Much has been said and written about what it takes to achieve and maintain success, but perhaps the best strategy is to learn from those who have reached the pinnacle. By zeroing in on what makes them tick and what drives them to keep going while others may falter, we can perhaps apply those same principles in our own lives. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of winning observations of three notable people — a quarterback, a producer and a boxer — that just may provide some inspiration.
- There Is No Garbage Time
“That’s why he wins,” I thought as soon as I saw it.
It was game seven of the NFL season and the New England Patriots were dismantling the Miami Dolphins. The game was absolutely in the bag when Pats Quarterback Tom Brady was sacked. While still on the ground, Brady slammed his fist in frustration.
“There is no such thing as ‘garbage time’ to him,” I thought. “Every single play is a chance to execute properly, and when he (or someone on his team) fails to do that, it’s deadly serious.”
When you are committed to excellence, it is a 24/7/365 thing. If you go all in, your team will see it and follow. Those who don’t want to sign on must go.
- Dealing With Failure
It was a two-hour EPSN 30 for 30 movie called “Trojan War,” and it was about the rise and fall of USC football under head coach Pete Carroll. Interestingly, my biggest takeaway from the film had nothing to do with sports at all. To make the connection between Hollywood and USC football (they are geographically close) the producer ran clips of his interview with Hollywood Producer Lawrence Turman (of “The Graduate” fame) at the beginning of each segment.
It was the penultimate of these clips that hit home for me with the greatest message.
“In my career I’ve learned a somewhat surprising but valuable lesson. I’ve had more defeats than victories. It’s about survival. I’ve had a ton of defeats — who hasn’t? But on my gravestone it will probably say, “The Graduate,” rather than a dozen films that no one ever heard of. Survival is the name of the game.”
If we are to believe this sentiment (and I do), we can take a great lesson from it — failure is a very large part of life, so you’d had better be very good at dealing with it. And what do we mean by “dealing with failure?” We mean handling it as gracefully and efficiently as possible and then, perhaps, turning it to the best account.
Just as every race car driver must make pit stops, so every one of us must endure failure. And it’s not because we made a pit stop that we are judged (or that the outcome of the race is determined) but by how we handle the pit stop. Do we whine? Do we ask “why me?” Do we sink into deep, indulgent depression or do we get up and get on with it? The answer will determine whether or not we survive.
- Do The Work
In the 30 for 30 film I mentioned last week (yes, I get a lot of wisdom from sports-related issues), “Chasing Tyson,” the issue of fear came up, and when one remembers what Tyson was like, what he did to opponents, this is not shocking.
In fact, it’s clear watching some of his fights that his opponents intended to hit the mat as soon as he hit them, regardless of the actual punch. They were seriously and obviously afraid. One article I read noted that an opponent made the sign of the cross at least a dozen times while making his way to the ring.
But Evander Holyfield was different. He was not afraid, and his reason is telling.
Reflecting on the moments before his first bout with Tyson, he said, “I can’t forget that I did the work already. Now I just have to go out and perform.”
Think about it — “I did the work.” Preparation, practice, repetition, getting ready. When you face the big moments in your life and career — the go-lives, the interviews, etc. — will you be able to begin with the same calmness and peace of mind Holyfield brought to the ring? Or will you be making the sign of the cross (or invoking the aid of some other deity) because you’d slacked?
To recap, you have Brady’s consistent (almost pathological) commitment to excellence; Turman’s message that long-term success is dependent on how we deal with inevitable short-term failures; Holyfield’s poise gained from preparation — apply them to your life, to your work, and you’ll make great strides. Happy Thanksgiving!