I’m not an avid sports fan, as a matter of fact I don’t really watch or play any sport, but I love hearing the stories of athletes. I believe athletes are some of the most disciplined and hardest working people. Recently, I watched the Beckham documentary on Netflix and I was deeply inspired by David Beckham’s story. I loved learning about his journey and growth as a soccer player but two things really jumped out to me while watching the 4-part documentary and I had to put my thoughts together by writing this piece.
Lessons from Beckham
- Just focus on the game.
- Be in control of your reaction.
JUST FOCUS ON THE GAME
Throughout his career, through the backlash, through the doubt on his competence, through the noise, and through the praise, Beckham’s resolve was to always drown it all out and focus on his craft. The best way he knew to prove people wrong was to be at peak performance on the pitch. And this is how winners win. Your focus and commitment to yourself, your goals (pun intended), and your craft will keep you moving forward regardless of the adulation or condemnation of others.
There will always be noise, there will always be people who doubt your abilities, there will always be situations that test you. But the best response you can give is to be the best version of yourself. Double down on your work, make a plan, execute! Instead of trying to explain to anyone, channel your energy into your craft and into the very place where your competence is doubted. Avoid the need to explain away with no evidence, let your results speak for you.
But also, to the people that believe in you and are wholeheartedly rooting for you, your dedication to your craft is like a gift to them. For some, it motivates them to be better, for others, it gives them something to believe in. It is in these cases that we see that our dedication to our craft transcends us – it touches other people too.
BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR REACTION
In the famous 1998 World Cup match between England and Argentina, Beckham got a red card and was sent off the pitch for kicking one of the Argentinian players. England eventually lost the match in penalties and Beckham suffered terrible public backlash for months.
In the documentary, the player that was kicked, Diego Simeone, was interviewed to gain his perspective on the events that occurred. Surprisingly, he admitted that it was his intention to get Beckham riled up so he could react. Everything he did, right down to his “dramatic” fall after being kicked was calculated. I was a little shocked by this revelation, but then I took some time to actually think about this scenario. Simeone knew that if he could get into Beckham’s head and elicit a reaction, his team could gain control of the game, and sadly he was right (is this what the Gen Zs call gaslighting??).
Welcome to life 101. Sometimes people push your buttons in hopes of getting a reaction out of you and then they play the victim when an outburst follows. Other times, this isn’t even intentional. Things just happen or people get on your last nerves and you react in anger but the result of acting out in anger is far worse than what actually triggered you. Let me clarify this: anger isn’t a bad thing, it is a normal human emotion that seeks an expression, often an aggressive one. Uncontrolled anger on the other hand is the real villain here and this is what needs to be tackled. Instead of reacting outwardly, anger can be controlled first by self-soothing to calm yourself down. Take a deep breath. This article by the American Psychological Association lists some more strategies for controlling your anger.
Personally, I’ve had to learn the hard way that it is best to never allow anger dictate my actions. There were several times in the past where I lashed out on people I care about, and the aftermath was worse than what angered me in the first place. But those experiences revealed the need for me to be in control of my reaction when I am angry. The breakthrough revelation for me was that I can’t control how other people act and to some degree I am not in control of how some situations turn out but the only thing I have control over is my reaction. In moments when I am deeply annoyed, I first take a deep breath, stay silent and then try to isolate myself from other people because Lord knows the things that may come out of my mouth may be truly deeply unkind 😅. Often times I channel my anger into cleaning or reorganizing my space, and finally when I feel calmer, I take some time to think about the situation before having a conversation if need be.
Even though what happened to Beckham on the pitch in 1998 was unfortunate and the backlash he faced was unwarranted, he had to live with the consequences of reacting in anger for a long time. But you don’t have to. It may seem like a hard thing, but trust me you can learn to control your reaction.
The great musical maestro Ms. Giselle Knowles-Carter once said “always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper” and I couldn’t agree more! Always stay gracious in your actions. Do not let a temporary annoyance leave a permanent mark. And always remember to let your paper – your focus, dedication, and results – do all the talking.