Lionel Messi and The Art of Living
Pitch Publishing 2018
Hardback 223pp £16.99
The greatest player of all time? If not, then certainly up there on the podium. Someone who can turn matches, competitions, seasons, and, seemingly, with an innate, instinctive talent. Is it really that simple? Or is there an underlying framework of processes and approach that can be analysed and possibly applied to other activities?
This book attempts to understand how Messi has got to the status he has, delving into his own development along with the manner in which the output of those alongside him has been maximised. It isn’t a chronology of his career rather a dissection of what has made it so successful. Assisted by interviews with just seven people, only two from football, the author provides a description of the persona that is Lionel Messi that helps the reader understand why it is like that - and are there lessons that can be taken from it.
This isn’t a management textbook, or a treatise on leadership, but it could hold its own against publications that set themselves up as such. It uses examples from Messi’s career to draw out approaches to life and work that could be applied by or to others. At a superficial level Messi appears to turn up and just be magnificent, something that most of us would struggle to do in our own lives. That level of excellence is something that has been achieved by building on natural ability with attitudes and outlooks on life and challenge that many others could adopt.
A readily understood blend of footballing situations, matches, and individuals together with a disassembling of how outcomes have been arrived at makes this a stimulating read. There are elements of philosophy, insofar as they illuminate how the performances of Messi are affected by an outlook on life and the author has never let go of their practical application.
Messi has worked incredibly hard both mentally and physically to be where he is today. He has not achieved the complete success that he would have liked ( a World Cup win has been out of his reach) and he appreciates that there is still a joy to be had in the “workplace”. Disregard the rewards that come his way financially. He is still an employee who comprehends the responsibilities of turning up for work: not only has he an excellent appearance record, he knows that those around him both contribute to and benefit from his contributions. (I found the chapter titled “The Reciprocal Altruist” one of the most enjoyable and readily applicable to elsewhere.)
Failure and setbacks, dealing with personalities and the demands that the expectation of others place upon him, changing colleagues and managers, preparing for retirement; all positions most of us will recognise. The manner in which Messi copes with them, uses them to advantage on occasion, and maintains an apparent equilibrium on and off the field is in itself worthy of examination. The extra bonus of Andy West’s study is the lessons that can be extended to a wider arena than football. It is, indeed, about “the art of living”.