Are you on form?

I have taken all of the thoughts for this article from Mike Brearley’s book “On Form”. Although Mike was a cricketer, he is a lot more than that and hopefully the following points he makes in his book are very transferable to other things. I must admit, the deeper I read into the book, the more it went “over my head” but as you know I am simple by nature and therefore the following should be very easy to read.

Mike Brearley was not one of the best batsmen, but he was a superb captain. It is therefore no surprise that he trained to be a psychoanalyst. What is being ‘on form’ or ‘in the zone’? Mike wrote about Tony Greig who said – relaxed without being loose, concentrated without tension: nothing extraneous, but poised, the innings lastingly special because of the inner state and its happy conjunction with outer performance. It may well have been an experience of the sublime, of being ‘in the zone’ – Have you ever felt this in either sport or work or a special project in which you have been involved?

In all human endeavours, we are often too anxious, but some times not anxious enough. We are too narrow in our expectations of ourselves, or over-ambitious, dangerously so at times. So how far can we control our form? Can we harness it, make it work for us, or is it a wild horse, never to be tamed? ‘In the zone’ is a modern term for an ecstatic state where everything flows smoothly. To be in this magical area, where there is little sense of effort, is a more seductive aspiration than simply being ‘on form’. There is a slender margin between being ‘in the zone’ in a creative and constructive way, and on the other side slipping into arrogance, omnipotence and obliviousness to risk. Losing the capacity to stand aside and watch with a professional’s eye may be suicidal.


Most of us know what it feels like to be part of a team on form. These are indeed “blessed moments” when everybody has a say, differences are allowed, and there is enough underlying respect, humour and shared humanity for people to be frank but also willing to learn from each other, taking into account different emphases and points of view. Teams keep each other alive. On special days a team hums, you feel moments of perfect harmony between your self and your world, and you walk tall –  Unfortunately this has definitely not been the case in a certain large building by the side of the Thames!

My Take on this

Playing cricket, I was only in the zone a couple of times, but I was on form reasonably regularly, but still managed to get out. At work, fortunately most of my career, I felt part of the team or culture and enjoyed the rapport with colleagues working towards shared objectives. I can recall on a couple of occasions, after being made redundant, of not feeling part of it, feeling isolated and definitely NOT on form. 

Apologies if I have not managed to get the message across this month. Maybe Mike Brearley is on a different planet to me or I am just not on form?!

Interesting Quotes (when people did amazing things or had amazing thoughts)

If we can’t control our conscious responses, what chance do we have against the influences we haven’t recognised. – Edward St Aubyn

You’re are making the white ball dance – Ronnie O’Sullivan snooker player extraordinary

Closer and closer to perfection – Ayrton Senna who possibly died seeking perfection in Formula 1

I felt I could pass through them physically ….a strange feeling of invincibility – Pele

It is necessary to disencumber consciousness of the burden of thought by learning a new skill – Wilfred Bion

Simple football is the most beautiful. But playing simple football is the hardest thing – Johan Cruyff

We talk about the little boy who fell in love with the game, and that’s what we have tried to do as a group – Brendan McCullum New Zealand Captain

Great surgeons have bad memories – Henry Marsh must have been a great surgeon

I couldn’t come without the ‘orse, m’Lord – Fred Winter Famous Jockey

Herschelle, you’ve just dropped the World Cup – Steve Waugh Australian Captain in their heyday

Bowl as straight and fast as you can – Bob Willis’s team mates 1981 amazing Ashes victory

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