The Power of Neutral Thinking

By Ron Pereira Updated on October 1st, 2021

“It’s okay to have emotions… just don’t be emotional.” – Russell Wilson

One of the great joys of my life has been the ability to coach many of my children’s youth sports teams. It all started by teaching 4-year-old girls to play soccer (or at least which direction to run…LOL!) and, today, I am one of several coaches for the high school football team my son plays on here in Texas.

And while I’d like to think I’ve been able to teach the kids a few things about the sport they are playing…my biggest hope is to positively influence their character and work ethic.

Playing in the Middle

Along these lines, a key lesson I’ve stressed over and over with my players is the importance of “playing in the middle.” In other words, when you make a fantastic play it’s okay to celebrate a little with your teammates but don’t get too high.

And when you make a bad play, and everyone does, it’s absolutely critical to not get too low.

In other words, instead of getting too high, or too low, the player (and coach!) is better served by playing in the middle.

Business World Parallels

I think the parallels to the business world, and even our personal lives, are obvious. For example, when a sales professional is having a tough run and hearing “no” again and again…they could easily fall into despair which will negatively impact their performance moving forward. They would be better served by playing in the middle.

Likewise, when a continuous improvement practitioner finishes up an extremely successful kaizen event it would be easy to allow the excitement and congratulations to morph into overconfidence. Again, it’s okay to celebrate success, just return to the middle shortly thereafter.

Neutral Thinking

In conclusion, a few weeks ago I came across an article about Russell Wilson and what he calls “neutral thinking.” As it turns out, he also subscribes to the idea of playing in the middle. He refers to this as neutral thinking which, I suppose, has a better ring to it. He explains his mental approach to sports and life in the short video below.



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