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Personal mastery and success

Paddy Upton explains in this article how once you’re on the path towards personal mastery, you’ll be able to sustain success for a longer time.
The word 'integrity' composed of small circular stylised images of people
© Deakin University
Once you’re on the path towards personal mastery, you’ll be able to sustain success for a longer period of time.
Some years ago, Gary Kirsten was Cricket South Africa’s high-performance manager tasked with helping prepare a group of high-potential cricketers earmarked as next in line to play for the country. Gary asked me to spend five sessions with each player, working specifically on their mental game.
I asked players to arrive at each session with the specific topic they wanted to discuss or get clarity on. They brought questions about things like preparation, pressure, fear, concentration, as well as some longer-term career goals and reconciling their personal and professional lives.
One of the players would almost always bring questions about life, wanting to discuss things like spirituality, personal mastery, humility and ego, and how ego and its need for competitiveness plays out in professional sport and life. We spoke about transcending ego towards various forms of personal mastery. We didn’t talk much cricket. It was his decision what we discussed, so I went with this.
I hadn’t seen him play much, but some commentators of the game at the time said he probably wouldn’t make it as a batsman – mainly because he had a flawed technique, which apparently he was resistant to change.
At the final session with each player, we spent time wrapping up, checking that the main topics or concerns were addressed and spoke about ‘where to next’ in their cricket careers, trying to gain clarity on what was required to get there.
This particular player arrived at the last session and said he only had one question: “if I pursue my spiritual path as the main priority in my life, do you think it will negatively impact my cricket career?”
It was a great question. I really liked this player, and I really wanted to help him. I remember searching for an answer that might provide him with some clarity and value. My answer, which I remember offering him with some disappointment in myself, was “I really don’t know.”
He said he wasn’t sure either, but was very clear that personal mastery and his personal spiritual path remained a priority for him, and that he’d pursue it even if it meant running the risk of his career being compromised. He’d still keep working hard on his game, saying he wanted to do well, but it wasn’t a need.
He didn’t change his technique. He went on to play for South Africa and then went further to become the world’s number one ranked batsman in both test cricket and one-day international cricket. He remains the fastest cricketer in history to reach 2000, 3000, 4000 and then 5000 runs in one-day international cricket. To this day, his personal life journey remains his priority – travelling to international matches in the team bus, he can be seen reading from his spiritual texts.

‘I can control who I am as a person; I cannot control my results on the field’

The message in this story aligns very nicely with something international cricketer Sachin Tendulkar once said to me, that ‘who I am as a person, my nature, is permanent. My results on the field are temporary – they will go up and go down. It’s more important that I’m consistent as a person: this I can control, my results I cannot’. He added that, ‘people will criticise me for my results, and will soon forget them, but they will always remember the impact I have on them as a person. This will last forever.’
Both make good cases for the value of personal mastery as a vehicle that strongly underpins and drives professional mastery to great heights of success: not only taking these players to those heights, but sustaining them at these levels for long periods of time, 23 years of international cricket in Sachin’s case.

Your task

Sachin Tendulkar said, ‘who I am as a person, my nature, is permanent. My results on the field are temporary – they will go up and go down. It’s more important that I’m consistent as a person: this I can control, my results I cannot.’
Reflect on Sachin Tendulkar’s statement in relation to leadership and explain why you agree or disagree with it.
What does your response mean for you in your own personal and/or professional life?
Read through some of your peers’ responses and ask a question or make a comment that encourage another person to elaborate on a point they’ve made. If someone has commented on your response, respond accordingly as a means of furthering the conversation.
© Deakin University
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