Final Thoughts From The World Cup, Aristotle And Working With Clients



What can the World Cup teach us about supporting people with their careers?

The day after the night before, Germany have won the World Cup and to rap up my two previous posts (here & here)I have decided to write a final piece around the theme of endings and what this can teach us about supporting clients. We are in an “ending” scene with this World Cup. The final conflict has resolved, Germany are victorious and as the dust settles we find ourselves asking questions about conclusions. Are Germany worth winners? Why did they succeed? How do they compare with other past winners? Did Messi fail on the big stage or has he proven his worth long before this tournament?

Endings are a peculiar phenomenon. We find ourselves talking the events leading up to them over and over, there is a sense of things having reached they conclusion before they have ended and moved on to something else. It is our last gasp to enjoy the event, to understand it and work out what it will mean for the future. So how can thinking about endings help us with our career?

Source: Flickr by Creative Commons

Aristotle. Source: Flickr by Creative Commons

The idea of an ending ties in with Aristotle’s idea of Unity of Action as discussed in how work Poetics. Aristotle saw a plot as a united whole moving through three stages “beginning”, “middle” and “end”. Aristotle saw these phases as following a cause and effect chain but having different focuses between the two ideas. Beginnings focus on the effect on the event, this is the event that starts a plot, sets it’s bounds and creates dramatic tension. Middle is where cause and effect are equal as the plot is moved forward, has drama and builds up to climax where the original tension is resolved. Finally at the end the cause is emphasized in contrast to effects as the plot comes to and end with no unresolved effects pushing beyond the ending.

See Freytag’s triangle bellow for a visualization of this theory.



The World Cup helps illustrate Aristotle’s theory really powerfully. If you think about media coverage in the early stages of the tournament the focus is on incentives. There were lengthy discussions around the incentives of various players (think Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney etc.) and what various countries might be hoping for from the tournament. As the tournament progressed there was more focus on the rising action, the consequences of previous events in the tournament and discussions about what they might mean for the future (think Suarez’s bite, Neymar’s injury etc.). Finally after the climax with Germany beating Argentina we talk about how they got there, what caused the event. This is a point of reflection and conclusion.

Well how does this relate to working with clients? I wonder if these three scenes might create a helpful way of working with clients by way of a diagnostic tool. Clients could be seen as being in one of these three moments and so would require different support.

  • Beginning  a client who is at the beginning of a career “plot” will be faced with their incentives most of all. Something has happened (an event, a realization) which has significant effects but their final climax and resolution is still unclear. This may create fear and apprehension in clients trying to engage with what is about to happen.
  • Middle a client at this point is moving between two poles, they are tacking action and seeing the results of this but is still potentially a long way from their climax. This can lead to a sense of complication. Clients need support at this stage to make sense out of what they are doing. They need to keep a sense of agency and understanding in their situation while being able to assess the value of their strategies and adjust them in light of working towards and through their climax.
  • End a client at this stage will be trying to make sense of what has caused the climax they experienced (thinking leaving a course, getting a job, failing an exam, being fired). Here the focus is not on action but on reflection. They will more likely be seeking understanding and a subjective sense of peace around what has happened.

But do endings really happen like this in real life? They can in a plot because you can stop time in a fantasy. In real life time continues and it is only our perception that things end. This links in with Ricoeur’s idea of the metaphorical nature of time. Ricoeur talks about the metaphors of “before”, “during” and “after”. The metaphor of “after” is a bit different from the idea of “ending” as it talks about things having finished and concluded but also moving forward into a new beginning. Keeping in step with classical imagery this is like the Roman god Janus who is the god of transitions, he looks to both the past and the future. I find this nice way of summing up what Ricoeur means by “after”.

Janus. Source: Flickr Creative COmmons

Janus. Source: Flickr Creative Commons


This idea of looking back and forward might be more helpful seeing clients as being in transition more than at an end. Here they are looking to make meaning out of the past, understand what happened and make their piece with it while also look to the future, maybe having a new beginning facing and combating the results of their previous climax or maybe moving on to a new and fresh challenge.

This is what is happening in a lot of the news coverage at the moment. Will Germany dominate in the future the way Spain have? What does this mean for Messi’s standing as an all time great? How can Brazil rebuild after their semi final and third place play-off failings? What can England learn from Germany’s success? As soon as we come to an end we actually find ourselves confronted with the future and a new beginning.

If anyone has any thoughts of critique about these ideas do comment bellow. Anyone have any ideas how to put these frames in to practice? What might be the positive/ negative aspects or trying to working with clients in this way?





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