There’s no Final Whistle

The football fans among you will certainly remember one of the great games from last season. 5th February at St James’s Park: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal.

Arsenal were 4-0 up after 26 minutes. They were playing magnificently; Newcastle were clueless and at the half-hour mark would happily have taken a 6-0 defeat. Somehow the Magpies survived until half time. Then Arsenal had a player sent off, and one of the great comebacks was underway. Tiote equalised for Newcastle in the 87th minute and when the ref blew the final whistle the Gunners were grateful to escape with a point.

But let’s pretend the ref didn’t blow the final whistle. Let’s assume the teams had the power to blow the whistle and end the game when it suited them.

Would Arsenal have blown the whistle when they went 4-0 up? Probably not: they were on for a hatful. They were still in with a chance of the title – stick 7 or 8 past a non-existent defence and their goal difference would improve significantly. But Newcastle would have blown the whistle after ten minutes when they were three down: bad day at the office – let’s stop before it gets any worse.

By the time Newcastle had stormed back and were only 4-3 down, the situation was completely reversed. The end couldn’t come soon enough for Arsenal: Newcastle wanted the game to go on all afternoon. Even more so when they made it 4-4.

What has all this got to do with business? Simply this. If you’re playing a sport, the game ends at a pre-determined point. A player reaches 9, 15 or 21; an athlete breasts the tape; someone says “checkmate.” Not so in business.

Most of us are running businesses. We all have goals that we want to achieve and which define the success of our business. Quite rightly, many of these goals are monetary.

Now let me ask you a question. Have you ever been up? And have you ever been down? Of course you have: that’s the nature of business. If you imagine up and down as a circle, most people have been round the circle three or four times. Well one day, you’re going to stop going round. And a damn fine place to stop would be at the top: when you’re up. As Sophie Tucker supposedly said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey; rich is better.”

And that’s the beauty of business. No-one is going to open the door of your office, walk in, blow a whistle and say, “Sorry. Time’s up. The game’s over.” By and large it is your decision when the whistle is blown; all things being equal (and yes, I know I’m assuming perfect health) it’s up to you to say, “That’ll do; enough’s enough.”

So what I’m saying is this; when you’re making your plans for 2012, don’t beat yourself up over time. You might have a desperate ambition to retire to France when you’re 55. But walking into your vineyard at 56 or 57 won’t be a complete disaster.

“Hang on,” I can hear you saying. “You’re always telling us to set ‘timely’ goals, Ed. Have you changed your mind?” No, I haven’t. Goals still need to be timely. ‘Get design for new website done by the end of the month’ is still a hundred times better than ‘Get design for new website done.’ But we are living through conditions which none of us have ever lived through before. No-one has the slightest idea what state the UK (or World) economy will be in 12 months from now. So while short term goals still need to be timely, the current economic climate dictates that long term goals may need some flexibility. However good your business, it will always exist in the wider economy.

But keep focused, be persistent – and the day will come when you’ll be able to put the whistle to your lips, blow the extra-long blast and say, “That’s it. Game over. I win.”



  1. Donald · November 25, 2011

    For the UK economy i can not see any reasons why next year is going to be better – the government has no money, and tax take is going down because businesses are struggling. The cost of overall benefits to the state therefore rise. Having said that i believe new businesses will succeed, but they will be a bigger minority than “normal.”
    Predictions – inflation 5.2%
    Interest rate – .75%
    Growth – .25% of gdp

  2. Rich Cadden · November 25, 2011

    I firmly believe that the media are the biggest cause of this financial situation. Through all the scaremongery and ‘our experts believe’ statements that get banded around. Would people still take that same frugal stand-point if they hadnt listened to the radio this morning about the ‘credit crunch/debt crisis’.
    Of the business owners I have spoken to recently, its business as usual……but ‘usual’ is becoming a paradigm shift

    Thinking back to one of Ed’s past blogs, there was one about “why did you set up your own business?”. Most people say a love of whatever business they are in…..but then comes the creeping realisation that the more you get involved in the business-side of things, the more you move away from the passion which drove you towards setting up by yourself.
    If you embrace the love of what you do (rather than being the businessman/woman), that passion will show to your customers and this will GROW because you are putting your focus on something that can……. If you approach the same situation with a ‘business-head’, start listening to the media, and put your focus on a LACK of time/money/energy/resources then you will get more of what you put your attension on and customers will see you as a Scrooge (early seasonal reference) 🙂
    Have you ever noticed that feeling you get when you talk about winning/success/growth and then that really flat feeling you get when you talk about loss/cutbacks/debt…..

    In short, for 2012 I would hope that people find the love in what they do. Enjoy the ride. Focus on what you want (rather than what you DONT want) and we will all be looking back in a years time saying ‘Remember at the end of 2011 when we were 4-0 down?’

    • Rich Cadden · November 26, 2011

      Just Take a look at this video….. This may answer a few questions for you

  3. Dave Rawlings · November 25, 2011

    For me, the long term is a fuzzy “vision” that shifts and changes, and is mostly about what things will be and feel like. Short term goals are the specific milestones on the way – the practical business of getting on. It doesn’t matter if the vision gets replaced by a better one every now and then – the main thing is always to have one, to motivate you and to provide direction.
    Incidentally, I’ve heard it said that you should aim to die owing as much money as possible. That way you can claim to have won!
    Some European states seem to be practising that.

  4. Rory Ryan · November 25, 2011

    Batman says to a Neutrino “Sorry, I am afraid we don’t serve Neutrinos”. This Neutrino walks into a bar.
    Next year will be better. If it ain’t we can wait a few years and use the new theories from CERN to travel back in time and fix it. So, no need to worry. Crack on with confidence! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Ed Reid and the Philosopher’s Tome « EdReidYork's Blog

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