Hard Work Pays Off

When I played football in college at Minnesota, Coach Cal Stoll was one of the first CEO-type coaches. Most of the coaches I had seen previously, such as my high school coach Dave Driscoll, coached either the offense or the defense in addition to performing the duties of a head coach. Coach Stoll did not. He wasn’t one of those tower-type coaches like Bear Bryant at Alabama, who was far removed from the field. Coach Stoll hired great teachers as his assistants and then gave them the latitude to coach. He set the vision and direction, motivated the team, then let assistants coaches do the coaching.

Coach Stoll held a meeting with the freshmen every year. That meeting had a big impact on me. I’ll never forget what he told us.

He asked, “Every one of you thinks you are going to play in the NFL, right?”  Every head in the room nodded. He pulled out a photograph of the freshmen team from five years prior. The guys who made it to the NFL were circled.

“Him. And him,” he said, pointing to the picture. “Two of them made it. Out of thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-five, whatever we’ve got this year, one of you will go on to play in the NFL. Or if you’re lucky, two. You’re going to have to outwork everybody in this room and then catch a break in order to make your living in the NFL.”

Of course, we each thought we were going to be that one, but I must admit, this did make an impression. Coach Stoll went on to talk about our education and preparation for the rest of our lives-lives without football. Since I was just days removed from my parents’ home, that message resonated with me.

He continued, “Success is uncommon and not to be enjoyed by the common man. I’m looking for uncommon people because we want to be successful, not average.”

Listening to Coach Stoll, I knew I had a greater chance of becoming uncommon by my efforts than I did by my natural gifts. Some players are uncommon because of their God-given natural abilities, like being blessed with the height of Yao Ming or the vertical jump of Michael Jordan. Others have to work to become uncommon. Steve Kerr, current coach of the Golden State Warriors and former player with the Chicago Bulls, used to shoot 500 free throws a day to make himself uncommon.

The truth is that most people have a better chance to be uncommon by effort than natural gifts. Anyone could give that effort in his or her chosen endeavor, but doesn’t, choosing to do only enough to get by.

What are you doing to be uncommon as a father, husband, or in your profession?

 


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