I’ve just finished reading Jon Gruden’s Do You Love Football?!, which is essentially his autobiography up to right after winning the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002. (w00t!) The book talks about his experiences with football over the years, especially in the coaching aspect, since he was never a particularly great player (by his own admission).
While not a Pulitzer Prize winner, I found the book to be rather interesting in the areas of leadership and growth within your field. The following points stuck out at me:
- Gruden convinced his defense that they should be scoring 9 touchdowns a season. Most defenses think about one thing: stopping the offense. This defense thought not just about stopping the offense, but “how will we get points on the board.” Like Robert Kiyosaki says, your thoughts are your reality. If you think “I can’t afford it,” you can’t. If you think “How can I afford it?” you’ll be on your way to affording it, because you’ve mentally opened up the opportunity. Think outside of the box. Don’t presume you won’t do it because you don’t have to or can’t. Ask yourself how can you do it? The answer probably won’t come the first time, the second, or even the tenth, but it will come. You’ll be thinking differently, and your thoughts will become your reality.
- It’s important to note that towards the end of the book, I did a lot of speed reading. Why is it important? Most of the important stuff — the formative experiences, the networking and interconnecting with people — happened while no one knew who “Jon Gruden” was, at the beginning. That’s when you see his work ethic taking shape and the steps he took to ensure that he kept his passion and level of competition up. Before all the glory of being the head coach of the Raiders and the Bucs, there was a lot of time spent learning lessons and overcoming a lot of crap. It’s really easy to get lost in the “I’ve done this much for this long. It’s my turn to be successful.” I know. I’ve been there and done that: bitching, whining — the whole bit. Reading this helps me realize “Dude, you’re not the only one burning the candles at both ends with not many people noticing.” When success comes then growth slows. When everyone notices you succeeding it’s because you’ve been slaving for a long time, trying to impress the right people, so to speak.
- It’s important to focus on what you’re doing. Be passionate, have fun. You may lose some sleep, but so long as you’ve got your health and pay attention to your family, you keep doing what you have to.
- Find the most successful people you can in whatever you’re trying to get ahead in and never let them go. Don’t annoy them, but once you’ve established a connection make sure you nurture the relationship. (God only knows how many times I’ve violated this rule. The loss here is most definitely mine.) Spend time with them. Learn from them. Treat them well. Be honest with them. Take advantage of any time they’re willing to give you. It never hurts to ask, and it’s up to them to say “no”. Develop that relationship with them and keep it for the long haul. This way you can create a virtual Harvard-level education for whatever you’re doing. Gruden did this by getting around the most successful coaches he could, doing whatever he could to get around them and study them. Mostly this involved doing a lot of work for very little money.
- Don’t be one of those people that moves just to move, making a bunch of lateral moves and never getting anywhere. If you move — quit your job, start a business, break up with your girlfiend, whatever — make it count: move forward.
- Sometimes you have to destroy something to build it up. If a proper foundation isn’t set, what use is there in trying to build a huge house on top of it? You have to destroy whatever you’ve built, re-build the foundation, then build on top of that. (This was a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. It’s why I burnt out recently with a lot of the stuff I was doing; I had been trying to build a tower on the foundation of a shack.) This may cost you a few months, maybe a few years initially. In the long run, however, it will be worth it.
- Don’t try to be a Lone Ranger. Everybody needs a lift sometimes. You can’t fight all your battles on your own. Sometimes you need an army. Sometimes you just need a wingman. To lead, Gruden counted on not just himself, but also those coaching connections he had made over the years, as well as those coaches and players under him. He was not alone, and never pretended to be. Most people think they can’t do something when, in fact, they can. They just need some help. The problem is they put this wall around themselves and try to be Lone Rangers, fighting battles they have no need to fight on their own. What one can do a thousand times, two can do ten-thousand times.
Note: You can read the first few pages here.