The Next Level

The best athletes are always looking for ways to improve their game. The NBA’s Michael Beasley spent the 2011 lockout doing ballet for more nimble footwork, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is famous for his grueling workouts to simulate 4th-quarter comeback scenarios, and the entire roster on the newly crowned Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks practiced yoga and meditation during the season. Likewise, we as businessmen, managers, and designers would benefit by having that unique competitive edge to improve our game as well.  We can do it by embracing a simple mantra: stop, look, listen.

Stop, Look, Listen

The maxim is undoubtedly simple: stop, look, listen. It may sound banal, but incorporating it into your daily work routine will help you to better serve your clients and team. First, you need to “stop”, take a breath, separate yourself from all of the chaos around you, and let the sound of your breath enter your mind. This is the basis of the practice of meditation. This practice serves as a mental break that clears your headspace for the next step; it allows you to “look” objectively, without distraction and stress polluting your view. After that has occurred, it allows you to “listen” and critically examine all of the possibilities before you and process feedback from your teammates with hopefully a detached ego and a little bit of open-mindedness.

More practically, this means stopping while you’re in the middle of something, looking for possible resolutions to a given problem, and listening to feedback from those around you to make increasingly effective choices. It’s hard to evaluate the best solution for our clients when we have the next project in the back of our minds. It’s difficult to brainstorm great ideas to build upon the foundation of a new website when your mind is distracted by stress. When we’re in the middle of a frustrating situation, we simply need to stop, look, and listen.

This isn’t just valuable advice for project managers and non-creative types, either. If our designers are so enamored with their own concept without first thinking deeply about our client’s target market, the concept that the design will likely be a mismatch for the company’s target audience. If your developers are safely implementing a plugin they’ve done a thousand times vs. looking for a new solution that may better serve your client’s core business, you may be missing out on delivering great value to your clients and cultivating a healthy business relationship.

While we all strive for productivity and efficiency, there is value in thinking unconventionally. Perhaps, that means taking a walk around the block to clear your head or having a discussion with someone in another team to get an outside perspective, or giving the client a call for their input (yes, even before the big meeting). Stop, look, and listen. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, but so is “avoiding junk food, exercising, and drinking lots of water”.


The Seahawks were a good team before they started meditative practice much like Jerry Rice was a Hall of Fame receiver before he upped his game with high-stress workouts. As such, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to improving our business, smoothing out our process, and better serving our clients. It’s only through practicing good habits on a consistent basis that we can elevate our team and our work. However, without the foresight to stop, look, and listen and the discipline to then make things happen, we’ll never reach that next level.

1. NBA’s Michael Beasley Spends Lockout Doing Ballet
2. Running The Hill: The Famous Workout Of San Francisco 49ers Icons
3. Title for the Seahawks Is a Triumph for the Profile of Yoga
4. Adapted from The Plugged In Manager

3 responses to “The Competitive Edge

Posted by Brennan Donovan

Whatever It Takes! Dare to Succeed! Sometimes the basics are the hardest to master. You have to keep these basics of Stop, Look, Listen top of mind all the time and practice makes for good habits. This should be a goal habit in both your professional and personal life; it will serve you well. You must have the self guided discipline to get it done, no one will do it for you! Great read!

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 6:23 am

Posted by Johna881

I have not checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Posted by Ashley

Glad you approve!

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read Related Posts