Late last year, I wandered into a second-hand bookshop and picked up a copy of One + One = Three, by advertising legend Dave Trott. I was aware of his reputation and attracted to the Zen-like style of his writing. So after leafing through a few pages, I purchased it. I then read a couple of the stories in the book, and liked them so much that I bought 40 more copies as gifts for clients. And then, over the recent Christmas break, I devoured the whole thing. This is one of my favourites, and something I reckon we can all learn from…
As a youngster, football was Ian Wright’s life.
He lived for it, spent all his waking hours playing it.
He knew he was going to be a professional.
As a teenager, he went on trials and gave them his everything.
He had a trial at Southend, but they turned him down.
He knew it was just about trying harder.
He had a trial at Brighton, but they turned him down.
He tried even harder.
Leyton Orient turned him down.
So he tried harder and harder.
Charlton turned him down.
Millwall turned him down.
Eventually he became disheartened.
He was into his twenties by now.
He couldn’t try any harder, he’d given everything.
If he hadn’t made it by now, it was pretty clear he wasn’t ever going to.
So he began working at a refinery in Woolwich.
It was dirty work.
But it was a regular job, with regular money.
And he had a wife and child to support now.
He had to settle down and get real about what his responsibilities were.
But he still loved football.
So he played amateur football at the weekends with a club called Dulwich Hamlet.
One weekend a coach from Crystal Palace spotted him playing.
He wrote to him and asked him if he’d like to come along to the club for a trial.
Ian had already accepted that his football career was so over he wouldn’t bother.
There was no point in starting all that again.
At his refinery job, he showed the letter to the guy who was in charge of his section, Garry Twydell.
Garry had been a professional footballer for a couple of years.
He took a different view.
He said, ‘This is your chance, Ian, you have to try. If you don’t you’ll never know and you’ll always regret it.’
Ian said the trial was two weeks, he couldn’t take that long off work.
He couldn’t risk losing the job.
Gary Twydell said, ‘Look, take a week off, say you’ve got family problems. Then another week sick leave. I’ll back you up. You won’t lose the job.’
And eventually he persuaded Ian Wright to take the time off work and go along to Crystal Palace for the trial.
Ian Wright expected the trial to go the way every other trial went.
But at least he had his job to go back to, so he could relax.
He stopped trying so hard.
He just enjoyed himself playing football for every minute of the next two weeks.
Like a holiday.
And an amazing thing happened.
With no pressure on him, just playing for the love of it, he was absolutely brilliant.
The trial went so well that Crystal Palace signed Ian Wright.
Long after he thought all chances had gone, he signed professional.
In his first season he scored 24 goals.
In five years at Crystal Palace he scored 117 goals.
He was voted their ‘Player of the Century’.
Then Arsenal, one of the biggest clubs in Britain, bought him for a club-record £2.5 million.
He scored 24 goals in his first season at Arsenal.
He was their top scorer for the next six years.
In 1997, he became Arsenal’s highest-ever goal scorer.
During his time at Arsenal he won the Premier League.
He won the FA Cup twice.
He won the League Cup.
He won the European Cup Winner’s Cup.
And in 2005 he was voted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
All because he gave up, and stopped trying so hard.
Stopped working at it and started to enjoy it.