Tuesday 22 October 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'I've finally found the key to success in life'

Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor
'Anticipate and position yourself'
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I have a new credo, a new key to success. I have found the answer. And you'll never guess what it is. I was reading about Barcelona football club, who have a big innovation unit now to try and improve football. So they have data analysts who are tracking and monitoring the players and trying to make them better, and ultimately trying to prevent injuries before they happen. Things are in their early stages with all this stuff, and the analysts say they are making no huge difference to performance yet.

But the analysts do seem to agree on one thing that characterises the most intelligent football players - the Messis or Iniestas or Busquetses. Indeed it didn't take the analysts to figure it out. Apparently this was Johan Cruyff's - the originator of Barcelona's style of football - mark of a superior player too, more so than speed or size. Before I tell you, try and guess. Give yourself three guesses as to what it is that separates these guys from the others.

OK? Ready? This is it: The smartest footballers are those who always manage to be facing the right way on the field.

Whatever is happening these guys will be positioned to make the best of it.

I know. It's mind-blowing isn't it? So simple, so obvious, but so hard and so complicated. It's genius. And it encapsulates so many things. It suggests someone who is not trying to change reality, but who accepts reality as it is and anticipates and positions themselves to take advantage of that reality. It also suggests someone who is not wasting his time fighting against the universe, wasting energy on pointless things. We spend so much of our time swimming against the tide of the universe. We spend so much time believing effort will get reward, that the harder you try, the better things will go, because you deserve it for trying so hard. We wear ourselves out doing that, when in fact what we should be doing is trying less, and going with the flow of the universe. Even though it goes against everything we are taught in the competitive, exam-driven system that educates us.

But in fact it's all down to where you position yourself. You have to fit in with the universe.

The universe is not going to change to fit in with you. The notion of facing in the right direction is a distillation of this wisdom. I'm going to adopt it as my new rule for life, until the next one comes along. Many people have a whole complex philosophy by which they live their lives. I'm a simple man. I can really only stick to one simple mission at a time. And for now my mission is going to be that I will endeavour to be facing in the right direction, at all times.

Of course the first question we need to ask ourselves is what does this mean in day-to-day life. How do we live by the credo? And I admit, that is going to take a bit of working out. I've been trying it for a week now, and here are a few things I've learnt so far:

Some of it is literally about positioning yourself in the right spot. For example, you're not going to have a swim if you're not at the swimming pool. So even if you don't feel like it, get up and go there anyway. And then once you're there, facing in the right direction, you will swim.

It also has applications with the kids. I've been reading a bit of this really interesting guy Gabor Mate recently. He says that what we need to do to parent effectively is to seek attunement: By "attunement", he means 'a parent literally being "in tune" with the child's emotional states, and being present in a way that ensures the infant feels understood, accepted, and mirrored'.

So in other words, to nurture them, it's not enough to be there with the kids, you have to be... you guessed it, facing the right direction - not half-listening to them while you watch the news or look at stuff on your phone.

And I guess we can apply that to everything. Face people, look at them properly, attune with them. Be present. That's something I need to work on more.

Facing the right direction can also be a way of controlling how you experience the world. It's like Jordan Peterson's notion of focusing on where you direct your gaze or your attention, because that dictates your world. If you face the wrong way, you will go the wrong way.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that facing in the right direction is the key to everything. This is not to say that I won't have a new key to life next week, but for now I'm living by the Tao of Messi, which, come to think of it, may be my next book, by which I mean my first book.

'Brendan O'Connor's Cutting Edge' continues on RTE 1 on Wednesday at 9.35pm after the news

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