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?

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt from the speech, “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered in Paris on April 23, 1910

Advice From the Crypt

They’ve lived out their lives as fate decreed, yet the dead still harbor lessons the living may need.

In the Twilight Zone episode, “Night Call,” a woman named Elva Keene receives repeated mysterious phone calls in the middle of the night. Frightened, she implores the phone company to do something about it.

They trace the calls and upon investigating discover a broken telephone line in a cemetery after a storm. As it happens, the tombstone upon which the wire has fallen is that of…well, perhaps you should see it for yourself at the end of this post. Suffice to say someone is trying to talk to Elva from the grave.

Now that’s creepy, but you don’t need a supernatural event or a séance to receive messages from the other side.

Be glad you’re alive. We may lay wreaths and flowers there on holidays, but most of us tend to avoid cemeteries, perhaps not wanting to be reminded of our mortality. But instead of serving as a warning to one’s impending demise, let the denizens of your local necropolis serve as a positive call to action.  For when it comes to those interred it’s game over, but for you—if you’re reading this—life is a game you’re still playing. The question remains how will you cast your dice? What will you do with this precious gift you still have?

Remember “The Dash.” While grave markers exist in limitless shapes, sizes, and designs, they all mention the defining  dates of a person’s life.  For example, consider the tombstone of one Ezekial P. Jones, 1798-1862. The dates tell us when Jones was born and died, but between them is the dash—the dash represents everything he did in life. Everything. The good and the bad, every triumph and every failure, every joy and sorrow is all there in the cryptic dash. And just think, you are living out your own dash right now.

Present, but not voting. As a kid I enjoyed reading Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and recall being struck in particular by the bizarre story of Jeremy Bentham, a 19th-century British reformist and philanthopist. In accordance with his will, Bentham’s body was preserved with a wax head and displayed in a glass cabinet at University College London.

In a freaky ritual—at select college council meetings—Bentham’s remains were brought to the board room and at roll call it was recorded that Bentham was, “Present but not voting.”  Are you present and engaged in life, or do you differ little from Bentham’s dapper corpse by sitting on the sidelines?

A grave equalizer. “The graveyards are full of indispensable men,” Charles de Gaulle, French general and statesman, is quoted as saying. That means all those inflated-ego blowhards who annoy you in life will be replaced when their time is up, so don’t let them get to you. The same though, can be said of your own—if applicable—self-aggrandized importance. “Don’t take yourself so seriously,” says Bob Basso, author of This Job Should Be Fun. “After all the size of your funeral will depend on the weather.”

Your challenge. Ernest Hemingway laid down the gauntlet when he advised others to “do something original, or beat dead men at their own game.” It’s advice you might take when embarking on your own business venture. Who is in the grave that you admire? Their cards are on the table. Can you come up with a better hand?

Count your blessings. A stroll through an old cemetery reveals a variety of strange causes of death. Look at all the things they died of that you probably won’t succumb to.  Typhoid fever, whooping cough, smallbox, and even “consumption.” There are those trampled by a horse, struck by a streetcar, or lost at sea. You are lucky indeed to be alive at a time where life expectancy is better than ever. The odds improve every year that you might keep the Grim Reaper at bay and make it to your 100th birthday…or beyond.

What would the dead say? Recently I was reminded of a classmate who died shortly after high school graduation. We all know of people like that, particularly those taken early. While there seems no rhyme nor reason to it, think of them when you are faced with challenges in life. What would they think of your predicament? How grateful would they be just to live out your day today? How can you live your life in their honor…a life to the fullest?

Consider this telling epitaph…

Remember me as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon will be.
Prepare for death, and think of me.


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