7 Lessons from the Superbowl

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. You’ve got the hot wings, the dip and chips, and the Flatscreen TV. You’re ready to kick back and enjoy the Packers and Steelers in XLV. It’s great to root for winners on the field. But as you do consider these tips for a post-game plan to post some wins in your own career.

1. What’s your Super Bowl? The dream of playing in the Super Bowl is a powerful one, driving players relentlessly through every game of each season. What dream can you affix in your mind, what place do you want to go to, what shining moment are you striving for? What’s something that will get you fired up to get out of bed early each morning?

2. Put in the time. Everyone likes to talk about their favorite star players and wear their jerseys during a winning season.  But few people take notice before they’re gridiron heroes: when they’re putting in the tough hours, practicing hard when no one’s watching, and persevering through slumps, injuries, and other setbacks. Realize that for pro football players—and for you—there is no such thing as an overnight success, according to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, it usually takes about 10 years.

3. Have a tantalizing talisman. The Super Bowl ring is the ultimate memento of an NFL career and symbol of success. The ring means more than its 5K worth of gold and diamonds; each ring tells the story of a team, a season, and a player.  Instead of waiting around for the company to give you a gold watch for your retirement decide upon your desirable talisman and affix a goal for achieving it. Put a pic of it on your desktop or Blackberry screen saver. Let it be known that you will obtain it if you achieve your goal. Maybe it’s a new wristwatch, diamond ring, pocket knife, or set of golf clubs. Whatever it is, consider getting it engraved, and you’ll not only have a nice symbol of your success to enjoy, but something you can pass on.

4. You might lose. Imagine slugging it out all season with the Super Bowl in sight then falling short like the Jets or the Bears this past season. Oh, the agony of defeat. And in the big game today someone must lose. Part of the appeal of the Super Bowl is watching the struggles of life play out on 52 inches of Hi Def. A dream will come true for some while for others it all comes crashing down. The fact that many of these players will start from scratch again next season is an inspiration for all of us to start anew tomorrow.

5. Get in the game. Over a 100 million people are expected to tune in to the Super Bowl. But only a few dozen at best will see time on the field. Those players will be the subject of comments and commentary from legions of spectators far and wide. In his famous In the Arena speech Teddy Roosevelt said, “It’s not the critic who counts.” Instead it’s the person who gets in the ring and takes his  lumps and comes back for more. Focus less on critiquing others and more on the steps you’re taking to be on top of your own game.

6. You might make a mistake. Immediately after the Super Bowl, everyone had an opinion on what the Steelers did wrong, or what the quarterback should have done differently, or who else should have done what.  The best lesson there is that you have to allow yourself to make mistakes of your own. Playing it safe won’t gain you much yardage.

7.  Plan your comeback. Those who didn’t make the Super Bowl are already making plans for next season. The coaches all make that clear in the post-game press briefings. The defeated Steelers are plotting a return to the Super Bowl and the victorious Packers are planning to avoid the perils of complacency. So how about you? Ready to stage your own comeback?

Whose List Are You On?

I decided to try out my new Blu-Ray player with a bang so I grabbed—what else?—“The Expendables.” This 2010 homage to ‘80’s action movies features a rogues’ gallery of action stars including stalwarts Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, and of course, Arnold in a cameo.

The reviews were mixed, but the box office returns were impressive, so whether it was the intense action, the stunts, the weaponry or the in-your-face high resolution, I enjoyed the ride.

At one memorable point in the film, Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger appear in the same scene for the first time in their collective careers. There are any number of little lessons you could take away.

You might say, “It’s never too late to do what you might have done,” or “You’re never too old,” or perhaps something along the lines of, “You’re only as old as you allow yourself to be defined to be.” But those chestnuts are, well, old.

I like this lesson better. In the scene, Mr. Church (Willis) is interviewing mercenaries Ross (Stallone) and Mauser (Schwarzenegger) for the job of overthrowing a Latin American dictator. Church tells them, “Both your names came to the top of the list.”

As we go into the new year, many people are busy compiling their own “to-do” lists. But perhaps our focus might be better spent trying to make it to the top of someone else’s list. Getting the attention of a Mr. Church looking to hire the best for a job you’re good at.

So who’s list do you want to be on, and what can you do to get to the top of it? That might be something worth shooting for.

Leading From the Front

Lately I’ve enjoyed watching “Undercover Boss” on CBS when I can. In the show a CEO goes incognito to work among employees in the trenches. The boss takes on jobs prepping food, washing windows, cleaning bathrooms, or driving a truck.

In the process he learns the tough work his employees do day in and day out, hears their personal stories, and learns firsthand about the challenges of the jobs that keep the company running.

At the end the now-humbled CEO reveals his true identity and rewards employees who went above and beyond the call of duty without knowing who he was. The boss then addresses the company where employees see humorous clips of him bumbling through the jobs they have to do every day.

One day at a company I worked for the CEO happened to be passing through the client service department as the phone rang at an empty desk. He stopped mid-stride and picked it up. As it turned out the caller was an angry investor and lambasted the “phone rep” with a littany of complaints. She demanded to speak to the president of the company.

The CEO then identified himself and we later replayed the call to hear her surprise; the wind completely yanked out of her sails at the notion of the president of an investment company answering the 1-800 line. After listening to her concerns, the CEO jotted down her information and assured her that there would be follow-up.

The boss could have used that situation to lambast the department, or the manager, about the importance of vigilant phone coverage. Instead, he turned it to opportunity to demonstrate that it was key for everyone in the company to pitch in and help out when it comes to getting a job done, particularly when it comes to clients.

He conveyed that message through his actions and without saying a word to everyone. It had a powerful effect on those of us who were there.

Critics might say that the big shots in “Undercover Boss” are just promoting themselves and their organizations. Perhaps. And after all the show is entertainment.  But employees have always respected those who truly try to understand and appreciate the work they do. Military officers leading from the front have always known this–nothing garners more respect than a willingness to do the dirty work.

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