Focus on the Next Play
Back in the day, I played wide receiver for my high school football team. On a cold Friday night under the lights, we hosted the Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars. It was a big game for me as it was one of my final senior home games and I was trying to get recruited to play college ball.
Everything started off great for us as I caught a few catches on the opening drive and we scored on the first possession. After that, things started to fall apart.
On the next drive, I dropped an easy pass and began getting in my own head. I dropped the ball again a few plays later which was completely out of character as I had around two drops the entire season.
Finally, I had a complete breakdown. They punted it on 4th down and as I was back deep to receive the kick. I remember watching the ball hang in the air forever as it soared toward me. It felt like an eternity and gave me plenty of time to psych myself out that I could drop it…which is exactly what I did. I ended up muffing the punt which Kennedy recovered for a touchdown.
I remember laying on the ground embarrassed, wishing that I could sink into the ground and disappear forever. My confidence was destroyed and my self-destructing behavior was contagious as we got routed like 50-7. While most people don’t remember that night as vividly as I do, that was the moment I realize I could get in my own head and let my mind run rampant.
Despite this game, I still got recruited to play football at Wartburg College. Throughout my four years, something our coaches drilled into our heads was “focus on the next play.” If I would’ve had this mindset back on that Friday night under the lights, I would’ve been able to bounce back after that first dropped pass.
When Creativity & Sports Collide
“Focus on the next play” is something you’ll hear the greatest athletes of all time refer to. Whether it’s Micahel Jordan, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning, it holds true for all of them.
You don’t have to be a hall of fame athlete to adopt this mentality. It’s so simple and I’ve slowly begun to realize how this mantra can impact my life (and yours) as a creative.
I’ve been blessed to experience both worlds of being a hybrid jock and creative. There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to showing up and becoming the best version of yourself on the field or in your work.
In football, focusing on the next play meant letting go of what I
possibly probably screwed up in the past and aiming my attention at the next opportunity.
If I dropped a pass, missed a block or screwed up an assignment, I have the ability to respond and make up for it the next play.
As an artist and designer, focusing on the next play means learning from and improving on the last piece or project I kicked out.
If this drawing flopped on Instagram or the client didn’t vibe to any of my first mocks, I have the ability to get back to the drawing board.
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Fuck Up Often
If you’re like me, you often get caught up in the “what ifs” in life.
Like “what if” I wouldn’t have dropped the first pass against Kennedy? Would I have avoided self-destructing and helped my team make it a closer game?
More recently it’s like, “what if” I would’ve posted at a different time, used a different lettering style or different idea all together? Would it have gotten more engagement or would the client have loved the first mock?
I’m slowly learning that dwelling on the “what ifs” in your past will get you nowhere. To me, it seems to only depress and discourage me from focusing on the next play.
Dwelling on the “what ifs” in your past will get you nowhere.
If you’re like me, your past is littered with failures. Getting your hands on the Neuralyzer from Men in Black would be great to erase those mistakes. However, this is the real world and unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, do what Tara Victoria suggested in episode 50, “Fuck up and fuck up often.”
Bouncing Back & Sticking With It
Adopting this next play mentality as a creative encourages you to fuck up and fail as much as you can.
It’s about constantly kicking out work with the goal of experimenting, evolving and growing throughout the process.
It’s not about getting caught up in the “what ifs” and chasing perfectionism.
Focusing on the next play is about bouncing back and responding. Especially when something didn’t go the way you had hoped or planned.
I’m a believer that sticking with it even when it isn’t convenient will present another opportunity. Even if you muffed the punt the first time around.
I want to encourage you to adopt a ‘sportsball’ mentality and focus on the next play.
It’s hard to catch your big break when you’re dwelling on the “what ifs.”
- Episode 50 with Tara Victoria & Brad Weaver of The Banner Years
- Wartburg College
- Podcast theme music by Blookah
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