Knock your ego for a six
A sports writer and victory coach share lessons they think Virat Kohli, and those striving for success, can adopt from a book he was recently spotted reading
When Indian skipper and cricket sensation Virat Kohli leads his team on the pitch, fans around the world watch his every move with bated breath. When Virat Kohli reads a book, however, the entire Internet sits up and takes notice. A few days ago, during the first test against West Indies in Antigua, Kohli was spotted by hawk-eyed observers browsing through a book titled Detox Your Ego: 7 Easy Steps to Achieving Freedom, Happiness and Success in Your Life, even as Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant Sharma were out at the crease.
While the book's attention-grabbing title had the Internet in splits and served as fodder for several memes, many netizens also pointed out that the author Steven Sylvester, a former English cricketer and a chartered psychologist, could actually offer Kohli valuable lessons based on his own experiences from the game. As can be expected from most viral sensations, the book is now listed as being sold out on Indian e-commerce portals. We spoke to those who were lucky enough to get their hands on a copy, about lessons they think Kohli — and those striving for success — might adopt from the book.
Virat Kohi. Pic/Getty Images
Love your errors
"Virat is often seen berating himself after he has played a poor shot. However, it is important for him to remember that errors are part of the path to greatness. To use a tennis metaphor, the greatest champions play very close to the lines. They take risks and, sometimes, they fail. But unless they take those risks, they would never be the champions they are," says Vinay Kanchan, author of Lessons from the Playground. He adds that learning to not just embrace but improve with every mistake is a recipe for true character development.
Give to others
This, says Kanchan, is an excellent ritual to deflate the ego as it helps foster a sense of responsibility towards the community, or the team one is leading. "This works for the team's benefit when you are in a position of power, as is the case with Virat in his capacity as the team's premier player and captain. Giving to others makes a person more accessible and encourages the team under him to try harder for his sake. In the book, the author asks readers to question themselves about how their own performance and conduct can inspire others. This practice builds a culture of openness, trust and support, all of which are vital elements in forging high-performing teams. For Kohli, this could translate into guiding younger players to deal with pressure, taking batsmen under his wing to enrich their game and lavishing appreciation on team mates in both public and private forums. Even if he is doing this to some extent at present, amplifying his efforts will better prepare Team India for a long, successful innings," he says.
Believe in your mastery
"Throughout his sporting career, Virat has had plentiful wins and very few losses. However, he seems to be very affected by feedback, be it from his own fans or the press questioning him about his performance or that of his team. He seems to treat such feedback as an affront to his self-esteem. Instead, Virat should be confident of his abilities as a player. As it stands, he has already equalled MS Dhoni's record of being the most successful Indian test captain with the win at Antigua, where India beat West Indies by a record margin," says victory coach Farzana Suri. Instead of reacting to feedback, one must first pause to ask a crucial question: 'Am I upset about the situation or is it an emotional trigger?' This will help reinforce one's belief in one's skills and credibility as a professional.
Seek a higher purpose
In the book, the author talks about people being able to perform better when they discover their true calling. "The pursuit of winning only for oneself can make an individual completely self-absorbed and pushes him/her in a lonely and isolated space. When describing his adulation for the great Sir Vivian Richards while growing up, the author says that what set Richards apart and powered his jaw-dropping exploits on the pitch was that he was not playing for himself; he was playing to represent Black people and their culture. He was playing to unite the diverse Caribbean islands under the West Indian flag on the cricket pitch. And that infused his every stroke with so much impact. This is a journey Virat has to undertake for himself," says Kanchan, reinforcing Sylvester's point about how knowing one's higher purpose, helps one set higher goals says Kanchan.
Make every day a Saturday
This lesson comes from a memorable answer that the author once gave to the press, when asked about how he felt about playing at Lords every weekend. At the time, the author, being aware of the fact that he was living his dream, replied that "every day felt like a Saturday". But there is a deeper wisdom to these words. Says Kanchan, "The ultimate achievement in any profession is the ability to blur the line between work and play. People at the top of their professions often say that they never feel they are at work. They haven't been in a position where they would rather be doing something else. It is only when one enjoys what one is doing, to the extent that one can take ego out of the equation, that spectacular results are possible." Suri adds, "Virat must recognise the fact that his fans have ever abandoned him, even when the going was tough. This, despite the fact that as a celebrity and a champion performer, his every act is magnified. His anger too is over-glorified because of who he is. He must be able to step back and relax a little. This involves bringing more fun into play, both for himself and those around him."
Beyond the memes and viral tweets, a lesson that Kanchan thinks we all stand to gain from the very fact that Kohli picked up a book is that "champions differentiate themselves on the basis of their desire to constantly improve. This is a relentless process. They keep adding to their edge and sharpening their saw. Improvement can and should come from picking up ideas from different sources. No matter what the impact of the book is on Kohli's subsequent behaviour, we must appreciate that he has tried to learn something new, even though he is already at the top where it is easy to succumb to the feeling of knowing it all."
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