You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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Exhaust Your Options

This is what you have to do when you've got a goal and you hit what seems to be a big roadblock. You're driving along, and the road ends. What do you do? You find another way. Maybe you have to get out of the car and walk through the forest. You're working on a big project, and your computer crashes. So you get out a pen and some paper. You find another way. In just about everything in life that is threatened by a problem, there is usually another option.

Last spring they changed the code to the security gate in front of the Jets' complex. It's this big, menacing-looking gate that Bill Parcells had installed when he was the head coach. Well, they changed the code, but nobody told the current head coach. So I arrive at camp at 4 a.m., like I do every single day of the year, because that's my time to work out, to reflect, to get ready for the day. It's important to me. It sets my mind for the next 12 hours, and it's something that I've done as long as I can remember. So I'm sitting there in my car thinking that the gate will open and I'll drive through and park as usual and go get that workout in. I'm pushing buttons and pushing them again, expecting the gate to slide open. But it doesn't. So I try again. It still won't move. Hmmm, I think, 'Did they fire me already? They didn't even let me get to the season yet.'

So I start thinking, 'How am I going to get inside to get this workout in? I've got to get it in, because if I don't, my day starts out wrong.' So I look up at the top of the gate, and I figure I'll just climb over it. So I go park my car and then I climb the fence.

I was so miffed, I told my players I was boycotting the parking lot for the rest of the season. The bottom line was, I got the workout in, and my day was saved. I found another option. One of my guys said later that Parcells would have found another option, too: drive through the fence.

The same thing happened when I was supposed to meet the commissioner at the combines in Indianapolis after the 2002 season. The commissioner had called and wanted me and some other coaches to come a day early to meet with him. The day before the meeting, it was snowing like crazy in the New York area. Flights were delayed or cancelled, and I said, 'You gotta be kidding me.' The commissioner wanted me there. I'd told him I'd be there. So I grabbed one of our scouts and said, 'Let's go.' 'Where are we going, coach?' he asked. I said, 'We're driving.' We drove 13 straight hours to get there. I said, 'I've got to find a way to get there. I told the commissioner I'd be there, so I've got to see what options I have to do that.' To me it was simple. I said, 'We're driving,' and they said, 'What?' and I said, 'We're driving. Let's go.' I got there, and the commissioner was shocked. But I'd told him I'd be there, and I found an option that would get me there.

Most often, there is another way. It's getting people to think like that that is the challenge. Your daughter goes out with a bunch of kids. You've given her an 11:30 p.m. curfew. But they're a ways from home, and the group decides it wants to go someplace even further away from home. Not wanting to drag the group down and make them take her home, your daughter goes along, breaks her curfew, and scares you half to death.

'I had to go with them; I had no choice,' she pleads.

But actually, she had several choices. She could have called you to come pick her up, or she could have called another friend; she could even have called a taxi. She had options available to her; she just didn't think about them.

There is always a different way of thinking about something, and there is usually a different way to do something. If you can get that lesson across to your daughter, or your employees, or your players, then you've given them a tool for making good decisions. If your daughter had considered other options, she wouldn't have scared you, and she wouldn't have had to spend the next three weekends at home because she broke your rules.

You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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