Most successful sportspeople not only accept rules and limitations, they accept and play within boundaries. I believe they need them.
In fact, I believe sportsmen and women are free to perform at their best only when they know what the expectations are – with their roles as an individual, as part of a sporting team, their position with the sporting club, their fans, the sporting body and the world at large.
The sportsperson – male or female performs at their best, when they are crystal clear on where the limits stand, their limits or boundaries are. For example, I have been to the top of my chosen sport of natural bodybuilding, representing my country Australia at not one, but two consecutive World Natural Bodybuilding Championships held in New York, USA. I placed in the Top 5 in the World in both World Championships.
You see, on a personal level in striving for excellence and Peak Performance in my Sport and to do this with Real Freedom, I had to know what my limits were – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and socially … and how far I could possibly take myself on a genuinely ‘natural’ way. Natural meaning I chose not to resort to steroids or performance enhancing drugs.
That was my personal limits within the sport which has stretched the limits of human possibilities and being the honest sport that it is – you can “see it’ when some one is on something. Unlike cycling and many other sports cultures, for example in when a famous Lance Armstrong denied, denied, denied … for a decade.
So … personal limits and limits imposed on us externally, need to be set, communicated and clearly understood by all participants in the game or games in and within Life, in general.
I see this as a Biblical principle that also applies to life, but it seems to be a principle our modern-day society as a whole has forgotten.
After almost 5 decades I have learned many Truths (from experience, from patient wise mentors and from spending hours and hours reading & learning and un-learning), so …
Consider this truth: You cannot enjoy true freedom without limits.
Heck, we all need limits and boundaries (that is what rules, laws and regulations are there for) to help us individually, and as a group, community and society function smoothly. The key words here are limits, boundaries and smoothly.
Take the recent example of a certain elite athlete, here in Australia (there are quite a few examples in the history of Sport where athletes have communicated in one way, shape or form). He sent a tweet that paraphrased a passage straight out of the Bible. He has been castrated by all sides regarding this, I think very unfairly. It seems there was a ‘break down in communication’. The limits & boundaries was not clearly communicated by those ‘in Power with Titles’.
You see the titled are powerful. This is yet another example (but with huge consequences) at play of the ineffectiveness of communication. People/parties communicate but they don’t do it effectively. And how do we get communication to be ‘effective’. Well, as the famous Management guru stated – there needs to be a ‘feedback loop(s)’ Basically, people/parties need to be ‘on the same page’ when communicating.
In this case, the limits and boundaries ‘permitted’ with the use of social media were probably not established and so this ‘grey area’ does not get addressed.
As I repeat, take the recent example of the extremely gifted and hard-working elite athlete – Mr Israel Folau. He plays one of the main football codes, called Rugby Union and has represented Australia in over seventy games against International Teams over the years.
An amazing achievement considering he has crossed football codes three times and been a success at all these codes when some players have played just one and never made it to the top level of anything, let alone, that one.
Totally committed, he originally played Rugby League, playing and winning at club level, state level (played State of Origin) and the Australian Kangaroos (where he represented Australia many times, making Australians feel like “winners” whenever the team won) and played at the highest levels.
As some of you, Australian Sports Fans would recall, he also switched to Australian Football League (AFL) for a while to develop other skills in his arsenal, like his aerial awareness involving jumping high in the air to catch footballs as well as enhancing his already super spatial awareness skills. This aerial skill is one of the many skills at his disposal that sets him apart from the other current Rugby Wallaby Players.
This proud, very talented and hard-working dual Australian Representative at the most highest levels has brought so much joy and entertainment to the sports-mad citizens of Australia over the last decade. He has been under fire recently for posting on a social media account a paraphrase of a passage right out of the Bible.
Right out of the Bible and he is being crucified and treated like a criminal on the media, by the media. Is Australia a Christian country? I don’t understand how and why he – a decorated Australian Citizen who has represented Australia at the highest levels of multiple sports is now being treated similar to that of a criminal.
Like many genetically gifted athletes that have come before him, Israel Folau has stretched the boundaries or limits of the particular sport he plays and has played, beyond what was thought possible. Adding to the awe and entertainment value of the Sport for the Sports fans, the paying fan, the paying public.
Geniuses – in this case, a Physical Genius moves the limits … the boundaries of apparent possibilities to places the general public, the audience never thought was possible.
It is these geniuses (in all fields of Life for that matter), that are responsible for challenging the ‘status quo’, the acceptable level of play. We accept and understand it when he does something ‘miraculous’ on the field of play but do not understand when he makes a statement that tests the perceived limits of society at large.
We’ve got to understand though, that challenging the status quo requires commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your ideas, your beliefs on the line.
He has done just that. Put forward views that are written in the Bible. The Bible – the best story book ever written, by amazing storytellers. He took a few lines out that storybook, I mean he could have taken a few lines out of Dr Seuss books and got in to trouble too. Would Israel have got in to trouble if he had followed Dr Seuss’s advice? For your information –
Dr Seuss, enjoyed a successful advertising career before becoming a children’s author. Dr Seuss was many things and he was a social critic and he was fundamentally, a trouble-maker, an instigator, a leader. Throughout his career he encouraged kids to take risks and make their own decisions.
He wanted kids to be Leaders, Leaders who believed in something. He called on kids to respond with civil disobedience against anything that threatens to suppress their imaginations. He praised spontaneity and daring and a healthy disrespect for authority. He encouraged kids to THINK for themselves and continue to ask questions…. specifically, the Right Questions.
From one perspective, Israel did something Dr Seuss encouraged – thinking for oneself and believing in something . That belief is something Israel has in droves. It is quite simple: Israel is simply a Leader.
He has his followers, his tribe. In today’s world there are tribes everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in non-profits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection.
Governments and Political Leaders are aware of this phenomena and it is Real, very Real. If you think Sport is not intricately linked to Politics and Big Business, Science and Religion, you may as well live under a Rock! Just read up on the last 4000 years of history and you’ll see the connections.
Like I said earlier, Israel Folau is a Leader.
Leadership is not about being Mr Popular (even though this helps). Leadership, as HBR May/June 2017 Issue stipulates that there are four behaviours that Top Leaders need to be successful at leading (this is leadership that is bestowed on Financial Leaders). They are a mix of key ingredients: decisiveness, the ability to engage stakeholders, adaptability and reliability. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach but focusing, they say, on these four key attributes separates the Best from the Rest.
What about qualities such as – compassion, caring, trust, integrity and honesty and such? Based on ‘cut-throat’ business stakes, these qualities are not key. It was interesting to learn that 100% of low-performing CEOs/Leaders in the sample studied scored very high on integrity and 97% scored high on work ethic. However, in the financial world of the Fortune 500 companies think otherwise.
Good for business, it seems but not much good for other areas of life that require True, passionate Leadership.
In life, without leaders, there are no followers.
Tribes are about faith – about belief in an idea and in community. His followers ( I would think the Christian Community) are grounded in respect and admiration for the Leader (Israel) of this new tribe and for other members as well.
So, my question to you is, do you believe in what you do? Every day? Can you honestly say you do?
I believe Israel does – not only does he believe in the Sport he plays – Rugby Union at the moment but he also shows belief in his Religious Faith. He is simply a man of faith, of belief and of passion. He ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ and is as authentic as it comes. He does not shy away or try to make everyone happy and love him. He is true to his beliefs. What is wrong with that, I ask?
“How was your day?” is a question I have always been fascinated about and I believe is a question that matters a lot more than it seems. You see, I believe that someone like Israel, being the Leader on the field (and now showing Leadership off the field) is one of the few human beings who really like their jobs.
How do I know? Well, it turns out that the people who like their jobs the most are doing their best work, making the greatest impact, and changing the most. That certainly describes Israel’s on-field performances every single time he takes the field. He is a ‘cut-above’ the rest.
You see, Leaders, real Leaders change the most – changing the way they see the world, certainly, but more importantly, changing the world. We can’t say that much for many so-called Leaders running countries today, Leaders we call Politicians.
By challenging the status-quo, Israel, funnily enough could be considered a ‘heretic’ because of his Christian Beliefs. This used to be the complete opposite less than hundred years ago. They used to burn individuals at the stake, drown them, denounce them, ignore them and hang them from the rafters.
Some of them were people went against the Church at that time, people who ‘didn’t believe in Christian teachings’.
Not any more.
Now, heretics are invited to speak at business conferences. Heretics get elected to Parliament and Congress. Heretics make a fortune when their companies go public. Heretics not only love their jobs; they get a private jet too.
Societies around the world are not burning heretics, they are celebrating them. Let me remind you of a few heretics/Leaders: Bill Gates; Larry Page; Steve Job and the list goes on….
Then, why are the media in Australia putting this heretic through the grinder?
Now, it seems, Israel, the strong Christian believer, is made out to be a heretic in this day age. Where are all the Christian supporters? Everyone is quiet and looking to ‘point that finger’ because everything is tied back to Big Business getting their way. Huge corporate interests and influence tied to dollars.
That is business they say, that is Capitalism at work. Fine, but remember, there is also many delusions of Capitalism too. But I’ll save that for another blog.
I’m gonna go ahead and say it … I strongly believe that heretics, like Israel are the New Leaders.
Israel, this mighty Athlete, is suddenly a heretic. Yes, but this new type of Leaders are propping out all over the place, all over the world. Suddenly also, heretics , troublemakers, and the change agents aren’t merely thorns in our side – they are the key to our success.
And Governments and Politicians know this because people are looking for that Leader, they are tired of ‘fence-sitters’. They want Real Passionate Leaders. They want to believe again. They want faith… they want hope …. They want a Religion (and not necessarily spiritual) to follow. It is already happening.
The Tsunami Tides of change is coming, if it hasn’t already began.
The thing is a lot of people don’t see this as genuine Leadership from a Leader because most people have been trained all their lives to avoid it. Leadership is many things to different people but to me, and I think to many out there … Leadership is about creating change that you believe in.
We often resent rules because they limit what we can do. Yet without the rules that define a football game, for example, you can’t play the game, let alone enjoy it. The same thing is true in life.
To live and enjoy the freedom we have in Australia, we have to live by the rules of society. To live life to its fullest and truly enjoy it, we need to understand and abide by the rules God spells out in the Bible. God isn’t out to spoil our fun; he knows that life without limits results in anarchy and misery.
It would seem that this Sports Star is “suffering for Being a Christian” and this is mentioned in the Book of Peter, 12 – 16.
It’s only when we have absolute limits that we can be truly be free to enjoy the best life has to offer. Why don’t many other thousands of Christians speak out like Israel? Well, it is simply because of fear.
Fear is an emotion, no doubt about it. One of the strongest, oldest, and most hardwired. In every single human being. And what, my friends, can overcome all fear? Faith or belief. This is because faith or belief leads to Hope … and this is what overcomes fear.
This is not about the “Religion” he believes in, no, this is about the Religion that is currently the norm (and probably has been for a long while now). The Religion here I am referring to is not the spiritual type, no, this religion on the other hand, represents a strict set of rules that Rugby authorities has overlaid on top of our faith. This religion supports the status quo and encourages us to ‘fit in’, not ‘stand out.’
We have all kinds of Religions surrounding us – not just the Capital – R religions like Catholicism or Judaism. There’s the IBM religion of the 1960s, for example which included workplace protocols, dress codes, and even a precise method of presenting ideas. There’s the religion of Amazon and Google as the modern-day giants that they are.
The media love to glamorise the rare downfall of the heretic who doesn’t quite make it, which is what is happening to Israel at this present time. You see we’re already primed to hear about the person who got into trouble, who lost his job, his house, his family – his business – because he had the hubris and audacity to challenge the status quo.
And since we’re eager for this news, we notice it the few times it happens. Israel’s apparent ‘mistake’ is great for the news empires. They know they have the masses’ attention.
You see, Israel, like many heretics that have come before him, have talked himself out of fear. I mean, I’m sure the fear is still there, but it’s drowned out by a different story.
A different story that he tells himself.
In this case, I presume it’s the story of success, of drive, of doing something that matters. Whatever comes of the case against his beliefs, I know one thing:
Israel is more engaged, passionate and more powerful and happier than most and I think he has a tribe that he supports (and that support him in return).
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Israel is a Leader.
Real Leadership is rare because few people are willing to go through the discomfort level required to lead. At this point in time, and in this era, Heretics like Israel must above all else – believe.
Challenging the status quo (as it is in regards to freedom of speech in today’s modern societies) requires a commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your thoughts on the line.
Leadership is choice. It’s a choice to not do nothing!
Israel chose to lead and he is curious to see who will follow him, who will be part of his ‘tribe’. Maybe, just maybe this is just a case of curiosity. Israel has let his curiosity get the better of him. He has been wrestling and managing perceived tensions between his religion and something else … wrestling with it (for a while maybe), through it and then finally expressing his views on it.
Bam!! There it goes on Twitter. Just like that … his elasticity point has been reached and broken!
Can and should we consider his views to be fundamentalist in nature?
But, what we’re seeing in today’s world is that fundamentalism really has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with an outlook, a worldview, regardless what your religion is. Through his actions as a leader, he attracts a tribe that wants to follow him. This tribe has a worldview that matches the message he is sending.
Tribes are voluntary and I think great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever
So, all the best to you Mr Israel Folau.
Your fate rests in the hands of people put their by the society we live in, established and limited by the rules that have been put in place to govern us.
Let’s wait and see what happens.
Will certainly set a precedent for things of a similar nature in the future. Will common sense (which isn’t very common anymore) prevail?
Until next time,
The old Captain Viking Pirate ….. & his thoughts on limits, perceived or real, sports stars and society and Life in general.