I still remember the sudden rise of Kurt Warner. He was a backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams. The fact that he had risen to second string was an accomplishment in itself, given his background. He wasn’t drafted. He signed with the Packers but was cut. Out of football, he took his chances in the Arena league and excelled. He then signed with the Rams, went to NFL Europe and excelled. He came back to St. Louis and settled into a third string slot. The following season, the two in front of him were no longer in St. Louis and a new name, Trent Green, was signed to be the starting quarterback. If things had ended there, it still would have been a good story. It didn’t end there. For Kurt Warner, there was an even bigger story.
Safely ensconced as the backup quarterback, Warner wasn’t likely going to see the field during the regular season. However, the Rams were still in the preseason. Everybody has to get some reps in preseason, even the starting quarterback. That’s when disaster struck for the St. Louis Rams. Green went down with a season-ending knee injury during that preseason campaign and St. Louis was suddenly faced with playing Warner. How did he do? Warner led the Rams through the regular season and all the way to a Super Bowl victory. His performance in that game was amazing and for it he was named the Super Bowl MVP. Warner went on to accomplish a lot in the NFL, to where, even with a setback in the middle of his career, he is talked about as a potential Hall of Famer. Whether he gets there or not is still to be seen. However, we need to focus on something very important about the Warner story. We need to focus on the fact that when his opportunity came, Kurt Warner was ready for it.
“The time to prepare isn’t after you have been given the opportunity. It’s long before the opportunity arises. Once the opportunity arrives, it’s too late to prepare.” – John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
When the opportunity you’ve been waiting for comes, you must be ready to seize it. That means practicing and preparing before it comes. If you wait until the opportunity is upon you, you won’t have time to prepare. Likely you’ll end up missing out altogether. Therefore, if you want success, you have to prepare for it. If you want to be a great writer and sell an award winning novel, you’ve got to practice the craft of writing. If you want to be a force on the soccer field, you’ve got to put the time in before the game. Preparation must proceed opportunity if you want to make the most of it.
Posted in personal development, professional development | Tagged opportunity, Preparation, success | Leave a Comment »
I use the word “ship” from Seth Godin. There are many quotes around shipping that are appropriate to use, but here are a couple:
“The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.”
“What you do for a living is not be creative, what you do is ship”
Jon Acuff says it another way:
“90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.”
I can remember one particular instance for Air Force Field Training when I didn’t get this. It was an exercise where we had to figure out timings for various aircraft as part of an operation. We were split into teams to try and determine the answer. Really, this was more about being a team than coming up with the right answer. I didn’t get that. I also didn’t get that we just cared about the right answer for this particular situation than trying to come up with a solution that would work in every situation.
I unplugged from the rest of my team. I sat down and tried to work through the mathematics to find the right formula to calculate everything. Once I had the formula, I could plug in the numbers and get the answer. Just as I was finishing up the formula, the rest of my team announced they were done. Good thing, because time was just about up. What had they done? They took a stab in the dark for a number, worked backwards from it, saw that it was close but not right, made a quick adjustment, and then got the right answer. Because they had done this, our team had gotten the right answer in the amount of time we had allocated. Had we gone down my path, we would have failed.
Needless to say, I was upset. I was upset because I wasn’t part of the solution. At the time I didn’t realize the problem was me. I missed out on the two most important parts of the exercise: working as a team and solving just that scenario. I’m sure when the scenario was put together it was envisioned there would be folks like me that would try to figure out the formula. It was certainly doable, just not in the time allocated.
Don’t get so caught in a technique, or in perfection, so you don’t get things done, so you don’t “ship.” I made both of those mistakes in that particular exercise and I’ve made those mistakes many times throughout my life. I’ve learned that if you don’t ship, you don’t succeed. If you don’t ship, you don’t make a difference. If you don’t ship, the majority of folks never know what you’re doing. Shipping is good. Shipping is required to be successful. Make sure you ship.
Posted in goal setting, personal development, productivity, professional development | Tagged Jon Acuff, productivity, Seth Godin, shipping, success, working as a team | Leave a Comment »
In order to achieve success, you need to know what direction you’re heading in. That can be a difficult thing to figure out. Sometimes, the only thing we can come up with is, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I want to do something other than what I’m doing right now.” If we then ask, “What do I want to do?” we’re stuck. The possibilities are endless.
“You don’t ask the bottomless, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ but instead, ‘What have I done that I loved doing?’ Instead of a million different options from out there, you’re suddenly left with a manageable handful of options from within your own experience.” – Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff has a better question, because it narrows down the possibilities. Often times we’ve done something in our past that can give us insight on what we want to do next. Maybe we only brushed up against it or scratched the surface of it. However, it’s something that we enjoyed with whatever limited contact we had. If we consider those things which we enjoyed, that removes some uncertainty. With something completely new, we have no idea how we’ll like it. For instance, if we’ve never tried to do oil painting, suddenly dropping everything to try and become a professional artist producing oil paintings is a big leap. However, if we have a good rapport with dogs and we have found that we can handle walking even the biggest dogs, starting a dog walking service in an urban area isn’t.
That’s why Jon’s question is such a good one. It narrows down the options and causes us to consider our previous experiences. We’re not working on complete conjecture. We’ve got some hard evidence to back up a decision. And since we have some hard evidence, there’s a greater likelihood that it’ll be a good decision for us. So if you don’t know what you want to do, if you don’t know how to define success, ask yourself, “What have I done that I loved doing?”
Posted in personal development, professional development | Tagged goals, past experience, uncertainty, what next | Leave a Comment »
John Wooden, in Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, also said this:
“Having defined what I believe success truly is, I recognized there was an even greater task before me: to fully understand and then describe what was necessary to achieve this success, both individually and as a member of a basketball team or any other team in life. Without this second part, it would be like going on a trip in your car if you knew where you wanted to go but didn’t know how to get there. You might correctly be described as going nowhere.”
Just knowing what success is doesn’t get you success. If I think about running, I might define success as getting under 3 hours for a marathon. That’s a spectacular time for a non-pro especially considering that the average men’s marathon time is well over 4 hours. Knowing the time doesn’t get me there. How do I even get to the average time of about 4 and a half hours? There are tried and true training regimens for running a marathon. Those are the roadmaps to success in this area. And in the end, whatever time I get, so long as I worked to be my best the day of the marathon and on that day I gave my best, I have success.
As you think about areas for which you want to be successful, you also must think about how to achieve that success. What steps do you need to take? What do you need to improve upon? What do you need to accomplish? How do you do all of that. As Wooden put it, that’s the “even greater task.” But that’s the only way to make sure, methodical progress towards success.
Posted in goal setting, personal development, professional development | Tagged John Wooden, planning, roadmap, success | Leave a Comment »
John Wooden had an excellent definition of success:
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
He went on to describe how to determine whether you’re successful:
“Furthermore, only one person can ultimately judge the level of success–you.”
This is from Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.
Let’s break down what he said further:
- Success isn’t about accomplishments.
- Success isn’t about winning or losing.
- Success isn’t about how you compare to somebody else.
- Only you can judge your success.
Wooden talked a lot about working on the things we can control. For instance, when he prepared his basketball teams, he worried about what his team could do. If they prepared properly and gave their best, that was a success. The final score wasn’t the determining factor. Sure, if they lost, they had a right to feel disappointed. However, they could still hold their heads up high knowing they gave their best.
Too often we get caught up in what other people consider successful. We shouldn’t do that. Only we know if we tried our best. Only we know if we prepared to be our best. I can think of numerous times when I had the best score or something along those lines but I know I hadn’t done my very best. Wooden would have said that wasn’t a success. The trophy, the gold medal, the city championship, the fame and fortune, those are all potential by-products of success. They aren’t, in and of themselves, an indicator of success.
If you’ve marched to the tune of a certain salary, a certain accomplishment, or a certain position being your measure of success, I urge you to reconsider. Here’s food for thought: let’s say that you excel and you make it happen. Then what? And what if circumstances worked out to where it didn’t take much on your part to get there? Which is a better feeling: getting something handed to you or having to work hard and accomplishing the same thing? Most would go with the latter. It’s not the accomplishment that’s the reason for the difference in how you feel. After all, in both cases you got the accomplishment. It’s about the amount of work you put in, how much you expended to get there. And that’s Wooden’s point: give maximal effort to be your best. That’s all you can do. And that’s how we feel real accomplishment, so we shouldn’t strive for anything less.
Posted in difficult situations, goal setting, personal development, professional development | Tagged accomplishments, goals, John Wooden, performance, success | Leave a Comment »
In the United States, today is Memorial Day. This is the day our nation has set aside to honor our war dead. Political discussions aside, it is a time to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.
My institution, The Citadel, has kept track of those of our alumni who have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a military institution, The Citadel has always responded to the call for service. Memorial Day and Veterans Day may be days off where we spend time with family and friends, but those are also two days when we reflect on our fellow brothers and sisters who have served and are still in service. Given that folks we marched with are still in harm’s way, more than usual our thoughts and prayers are with them.
An example of this is the effort to build a war memorial on the campus. Currently those who have lost their lives are on a few plaques at the entrance of Summerall Chapel. It is fitting that there should be more. As is stated at The Citadel Memorial Europe:
“We shall not forget”
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Memorial Day, The Citadel, veterans, war dead | 1 Comment »
I love this episode of On the Table not just because it features Eric Ripert (the host) and Marcus Samuelsson. I love it because Marcus talks about some of the setbacks that he experienced on his way to becoming a world-famous chef. Eric pointed out that every time Marcus experienced a setback, Marcus said something to the effect of, “It’s the greatest thing that could have happened to me.”
Marcus has used the setbacks to increase his drive to do great things. He hasn’t used them as excuses. This reminds me of one of John Wooden‘s sets of three:
- Don’t whine.
- Don’t complain.
- Don’t make excuses.
I’ll admit, I struggle with these. It’s easy to complain. It’s even easier to make excuses. All those mean is we don’t move forward. We stay stagnant. The better approach is the one Marcus Samuelsson has taken: when we encounter a setback, we just figure out what we can do and we go do it. We may not be able to move forward in the way we envisioned, but certainly there is something we can do to make things better, to improve ourselves, to make progress. Our energy is better spent pursuing those things than complaining.
Posted in difficult situations | Tagged complaints, excuses, perseverance, setbacks | Leave a Comment »