Vince Lombardi is recognized as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
He considered himself a teacher. His first head coaching job was at a high school where he was also a teacher. And throughout his career he came back to certain principles. One of which was fairly unique.
During Vince’s run of 5 NFL Champions in 7 years, including three in a row from 1965 to 1967, he was followed by author W.C. Heinz as they worked to write a book based on Vince’s philosophies.
A Frustrating Situation
But early in the process, Heinz struggled to get information out of the coach. He was perplexed and incredibly frustrated. The coach seemingly couldn’t remember simple things from his past coaching experiences.
The typical books include anecdotes that are entertaining and educational. But the coach wasn’t good at remembering stories and fun little details from his past experiences. Even those that were seemingly very memorable with amazing characters and players.
That’s when Heinz finally realized part of the ingredients that made Vince Lombardi so successful…
The coach had honed his brain to discard the immaterial. He was incredibly focused on the next season and the next game that he had trained his brain to only focus on what was relevant to winning in the future.
Everything else was seemingly erased. Fun stories. Fun memories. If it wasn’t useful, the coach filed it way back so that it wouldn’t get in the way of what was important.
A Simple Gameplan
For example, when creating the game plan for the upcoming game, Vince and his coaches and top players would cut the playbook down into categories. They would settle on the best of the best plays to run against the opposing team that week. A combination of what the Packers did best and what the opposing team struggled with the most.
Then the team would practice only those plays for the entire week and run only those plays in the game.
In coach’s mind, why try to do anything else?
It was a simple philosophy and Lombardi was often accused of being too simple in his offensive design and understanding of the game. But beneath that public persona was a genius. He knew as much about football as anybody. He would design and run any kind of play no matter how exotic. He had a brown satchel full of plays from decades of coaching and he would review it every season.
But when it came to game time he would simplify things and focus only on the most important.
It looks like there is some psychological study on the Complexity Bias. It’s common in all sorts of areas of life. The tendency is to think that something complex is better than something simple.
That may be true, but it’s not universally true. And for many things it’s not even close to being true.
Vince Lombardi seemed to have a knack for avoiding this bias. While other coaches tried to get their players to run complex systems, Lombardi would analyze everything, the complex and the simple, and determine the best course and then make it as easy as possible for his players to digest.
Not that his players weren’t smart. They were some of the most talented and smartest players to ever play the game. But back in his teaching days, Lombardi focused on making sure that every student understood all the concepts. He carried that over into his coaching and it worked.
The big takeaway here is to look at how you’re hanging onto useless information from the past and trying to find a complex answer for your current challenges.
It’s obviously not easy to determine what to keep and what to discard. So most of us just hang on to everything and figure we’ll use it when we necessary.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Your brain can only handle so much.
Do your best to bring only what you need. For business and for life. And if you’re not right don’t dwell on the mistake. Take the same approach into the next challenge and over time you’ll get better and better.
And more efficient and effective too.