When I was 12 years old, I headed off to my first travel team soccer tryouts. I was a forward. I loved scoring goals. I could dribble people inside and out. As we were heading down the road to the tryouts, my engineer dad, who, like me, had been introduced to soccer just three years earlier, asked me if he could give me some advice on the tryouts. “Sure, Dad,” I said.
Dad told me that there was going to come a time in the practice where the coaches ask what positions we played. Dad told me to tell them I played “left fullback.” I pointed out to my dad that (1) I was an attacker, not a defender; (2) I was right footed, not left; and (3) I didn’t want to play defense, I wanted to play forward and score more goals. I asked him why he was giving me such advice.
Dad told me: “Look, you and I both know who’s showing up for this tryout. We see them play every week. They are all pretty good soccer players. They are all forwards and mid-fielders; they like scoring goals and, as far as I can tell, they are all right footed. Your goal is to make the team and start playing with better players. The best way to make the team is to look for a spot where there won’t be a ton of competition. We’ll figure out how to play left fullback later.”
Sure enough, when it came time to go around the players and find out what positions they we all wanted to play, I was the only player who played left fullback. I made that team. Turns out it was a pretty good team. The name of the team was the Annandale Cavaliers. Six years later, when we were 18, we were the National Champion. That led to playing soccer in college on a scholarship (William & Mary), where I met my wife, Sandi. Recently, we celebrated 34 years of marriage.
Dad’s big idea change the entire trajectory of my life. He wasn’t a marketer, but what he really gave me was marketing advice. Translated to what we do, the advice becomes: you had better show up differently from everyone else. When you show up differently, you have a better chance of standing out and getting noticed. When you ACT on big ideas, sometimes you can change the trajectory of your life, too. You don’t have to be 12, though. Ask Harland Sanders, the guy who franchised “Kentucky Fried Chicken” at age 62. Go look at last month’s BenGlassLaw newsletter and read about the 90- year-old in my neighborhood who set a new running record at age 90! (True, outliving many of your competitors is ONE way of showing up like no one else!)
Here’s another big point about all of this: I just told you a story that no one else has. If you are a consumer, I’ve got a far better shot at getting you to remember that story than I do about getting you to remember what area of practice I’m in or whether “personal injury” includes getting hurt by slipping and falling.
What’s your “play left fullback” story?