So first it was Spygate and now Deflategate. What is going to happen next? I mean really Bill Belichick. You have what could be said the best quarterback in NFL history in Brady and you deflate footballs to get to the Super Bowl? How embarrassing! That’s something my 9 year old would do. Shame on you. And Tom, you’re married to Giselle. Does she know that you’re in the game of shrinking your balls? You’re both teaching our youth that you have to cheat to get ahead. Is that really what you want your legacies to be? It’s as bad as cheating on your spouses, or telling your kids its cool to cheat on the SATs.
I am, however, a huge sports fan and a big believer that pro athletes can be role models in business. With all of the controversy of late my beliefs might sound ridiculous. But when you think about it, there are tons of athletes that have used their talents to build their own personal brands and the teams that they have worked for. They indeed can be good examples of strong businessmen and woman.
But I’m not totally delusional. I know that with the good comes the down right bad and ugly. There are many that taught us exactly how NOT to behave in business like Ray Rice, Terrell Owens, Mike Tyson, and Pete Rose. And don’t even get me started on Lance Armstrong—what a fall from glory to a total disappointment that lost everything, including his respect. If I were Oprah, I would have punched him in the face during the interview. Livestrong, save it Lance!
But let’s focus on the notables before I digress. Here’s a small list of the valuable players:
Most Likely to be a Gunslinger.
Let’s talk Brett Favre—my all time favorite. I call him my Gun Rack. If he drove up to my house right now, in his pick up truck, with his dog Charlie in the front seat, I would leave it all and jump right in for a ride back to Mississippi.
But seriously speaking, Brett Favre did teach us some very important lessons, respectable and regretful, that we can apply to our careers. Let’s be honest, the man had a really horrible start. If I’m not mistaken, he played his rookie year with the Atlanta Falcons and never completed a pass. And then he was traded to the Packers.
Once he donned the green and yellow jersey he turned his career around in Green Bay. In his fifth season with the Packers he won his first Super Bowl. Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 70,000 yards; exceed 6,000 completions, make over 10,000 pass attempts, and still have the most wins as a starting QB. The MVP played 20 seasons in the NFL—which on its own is extraordinary. And towards the end of his long career, he was one interception away from taking the Vikings to the “show.”
He’s considered a legend but perhaps he’s most well known for his career mishaps. He still leads the league in interceptions, and yes, its 59 more than anyone else in NFL history. He’s retired more times than we’ve watched him cry on national TV. He’s said to have left the Packers in bad standing and without mentoring his now lauded backup QB Aaron Rodgers.
I think Vince Lombardi said it best: “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”
What can we learn from Favre?
Commitment—It could reasonably be said that he’s the ultimate company man. He played 16 seasons with the Packers. I mean come on, he was chastised for jumping jobs after his stent at Green Bay, but how many of us stay at a job for some 16 years? He studied, not only his team, but his competitors in great detail. That is what made him great. He spent his time, on and off the field, committed to his practice. He was uber prepared.
Longevity—The man has been knocked down and has picked himself up a million times. I’m sure there were Monday mornings when he wanted to pack it in and quit. But he served as the consistent leader of that locker room for a long time. Brett said it best, “Every game I’ve ever played, regardless if it was pre-season or Super Bowl, meant the same to me, and I laid it all on the line.” He never quit, he never gave up. He was born a winner.
Decisiveness—He made decisions. Quick decisions, off the cuff. He’s the guy you want next to you in a conference room full of executives when you’re put on the spot and need to make the call. A decisive person can lay down the gauntlet, believe in the decision, and make a plan to move forward and execute. Favre was a decision maker.
Most Valuable Team Players.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won three Olympic gold medals in beach volleyball. No other beach pair, men or women, has won two golds since the sport was introduced into the Olympics in 1996. In fact, no woman has ever won three Olympic beach volleyball medals of any kind. They have been called the greatest beach volleyball team of all time. In 2004, they won their first Gold and did so by not losing a single set. After first and second round wins in their final games together, they continued their Olympic win streak of 32 consecutive sets without a loss until losing the first set of three to Austria in a preliminary round before ultimately winning the match. They both married and had children during their time together on the sand and through all of that, stayed strong partners. Although Misty has since retired, Kerri says that she misses her partner everyday.
May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings are an example of teammates that knew each other so well, with each and every move, that they won every match they’ve ever played at the Summer Games and lost just one of 43 sets.
What can we learn from these women that we can take with us into the conference room?
Know your partner—The better you know your partner(s) the easier your job will be. Working with one teammate or with a large group can be difficult, but when you get in a groove with your crew, you not only get more done, you generate more powerful ideas. And those ideas lead to successful and sometimes award-winning projects.
Play to win—It’s highly unlikely that May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings won so many matches without having the true desire to win. And although perfection isn’t possible, the drive to win provides impetus. Winners respect their teammates. They honor their companies by showing up, ready to perform, day after day. Playing or working for a winning team is important, because it provides career satisfaction and a ton of job security. If winners do not surround you now, then figure out how to change your scenery to become part of something greater.
Most Likely to Succeed at a Young Age.
Shaun White has completely dominated the world of snowboarding for the last 10 years. He took home every major half-pipe contest before the age of 20. He won Olympic Gold and has won nearly every X-Game medal available, multiple times over. And he’s still innovating with new tricks that no one else can do. Shaun said, “You know the best thing about competition? There’s this whole strategy game, and when it all works out it’s like solving that hard math equation. You finally get the answer and you’re so happy.”
In terms of progression, no one has pushed their sports harder or further than Shaun. He goes bigger, and he goes higher, and there’s not a single snowboard rider in history that can match his competitive achievements. And he’s good at more than just snowboarding. He’s medaled in X-Games skateboarding as well. In terms of being a brand ambassador, Shaun is loved all over the world and has put snowboarding and skateboarding on the map and taken it to levels that even Tony Hawk could never have dreamed. And Tony Hawk loves him too. He also used his skills to build a huge brand for himself, The White Collection for Burton Snowboards and Target.
Shaun White has taught us that you can be really young and still become really successful. He pushed it as early as the age of 4 and never stopped. He learned to be a good businessman very early on and is reaping the benefits now. He also taught us that we don’t have to be singularly focused. As long as we’re able to master a skill, we can probably foster other talents and still be successful at both. Success at all levels is why so many, have so much reverence for Shaun White.
Our respect for athletes has waned over the years. I guess its because we see that sports figures are recognized more as celebrities like Hollywood stars, valued for the entertainment they provide. But many of us still hold these athletes to a higher standard of conduct. And I don’t mean to say that any of the aforementioned athletes haven’t made some bad conduct choices (Favre and his texts – ah hem), but what I can say is that there are lessons to be learned. Minus the scandals, the tabloid fodder, we do have examples that we can take to with us to work. Exemplars that can give us confidence, some direction, and spirit for greatness in our careers.