Winning at Life

Lessons I learned as a player, a coach and parent

Ever since I can remember sports has been as much a part of my life as music is to the likes of Bruce Springsteen or politics is to the Kennedys. As a student athlete through the college level and then as a collegiate coach, the classroom of sports has provided some of the most important “Life Lessons” I have learned and apply every day.

The little things make the big things happen.

Watch a professional team practice and you will be bored to tears with the constant focus on the details of the fundamentals. The spectacular happens on game day because the fundamentals have been repeated over and over. In business, the fundamentals are not always as apparent, but once identified they have to be continually focused on. Practice makes perfect. 98% of people miss the opportunities of life due to lack of preparation, because proper preparation takes practice and practice means hard work. Most people sleep more than they work.

Excuses are for losers. 

Everyday players are tempted to quit; yet, quitting is never an option. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. There are a thousand good reasons to quit or to not achieve; currently everyone wants to blame the economy. Take a look in the mirror: did you have a plan, were you prepared, did you give it your all? It only takes one good reason to succeed. Figure out your WHY then focus!

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

It is only during adversity that you discover who’s “got game.” Adversity is a fact of life and yet we are so taken aback when it comes. You are not going to get every call or break but that doesn’t determine the outcome of the game unless you so choose it.

No time to waddle in self-pity. 

You get beat bad on Friday night but have to play on Saturday – you better be ready to go again or you will suffer another defeat. Rejection and defeat are the seeds of growth and prosperity unless you waste time in worry and anxiety. Don’t celebrate that victory. Instead, remain humble and realize that you have another challenge tomorrow. I call it the guardrails of life: don’t get too excited about a victory and don’t get too upset about a loss – channel your emotions in order to stay in the middle of the road.

Stuff happens – get over it. 

There have never been two games played the same. Life, like sports, is all about an action and your reaction. The consequences of your reactions to circumstances are what determine the tone of your life, not your actions. You have to be able to react to circumstances positively.

The weakest link in the chain will determine the strength of the chain. 

It takes a team and all players must achieve their best. Watching a local high school basketball game last week, I noticed that one team’s bench players were better than the other team’s bench players – the team with superior bench players won because in practice they play against better players which prepares them better. When the stress is greater than the weakest link, the chain breaks.

Talent is worthless without a good attitude and desire to succeed. 

Coach Bear Bryant, University of Alabama, once said you can keep those A and B students at Harvard, Princeton, Syracuse, Duke, etc. Send me those hard working C and D students and I will win every time. Most A and B students end up working for a C or D student because they will out-work you with attitude and desire.

Losing is a habit / winning is a state of mind. 

Losing and poor play are habits that can be easily developed and it becomes a slippery slope to failure. A negative teammate, friends, parents, the media can influence the condition and habits of the team. Never listen to what is being said positively or negatively; focus on your team and the next task at hand.

The art of discipline and commitment. 

Are you willing to keep doing the things that are necessary to achieve success long after the initial feeling has faded? Marriage is the best example of this lesson – nobody walks down the aisle with divorce in mind; however, if you believe it’s an option, you’re doomed to fail. You must be committed to the relationship long after the excitement has waned and that takes discipline whether you are a team of two or two hundred.

Your BEST is all there is. 

Winning is a result of doing all of the things above to your very best ability and your competitor not doing them better. After it’s all said and done, if you have given your very best, what more is there?

Opportunity never goes away; it just goes to someone else.

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