Not gonna lie, Ted Lasso is my new favorite show. It came to me just at the right time; in the middle of a pandemic when everything seemed to be going to shit or shite, if you’re Roy Kent. This feel-good gem of a show with its unflappable main character (complete with epic mustache) provides equal parts warm-fuzzies and inspiration.
It’s not too heavy (although some episodes do feel like a punch in the gut) yet still delivers some fundamental life lessons we all can apply to work whether you work from home, in an office, or for a world-famous soccer league.
Hold Up. What is Ted Lasso?
I’m going to do my best to not include spoilers in this general synopsis. If you haven’t already, you can binge watch the entire first season of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+. New episodes are released (painfully slowly) one episode at a time every Friday.
We meet Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis, as a Kansas resident and college football coach. He’s hired to coach a professional soccer (or futbol if you’re Dani Rojas) team across the pond in England.
Ted has zero experience coaching soccer and locals and players alike are not happy with his arrival. But ever-positive Ted doesn’t seem bothered by the criticism, disregard, and general ridicule (locals call him wanker) he faces daily. He always tries his best (even when his personal life is falling apart) and encourages his players to do the same. Aside from being optimistic, Lasso is pretty darn resilient.
We get some powerful midwestern advice episode after episode (thanks to the mustachioed Lasso) that can teach us all a thing or two (or three) about resilience at work.
1. Be a Goldfish
What’s the happiest animal in the world? If you ask me, I’d say it’s my golden retriever, Norman, who perpetually has a smile and a tail wag even when he’s in trouble. But according to Ted Lasso, the answer is: a goldfish.
Yep, a goldfish. While any goldfish I’ve ever owned doesn’t seem overly joyful, apparently it’s their 10-second memory that allows them to be forever happy.
Ted tells one of his players, Sam, to “be a goldfish” after Sam was having a hard time letting go of criticism leveled at him by another player, Jamie Tartt. Sam didn’t quite get the reference at the time, but they’re wise words nonetheless.
We all face criticism at work. Sometimes it’s justified. Other times it’s not. The point is to accept the criticism and move on. Don’t let it define you. Try not to take it personally. Instead of dwelling on the criticism or getting defensive, stay calm. Feedback is valuable, whether it’s positive or critical. Even if it’s from a coworker you dislike, feedback allows for growth from all sources (flawed or not).
How to Accept Criticism at Work
Forbes offers these healthy ways to deal with criticism at work:
- Be open – Absorb the words and don’t dismiss criticism as an attack.
- Body language – Slow down your breathing and take a relaxed posture. It’s difficult to take criticism with grace. Having a relaxed and open body helps.
- Ask questions – No, one of the questions after receiving feedback shouldn’t be, “What the f@$k?!?! Focus on clarifying questions so you’re both on the same page.
- Share the feedback – When in doubt share the feedback with someone you trust. It helps to get a different perspective. Just be sure you ask someone who will be honest with you. Criticism is an opportunity for growth and not a means to convince yourself you’re “right.”
I know goldfish forget everything after ten seconds but you shouldn’t simply dismiss criticism. Instead, use the goldfish method to accept the words and move on quickly. It’s especially effective when you are told something about yourself you don’t like or agree with.
Take those precious initial 10 seconds to absorb what is being said then move on. Graciously accept the criticism to prevent a knee jerk response that sounds angry or defensive. This type of reaction will eat away at you more than the criticism itself.
2. Value ALL Opinions (Even if They’re Wrong)
This sentiment plays off of the goldfish advice pretty well. At work, there are plenty of opinions to go around. They come from peers, customers, managers, superiors, and even those you supervise.
Heck, I’m self-employed and work from home and I STILL get my fair share of opinions thrown at me every day (my cat who strictly wants to adhere to a Temptations-only diet, my child who rates my PB&Js three out of five stars, and of course social media users who always have something to say about blog posts like this one).
Some opinions you’ll agree with. Others you’ll think are just plain wrong.
Ted Lasso gets this. He respectfully tells his players, “I want you to know, I value each of your opinions, even when you’re wrong.”
While it’s not advisable to flat out tell people their opinions are wrong (even if or especially if you’re the boss), it is solid advice to value every person’s opinion at work. Why? It boils down to respect.
Respect and Opinions at Work
According to Harvard Business Review, workers value feeling respected at work. In fact a whopping 20,000 survey respondents report respect as the most important value at work.
When you value all opinions (even those you don’t agree with), you are extending respect to your colleagues. It’s really that simple.
So, how exactly do you value someone’s opinion whether or not you agree with them? You can check out career-related TED Talks for ways to listen better or simply follow these simple tips to effective listening provided by Forbes:
How to Value Work Opinions through Listening
- Maintain eye contact – This is the basic ingredient to show someone you value what they’re saying. Always turn to face the person speaking and put down your phone, papers, or anything else that is a distraction.
- Be relaxed – Eye contact is great, but you don’t have to stare the person down. A too intense stare can be intimidating. Similarly, tense posture like furrowing your brow or folding your arms can also tell the speaker you’re disinterested in what they’re saying.
- Don’t jump to conclusions – When someone speaks to you they are verbally expressing thoughts and opinions that matter to them. Them. Not you. Allow them to get out these opinions fully before you interject or attempt to finish their sentence.
- Focus on the words being said – Active listening is important. But too often we are focused on topics outside of what the person is actually saying or simply staying quiet until it’s “our turn” to speak. If you have a hard time fully zoning in to what’s being said try to focus on key phrases. You can even visualize the conversation using mental pictures. This will keep you from rehearsing your response in your head. Remember, you can’t listen and rehearse at the same time.
- Do not interrupt – This is a big one. No matter how much you disagree or limited your attention span may be, do not interrupt the person speaking. Period. When you do it always sends the wrong message like:
- I’m more important.
- Your opinion doesn’t matter.
- This is a contest, and I’m going to win.
- I don’t care what you think.
There’s never a justifiable excuse for interrupting someone (unless there’s a fire or a giant spider is dropping from the ceiling about to land on their head).
Default to the Golden Rule
If all else fails, remember the golden rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. Think about how you expect to be received when addressing someone. You want your opinion to be valued (even if it’s wrong!).
3. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s pretty easy to fall into a work rut. You show up. Complete tasks. Clock out. Do it again. You rinse and repeat this for weeks, months, and even years. This complacency can seem safe but it’s also an invite for disaster.
Complacency leads you to feel a little too secure at work which can lead to laziness. Often, you don’t even realize you’re cutting corners or not putting in as much effort as you once did. But everyone else around you does.
Still, we often try to avoid challenges because we don’t want to feel vulnerable but that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel.
As Ted Lasso says, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”
Challenges are supposed to be, well, challenging. If you take on assignments at work and everything feels like a breeze, it’s time to check in with yourself.
Signs You May Be in Need of a New Work Challenge
Forbes suggests looking out for these warning signs of complacency at work:
- Being disengaged
- Lack of initiative
- Not investing in yourself
- Taking shortcuts
- No more passion
- Disgruntled with career trajectory
- No hope for a brighter future
We all lose a little pep in our step every so often. It’s part of being human. But if you repeatedly find yourself going through the motions at work, it might be time for a change. And this doesn’t necessarily mean a brand new job (although sometimes a career change is a definite must). You can reignite your spark at work with a new and exciting challenge. Run a meeting. Take on a project. Enroll in an employer-sponsored course. Assist coworkers in different departments. Go after a promotion.
SMART Goals for Challenge and Growth
Complacency is convenient. Change is hard. It’s easiest to opt for the bare minimum to get by but you won’t do yourself any favors in the long run. Ultimately, your career will stall as your engagement declines along with your happiness. So, commit to change regularly. This doesn’t have to be a giant change.
Think about small steps you can take to make a big change in the long run. Start with a SMART goal and then break it down into smaller action steps. Goals are supposed to be challenging and a bit of a stretch. But they’re also a lesson in resilience. You will certainly hit obstacles. That’s okay. It’s how you respond to and overcome those obstacles that counts.
Remember, you know your goal is a challenge if you’re slightly uncomfortable (just like riding a horse for the first time).
Positive Work Quotes by Ted Lasso
A little positivity can go a long way in well being at work. Take it from Ted Lasso who lives by the simple mantra “believe.” When things are bad, Ted “believes” they will eventually get better. If players (coworkers) don’t get along, Ted “believes” there’s always a way to work it out. And when you’re the new guy in town with everyone rooting against you, Ted still believes he can work hard to win everyone over — on and off the field (or pitch as it’s called over there).
Often, workplace dissatisfaction can be traced back to you. Sure, some companies have crappy cultures (and in these cases I recommend you run away as fast as you can to find a new job) but more often than not it’s our own take on things that hampers our professional progress.
So, believe in yourself in all circumstances. Whether you need a new job, are dissatisfied in your current role, or simply have no clue what your next move will be: just believe. Because just about any career coach or life coach will absolutely tell you that everything (and we do mean everything) is figureoutable.
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