Long-game Strategy

Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win. ~Bobby Knight

I've always liked this quote from Bobby Knight and have always been intrigued with his mind. His career as a basketball coach and leader spanned forty-six years with 902 wins and 371 losses second only to someone who was trained by Mr. Knight, Mike Krzyzewski. People often characterize Mr. Knight as "strict, disciplined and devoted". Some even suggest "maniacal". Regardless interpretation, the fact remains that he knew how to win.

One of the most important things I remember about Mr. Knight was the focus on fundamentals, fundamentals and more fundamentals. His reputation even existed in gyms he'd likely never been. My own basketball coaches in the 80s were influenced by Mr. Knight's practice regime and had us focusing on ball-handling, physical fitness, man-to-man defense, motion offense and more ball-handling and physical fitness. While we wanted to be selfishly running, gunning and getting glory as the star player, coaches had us doing line-touches, dribbling, passing and defending while preaching selflessness at every moment.

Even though I've never met the man, what I learned from Mr. Knight was that winning takes about three hours per game. Preparing to win takes every moment, between every game. Said preparation requires unfaltering discipline. Predictable, repeatable, bet your whole career on it, discipline. Discipline in the fundamentals leads to the wins.

Particularly what I believe I learned from Mr. Knight is that the wins were only by-products of the journey of discipline.

You'd think this post was about sports. It is about life philosophy. It is about work ethic. It is about behaving every moment the way you want to behave when it matters most.

There are fundamentals in software systems and teams as well. Defining the problem you need to solve before defining the solution. Decomposing the solution path into iterative, digestible elements that are predictably and repeatably delivered in timely, quality-defined and driven manners. Continuous integration, testing, inspection and delivery. Having a behavioral framework in place which helps you understand planned versus actual results and how you can evolve for the next game. Patterns, precepts and practices. Fundamentals. Daily practiced. Daily improved. So that when it matters most, it's just another day.

Many, many, many people want to stand up on a stage or out in the middle of a floor to receive attention, reward and adulation. But only a handful are willing to apply the long-term, daily, tedious, fundamental discipline to get there.

Another of my other favorite quotes from an interesting mind originates with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Life is a journey, not a destination.

I think this is what Bobby Knight was talking about.