I’ve played sports all my life. As an intensely competitive person, I loved the camaraderie, the strategy, the rules that laid out an understandable path to victory. I figured that I would enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed playing them…but that isn’t the case. In fact, the only thing that makes me happy about starting to see the college games creep onto the schedule is that cute sweaters in team colors are pretty much required.

To keep the waves of boredom at bay during games, I started to try and find the practical applications of the game to…you know, life.

Tip 1: One bad play can go two ways…

I’ve seen entire games go down in flames because a bad play affected the whole mental status of the team. The way a player reacts to a mistake can either invigorate his team to do better, or it can take the whole team down in a melt-down after something as simple as a bad snap. Mistakes happen, and there will come a day when you make one. Knowing how to mitigate the damage (acknowledge, find a solution, fix it as far as possible) will not only keep you from panicing, it will give your team the security to know that a set-back won’t set you off. Talent will get you on the field, but heart wins the game.

Tip 2: Get a good coach, preferably one with a great playbook.

Every successful team is guided by an excellent coach. One that knows when to stick with the plan and when to change the call sheet. It is invaluable to have a mentor that can look at your career or project and help you figure out a strategy you may have never considered. Their experience can help you avoid pitfalls that they may have already gone through, and their knowledge will give you an extra edge to succeed. Several years ago I was trying to decide between two very different job offers (and job paths). Being able to sit down with a former senior collegue who remained a friend and talk through the options helped me not only react to my immediate circumstances, but to identify the long strategy that was best for me and my family.

Tip 3: You aren’t gonna win it alone.

Football isn’t a solo sport. Even the greatest QB depends on the strength of their defense, even the best coach needs a supportive manager and an attentive team. The most insignificant player can have a psychological impact on the team spirit. Same goes in real life. Take time to support your “bench”, and your performance is going to only improve. Identify the unique talents of those around you to help create a dynamic that is not possible on your own.

Tip 4: Not everyone wins.

Our society nurtures the “everyone is a winner” mentality. We give everyone the same trophies/ awards/ certificates. But in reality? Not happening. On the football field, the winning team usually has put in hours of preparation before they even strap on their helmets. They study / research (both themselves and their opponent’s game theory), they plan their strategies and plays, and then they practice executing their plans. Over and over and over. Often success in life requires the same 3 steps; planning, strategy and execution…not just expecting to be handed the prize (whether it’s a trophy or a big project).

And finally,

Tip 5: Sometimes you just have to get on the field and start the game.

Your computer might be on the fritz, your shoes are wet from the rain, and your favorite pen is missing…get out there and start anyway. Football players are known for their “play through it” attitude, and in many applications of life that outlook can start your psychological momentum that will carry you through the brain fog and the general disarray of life. Some days are going to stink…but sometimes just starting a process (with a good, solid playbook) will take you far.

While I may never truly feel the same joy as die-hard college football fans when their team plays, I have learned to appreciate the game, and use its strategies to become more successful.

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