The previous weekend’s NFC Championship game featured a tremendous and sometimes unexplainable victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers. It was truly one that Seattle barely won and it was shown by the post-game reaction of the team. This was a game that the Packers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
I began following the Packers when I was completing my graduate work in Wisconsin. That makes the loss even more disheartening to me as I sat in stunned disbelief on Sunday. I even have friends who were distraught for days after the horrible game. But as the week is wearing on, I am realizing there are lessons to be learned from the game that apply to life and leadership.
Don’t compromise on the overall objective. The objective of the game is to win and not just to win but to dominate, to impose your will on your opponent. As the Packers built up a lead in the first half and as the Seahawks struggled, the objective for the game was compromised from winning the game, to not losing the game. The objective change was shown late in the game when only an additional first down or two would have ended Seattle’s hopes. Once you have a solid objective for your organization, compromise should not be a possibility. When Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico in 1519, after a series of impassioned speeches on the shore, he commanded that the boats be burned. Now the Spaniards had no choice but to be conquer Mexico or to die. This provided the motivation to succeed.
Winning requires great courage. Early in the game, the Packers had a 4th and goal on with only one foot to go for a touchdown. At that point no one had scored and the Packers elected to kick a field goal rather than go for a touchdown. A little later, the Packers had another 4th and goal on the 2 yard line. Again, another field goal. The choice of two field goals compared to two touchdowns cost the Pack 8 points and set the tone that there was a bit of fear for the other team. Tacitus the Roman Historian said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Babe Ruth put it best when he said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” Any time we rise above mediocrity, we will have to take a great risk.
Don’t let off when you see the finish line. Too many of us tend to start great on a job or a project, only to peter out in the end. Often when the finish line is in sight, there is a tendency among some to ease up and trot to victory. The finish line should be motivation to sprint harder and to not ease up. It requires us to be persistent. Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will solve all the problems of the human race.”
Look realistically at the obstacles in front of you. I was watching the game with a rabid Seahawks fan who was completely depressed after the Pack took a 16-0 lead into halftime. When the Pack came out in the second half, they seemed to play as if they had a lead and not continue to press as they had before the half. Some may say that they underestimated their opponent at that time. Early in the game when the respected the vaunted Seattle D to the point of choosing field goals, they may have overestimated them. Good leadership requires the vision and ability to gaze at the items in front of you and adequately size them up.
So, as we enter the end of another football season and look at the new hope for the off-season, it is often good to see the lessons that can apply to life from sports and have great hope for next year. It is that passionate hope that can keep us pressing forward into the future. But to ignore the lessons before us today can be to our detriment.