Tune Out The Crowd

February 12, 2013 4:58 am

When I walked into the stadium to watch the one-day-international cricket match between India and England, I had basically counted that as a day off – I am not sure if I can call it ‘a day off to relax’ since I had not put in any significant hours at work in the days before that, but I can call it ‘a day off, just for fun’. Little did I realize that the first few minutes in the stadium would teach me the biggest lesson in entrepreneurship that I had learnt ever. In just the first few minutes.

It was a packed stadium – with more than 100,000 people cheering at the top of their voices, all with hopes that the teams they support would put up a great show, that they would witness some great individual performances and that it would be a very memorable cricket match overall. It was a festive atmosphere inside the stadium, with drum beats and chants, and the painted faces and flags making it a visual treat overall. Expectations were sky high, to say the least.

I could not hear anything when I entered the stadium – not only was it too noisy with close to a 100,000 people cheering, there was something about the place that made it a little ‘unreal’. It was clearly a big stage, and with just 13 players on the field and all 100,000 pairs of eyes on them, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to move a finger if I was asked to play in the ground. Not out of fear – just the fact that I would be the center of attraction would have made it impossible for me to even go stand there. Forget about ‘playing an attacking game’ or ‘giving their 200 percent’ – here is what came to my mind when I saw the players on the ground: ‘How Are They Even Able To Play Normally In An Environment Like This?’. For example, when the ball is hit in the air, the fielder who needs to take the catch – how is he able to do it, when the complete stadium goes “ooooohhhhhhh” when the ball is up in the air, and he knows that he is the center of attraction of 100,000 people in the stadium and about a billion people watching it on TV?

Then it struck me. And for a moment, I felt like Sir Isaac Newton looking at a falling apple, or, more accurately, like Archimedes looking at water level rising in the bath – apples had always been falling, and the water level in the bath had always been rising – but you need to have that special moment for a realization of that kind to sink in. So what did I realize? Like a falling apple, this one was very simple: the players on the ground are able to play for one simple reason: They have tuned out the crowd.

When you play a cricket match, there are people on the ground, in the stadium and outside the stadium watching you. Your captain, your team, your coach, your selectors,friends,relatives, people who you do not know – all with different expectations and opinions on what you should do and should not do.

When you run a startup, there are people with you executing the idea, and the people you work with for business, and others as well, watching you. Your board, your team, investors, mentors, investors, friends, relatives and others who want you to succeed – all with different expectations and opinions on what you should do and should not do.

Tune Out The Crowd. That is the only way you can play your natural game, and have any reasonable chance of hitting the ball out of the park.

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