How do you stay focused on what's most important? By repeating these two words after every event good and bad: "Next play." That bit of wisdom from legendary Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski (affectionately nicknamed Coach K) has become a mantra for LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, as he's explained in multiple interviews.
"Every time the basketball team goes up and down the court and they complete a sequence, offense or defense, Coach K yells out the exact same thing, every time. He yells out 'Next play!' because he doesn't want the team lingering too long on what just took place," Weiner said in an interview with The New York Times.
That goes for successes as well as failures, he explained. "You can take a moment to reflect on what just happened, and you probably should, but you shouldn't linger too long on it, and then move on to the next play."
Intrigued by this, I decided to go to the source and found a video of Coach K explaining the concept. (He also coached the men's USA basketball team to gold medals in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics.) In the video, he explains that he began saying "next play" after spending some time as a coach. "It's something I learned where I finally came to the realization that no matter what just happened, I gotta be really good at the next thing," he said. "I can't let a failure, like I just missed a shot, impact my defense the next time I'm on the court. Nor can I, if I hit something good, get so caught up in celebrating that I don't do it."
Just think about what saying "next play" after every completed project, every review, every financial report, or even every day at work can do:
1. It will keep your emotions from overpowering you.
This is a real danger for basketball players, Krzyzewski said. "In my business, you can get really out there quick. A bad call, a critical mistake, you can get distracted by somebody yelling the horrible things that people yell at you during a game, or whatever."
Hearing and thinking "next play" can give people in turbulent situations, such as basketball players during a game, a measure of equanimity. "How do I stay balanced, how do I stay me throughout this whole thing while learning from my experiences?" he said.
2. It will help you stay hungry.
One of the biggest challenges for both business leaders and basketball teams is how to follow up on a big success. "I call it not having a rearview mirror," Krzyzewski said. "Next play is kind of like that, when you're looking at a bigger scope of the next season, or you just won a championship, how can you be as hungry? Well, next play."
The approach applies beyond just the immediate play, he explained. "It's next play right away but also next play once you accomplish a mission and what's the next venture that you have to do?"
3. It will make you more consistent.
Consistency is a huge competitive advantage in business, and possibly even a bigger one in basketball. "If you're my opponent you know I'm going to compete against you every second," Krzyzewski said. "My sport rewards the continuous thinker, the continuous next play person. Because if I do it, I can get a run against you. If I don't do it, you can get a run against me."
So next time you have a big loss--or a big win--what will you say to your team, and to yourself?
Here's Coach K explaining "next play."