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Game Changers

27 November 2012, 14:10

Chapter 1: Game Changers

A game changer is a person who changes the direction of the game. The hallmark of a game changer is refusal to accept the status quo. Another one is determination to change it. Nothing could be clearer.

WWE’s Vince McMahon

An ambitious man called Vince McMahon purchased the rights to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from his father in 1982, and began to pursue his dream of building a wrestling empire.

According to Wikipedia:

‘At the time of his purchase of the WWF, professional wrestling was a business run by regional offices. The various promoters shared an understanding that they would not invade each other’s territories, as this practice had gone on undeterred for decades. McMahon had a different vision of what the industry could become. In 1963, the WWF split from theNational Wrestling Alliance, which was the governing body for all the regional territories across the country and as far away as Japan’

It’s clear that the rules of professional wrestling were well established but McMahon believed that he could singlehandedly change the face of this industry. He was 37 at the time.

‘He began expanding the company nationally by promoting in areas outside of the company's Northeast U.S. stomping grounds and by signing talent from other companies, such as theAmerican Wrestling Association (AWA). In 1984, he recruitedHulk Hogan to be the WWF’s charismatic new megastar, and the two quickly drew the ire of industry peers as the promotion began travelling and broadcasting into rival territories.’

As can be expected, it wasn’t long before McMahon ran into opposition from established industry gurus because they could not see his vision of totally changing and dominating this industry. The problem with staying in the comfort zone is that you are placed at the mercy of true game changers and the best you can do is to oppose but nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. McMahon was on a mission to change the game and no one could stand in his way.

‘Nevertheless, McMahon createdThe Rock 'n' Wrestling Connectionby incorporating pop music stars into wrestling storylines. As a result, the WWF was able to expand its fanbase into a national mainstream audience as the promotion was featured heavily on MTV programming. On March 31, 1985, he promotedthe first WrestleMania to be held atMadison Square Garden while airing on closed circuit TV throughout the U.S. WrestleMania was an undisputed success. As a result, the WWF thus stood head and shoulders above all its competition and Hulk Hogan soon became a full-fledged pop-culture icon and child role model.’

One thing about changing the game that McMahon understood well was the need to seek out like minded game changers. He understood the power of positive association, generating and retaining positive energy within that association. Ironically, when game changers associate, they continue to change each other’s lives and their cumulative efforts result in something greater than their individual efforts. That is the power of symbiosis!

‘During the late 1980s, McMahon shaped the WWF into a unique sports entertainment brand that reached out to family audiences while attracting fans who had never before paid attention to pro wrestling. By directing his storylines towards highly-publicized supercards, McMahon initiated a brand-new revenue stream by promoting these events live on PPV television, a concept that would completely revolutionize event programming for all sports while catapulting the WWF into a multi-million dollar empire.In 1987, McMahon reportedly drew 93,173 fans to thePontiac Silverdome (which was called the "biggest crowd in Sports entertainment history") forWrestleMania III, which featured the main event of Hulk Hogan versusAndré the Giant.’

McMahon just kept on reaching new frontiers of success with this new concept of sports entertainment he had developed. Up to date, the WWE is the longest running television show in history and is not showing signs of fatigue. That is the true art of changing the game in motion right there!

 As of 2012, Mr. McMahon was estimated to be worth some $500 million. He has even created a WWE Hall of Fame to honour the achievements of wrestlers who would otherwise just have been forgotten. Wrestling has never been the same because of the arrival of this game changer.

Diego Maradona

In 1986 a short man single-handedly won the world cup for Argentina. His name was Diego Maradona. Maradona dribbled past six opponents including the goalkeeper to score a sensational goal that has been voted “Goal of the Century”.  In the same match he also scored another goal, a rather infamous one which was then dubbed “The Hand of God” because he used his hand to score it. England lost the world cup because of this short man, the Diego. This match cemented Maradona’s status as one of the greatest soccer players ever, alongside Pele. He was the game changer.

Sir Isaac Newton

Another likeminded genius was Sir Isaac Newton. Now think with me for a moment. One day, God’s apple fell from a tree, as apples have been doing since time immemorial but this one fell on the wrong guy altogether. It fell on Isaac Newton, who immediately wanted to know why it fell downwards and not upwards. Now, how crazy can a man get? Dude, apples have been falling down forever and you now want to know why they don’t fall up? The result was what we call the Theory of Gravity.

As a result of this theory, anything that man could invent to fly could now fly. Think about the tremendous benefits of helicopters, planes, jets and rockets to humankind. The discovery and quantification of the Theory of Gravity is one of the foremost breakthroughs in the field of Science. Life has never been the same and Isaac Newton has definitively shaped forever the course of human history. That is what changing the game is all about.

Never accept assumptions, and once you know what you are onto, be as determined as a nail to change the status quo. Only people who think like that become heroes. They are not game changers because they are heroes; they are heroes because they are game changers!

Mother Theresa

"By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, she came to be known as Mother Theresa because of her role as a mother to humanity. I personally do not know a more perfect example of humility, selflessness and devotion in a world where materialism so abounds. The prevailing world view did not change Mother Theresa’s belief in the good in humanity. To the very day she died, she lived for others.

Nelson Mandela

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

 I read a book by Nelson Mandela called “Long Walk to Freedom” and I had to admit some men are made of sterner stuff. This man was born into an apartheid system that discriminated against black people but refused to accept the notion that then prevailed that a person could be superior to another based on skin colour. It was a case of painting all black people with the same brush and all whites with the same brush. What he fought for was not the superiority of black over white but equality for all. I think that was a very fair proposal for all involved. His dream, however, took 27 years of prison, and another 4 of negotiations before the term “Proudly South African” became fashionable in both black and white circles. In this respect, he was a game changer! And he sought no retribution even after the change of order, instead proffering and actively pursuing reconciliation, and for that he was rewarded with the title of most beloved man in the world. Another magazine went as far as declaring him sexiest man alive! Good old Madiba.

In the process of changing the game of politics and indeed that of the South African black people, Mandela created a behemoth of a brand that, I am sure, even he did not foresee. Some estimates put his brand power at par with Coca Cola! In terms of marketing the rainbow nation that is South Africa, there is simply no equal. His presence alone is widely believed to have swung the vote in South Africa’s favour towards the hosting of the 2010 World Cup which firmly put the country on the world map. Millions came and saw for the first time that Africa was actually developed and not as primitive and war-torn as international broadcasting stations portrayed.

"From time to time, giants emerge and we can go through quiet periods. He is one of those giants." Jeremy Sampsons, Brand Expert.

Barak Obama

Barack Obama made history by becoming the first black President of the Harvard Law Review and then the first black President of the United States of America. The USA was founded in 1783 following the Treaty of Paris and only 225 years later was a black American elected to the highest office in that land. If you asked me, I would definitely tell you that the rules were quite firmly established but Obama had a dream and raw ambition. I am not saying he wanted the White House to prove that a black man can occupy the oval office; I just think he had a dream and would not allow anything, including his Kenyan ancestry to stand in his way. And he changed the game.

As I write, Obama has just been entrusted with a second term in office by the American people in one of the most tightly contested presidential races in modern American history. This man has definitely altered for good, the course of American history.

Game changers are everywhere but they may just be playing in smaller leagues. Regardless of the league I am playing in, I am determined to be a game changer. Why should we accept our characterization by other people to shape our destiny? I think that if we have big dreams, we need to go into the game and start playing rather than hide as bench warmers forever. Yes there is time to practice, to prepare, to learn, to be mentored but ultimately, if we are going to change the game that’s going in a direction we don’t like we have to get into it and take the opponent head on. We need a dream, belief and faith. We need to take the facts into account and give them a meaning that will spur us forward rather than discourage us. This is called creative frustration. Then we need to enter the game determined to change it and accepting nothing less. It’s better to die trying than never to try at all. There is a hero in every one of us but that hero needs to be awakened. That hero needs to be activated. That hero needs to play the game. And change the rules.

See, there is a reason why we need to change the game. It’s a legacy issue. The ultimate result of changing the game decisively is to leave an enduring legacy that will benefit from your exploits for posterity. It would be a sad day if you died without leaving anything for your family, community or even nation. Not all of us will be Mandela, Maradona or Mother Theresa but every one of us must, in their small way, leave a legacy before they expiry date on planet earth!

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