You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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Third Quarter-Finding an Edge

Try not to become a man of success; rather become a man of value.

-Albert Einstein

Now you're on the threshold of seizing the game. You're playing great, you've made your adjustments, and now it's time to find something extra to get yourself over the hump. Maybe it's a trick play here or there, or maybe it's just being smarter than the other guy. Sometimes it's not letting problems overwhelm you by-being proactive and remembering what has made you successful so far. The third quarter is important in that you're gathering everything you can for that final push to victory.

When You See Opportunity, Seize It

I think my greatest accomplishment in football was making the Eagles my first year as a free agent. I ended up starting for 10 years, and I never missed a game or a practice. I showed up at work every day, and everything else came about as a result of that. Nobody took a chance on drafting me, but I got my foot in the door through free agency, and I wasn't about to let that door shut in my face. I seized the opportunity that was given to me.

You never really know when opportunity is going to present itself. So you've got to be prepared when it arrives. The Eagles took a chance on signing me, and I wasn't going to let anything keep me from reaching my goal of making that team. I worked out harder than ever before; I studied game film; I spoke with other players on that team. I arrived at camp in the best shape I'd ever been in with the attitude that I would not fail. And I didn't.

If you could look at everything that comes up in your life as though you were seeing it for the first time or the last time, you would be very excited about that opportunity. That's how I look at every day when I head into work: I think about it as my first day of coaching. It could well be my last, too. I'm fully aware of that. But because I never know what's going to happen, it never seems routine. I know I need to take advantage of whatever opportunity arises during the day, even if it's something as small as a chance to have a conversation with a player I don't know as well as some of the others, or to get an extra half-hour of a workout in because a meeting got postponed. Then I have accomplished something by looking at the situation as an opportunity and deciding not to waste it.

It also means recognizing when there is an opportunity that you may not want to take, but that is something you know you should take in order to better yourself and help you accomplish your goals. A young man I know was invited to enroll in a college honors economics program his senior year. Since it was his senior year and he was ready to get on with life, he at first said no. His first three years had gone fairly well-economics had come easy to him, and he wasn't sure he wanted to work that hard. He knew how difficult the program's workload was, especially the final senior thesis. He said he wasn't looking to be challenged until they invited him. Finally, he decided that the challenge would be good; it would be a chance to learn even more about a topic he loved and would put him in a different position in life having an honors economics degree. He took the class, embraced the challenge, and ended up graduating summa cum laude.

He hasn't put the degree to use yet-he ended up going from college to an unpaid internship in the film business. But he's not sorry he took the course. He knows he can always work in that business if he changes his mind, and by taking the course, he learned how to write and he learned that he likes to be challenged. He took advantage of an opportunity that taught him those valuable lessons.

That doesn't mean you should jump at every opportunity that arises. It's important to evaluate an opportunity and decide whether it's something that feels right for you. Before I took the Jets job, I had several opportunities to take coordinator positions with other teams. But these situations, for a variety of reasons, weren't right for me at the time. When the Jets job opened up, I was called for an interview, and I had several other interviews lined up around the league, including Detroit and Houston. I went up to New York first because I had a really good feeling about what was going on with the team. Bill Parcells had set up the team well, and his successor, Al Groh, had decided he was a better fit in the college game and left to coach Virginia. So the Jets were on the hunt. I knew Terry Bradway from my days with the Chiefs, and when he became the GM I started feeling even better about the situation.

They called me in for an interview with Terry and the owner, Woody Johnson. I flew into New York Sunday night, and on Monday, armed with a thick notebook containing my ideas and philosophies about the game, I spent seven hours laying out my plan to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl. When it was over, I was exhausted but exhilarated. I felt as if we had connected. The chemistry was there. The question was, would they take the chance? I flew back to Tampa and told Lia, 'I think this thing's going to happen with the Jets. I think I got the job.'

Two days after the interview, they called me and offered me the job. I knew the opportunity was right, the timing was right, and besides, they had enough faith in me to offer me the job. Who was I to turn them down? I cancelled all my other interviews, and Lia and I flew to New York to meet the media. I knew it was an opportunity that might not present itself again, and I was jumping in with both feet.

I tell my players that God gives everyone four cards and you can play them any way you want, and, oh yeah, God doesn't deal bad hands. So at the end of the day, if you didn't play them right, it's your fault.

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