The Dwight Yorke Effect

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

I recall a conversation I once had with a young, enthusiastic marketing executive from a rival jeans brand. At the time, the brand I was associated with had a head start of a few years and ranked high in department store sales reports. This ambitious executive was determined ato surpass us, and she succeeded. Although her victory didn’t fill me with happiness, I recognized that her brand had substantial funding and backing from a textile company. I had to acknowledge the reality of my limits.

Her victory, however, only fueled her ambition further – this time directed at dethroning the country’s top jeans brand. Her relentless drive to outdo us and conquer the market’s leader was inspiring. During one conversation, I probed her with a series of questions. “You achieved your goal of surpassing us. How did you feel, and what’s next for you?” I inquired. Her response was straightforward, “Of course, I’m happy, and I would be ecstatic if we can beat the number one jeans brand in the country because it has never been done before.”

I pressed on, asking the pivotal question: “What’s next after that for you?” Her reaction was unexpected – a moment of uncomfortable silence followed by a change of topic.

Years later, we met again. I was surprised to know that she had left her job. Then she looked at me solemnly and said, “I am not sure if you remember, but years ago, you asked me, “What’s next for me,’ and it haunted me ever since. After beating the brand, celebrating and accepting all the accolades, I felt this intense sense of emptiness, which led me to the decision to leave the company in search of something else.”

This introspective journey reminded me of Brian Todd’s The Dwight Yorke Effect article. “It is the story of Manchester United’s historic 1999 season. This year saw them secure “The Treble,” an unmatched feat encompassing victory in the Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup. This extraordinary accomplishment marked a moment of triumph but also concealed a subtle danger – the Dwight Yorke Effect.

Dwight Yorke, a prominent striker in the team, took an unconventional step after this triumphant year. Yorke approached the team’s revered manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, with a baffling request. He proposed a year-long paid sabbatical from football, followed by a return to the team. His rationale was rooted in the belief that nothing was left to achieve after such a monumental victory. He mused, “What else is there after winning the treble? I was on such a high.”

This incident exemplified a universal truth – complacency can creep in after a noteworthy achievement. It’s why past success can become the most significant impediment to future accomplishments. Successful organizations and leaders must remain vigilant against this dangerous trap.

Ferguson’s leadership philosophy was grounded in perpetual progress, demonstrating that success is not a final destination but a continuous journey. Baseball legend Babe Ruth said, “Yesterday’s home run does not win today’s game.” Success breeds its challenges, especially the tendency to bask in one’s laurels. Pursuing excellence should remain an enduring endeavor fueled by the thrill of the chase.

This is why you hear people say:

• The hunt is more exciting than the kill.

• The journey holds more allure than the destination.

• The thrill lies in the pursuit, not the capture.

• The quest carries more satisfaction than the conquest.

But as I pondered upon this, I remembered the words of my friend and mentor, the late Dr. Ravi Zacharias, “The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you thought would deliver the ultimate, and it has just let you down.” This could also explain why many accomplished athletes, actors, and actresses, receiving their Grammy’s, Oscars, and gold medals, went downhill from then on.

The conquest is there, but the quest is over, and what they thought would deliver the ultimate happiness has let them down. This is also why businesspeople who have achieved success still feel empty and believe that as they pour their hearts into growing the business, the emptiness will disappear, but it doesn’t.

Consider the words of scientist, mathematician, and theologian Blaise Pascal (paraphrased): “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every [person] which any created thing cannot fill, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

So many of us try to fill that God-shaped gap with wins, things accomplishments, wealth creation, and accumulation that end up causing us to feel even more empty. Consider this thought, or perhaps you may want to try answering the question: “So what’s next?”



(Francis Kong’s podcast “Inspiring Excellence” is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or other podcast streaming platforms.)


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