(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
There have been many great comparisons over the years. Pele Vs Maradona, The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones, Federer vs Nadal, Bourbons vs Hobnobs. Yet in today’s world few match ups compare with the two dominant forces in world football right now, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. It seems one cannot be mentioned without the other following close by. They are interlinked, woven together, bound by their relative greatness. You mention one to the other and you’ll most likely be met with a shrug of indifference, yet it is very probable that they need each other more than they realise.
You may not even know who these two individuals are, especially if you’re from a country where football (soccer) isn’t a particularly popular sport.
They are so far ahead of their contemporaries it’s frightening. Both have been nominated yet again (along with Andres Iniesta) for the 2012 FIFA Balon D’or award which is the official recognition of the best player in the world.
But don’t worry if you’re not a fan, here is how we can learn from them and apply it to our own lives.
Imitation not innovation
We like to compare ourselves to others, it’s human nature after all. I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, yet we choose to focus on the negative aspects.
How many of you have a friend, a colleague, a team mate whom you simultaneously revere and despise. Maybe they achieved their promotion quicker than you did or score more goals than you, or even have a hotter girlfriend/boyfriend. Every day we see people who we would like to be, to emulate.
There is a saying, that the quickest way to become a millionaire, is to hang around other millionaires.
Can this be true? Is it as simple as that? Well yes and no.
To refer back to the chaps at the top of the page, they are modern greats, maybe the two best footballers of our generation. Every year they both break new goal scoring records and set the bar so ridiculously high that we struggle to even compare them to the great players of the past.
We have all read the stories of Cristiano Ronaldo becoming irritated when asked questions about Messi, but why is this so? Does he feel inferior or maybe it is because the mention of his name detracts from his own feats. That using the word ‘Messi’ in his own interview is akin to gate-crashing a party. All we do know, is that playing in the same league, for rival teams no less, drives him on to succeed, to better himself.
The great underdog; Rocky balboa to Messi’s Apollo Creed.
Now I am not saying these two players are enemies. They probably don’t know each other personally at all so such a claim is probably just the media’s way of stirring the pot. Yet in the context of friendly sporting competition, they most definitely are.
Creating that rivalry
When I started to play the guitar, I had a few friends who had played for years and were light years ahead of me. I could barely hold a chord shape let alone play a recognisable tune. Yet just watching them play in front of me inspired me to practice more, and to devote a lot of my spare time to getting better. I would revisit these friends periodically to test myself. Was I getting close to their level or was I still way behind? To be honest I became a little bored. I noticed I was catching up pretty quickly yet the style of music they played was a bit dull to me and I stopped meeting them for jam sessions.
What I needed was a nemesis, my own mortal enemy. I found him.
Mark was a metal guitarist, my preferred style of music. His down picking and triplet picking was far better than mine and when we jammed together I struggled to keep up. Even after a short while, when my technique improved. I still didn’t have the stamina to last a whole song.
But I kept trying.
I never surpassed him in that respect. I matched him yes, but I couldn’t confidently say that I was better. He was Messi and I was Ronaldo. I created that rivalry in my mind so that I could rise and meet the challenge.
So find someone who you admire, who can motivate you, whatever the skill or ability may be. Learn to focus on what positives they have and how you can learn from them. If it is someone at work for example, don’t focus on bringing them down. Focus on rising to meet them. If you have a good relationship, don’t be afraid to ask them questions or for help on a particular topic. We learn from these people, we use what they have done to quicken our own progress.
Standing on the shoulders of giants.
Geoff Thompson the writer and martial arts instructor wanted to become a great Judo player. His plan wasn’t to join a gym and fight people of his own calibre. He went a bit further than that and joined the gym of Neil Adams the British champion. To say he got his ass kicked was an understatement. Yet many months later, after fighting Olympic standard players week in week out, something changed. He grew to meet the challenge. He started to hold his own and felt more comfortable in his surroundings. He jumped in at the deep end unable to swim but eventually had no choice but to adapt.
Focus on competing with people who are better than you, with people who are where you want to be. You want to be a manager? Start spending more time with your manager. You want to double your sales? Spend time with the company’s top sales rep. You want to improve your MMA skills? Spend time on the mat with the top guy at your gym.
This is the key to improvement.
Can you rise to the challenge?
Turn these rivals into friends.