Recipe for Greatness

26th of July, 2016

Great teams have great sayings. And they live by these mantras.

In Arizona, Bruce Arians introduced us to three words that carried heavy weight: Trust, Loyalty, and Respect. Individually, these words were noble, maybe even weighty. But together they became a call to action. A mantra that we as a team lived by.

For Pete Carroll it’s Compete Everyday. For Mack Brown it’s Consistently Good to be Great. But each great coach has a great saying that means more than just the sum of its collective words.

I recently watched an hour long interview between Pete Carroll and Angela Duckworth about what it means to have “grit.” I’ll spare you the circumstance but suffice it to say that grit or even “great” is not developed overnight. Grit can be taught, greatness can be learned.

As a 13-0 Texas Longhorn that went from a national championship to a 5-7 season, and as an Arizona Cardinal that went from worst to first seemingly overnight, I’ve had a chance to be a part of some major turnarounds. And oddly enough I find myself in the midst of one now as a Chicago Bear. One thing rings true. The good teams know why they’re good. They know what it takes to be successful and they consistently imitate the same successful patterns. Some call it practice, but I call it a mindset – a winning mindset.

See, for Pete Carroll, Compete Everyday doesn’t mean finding someone you’re better than and outdoing them. It is actually the opposite. For him, to compete means thinking like a champion. It means finding ways to get better at your craft and not worrying about the guy next to you. For Mack Brown, greatness has nothing to do with what you do on Saturday afternoons. It has everything to do with what you do Sunday through Friday when no one is watching. For Bruce Arians, respect has nothing to do with his authority, but rather respecting the process – the process that it takes to be great.

For all of these coaches, being great has less to do with how you handle success and more to do with learning from failure. And that’s where a lot of us miss the mark. We want so much to be perfect, or to be great, that we disrespect the process and the work that goes into being great.

In the offseason I train at a place called Ignition. There’s another player who trains there every single day, but I never see him. He’s up early, gets his work in, and is out before most of us are even awake. He’s been training there the last few years. His name is Luke Kuechly. Guys like Luke respect the process, are consistently good, and are immensely focused.

In the football world – and in life – that’s a recipe for greatness.


Glass Half Full

25th of July, 2016

I hate traffic jams. I mean, what good can come from being stuck in traffic? Especially when you’ve got somewhere to be.

Traffic jams are the enemy of progress – proof of entropy in what’s supposed to be a smooth-running world. I’m sure you’re with me, right?

But what if there was a way to turn traffic on its head? A way to laugh in the face of this so-called “adversity”? Well, I recently had that opportunity, and I learned it from a couple of kids.

I had just finished my last workout of the offseason before starting training camp. My body felt good and I was ready to go. Now all I had to do was make it to the airport for my 3:30pm flight back to Chicago. Easy enough, I’d done it a million times.

But this time was different. As soon as I got on the highway to pick up my family and head back home, you guessed it – I ran into traffic. But not just normal traffic. I ran into what turned out to be a five-car accident that blocked up a three lane highway. I was stuck. And with little margin for error, it was looking more and more like we were going to miss our flight.

Making matters worse, all the other flights leaving that day from both nearby airports were already sold out. This can’t be happening, I thought. I started to sulk and complain, but then something really cool happened. I looked out of my window and saw two guys walk out of their parked car (we had been there for a while) and they started playing catch. Then their mom came out of the car and did the craziest thing – she started playing with them!

I was hot, sweaty, and annoyed with the traffic, but seeing these three people throwing the football around, in the middle of such a frustrating situation, brought me joy. As a matter of fact, it brought me so much joy that I did what I do best. I got out of my car and started playing with them. Before we knew it, others hopped out and joined us in what turned out to be a 40-minute game of catch.

I told them who I was, and who I played for, and that made the situation even more exciting for everybody. By the end of the ordeal, I had made a couple friends, a few fans, and some faithful followers. But most importantly, I learned from two teenage kids that with the right mindset, ANY situation can be flipped on its head. What matters is how you look at it. Kind of a like a glass half full.


Built for Something More

20th of July, 2016