Top Tips for Success from a rugby legend

For a recent episode of the Radio 4 Podcast, Don’t Tell MeThe Score, Rugby legend Sam Warburton shared his top tips for success. There are many parallels between sport and business, with some common character traits needed to succeed, whatever your goals or ambitions. After leading the British Lions to success in Australia in 2013 and holding the record for the most Welsh Captaincies, Sam Warburton certainly knows what it takes to reach (and stay at) the top of his field. 

Here are his top tips for success that can apply to us all:

If you try and fake things, people see straight through it.” 

Sam Warburton cites one of the best pieces of advice he ever got was to be true to himself. In a high profile role, it’s easy to fall into the trap of behaving how you think other people expect you to. But beware, people will notice if you’re not being consistent or true to yourself. It’s important that you figure things out for yourself: what your strengths are, how you want to be and your own leadership style.

“If you want to get to the very top of something, you’ve got to have a deep underlying passion and self-motivating power.”

It doesn’t matter whether you are born with the tools to do the job or not, what matters is your drive and commitment to put the hard yards in. Talent can only get you so far! 

 “I knew when I took to the pitch, I was in the best possible shape that I could be.”

Throughout his rugby career, Sam prided himself on being the best professional he could be. Although he didn’t deny himself the odd treat, he looked after himself and this gave him the confidence that he was in the best possible position each time he stepped on the pitch. 

“To get to the very, very top you need to have that X factor, you need to be specialist at something.”

In order to make himself stand out, the young Sam Warburton borrowed a referee’s book from a teacher and studied it. By knowing all the rules and regulations around the breakdown, he knew this gave him an edge over other players vying for his position. Figure out your personal strength and work at it so that you are the best person at that job. 

“If you feel that you’re the most prepared you can possibly be, you’ll be so much more confident in your own abilities,”

This is a lesson that can apply to so many situations in life. Whether a job interview, a business presentation or a wedding speech, being prepared will give you the confidence to smash it. You get out what you put in, and this is true of sport and your career. 

“The biggest lesson I learned as a leader is that you’ve got to be able to delegate responsibility.”

Some leaders try to do everything themselves, however this often comes at the detriment of their own performance. Sam is adamant that your own performance should always be your top priority. As he says, “I was chasing excellence the whole time, I just wanted to be the best possible player that I could be.”

“Sometimes you just need to lift yourself out of your own little bubble and have a little sense of perspective.”

When you’re focused on a clear goal, it’s easy to get caught up and forget the bigger picture. Rugby is a game, while your career is just one part of your life. Keeping your head in the here and now is important for your wellbeing and will ultimately help you reach your goals.

“I think going through a bit of adversity is part of the learning curve. It’s how you learn from those experiences that makes you a better person.”

Everybody makes mistakes in their career. There’s no point worrying about making errors, and in fact they can often be an opportunity to develop. Instead focus on your reaction and how you use the experience to your benefit.

“Being tough is being resilient, it’s never giving up, it’s never knowing when you’re beaten.”

Whatever your chosen career path, it will never be a smooth upward curve. We all face challenges, some bigger than others, and at times the path ahead may seem too difficult. It is vital that you remain fixed on your ultimate goal and be persistent in your pursuit of it. 

“Being a captain or a leader, you need to get information from everywhere, so make sure you’re approachable.”

Communication and people skills are integral to being a successful leader, whether in business or sport. It’s important to be surrounded by people you trust and who’s input you can rely on. It’s also vital to provide an example and model the traits you want your team to aspire to. 

By drawing on his extensive experience of top level sport and leadership, Sam Warburton has some insightful words of wisdom that can teach us all the right way to behave and how to succeed. The key message that stands out is to set yourself high standards, work hard and don’t give up.

 If you would like to start a conversation about your career development, please get in touch for more information. 

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