, the same pain, the same problems, the same issues, and the same happiness. What if it took one change to modify that linear path for the better? Might we end up on a new path? Might we create an alternate future? Might our problems improve? Might our happiness improve?

There’s only one way to find out. Do one thing differently today. Be intentional about it.

How to Gain Clarity and See New Opportunities

A couple of weeks ago I had a great conversation with a friend about finding the clarity to see new opportunities.  Thinking back to when I made my decision to leave my corporate career, I really could not have ever imagined the journey that I have been on for the last four years.  Although I had my reasons for leaving and some sort of plan of what I might do, I was not even close to what actually happened.

During that conversation two weeks ago I realized that it is quite hard to see what’s possible when your mind is preoccupied with distractions (i.e. your current circumstance or situation, related stress, etc.).  It’s almost as if when it comes to our mental capacity, we only have so much “screen space.”  It’s like we have a 13″ – there’s only so much you can fit in it.

So let’s look at few aspects of this analogy and how it compares to finding clarity.

When you are in a situation or circumstance that does not inspire you or just doesn’t make you happy, your screen fills up with stress, dissatisfaction, thoughts of getting out, and eventually fear of making a change for the better.  Fear because we are hard-wired to fear change and the unknown.  While some may seem more spontaneous and risky in their behavior, they too experience fear – the difference is they have learned to control, embrace, and convert it to enthusiasm and positive curiosity.

When your 13″ screen is all filled up, you simply cannot see opportunities and possibilities – even the ones right in front of you. It feels as if there may not be anything waiting on the other side if you take the plunge.  By the way, this can go for career, relationship, and/or personal circumstances.  However, what I found after I left my career circumstance was that all of a sudden I had new ideas, I was having different conversations, and I considered new possibilities (some out of necessity so that I could earn a living).  It’s as if leaving my career at the time closed all the open windows on my 13″ screen, rebooted my computer, and left me with a blank slate.  I was open to anything and everything.

Here’s where the second aspect of the analogy comes in.  Once my screen was free to have new windows open in it, it was as if my screen got upgraded to 15, then 16, then 17″.  When the negative stress and feelings of fear went away, I felt like more was possible than I had ever thought before.  All of a sudden I was meeting new like-minded people with their own awesome stories and ideas.  And this is when things got really good.  As I explored my own strengths and interests, now I felt like I was taking on additional screens.  One screen was for my passion in education, another screen for student leadership development, and yet another for neuropsychology.  It’s as if I was now running multiple apps that all interface with each other on multiple screens.  Everything was coming together and connecting in ways I never thought possible.

Clarity on multiple screens!

Operating with more apps and on more screens, my other capacities began to upgrade as well.  I felt happier, stronger, healthier, more intelligent, more passionate, more outgoing, etc.  Today, four years later, I see much clearer than ever before.  Here’s the best part though, I haven’t even reached full clarity and I don’t know if I ever will.  However, every year, every month, every day I feel like I have just a little more clarity than I did before.

More apps!

If you are in a circumstance that isn’t working for you, consider finding some clarity.  It won’t come from staying in the bad situation – even if you know all of this now.  The clarity can only come when close all the negative windows on your screen and start fresh again.

Maybe it’s time for a reboot in your life.

3 Ways that Interviewing is Like Dating

Dating...Interviewing...they aren't so different.

Often times I am asked for interviewing advice by students getting ready to graduate or looking for internships.  When I’m asked for advice, my goal is to provide a high-level framework from which students can determine their overall strategy.  Here are three things I always tell my students.  Consequently, it turns out interviewing is a lot like dating and it all begins with selection.

“Selecting whom to ask on a date” Deciding whether to submit a resume.

Make sure the company if of interest to you by checking out their website and doing a little initial research on it.  After you have selected the companies that you wish you apply for and submit your resume/cover letter, they too will do their initial research on you.  The company will review your qualifications to determine if you meet the requirements of the position.  If they too are interested,  you will be invited to interview with them (the first date).  Once invited, perform follow-up research on the company because it will position you to ask probing questions that websites and brochures cannot answer.  For example, when I interview, I almost always ask about the culture.  I even use a very specific question – “when you walk in to the office every morning, do people say greet each other?“ Questions like that give me a better sense of the company culture.  I know that I would not enjoy working for a company where people do not greet each other in the morning.  I’ve worked for companies like that and know it from personal experience.  If you take the time to get to know the company then you can ask better questions at the interview.  Oh and by the way, this makes you look very interested in the company.  Now who doesn’t like it when someone has shown interest in you? Continue reading

How to Create a Pipeline of Luck

The answer to this question is really quite simple:  Just Show Up.

Well, there’s a little more to it than that.  You need to be prepared and proactive.  Creating luck is all about putting yourself in the right places, at the right times, and doing the right things.  This means accepting that invitation to join a friend at a reception, attending a local marketing association meeting, or going out to your buddy’s happy hour with his or her co-workers when you get the invite. Continue reading

Seize, Appreciate, and Understand “The Way” of Your Life

I just got home from watching an advanced screening of “The Way” (@theWaytheMovie) by Emilio Estevez, starring Martin Sheen.  The movie, which opens this Friday, October 7, highlights the journey of Martin Sheen’s character through parts of Spain in his attempt to realize his son’s goal.  His son, played by Emilio Estevez, died while beginning the journey to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela known as “The Way of St. James.”  Throughout the journey, Sheen’s character is enriched by a variety of experiences and people he encounters along “The Way.”

This movie made me think about my own journey and the journey we are all on.  Watching this movie might make us think we need a dramatic pilgrimage like this for it to truly deserve the designation of a “journey” but that seriously undermines our own lives.  Even in the movie, it isn’t just about “The Way.”  [subtle spoiler alert] The characters ultimately realize it wasn’t about what they set out to do with their respective journeys.  It was about a way of life.  It is about how we choose to live each day.  Whether and how we appreciate the distinct experiences and people that enter and leave our lives, for better or worse. Continue reading

Journey versus Destination

A little over three years ago I left my corporate career in pursuit of a new path.  At the time I wasn’t sure of the destination and even today I am not quite sure.  Some might argue that is reason for concern and I would partially agree.  At times, I get a little concerned.  Perhaps those are my old preferences for structure and stability making their occasional uprising.  However, during some of the most challenging times of my masters programs I was asked by friends how things are going.  I answered, crazy busy.  So much work with school, consulting, coaching, graduate assistant position, etc.  But it hit me right then that, I’m happy.  I love everything I’m doing.  I’m enjoying every bit of it.

Clearly, at that point, I had not even completed my masters degrees, so at least we can agree I had not yet arrived at that destination.  That’s when I realized, it’s all about the journey.  It felt great when I received both masters degrees, but that was for a moment.  The journey lasted much longer than that moment.  Ultimately, I enjoyed both the journey and the milestone destination.

Now I am embarking on carving out a new career for myself.  Perhaps I should say, a new path.  Career sounds too work related.  I want my path to be about personal and professional aspirations.  A lifestyle business.  When I put it this way, the emphasis isn’t on the destination, as I have not even figured that out, but rather on the journey.  Wherever I end up will be fine with me, so long as I enjoy the journey.

Think about your own life.  What’s the journey like?  Do you know the destination?

Make sure you are making the most of the journey…it will eventually become what you look back on when you reflect on your life.  The milestone destinations will be important and special, but the real stories come from your journey.

Safe travels!