Read an Excerpt
THE WINNERS MANUAL FOR THE GAME OF LIFE
By JIM TRESSEL CHRIS FABRY
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 Jim Tressel
All right reserved.
Chapter One THE JOURNEY OF SUCCESS
DECIDE YOUR PURPOSE, SET YOUR GOALS
If you do the things you need to do When you need to do them, Someday you can do the things you want to do When you want to do them!
The first step in creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it.
Vision will ignite the fire of passion, which fuels our commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence.
Vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action.
Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life.
Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, And keep on praying. ROMANS 12:12
Success is a journey that we all take, and it affects every phase of our lives. In order to thrive during that journey, we have to have a clear view of what success is, what it isn't, and what it will take to achieve it. In this chapter, we will discuss a method we use with our players at Ohio State to help them understand what personal and team success is, and to help them set goals, pursue their dreams, and come up with a life plan formoving forward.
Many people define success by how much money they make or how far up the corporate ladder they can ascend. Coaches or athletes can define it in terms of championships, winning records, or great individual statistics. Championships and wins are fine goals. I want Ohio State to be the last team standing at the end of the year, no question about it. We tell the players that we're going to work like crazy on our team goals, and if they don't want to be champions, they're probably on the wrong team. But we also help them devise plans for how to obtain the goals they desire as individuals. We encourage our players to pursue the NFL, if that's what they want to do. But if a player says, "I really want to excel at football, but I feel that medicine is my life's calling," we help that player map out a plan to make it to medical school. It might be medical school, law school, or some other career path, but we want to help every player achieve his goals.
Goals are important, but it's important to understand that people are not defined by their goals and whether or not they reach them. A win or a loss does not make you or me a better or worse human being. This is where, in our society, we've so easily lost perspective on the truth about who we are. We have to separate who we are from what we do. With our players, it's vital to distinguish between "purpose" and "goals," as you'll see when we introduce a concept called the Block O of Life in the next chapter. Understanding the difference between purpose and goals is essential to understanding the true definition of success.
John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, is one of my heroes. In his classic autobiography, They Call Me Coach, he defines the elusive quality of success: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming."
That's a great definition. First, it takes away any external characterization of success-conference championship, national championship, awards-and puts the responsibility on the individual to define his own success. Trophies, rings, or trips to the White House do not mean you're a success. Success is found in "peace of mind." That was a revolutionary thought to me. I don't have to look to others to tell me whether I've made it. They can't tell me anything about my success, because they have no idea if I have peace of mind. That's a radical shift in thinking and drastically different from basing my success on whether I win or lose. I grew up in a coach's house, and believe me, I can tell the difference between a weekend after a win and a weekend after a loss. But in Coach Wooden's definition, I can rest in the satisfaction of knowing I did my best at becoming my best. That helps me to know if I've done all I can do.
Coach Wooden wrote his definition in 1972, at a time when many people defined success by the kinds of cars they drove, the houses they lived in, what jobs they had, and what material possessions they owned. In other words, it was a lot like it is today. But Wooden's description of success transcends the dictionary definition. It's not the accumulation of material possessions or the gaining of a certain amount of prestige or rank. It's not moving up the ladder at work, becoming famous, or gaining political power. We try to help our guys understand that success is being the best they can be, and feeling good about that, but then going one step further.
FOR THE GROUP
In defining success at Youngstown State and Ohio State, we built on the thoughts of Coach Wooden and added one tiny but powerful idea. We expanded his definition like this: "Success is the inner satisfaction and peace of mind that come from knowing I did the best I was capable of doing for the group."
Success is a team sport. As Woody Hayes said many years ago, "You win with people." When we added "for the group" to Coach Wooden's definition, we helped to focus our players on the team aspect of success.
Our purpose in adding "for the group" was to capture the truth that in being our best, we add to those around us. It forces us to define success in terms of what the group needs, what our team needs, or what our society or country needs. You can see the problem of individualism in sports as well as in society. People tend to worry more about how something affects "me," as opposed to how it affects "us." But if we focus on what we ourselves can get rather than on what we can do for the team, we'll miss a great opportunity.
From a personal standpoint, that's why I consider it part of my job to go to hospitals or help out with fund-raisers for various groups. That's part of the opportunity I've been given as a head coach-to make a difference, not just on the sidelines of a football game, but also in a world of hurting people. Success is not only helping myself; it's helping others reach their goals.
However, there's a potential problem at a place like Ohio State. Because so many talented athletes represent our school, some of them could take the approach that the group really doesn't matter. The main concern could be for the individual to make it to the NFL. The player could have a selfish perspective and say, "I need X number of catches. I need X number of tackles. I need more touches at running back so I can get more yards and gain a bigger signing bonus when it's time for the draft." Fortunately, we choose our players wisely, and they buy into the team concept readily, but there's always a temptation to play for themselves rather than for the team.
Fans also present a problem with success because they expect the team to win every game. They'll be upset if we don't win the national championship every year. That's the nature of being a fan, and we appreciate their backing and thrive on the support they give. But winning every game every year is an unrealistic expectation. The truth is, only one team will win the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Only one team out of thirty-two in the NFL will win the Super Bowl. In life, not everyone can be the top salesman at a company or get the big promotion. Not everyone starts a business and sees it grow and thrive and expand. So we try to help our players avoid tying their definition of success to their performance. This prepares them for their lives ahead and teaches them that though their performance connects directly with their goals, their purpose is tied to who they are.
In 2006, we were disappointed, not because we didn't win every game, but because we felt we didn't play anywhere near our ability. We were disappointed in the national-championship game after the 2007 season, not because we didn't play up to our ability, but because we made a couple of costly mistakes against a great team. And when you play a great team in their own backyard, you can't afford to make mistakes.
The difference for us was that our self-image wasn't crushed after those seasons. Our players and coaches had a handle on their purpose. They felt good about their contribution to the team. Even though we didn't achieve all of our goals, we were still successful.
Jerry Jenkins, coauthor of the best-selling Left Behind book series, makes a similar point about the stories he writes. He says, "Regardless of what we write, from books to articles, they should never simply be about something. They must always be for the purpose of something." So it is with our lives. We were created not just to exist, not just to pass through this world and be about something, but to live with purpose. Fulfilling our purpose is part of who we are. But what we're about-the goals we set, the dreams we have-is part of what we do.
We must never let goals, adversity-or even success-define us. Those things don't hit at the heart of who we are. We'll talk more about this important concept in the chapter on handling adversity and success, but in the meantime, let me give you an example from the NFL. Dan Marino, the great Miami Dolphins quarterback, was amazingly talented and set a lot of records at his position, yet he never won a Super Bowl. You would hope that Dan Marino doesn't gauge his career by its lack of a Super Bowl trophy. Equally, you would hope that he doesn't hang his worth as a person on those passing records. The reason he should feel good about himself is so much bigger than any record or championship ring. If a person measures his success by his inner satisfaction and the peace of mind that comes from knowing he did the best he was capable of doing for the group, he'll be able to gauge that success correctly.
By any objective standard, Dan Marino was a success, but only he knows for sure. That question has to be answered by the individual, because only the individual knows whether he or she has the inner peace that comes with success.
Many people want to know what goes on in the locker room after a championship win or loss. I don't let cameras into the locker room after the game. Win or lose, that's our time as a team, and I don't feel that we need to have it recorded. It's recorded in our hearts, and that's enough.
After our loss to Louisiana State University in the BCS national-championship game in January 2008, I remember expressing how proud I was of all my players. I was proud of their accomplishments throughout the season. I couldn't help but think back on all the hard work and preparation it had taken to get to that game in New Orleans. There were a lot of people who never thought we would play for the championship that year. I didn't say much about that during the season because I knew our guys believed we would be there. They had great faith in our team and ignored the talk. I mostly told them how proud I was to be part of that team, how hard I thought they had played and prepared, and how well they had represented Ohio State that night. At times like that, you talk a little from the heart about your appreciation for those guys who won't be back. It's their last game as Buckeyes, and that's tough.
The interesting thing about the media is that they're always asking questions about this moment or that moment and what happened when we were all together. But it's not about a moment. The other coaches and I didn't have to pontificate about how we felt about those guys and how much we appreciated them, because every day since training camp, we had been reinforcing that. We didn't have to make "the big speech," because we'd been pouring our lives into those players for four or five years, and the players had been responding to us every day.
Success is an everyday proposition. It isn't defined by a championship game or the day you get your diploma, get drafted by an NFL team, make the big sale, land the account of a lifetime, or get your law degree. Don't get me wrong, those are great days, and we should celebrate those accomplishments. But the key to a successful life is in the journey and the process. It's that emphasis on the journey to success that we work on each day, step by step.
I know that sportswriters want something earthshaking to write about-to describe that moment with our team when we're together and the emotions are high. Those reporters want to let the reader get a glimpse inside the locker room. But the truth is, there was a lot that went into those moments of celebration or grief, a lot that happened long before those "locker-room moments." To me, the process is what's most fun in football, and I'm sure it's that way for any profession. The process of going full bore into the season and balancing your purpose with your goals and the family you love and all the things you try to accomplish-it's a daily adventure.
I guess the specifics of what happened in that locker room in New Orleans will have to stay with the team. But you can be sure that those guys knew how their coaches felt about their effort, their passion, and their work. And most of all, they knew how we felt about who they are. That night, we didn't do what we wanted to do on the field, but that didn't change who we are.
When we won the national championship at Ohio State in 2002, I used to chuckle at all the talk about how we'd finally pulled off the big win. I tried to get across to the team that we were champions long before we won that game against Miami. Suddenly, the media wanted to talk about our players and how much community service they do and how strong they are academically-just because we won the game. But all of that stuff was going on long before we ever won the championship. It was all part of the process.
It's hard in today's society to keep success in its proper perspective and not base our sense of self-worth on what we do. But if you can get there, it's such a comfort. If we lose a game, we're not losers-that's not who we are. And by the same token, if we win a game, that doesn't make us wonderful people. We achieved our goal, and that has its place, but that success-or any failure-doesn't define us.
The thing we should most enjoy about any endeavor is the road we travel together to get there. I've coached in ten national-championship games, nine as head coach. That's extraordinary. Some people coach their whole lives without making it to the "big game," so I've been very fortunate. Most of the time, at the end of those games-we've won five and lost five-we've experienced a bit of melancholy. You know the group you've just traveled with will never be together again in this same way, and that's a little sad, even if you've won. You're sitting there an hour after all the confetti has fallen; the game is over, and you're looking at someone's empty locker, and you know he's heading to the NFL. A guy across from him is off to graduate school. It's in those times that you see it really isn't about one game. One game is just that-one game.
When we won the final game in 2002, we still needed to work on our academics. We still needed to be involved in the community. There were still sick kids at the hospital who would light up when our players walked into the room to talk with them. Nothing had changed except that we'd won the game.
This perspective translates well to the salesman who didn't make the sale, or to the mom who yelled at her kids and then felt really bad about it. In either case, it was just one incident; it doesn't define who you are.
I guess if I could send a healthy message to anyone who reads this book-whether you're a business owner, you work for a corporation, you're a coach, a player, or a mother of three-it would be that no matter what circumstances are in your past and no matter what obstacles you face in the future, you can win in the game of life. You can succeed as long as you define success as the inner satisfaction and peace of mind that come from knowing you did the best you were capable of doing for the group.
In the next chapter, we'll go into more detail about the difference between your purpose and your goals and how that works in your life. But it's important to know that the journey we're on encompasses the totality of life. We have a family journey, an academic or career journey, and a spiritual journey. With our players, we have a football journey that's closely tied with their health journey. Because success in all aspects of the journey is measured by our inner satisfaction and peace of mind knowing we did the best we could for the group, we want our players to think through what it's going to take to feel successful.
Excerpted from THE WINNERS MANUAL by JIM TRESSEL CHRIS FABRY Copyright © 2008by Jim Tressel.Excerpted by permission.
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