Results, relegation and relationships

The football season is virtually over, relegation issues are settled and just a few teams have any further stake in the rest of the season as they fight for promotion through the play-offs. This wool gathering of a northern dean has some useful insights into the mind of the footballing world, particularly exploring the feelings of players who have failed to perform to expectation and feel the responsibility for relegation.

At the same time, our Year 6 children are sitting their tests and are expected to produce the results that, as they say, won’t let themselves down , their parents down, their teachers down, their schools down and everything else down. Are “results” an  obsession of our age? Is the fascination for measurement and standardisation something that has grown through the industrial revolution and our increasing capacity for measurement?

Results measure success and failure. Kenny Dalglish has discovered that not getting enough of them (wins) while managing Liverpool FC is fatal. Results are the stuff of competition, with the result that they set team against team and performer against performer. In battle there is only one winner and many losers, and, therefore, it is best to avoid that result by finding peace. Some are driven by results, but most of us, most of the time work without seeing results for our effort. How do we keep going?

Thanks to Meg Wheatley (Finding our Way: leadership for an Uncertain Time) I have these thoughts to challenge our results culture: the first is from Vaclav Havel, and the other is from a letter written by Thomas Merton to peace activist Jim Forest.

Hope is a dimension of the soul … an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons … It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

Do not depend on the hope of results … You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness,the truth of the work itself … You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people … In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

Wheatley’s own comment is that hope and fear are inescapable partners. “Any time we hope for a certain outcome, and work hard to make it happen, then we also introduce fear – fear of failing, fear of loss.” She says that we can live beyond hope and fear, and that all we need is each other.

I couldn’t resist including the photo I found here. I have asked for permission to use it.

10 thoughts on “Results, relegation and relationships”

  1. I have had a great wander through this today. It’s always good to visit TM, and I enjoyed the woolly dean who then sent me to the secret footballer – all good stuff. Time to call a halt now before the day spins totally out of whack and there’s no milk / supper/ clean underwear!


  2. Great post. And too true! I’ve got my A-Levels coming up and for all that I’m looking forward to university and enjoy study, it frustrates me that sometimes all examinations are are a test of memory, of retained knowledge not ‘wisdom’ or vision. If you haven’t already read it you’d probably love Benjamin Zander’s ‘The Art of Possibility’.

    I write poetry every now and then and in January although very quickly written and never published anywhere you might like to read the one I called ‘Measurements’…

    Too much or too little

    I used to think

    but now I think differently, rather less… than more

    all measurements are a comparison against something; too much compared to what, too little compared to what

    size is subjective, yet set out in the reality of things

    enough food for all


    1. Yes Rachael, I have seen the Art of Possibility and dipped into it. There are some lovely insights in there. I love your poem and exactly right, methinks. Are you going to publish it?


      1. Thanks David. I have a book full of poems now, so I’ll wait a bit, but I hope to publish them at some stage. For now they’re nice things for myself and for those I share them with. I love poetry. Studying William Blake for A Level English Literature, love thinking about his ideas. He’s challenging, yet draws everything back to basics – childhood innocence.


  3. Great piece from Michael Sadgrove (my OT teacher 30+ years ago). I think we should encourage him to offer to be Secret Priest for the Guardian and promise not to tell. He was, and is, an inspiring teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed his “Wisdom in Ministry” recently. But doesn’t Meg Wheatley say it like it is, too? … we can live beyond hope and fear … all we need is each other. Thanks David.


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