Oswald Letter

Super Lessons from the Super Bowl

As I sat and watched my Green Bay Packers hold on for a victory in Sunday night’s Super Bowl, I was reminded how athletic competition provides great lessons for life and business. Whether it’s an individual sport like golf or a team sport such as football, athletics provides countless opportunities to learn life’s lessons. It struck me again, as I watched the game, how true this actually is.

In athletics, as in life, to be successful one must be able to overcome adversity. Whether it was Pittsburgh’s three turnovers or injuries to key Green Bay players, it was apparent that adversity is a part of almost every athletic endeavor. The ability to overcome those difficulties is often the key to success. Changes in tactics and strategy become necessary. The competitor who can adjust most effectively is often the one who prevails. But if  you crumble and quit when faced with adversity, you’re doomed to fail.

Football is like life — it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority. — Vince Lombardi

In team sports, roles often change in an instant. In Sunday night’s game, Charles Woodson, Green Bay’s Pro Bowl cornerback, played at least three different roles. He started in his usual spot, but when a teammate went down with an injury, Woodson had to adjust and fill the vacated position. Then he broke his collarbone. In a single moment, he was reduced from star contributor to cheerleader. Or was he? Woodson had a choice to make. He could either become an observer or learn how to contribute in another way. In Woodson’s case, he chose to use his 13 years of experience to counsel his replacement. He provided words of wisdom and advice. That approach allowed him to contribute to his team’s success, albeit without stepping back onto the field. Being flexible and adaptable pays off for the individual and for the team. That’s what teamwork is all about.

Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.  — Vince Lombardi

Preparation is critical. It’s amazing how many hours today’s coaches and players practice and study game film to prepare for a three-hour football game. Anyone who plays sports, whether as part of a team or as an individual, will tell you that practice is crucial for success. It’s the time spent on the putting green, in the gym, or on the practice field that plays a big role in the results of the competition. That’s a great lesson for all of us in life. We can’t just walk out to play the game and expect to be successful. It’s the hard work and preparation before the competition that lead to success.

Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.  — Vince Lombardi

Perseverance is also a key to success in sports and in business. Sunday night’s game demonstrated that. The Steelers fell behind early but never quit. They kept playing hard, believing that they would win, and had all the momentum in the third quarter. Then they pulled within a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Packers, having led by as many as 18 points, seemed to be on the verge of losing the game. But somehow they made the big plays when they absolutely needed to. They persevered. It’s not always easy. Things don’t always appear rosy. It’s what you do in those moments that makes the difference between winning and losing.

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.  — Vince Lombardi

Another lesson in sports is that there is only one winner. There was one Lombardi Trophy, and it was awarded to the Packers. The Steelers went home empty-handed. In youth sports today, there’s often the “everyone’s a winner” mentality with every player taking home a trophy. Life isn’t that way. I was at a parenting seminar the other night when the speaker said that making sure your teenage children get a job is important. Not necessarily news. But what he said next struck me:  It’s where they learn that “not everyone gets a trophy.” You don’t get rewarded just for participating.  You get evaluated and recognized for your contributions. Being better than those around you is something that is commended.

Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing — the result.  — Vince Lombardi

Valuable life and business lessons can be learned from athletic competition. In Sunday night’s Super Bowl, many of those lessons were on display. We should all take those lessons and apply them to our work.