Daily Verse – Walking with the Wise.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIVUK

In this recent technological era we can gain unparralleled access to the very best people in our field of interest.

Most of them even do Masterclasses to teach you everything they have learnt on their journey.

We are often told in the marketing blurb ‘they have made the mistakes so now you don’t need to’.

According to Proverbs, however, this will not make us wise.

We are instructed to walk with the wise – hō·w·lêḵ – to go along with, keep pace with, to be conversant with.

Rabbi’s like Jesus did not just ‘teach’ in the synagogues, as we might here a preacher in a pulpit, but every footstep, every conversation, every gesture, even the way he ate his meals, would be observed by his disciples and imitated.

A teacher’s wisdom was the sum of every part of them, physical, spiritual, and thought.

Literally, walking in the footsteps of those wiser than ourselves in our field of interest, creativity, spiritually, or our work, will help us to become yeḥ·kām – to be wise in word, action, or thoughts. This word only occurs three times in the Old Testament, with all of them occuring in Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that we ignore every bit of wisdom which isn’t given to us in person – as much as I might like it, I cannot take a walk with Claude Monet if I want to paint ponds – but we should perhaps make more of an effort to form relationships/friendships – mentors – where we can experience their gifts in proximity.

Find a mentor/teacher and howlek them!

The Return of Super League.

This weekend just gone was the third of the renewed Super League season.

The stadiums may be empty but the players are on the pitch and there certainly seems to be no less intensity in the running and tackling.

The rule changes seem to have been the real talking point, mostly for good I will point out, but this last round appeared to show an adjustment which is pulling us back into the main start of the season.

Let’s face it, Rugby League scrums were a waste of time anyway, but at least they took place a lot quicker than scrums in Union.

As a method of pulling all the forwards into a tiny part of the pitch to allow the backs to do what backs do, it made sense. That is, until a coach realised there was no part of the rule which said it needed to be the forwards in the scrum. So they took a couple of big players out and put them at first or second receiver to run at the backs. So another bright coach decided they would pull a few big guys out of the pack and put them in the defensive line to combat this.

So, scrums out and restarts with a tap and go, puts everyone on their toes in attack and defence. Good.

Set restarts! This has been going on in the NRL since their season restart and it is brilliant!

Scrum infringements such as holding down in the tackle can result in an instant reset of the tackle count, with no stoppage in play.

The pace of the game has been noticeably quicker. Defenders need to be sharper getting back and the attackers need to get on shoulders in support. The increase in speed will favour the teams who are less rigid in attack.

However, this weekend’s games it was noticeable that the set-restarts were thin on the ground and there was a lot more holding down in the tackle, which is a disappointment. With the NRL running with two referee’s on the pitch over the last couple of seasons, the speed of the Aussie game was very noticeable, with Super League looking slow and not much quicker than Union but without having to waste five minutes at a time waiting for a scrum to take place. Having the set-restarts is significant in picking up the speed of our play.

Please referee’s keep being brave and giving those set-restarts – if you think the tacklers are trying to slow the play of the ball down, then they are!

In the fast open game Saint Helen’s have a settled team which thrives on broken play and look in prime position for a run at the title again. James Roby’s 500th game is an outstanding accomplishment and there isn’t a team out there which wouldn’t want him.

Wigan looked tired and sloppy last week, with a very relieved one-point win against Wakefield. This week, they were a completely changed side. A lot of younger players coming through who put on a good display against the experience of Leeds. Jackson Hastings is really starting to control the flow of play and the combination of Liam Farrell, Jake Bibby, and Liam Marshall, looking great down the left side.

There was also a great display of camaraderie and respect from the Wigan side, with all of the player’s shirts being specially embroidered with words the players associated with Rob Burrows, in his battle with MND. These shirts will be auctioned and the money given to Burrow’s charity.

Catalan’s looked a different side with Micky Mac and Sam Tompkins back in the squad, with Wakefield having no answer to the speed of Tompkins in the line and his pass choices.

The previous round’s reminder of the game still being in the grip of a pandemic came with the news that eight of the Hull FC squad had tested positive, and they and Salford were stood down for this weekend. The right thing to do. Thoughts and prayers for all the players, coaching and back room staff, and their families.

Day 467 – Creative Like Bill Belichick, Pt.2.

So yesterday I suggested that relatives could take inspiration/lessons from sports and hopefully I will convince you today.

Bill Belichick is the most successful NFL coach ever because:

  • He stays focused on the overall goal and works hard to achieve it
  • He never goes through the motions and always trains with purpose
  • He makes sure that he puts the right players on the pitch at the right time
  • He doesn’t panic if things don’t seem to be working early on in the season and understands the importance of late on in the game and the season
  • He doesn’t waste time talking about the game

So how does this translate into being creative?

Be really clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Belichick knows the season is about winning the Super Bowl and so is the pre-season and the post-season. If you want to write a novel then that is the goal, nothing else. Prepare. Execute. Analyse to make next year’s performance better. It is hard work so put in the hours. Be focused and cut out distractions. Commit and achieve.

Practise with purpose and put what you learn into action.

A very underestimated part of what Belichick does is the practice field. The Patriots train with crowd noise. They train with old and scuffed up balls, removing as much of the grip as they can. They try to recreate conditions similar to the ones they will play in. All practice is purposeful.

It can be hard if you are time pressed for your creative pursuit but you need to practice. If you are a writer then try and find an extra couple of hundred words which are based on what you are writing, or will write in the next chapter. It might be character descriptions, or scene setting, or dialogue. If you are an artist you might need to experiment with colour, or sketch certain body parts, or try different techniques for applying the paint.

Use the creativity you need for that particular moment.

Don’t get distracted or show off. Use the skills to produce the elements you need to make that particular chapter, or picture, or composition, exactly as you need it. Be prepared and execute. If the scene is your chapter is heavy on dialogue, then make sure you have been practicing that element. Listen to good movies or tv, listen to or read good scenes from books and plays.

Don’t Panic!

Sometimes, particularly in the early stages, things might not go quite the way you had planned. It happens. Work out why and fix the issue. Sometimes there might not be a specific problem, you just didn’t execute well enough, so make sure you do the next time. Keep pressing on and know everything will come together late on in the season when it really matters. You may have zigged when you wanted to zag but keep the process going and remain focused on the end result.

Don’t waste time and energy.

Monosyllabic answers and repetitive phrases at press conferences are communicating that this isn’t where we win championships and Super Bowls.

As creatives we have platforms which can really boost the audience for our creativity in ways which no other writers/artists have had before, but it can also be a massive distraction. Social Media is the press conference. Learn from Bill. Don’t waste your energy and know it is taking time away from your main job. It is necessary, which why even he does them, but his conduct tells you that he knows what is important. The end result.

So Create Like Bill! And I hope to see you all in the Hall of Fame! (But don’t be surprised if Bill doesn’t speak with us!)

Day 429 – Sunday Reflection.

A teacher of the law asks Jesus who his ‘ neighbour ‘ is, in response to Jesus’ exhortation that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord you God with all your mind and all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus gives the ‘good samaritan’ parable.

Three years ago 52% of people who voted in an advisory referendum seemed to want to tell their neighbours to clear off. I’ve despaired in the intervening time at the increasing rise in racism and intolerance.

Today I watched the last twenty overs, and tied-game power play overs, which left the England and Wales cricket team victorious over New Zealand, and them World Cup winners.

Looking at the packed stands it was reasonable to assume that 52% of them were intolerant of anyone who didn’t come from the exact same place as them.

It also struck me that a number of key players in the victorious team were the kind of people 52% of them didn’t want in their country, but were perfectly happy to accept them if it meant their sports team won the big trophy!

From what I have seen of the Cricket World Cup it has seemed to be the multi-national extravaganza which it was intended to be. Awesome. Perhaps our society can replicate that.

23 Days in July – Le Tour – Stage 2.

TTT – Team Time Trial.

Normally this is a short run. Sometimes it even occurs after a short flat-ish stage. Everyone in the team gets on the time-trial bikes and goes against the clock as fast as they can go, with the team’s time being set at the 4th placed rider across the line. It doesn’t suit everyone and some riders are dropped because they can’t keep the pace or because they put a huge pull in early on.

Rather than focusing on the the teams which are likely to win the stage, pundits and commentators focus on Team Sky, or Team Ineos as it is now, and then they never win the stage. Commentators curse or as Peter Kennaugh summed it up in the ITV Tour Podcast by saying that Team Ineos’ training is focused on being strong in the second and third week so other teams can match them early in this first week.

Team Sky/Ineos have never won a TTT stage in the Tour.

This brings up an interesting point. You don’t need to win every stage to win overall.

In sport in general – where there is a long-haul/league/season format – there is the expectation that you must win all of the time. Sometimes you just need to be near the top on a regular basis.

When I started following the Tour, the Green Points jersey was awarded to the most consistent finisher on each stage. To win it you needed to be as close to the top on the flat, the mountains, and the time-trial stages. In this format Irish rider Sean Kelly was the undisputed king.

There seems to be an important lesson in team work here.

Not only does everyone need to be at their best and on their limit in the TTT, but the team work needs to be mindful of the whole race. Too many team situations seem to focus on the immediate and forget the long term. The personal in your team need to be picked with this in mind.

Interestingly, Nicolas Portal, Director Sportiff for Team Ineos, revealed in the Cycling Podcast that they don’t race to other team’s times. They race to their own schedule which is based on their estimates for the team, which is based on all of their training and race data. Reacting to other teams’ times leads to emotional responses and you lose your focus.

This seems a good lesson for creatives as well.

Stay focused on what you are doing. I may only have written 1 page today and Stephen King tweets that he has hit his ten pages for the day. The main thing is that I finish my full set of pages in the time scale I set myself or the editor requested. Focus on your plot, your plan, your deadlines.

Team Sky/Ineos may ever have won a TTT but finishing 4th or 5th seems to have set them up nicely for winning 6 out of the last 7 editions of the Tour de France.

Stage Summary:

27.6 km – Brussels to Brussels – A pretty flat and fast course with Team Jumbo-Vismara taking the stage in 28 minutes 57 seconds, leaving Mike Teunissen in the Yellow Jersey for the second day.