Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.


Illustration by Ashley Goodall


Two Lessons From a Six Year Old

The boy turned 6 this week.  He challenges me, tests my patience and marches to the cadence of his own drum.  He also loves me, reminds me what it’s like to be a kid, and (unknowingly) teaches me. Here are two lessons I learned this week.

LESSON 1: GET OFF THE COUCH

He wanted to break in his new football so we played catch on the couch for a few minutes.  His focus was less ball and more obstacle. He built a wall of blankets to throw over and gaps of pillows to throw between. Sounds fun right? It was, although every few throws were well out of my reach and landed on the floor behind me. The first several times this occurred I would reach out my arm and say, “I’m too short, I can’t reach.” He jumped up and grabbed the ball, no questions asked.  Finally, he caught on and said, “Dad, there is something called get off the couch!

I rarely sat on the couch growing up, it was usually occupied by my own dad. I used to long for him to get up and take action. To this day I rarely park my tail on a cushion. I am better off for it. I would be perfectly satisfied to not own a couch. I am more productive on the move. Life is lived in motion. Too much time on couches will make you soft like the cushions they showcase.

Many of you might have a different experience. You might love the couch. You might spend most of your day glued to it.  Fine.  Just remember… “there is something called get off the couch.”  

THE CHALLENGE: Move! Are you sitting down right now? For how long? What else could you be doing to better your surroundings? Who can you serve? Did you break a sweat today? If not, put your body in motion. Maybe your couch can be viewed as a metaphor for your house, neighborhood, state or country. Are those “cushions” you’ve been sitting on for too long? Maybe it’s time to set yourself in motion. Travel transforms!

 

LESSON 2: LISTEN TO YOURSELF

My son was playing with his sisters when all of a sudden he said, “You two play quietly so I can listen to what I’m saying in my own head!” I was floored because of the brilliance of his statement and the fact that he was able to recognize outside distraction.

We all have a dialogue running through our head. What are you saying? Can you really hear it? If not, what do you do about it? We are bombarded with noise. Distractions are countless. Our electronics put us in a state of hyper drive. If that’s not enough, we chug coffee and energy drinks to keep up with it all. It’s like increasing the distance a rabbit can hear by 10x. But will that boost the rabbit’s chances for survival or will it will likely become paralyzed by paranoia?

THE CHALLENGE: Tell the world to play quietly! Presuming you’ve earned some couch time. Turn off the TV.  Put your phone aside. We’ve all had too many days where we felt we “didn’t have a minute to ourselves” but we let our minutes flee as if being robbed at gunpoint. Be stingy! Need some extra time, go steal some from Facebook, YouTube, Netflix or any other time filler of choice. Now LISTEN, I mean really listen. What is happening on the inside? You cannot travel within and stand still without. What is your body trying to tell you? Do you need more sleep, less food, more exercise, less/more time in the sun? What is your heart telling you? Do you feel passionate about someone or something?  Are you numb, depressed or indifferent?What were you supposed to get done today or this week? What is coming up tomorrow? The dialogue that arises from the inside will not steer you amiss. Take note then take action. 

 

What Color Flag do You Throw?

My love for the game of football has influenced the way I think as a leader.

Although the colors of flags vary from league to league and have changed over the years, every modern day NFL fan will recognize the yellow and red flag. 

Yellow flags are thrown by the officials to indicate a penalty. Red flags are thrown by a head coach in order to challenge a play call. 

A keen observer will note that penalties occur on nearly every down.  The officials must be judicious. The essence of the game would be lost if penalty flags were thrown too frequently.  The fans would complain. There would be no entertainment value. The players would lose motivation. The game would not sustain itself as a business. The stands would be empty, the TV turned off.

Officials are required to use their best judgment. They must allow some leeway to let the players play.  They must preserve the integrity of the game without overshadowing the fun of the game. They must determine where the line is drawn between competition and outright violation of the rule book. 

While yellow flags may be unlimited, red flags are just the opposite.  Red flags can change the outcome of the game.  There are several rules surrounding the red flag (which I will not cover). In general, coaches are allowed only two per game and at the cost of a  timeout for any unsuccessful challenge.

Before a red challenge flag is thrown coaches must trust their own instinct, the word of the players, and/or receive guidance from assistant coaches with access to a live television feed.

If we apply this to leadership (including parenthood), what can we learn?

Are you the type of leader that mercilessly penalizes every member of your team with no room for error or forgiveness?  Do you put team members on report? Do you bench them? Do you outright fire them?  Is your production compromised because you are too busy throwing yellow flags?

Do you view yourself as a coach or a referee? Do you penalize at the expense of your player when a little coaching would have done the trick?

How often do you throw the challenge flag? Do you challenge your player’s integrity and intentions?  Perhaps your challenge is positive in nature, like always helping them strive to reach their highest level of performance. Do you challenge bad play calls made against your team members?

Before throwing a flag, consider how it is going to affect the REAL game.  The one on the field…the one we call life!

Roster Spots

It seems that every year in the NFL there is a quarterback controversy.  Roster spots are limited and competition is fierce.  No starting job is a hand out.  There are no freebies, no discounts and no giveaway sweepstakes.  If you want to be number one, you have to go out there and earn it.

If you are employed, look around you.  I bet there are areas of your job that you are a bench warmer.  I bet there are areas that you are number 2, 3, or 4 on the roster.  Maybe it’s your church, your family life, your social circle or community service.  What would happen if you picked some of these areas and went to work with the intent to fight for the number one roster spot?