Life Lessons to the Tune of Football: The Corporate Gridiron

Michael BrizendineContributor IOctober 14, 2008

Every Saturday starts the same for me this time of year.  I wake up around 7:00 a.m., I have breakfast with my family, I admire my wife and my daughter, and then I cut on SportsCenter and tell her to take the kid and scram.  It's Game Day!

Before you jump to conclusions, my wife and I have a mutual agreement.  She understands that I work 60-plus hours per week to make a decent living for my family.  She understands the hardships I endure each and every week in pursuit of the mighty dollar.

She also understands that Saturday is the one day of the week that I can tune out the pressures of work, forget about the stress, and just relax.  Although she worries about my blood pressure as I yell obscenities at the television, she understands that this is relaxing to me.

Two weeks ago, while my team of choice (Alabama) was struggling, she complimented me on the purplish-blue hue of the vein that crosses the bridge of my nose.  Whilst I was in the process of subduing myself from hyperventilating, she said something that struck me as simply philosophical: This game seems like too much work to me.

Although I grumbled a few choice words and asked her to refrain from talking to me for the rest of the day, I thought about her statement and came to a conclusion: She's right.

What is the real difference between working hard on the football field and working hard in Corporate America?  After thinking about this for a few minutes, I jotted down my mental notes during a commercial break.

I lost a few key points of my epiphany after resting a cold beer on the page, which blurred the ink.  So if you think the below comparison isn't that great, blame it on my wife for making me destroy my masterpiece by using it as a coaster.

How are great football teams and great companies built?  That's an easy one: with great personnel, of course.  But to go a step further, what makes an employee or athlete great?  Well, talent for one.  Some people are gifted with raw natural talent, and others have to work at it.

Although I do pretty well at my present place of employment, I'm far from the best.  Just as collegiate football programs are faced with a similar situation, Corporate America is chock full of slightly above average employees. 

What's the difference between a great athlete and a mediocre athlete?  There are many variables, but for simplicity's sake, I think one variable far outweighs the rest: drive.

In order to be the best, you have to believe that you can be the best.  This delves much deeper than giving yourself a daily affirmation in the mirror while shaving each morning.  In order to be the best, you have to make it your way of life.

A great football player not only pushes his body to the point of exhaustion, he also becomes a student of the game and fights off complacency.  A great football player knows the playbook and his opponent like the back of his hand.  A great football player has an angle and is prepared for whatever objection his opponent throws his way.

Under any circumstance, a great athlete is prepared on the field of play.

Much like football, the same can be said of a successful businessman.

A successful businessman reviews his agenda each day before work and is planned for success.  A successful businessman pushes his mind to the point of exhaustion by studying his purpose, job function, and his competition.  A great businessman has an angle for every phase of the market and a rebuttal for every objective client.

Under any circumstance, a great businessman is prepared for his market.

If drive is the deciding factor, why then are so many bright and driven minds stuck in mediocrity?  The answer to this question is also simple: lack of talented coaching. 

Many athletes have the ability to be great but are limited by lack of direction and guidance.  What is the biggest difference between Glen Coffee and C.J. Spiller this year?  Again, the answer is simple: guidance and direction.

Glen Coffee has the luxury of having Nick Saban guide his direction and growth, while C.J. Spiller is faced with a question mark atop his coaching hierarchy.

The same comparison can be made between a successful businessman and mediocre businessman.  Many (if not most) of the nation's top Fortune 500 executives will say that they've sought the advice of a mentor throughout their careers.

Although sometimes we think we know everything, surprisingly enough, the best counsel usually comes from those with actual experience in dealing with the problem at hand.  Instead of churning the proverbial tires in the mud, a great businessman will welcome the guidance of someone who has actually prevailed in a similar situation.

The worth of a great coach is measured off the field as much as it is on the field. 

When you alchemize determination, dedication, talent, and great coaching, the product is almost always golden success.  If you can identify each area of your life where all of these variables can be developed and improved upon, then you have the key to your future.

In summation, outside of a crack block coming at your peripheral from a 220-lb. receiver at 4.4 speed, there's not much of a difference between the fundamentals of becoming a great athlete and becoming a great businessman.

If you have the talent, the drive, and the right coaching, I truly think that there's an executive corner office somewhere with your name on it—if that's your calling.

So tomorrow morning, put on your JoS. A. Bank uniform, your Kenneth Cole cleats, and walk out onto the playing field knowing that you're prepared for whatever the day may throw at you.

Walk into your office with confidence, knowing that you're going to win today's game because you want it more than your competitors or the guy sitting next to you.

Start your day like an athlete and settle for nothing less than a perfect season.

I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude. The coaches must have it. The players must have it. The student body must have it. If you have dedicated players who believe in themselves, you don't need a lot of talent. – Paul "Bear" Bryant