What not to do – Don’t forget the fundamentals!
The Big Fundamental
The word fundamental comes from the latin ‘fundamentalis’, pertaining to a foundation, something primary, a principle set of rules and is dated to the mid-15th century. With that in mind, the late Los Angeles Laker player, Kobe Bryant used to say he never got bored while training the fundamentals of basketball and the principles of to how to play the game consistently well. Tim Duncan, widely regarded as the best power forward of all time – and a 5-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs went by the nickname ‘The Big Fundamental.’ Duncan executed the simple things to perfection, with efficiency of movement, no wasted energy and succeeded many times.
The KISS Principle
During this time in history, we have access to such much information, we are overloaded with it. We can be consumed with an overload that can sometimes overcomplicate things. But what must never be underestimated is that doing the simple things well, repeatedly usually leads to success. KISS, an acronym for ‘keep it simple, stupid’, is a design concept from 1960 with origins in the US Navy. The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple, rather than made overly convoluted and complicated; we should look for simplicity, not complexity.
Do not lose sight of this principle in your chosen profession. We can get drawn to all the bright and shiny objects that look and sound great, I have sometimes fallen into this trap. But it is the ability to understand and practice the fundamentals that are the key to high levels of performance, fulfilment and success. Fundamentals form the core of any professional skillset. They are the seed from which essential structure and function grow.
Don’t Learn Too Quickly
Physiotherapy, my specialisation, is a profession underpinned by human interaction, communication, empathy, active listening and a professional skillset taught in university, and amplified with experience and exposure in a career journey. All too frequently young, enthusiastic and ambitious physiotherapists try to learn everything quickly and complete as many courses and attend as many seminars as they can, perhaps some of these physios overcomplicate things and forget to keep practicing the simple and effective things. They can get bombarded with information from many directions be that technical, or other forms of knowledge.
I have spoken to and mentored several physiotherapists starting their careers. They usually have attended multiple courses; but I am often asked the question of where they should focus their attention to build the learning that will make an impactful difference on outcomes with patients and clients. I usually answer, “don’t forget the fundamentals…because if you do them to a high level you will do well”. And it is a simple fact that this concept can be taken to any job.
Practice Your Fundamentals
Physiotherapy under-graduate degrees give students a grounding in anatomy, physiology, biology, strength & conditioning, research and many clinical work placements to gain experience in physiotherapy areas such as musculoskeletal, respiratory, and neurological specialities. The fundamentals of how to approach a patient, take a detailed subjective and objective assessment are taught here. The ability to create a succinct and appropriate management and treatment plan after a diagnosis is schooled here. These fundamental skills are practiced regularly and diligently. Do not forget them when you are out working in private practice or pitch-side at a football match!
Vincent van Gogh once said that “doing little things well is a step toward doing big things better”. The simple thing like gathering all the important information from a patient, having actually engaged and listened to the patient is fundamental, it is foundational to any successful treatment process.
Continue to Keep it Simple
Other vital ‘soft skills’ such as punctuality, thoughtfulness, effective and clear communication, emotional intelligence, teamwork and collaboration are fundamentals that are commonly part of our curriculum too. Do not make the mistake of forgetting them when you are qualified. These fundamentals should be ingrained through habits and repeated deliberate practice and action. Keep it simple – like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and so many other high-performers often do.
In my podcast ‘Sleep Eat Perform Repeat’ I am always intrigued when I hear from each high performer I speak to proclaim the importance of doing the simple things repeatedly over time, leading to success and high levels of productivity and performance in their respective field, be that writing, photography, public speaking, drawing, playing an instrument, kicking a rugby ball – you name it. Paulo Coelho, the author of ‘The Alchemist’ says that “the simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them”. Be wise, don’t be stupid – but keep it simple, stupid!
Excellence and high performance in any profession and walk of life is about doing the ordinary, fundamental pieces extraordinarily well and to the highest possible standard to achieve the highest possible outcomes. Learn the fundamentals you need to know, practice them regularly with a zeal and passion and will serve you well.
- Identify the key fundamental ingredients in your profession – the pieces that separate the best from the rest.
- Practice them with energy. Ask mentors about them. Seek guidance on these fundamentals
- Do not forget the fundamentals! They are what made you successful in the first place and put you on the right path to doing what you want to do.