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When you've lost the locker room...

I watched Barcelona demolish Real Madrid by five goals to one in an El Clasico that didn't feature either Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for the first time in over a decade. This now makes it four losses and a draw in the last five for Real Madrid, that are the reigning champions of Europe, having won the UEFA Champions League for the last three years in a row.

Naturally, such a dismal start to the season has the pundits predicting that their manager, Julen Lopetegui, will be sacked in a matter of hours.

While this has been a case of poor performance overall with no real backlash from the players against the manager, I have previously witnessed such backlashes against managers at the club I support, Chelsea, which led to the eventual dismissals of the likes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

I'm currently reading Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, where he makes the point that "people tend to view a policy proposal favourably if it is introduced by the political party they support and tend to view it negatively if it is introduced by the party they do not support, even though the contents of the policy proposal are precisely the same".

A similar sentiment is reflected by football players as well, as can be evidenced by the managers that took over from those sacked and turned around results and performances by deploying more or less the same tactics with the same personnel. The players would respond differently to the same tactics and strategy from a manager they saw favourably as opposed to the same tactics and strategy from a manager they saw unfavourably.

I have had personal experiences that evidences this behaviour as well. At work, when someone on my time doesn't see me favourably, they tend to disagree with the ideas I propose, while the same person agrees with the same ideas if they hear it from someone they see favourably.

This is a behaviour arising from our minds' inability to isolate the idea from the source completely. This is the reason why football players can lose their spot on the team (or the captaincy) for cheating on their spouses, politicians can lose their seats for having made undiplomatic statements or taking a stand opposed to their current stance, decades in their past. We muddle our opinions of what matters, the footballer's ability to perform on the pitch and the politician's ability to perform in the parliament, with what ought to be left out of a meritocratic assessment.

What this means is that it is not enough to have good ideas, but it is essential to get the right people to communicate them.

If Trump supporters get a discourse on the truisms of climate change from liberal tenured professors, they are unlikely to be swayed by it. Similarly, a VP at a company is unlikely to act upon solid advice that he gets from a junior intern. Whereas, only Trump can sway the Trump supporters and a CEO can get the VP to act on the same advice that the junior intern dished out.

At individual levels, we are not immune to this behaviour either. We display similar tendencies when we are deciding on things as well.

If you want to act on advice related to your career, your diet, your physical fitness or anything else, first figure out who you need to hear it from in order for you to take it as gospel. Hearing it from anyone else will only fall on your deaf ears.

We often lose the locker room when it comes to our own thoughts and need an external stimulus (change in the manager) to get us back to our best. 

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