The adrenaline was still pumping as Roderick White sat down at the press conference table. Winning the Super Bowl was every NFL player’s dream the moment they picked up a football as a child. The flash of the cameras bounced off his face as his huge smile lit up the room. The reporters shouted their questions at him. One question in particular stood out.
“Roderick, it seems like football and winning comes easy to you. Can you comment on that?”
He shook his head back and forth and let out a small chuckle.
“Easy? Let me tell you about my journey to get here sitting in front of you. When I first picked up a football in the fifth grade, I had a very clear vision that one day I would win the Super Bowl. I dreamt about the stadium lights, the ball in my hands, and throwing and running for touchdowns. I imagined what it would be like answering your questions as I am right now. Then, everything changed when I got shot by a stray bullet in the eighth grade. The doctors told me I would be lucky to walk again, but I pushed through the pain and setbacks to prove them wrong.”
“My junior year in high school, I was buried on the depth chart behind two other players. Both got injured and all of a sudden I was the starting quarterback. My dream of winning a Super Bowl was as bright as ever as I played well enough to earn a college scholarship.”
“On the very first snap at my very first college practice, another player rolled up on my leg and I tore my ACL. It took a year of rehab and many sleepless nights to get back to speed, then I found myself the fourth string quarterback behind an All-American starter and two other highly-touted recruits. I didn’t sniff the field for three more years. On top of my coursework, I spent countless nights studying the playbook and preparing as if I was the starter. Then, just before my senior year, I caught a break. The starting quarterback transferred to another school, leaving me as the starter. I only had one season to show my skills to the pro scouts. I was hyper-focused on helping my team win and playing to the best of my abilities.”
“On the night of the NFL draft, I was devastated when my name wasn’t called. I thought my dream was over right then and there. A couple of hours later, the phone rang. It was an assistant coach with the Broncos and they wanted to sign me as an undrafted free agent. There were no guarantees of a roster spot, but it was a sliver of hope and it meant my dream was still alive.”
“I competed well enough to make the practice squad that first year. My position coach left for the Chiefs, but he saw something in me and kept in touch. I was cut by the Broncos before the next season and, once again, I thought the dream was over. One night, my ex-coach called me and said he wanted me to join the Chiefs. Once again, I made the practice squad and did everything I possibly could to earn a roster spot.”
“There were some key injuries and players leaving, and suddenly I was the backup QB. The night before the third game, my mother suddenly passed away. She was my best friend and I was devastated. The next day, the starting QB threw two interceptions and was pulled after the first quarter. I trotted out onto the field as the starting QB. It was absolutely surreal. It was hard to focus and get my mind right. I played terribly and was pulled in the third quarter. At that point, I didn’t know if I would ever get back in a game.”
“Over the season, I battled back and forth with the starter and eventually won the job. The years of pain, suffering, and loss drove me to become a better person, player, and teammate. So if you consider my journey to be easy, then I’m not sure what a difficult journey looks like.”
In his book The School of Greatness, Lewis Howes lays out what it takes to become champion:
- Create a vision. Most great athletes describe their ability to visualize the outcome they desire in a competition. They know what they want and where they want to go. It is as much a part of their process as any aspect of training. As the famed activating coach Lee Strasberg put it, “If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it?” Now, what is your dream?
- Turn adversity into advantage. It’s hard to find the story of someone who has achieved greatness who did not face some sort of significant adversity. When you look more closely, you see that this adversity actually helped them — it put them on the path toward a unique and individual form of greatness. What challenges do you face and how can you use them to develop greatness?
- Cultivate a champion’s mindset. What does it take to become a champion, and how does a champion see the world that she is trying to conquer? Visualization, meditation, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence are tools that help you understand who you are and where you are at any given moment in your life and allow you to find joy and fulfillment in the moment. This is where greatness takes root. How can you view the world through the eyes of a champion?
- Develop hustle. We all face obstacles and seem to have an impossible amount we need to get done. Many get stuck at this wall, but what separates the greats from the rest of us is that they reduce the wall to a barrier and make it into something they can climb over. It’s also important to never stop hustling — even after we’ve accomplished a goal. Where will your hustle and energy come from?
- Master your body. No one chooses the body they’re born with, but almost everyone has the ability to build and maintain their physical assets far beyond what they imagined. It’s all about thinking like a champion, training like a champion, and eating like a champion. Are you taking care of yourself?
- Practice positive habits. How many hours exactly does it take to achieve mastery and greatness? It’s not about a number, but great things will happen if you practice a certain skill over and over again. Building positive habits is a necessity to achieve your desired goals. And having deep belief in something that can support those habits, be it religion or community or family, is a key ingredient in the receipt for greatness. What positive habits can you add to your daily life?
- Build a winning team. You can’t achieve greatness alone, period. Success is a shared process. Finding the right mentor and making the best use of that mentor or coach is a requirement. So is building a team of partners, employees, supporters, and fans.
- Be of service to others. Trophies and rings and fat bank accounts have a surprisingly short shelf life when it comes to greatness. Research has shown that the happiest and most thriving people are those who spend their time giving back, helping others, and participating actively in their communities. In fact, the best gifts are the ones you give; they make your own achievements that much more fulfilling. How are you going to contribute and help others?
While these factors were developed based on championship-level athletes, they apply to anyone who seeks to excel in any area of their life.
What obstacles have you overcome to be successful in your life?