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Don’t hang on where you’ve stopped adding value

Nov 21, 2008 Business Daily, Success

“Andy Cole has finally confirmed he has retired from football, but in doing so launched a broadside at Nottingham Forest and their manager Colin Calderwood.
The former Manchester United and England striker left his hometown club two weeks ago after failing to make an impression and growing disillusioned with restricted appearances.
Cole made just 11 appearances for Calderwood’s side, six of those coming from the bench, and he failed to score a single goal.
It marks a disappointing end to a fine career for the striker, who also played for Arsenal, Fulham, Bristol City, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Birmingham City, Sunderland and Burnley. He plundered 289 goals, 15 England caps and a host of honours – including five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a Champions League winners’ medal.”

Soccernet, 11 November 2008

Thought Leadership takes a sporty diversion this week – but with serious intent.

Andy Cole (he’d rather be called Andrew these days) was once a very good striker, most notably for Manchester United and England. With nearly 300 goals to his credit, his record speaks for itself. However, he made the classic mistake that so many sportspeople make: he didn’t go when his time was up. Instead, as he aged and his effectiveness waned, he clung on to the hope that he could experience greatness again. He went from great clubs to mediocre ones to non-entities. Finally, he is forced to retire after being mistreated.

Many fall into this trap. Mohammad Ali, probably the greatest boxer of all time, boxed on for several fights too many, long after his legendary speed and reflexes were gone. David Beckham, desperate to keep his brand alive, looks set to do the same on the football pitch. When you have experienced real success and fame, it is hard to let go.

But let go we must. There is nothing worse than ending your career old, ineffective and unwanted. It can ruin the memory of greatness in your public, for the final sad and shuffling figure is the one that sticks in the mind. Too many of us stick to the same job, the same career, the same experience long after the value we add has diminished, believing that the golden days can be recaptured. They can’t. There is a time for everything, as Ecclesiastes advises, and when that time is up, it’s up.

Can someone teach this to our politicians, please? We have people at the head of our government who were there even when a certain Barack Obama was born! America has turned over many, many presidents in that time, but we persist with the same thinking, the same tired models. It is no wonder that America is a vibrant economy, and we are in the fourth division. New ideas, new initiatives, new paradigms – that is the stuff of progress. We must keep turning the soil and refreshing it, not ploughing the same furrow for decades.

Mr Cole should have hung up his boots and thought of other ways of contributing to the game he so loves, ways in keeping with his evolving capabilities. Hanging on trying to do the same thing is a recipe for an eventually sad departure.

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