7 Leadership Lessons from the 2017 NCAA National Championship

I hope you had the chance to watch at least part of the great football game last night between Alabama and Clemson. It turned out to be one of the best college footballs I’ve seen, and exactly what a National Championship game should look like.

As I watched the game, I was struck by the amount of leadership lessons we can learn from one simple game of football. Below I share seven pieces of advice I gleaned as I watched the game. I hope they can be an encouragement and challenge to you today.

1. The little things make all the difference. 

In football, inches matter. The smallest amount of distance make some of the biggest differences in the game. Whether it’s getting a first down, a touchdown, a player dodging slightly to the side and getting extra yards, inches matter.

The same thing is true in life. Little things make a big difference. Daily faithfulness, daily discipline, is what will lead to big differences in the future. Do today what will take you to where you want to be tomorrow.

2. Discipline (or lack of) is revealed under pressure.

This game is the biggest stage in college football. Alabama and Clemson made it through the entire regular season, the playoff games, and reached the National Championship two years in a row.

What was obvious in the game is that each team was well-coached. A disciplined team will defeat an undisciplined team every time. This is because the undisciplined team will beat itself. When under the pressure of this kind of game, the disciple or lack of discipline, becomes obvious. Both teams had incredible discipline.

What daily discipline do you need to start this year in 2017? Your daily disciplines can be the difference between success and failure.

3. Adjustments are essential to success.

When you come into a football game, the team that makes the best adjustments will be the team who comes out on top. This year, that team was Clemson. They executed plays with great discipline, kept calm, and made the right adjustments on defense and offense to come out on top.

Adjustments are a necessary part of life. When things don’t work, we can’t give up, but we push on, making adjustments and growing in understanding. Making the right adjustments at the right time is key.

4. It’s not over until it’s over.

It looked like Alabama had this won. From the beginning they dominated the game. Until the fourth quarter. Clemson started to come back and the momentum shifted. BUT, just as it looked like Clemson was going to win, Alabama scored with very little time on the clock to go ahead in the game. Clemson determined the game was not over because they scored. They kept pushing, kept playing, and eventually made the right plays to get in the endzone and finish the game in regulation as the winners of the 2017 National Championship.

Whatever situation you’re in (life, business, relationships), it’s not over until it’s over. Broken relationships can be healed. Healthy relationships can be cultivated. New opportunities can be leveraged. Old habits can be forgotten and new habits begun. It’s not over until it’s over.

5. Sometimes you need a break

There are players from the bench, who didn’t start the game, that made huge differences in the outcome. As starters got tired or injured, their replacement from the bench came in and had a job to do.

We must keep in mind that we are not the Energizer bunny. We need a break. We need to allow someone else to take ownership at times so we can have a day off. Healthy leaders realize it is necessary to take a break now and then. It keeps you fresh and focused.

6. Winners take risks

The final drive of the game, as Deshaun Watson is slinging passes, Clemson is taking a risk. They could have played it safe and gone after a field goal to tie the game instead of a touchdown to win it. But they kept passing! There was a risk of interception, a risk of time running out, but they kept pushing and taking the risk. It definitely paid off!

Risks don’t always work out, which is what makes them risky. But winners know that it is hard to win long term without taking risks. Some risks are not worth taking, while others must be taken to move forward. Risk is a part of life and we must embrace it.

7. Leaders are resilient

Both teams were resilient until the very end. Clemson kept in the fight even after fumbling the ball multiple times. Alabama lost the lead, gave up the ball, but didn’t give up. They scored to get the lead back and never lost sight that the game is 60 minutes, not a second more or less.

No matter what set backs we face, what obstacles loom large in front, we must be resilient if we want to succeed. Push forward. Don’t let discouragement gain control. Push forward. Be resilient.


Life Lessons from “Creed” (Part 1)

Last week I went to see the movie “Creed.” If you haven’t seen it yet, you should probably stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. It’s the latest movie in the “Rocky” franchise, and it is another great addition. It is better than Rocky IV or V for sure. Whether you enjoy boxing or not, the principles in this movie, the hard work and dedication, are inspirational. Growing up, if I ever needed inspiration or encouragement to go workout or get hyped before a game or something, listening to the “Rocky” soundtrack was always a good option. “Eye of the Tiger” is a great song! Even listening to some of the motivational speeches from the movies on YouTube will change your life in a positive way.
Over the course of the next few blogs I post, I want to share some quality quotes from the movie that I pray will bring encouragement and hope to your life, as well as challenging you to grow and move forward in the right direction. That is a great passion of mine, and something I desire in myself and those I am able to impact. I want us to grow and not stay still. I want us to move forward and not backward or side to side. I want to see action plans and goal setting and a singular focus on pursuing Christ as we go through life. That is a large part of the reason why I blog.
Here is the first quote from “Creed”:
“You can’t learn anything talking. You know that? It’s a fact of life.”
Rocky is giving this advice to the young Adonis Creed who keeps talking and mouthing off and talking big to the other boxes and coaches around him. Rocky reminds him that he can’t learn by talking. He needs to stop, be quiet, and receive wisdom and instruction. Ultimately that is his only hope in succeeding is to stop talking and listen to those who have been there, who have the experience, and who know what they are talking about.
I’m not sure where you are at in life, but you can constantly learn from those around you. Access to books, blogs, podcasts, and all sorts of information is at an all-time high. There is no reason not to learn. And, as John Maxwell wisely proclaims, leaders are learners.
What can you do to learn? Take the time to slow down, turn off the music, stop talking, and start listening. After all, as many of us have heard before, God gave us one mouth but two ears, so we should listen (at least) twice as often as we speak. This is a good principle for learning and growing in any area we want to. The Bible says in James 1:19 that we should be “…quick to hear, slow to speak…”
listenIf it is at work with a new program or assignment, take the time to ask questions, and then listen. If it is spiritual growth you desire, take the time to sit and listen; listen to the Word, listen to a preacher; listen to God in prayer instead of just talking at Him. If it is personal growth, take the time to find a mentor and ask good questions so you can sit back and glean wisdom as you listen.
The unspoken warning behind this is to be careful who you are listening to. Rocky was advising Creed to listen to the best in the business, those who had a proven track record and knew what they were talking about. This is a great place to start.
This is a powerful principle for all of us. Today, take the time to sit back and listen. Don’t do all the talking and don’t allow distractions to get in the way of actively listening.
Take the time to listen. It really can only benefit your life.

What’s your excuse?

There always seem to be an excuse to not do something.

I should take the dog for a walk… but she’s been running around crazy with that stupid rope getting enough exercise, and I have too much to do here at home. She’ll be okay for another day. (and repeat this every day of the week until the weekend…then finally take her out and wonder why she’s getting a little fatter).

I should workout… but it’s been a long day, and I’d have to change and drive to the gym and then who will make dinner or do the dishes or mow the lawn or rake the leaves? Ah, I don’t have time to workout, I’ll just get to it tomorrow.

I should eat healthy… but it’s so expensive and time consuming. Maybe I can make that my new years resolution. Until then, I’ll just not east fast food today and call it good….

Have you ever used these excuses? Or been more creative in the excuses you’ve used to get yourself out of things?

What’s your favorite excuse?

Start NowWhat if we stopped making excuses and instead simply started doing the things we should do? What if we actually started working out a couple (or a few) times a week? What if we actually changed our diet and ate healthy?
Imagine your future. Imagine where you want to be. What will it take to get you there? Why not start doing that today?

I dare you to try it. Let me know how it goes!

The blessing of work

We are created to work. God created Adam & Eve and put them to work before the Fall of Man. Before sin entered the world, work had entered the world. It is a good thing for us to work.

Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

So Adam and Eve are called to bear children, to fill the earth, to subdue the earth and to take dominion, or rule, over everything on the earth. This is work. It takes work to subdue and rule. It takes work to do all of these things.

So why do we sometimes view work with such a negative attitude? Conversations happen almost daily about how tired or busy or stressed we are because of work or home life or school or a sport. Does it have to be a negative thing? Or can we transform our attitude to view work as a good thing? In fact, could we even go so far as to view work as a blessing from God?

That is the challenge and the encouragement today. Transform your view of your work, and take this verse and apply it to your life:

Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Wherever you are today, whatever your job, do it with the right attitude. It will change the way you do your job! Let’s do this together today!

What are you leaving behind?

Reputation. Family name. Legacy.

There is one thing that we all have in common. No matter what your age, race, socioeconomic status, living situation, family situation, country of residence, job, we will all die. Death has even been called “the great equalizer.” When we go, we will be leaving something behind. What is it that you will be leaving behind? What kind of legacy will your life leave? When your name comes up in conversation, what kind of reputation will you have left?

These are all good questions, and sometimes very difficult to answer. We all know we are often not in the exact place we want to be. We all have more to learn and have room to grow.

There is one person who lived who left behind one of the greatest reputations and one of the greatest legacies ever recorded: Jesus Christ. He didn’t accidentally leave behind a legacy or reputation; He very purposely lived His life and John 14:27 even records that He chose what He was going to leave behind. He left behind more than just this one thing, but to His disciples, here is what Jesus said He was going to leave:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jesus is getting ready to be taken away from His disciples to be delivered over to be crucified. But, before He leaves them, He encourages them.

The disciples don’t have to be afraid when Jesus leaves this earth because of what He is leaving behind. He doesn’t leave behind money or fame or high social standing. Jesus Christ leaves behind peace. This may not be an external peace, because the disciples experienced a lot of turmoil and crazy harsh circumstances after this point, but I think Jesus is talking here about an internal peace.

121031_Philippians4_7A peace that, no matter the circumstance, no matter the hardship, no matter the struggle, no matter the pain, no matter the confusion, can bring joy and comfort. A peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) that then guards our hearts and our minds so that we can relentlessly pursue Jesus Christ and stay faithful to Him.

Jesus left behind quite the legacy. We are still talking about Him, falling in love with and following after Him thousands of years after His life, death, and resurrection. It is in the legacy of Jesus Christ that we can live fearlessly victorious over the power of sin, death, and hell and live a life of joyfully abiding in Jesus Christ (John 15).

Don’t be afraid of what you may or may not leave behind. Live in the truth of what Jesus left behind for those who follow Him.

3 things I learned from a personal trainer

Last Friday I was able to witness a personal trainer in front of a large group of student athletes give training and instruction, and basically run these students into the ground. Throughout the course of the two hour long workout, the trainer said some inspirational things. Three specific things stuck out to me that I wanted to share with everyone:

1. Give 100% every single time. f5413f56dad093593d05fa0edc2febc3

Okay, the personal trainer actually said to give 110% every single time, but you can’t give more than you have, can you? So we will stick with 100%. Give it all you’ve got every single time! He said this during a jumping drill. The athletes would be working on squats and jumping for the entire 2 hour session. During this portion of the workout, the trainer had already taught them the form of how to jump properly, and now was having them practice it. He had every athlete line up on the base line of the basketball court and jump out five jumps. Then, he asked all of them to turn around where they were. He told them they now had five jumps to get back past the base line. He threatened (or motivated?) them by saying they wouldn’t want to find out what would happen if even one of them didn’t make it back across. You can bet they all jumped with all they had and everyone got back across the line! After they all made it back across, he talked to them about how they should give that kind of effort every single play, even without the motivation or threat of not making it. They should be able to internally motivate themselves like he had externally motivated them, every single play.

2. Even if you’re the last one, own the drill as yours

This was more of a reprimand than an inspirational quote, but I think it suffices. There were a couple athletes who were the last ones through the drill, and they were obviously just going through the drill as fast as possible with the purpose of just completing the drill, not learning what the drill was trying to teach. The personal trainer commented on this and basically said that if you’re not going to do the drill right and for the purpose of learning what the drill is trying to teach, then you’re wasting your time. Even if you are the last one through, the last one finishing up, own the drill. Own whatever it is you are doing and take pride in your work. Do it with excellence.

3. Your team is only as good as you are

At the end of the workout, when everyone is dragging and exhausted, they still had more work to do. As the athletes are lunging across the length of the gym, stopping every so often to do squats and other leg-killing exercises, the trainer reminds them why they shouldn’t give up when they are exhausted and everything inside of them is screaming to give up: “Your team is only as good as you are.”5 When the going gets tough, your team needs you and you need your team. Every player is vital to the success of a team, whether they realize it or not. Because you are vital to your “team,” make sure you give it your all (even, especially, when you don’t want to) and that you do things with excellence (even if it would be faster to take the easier way out).

If we could take these three principles and apply them to marriages, to jobs, to schoolwork, to sports teams, to our faith in Jesus Christ, I think we would change the world. There would be fewer broken homes, happier work environments, better educations, and more genuine followers of Jesus Christ representing His love and grace and mercy on this earth.

Louis Upkins Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Louis Upkins took the stage as the author of Treat Me Like a Customer. He has worked with many well-known stars, from Whitney Houston to Oprah.

Leadership Principles from Louis Upkins:

  1. It takes courage to lead differently. It takes courage to sit down and listen.
  2. COURAGE is something EVERYONE needs.
  3. How is the family?
    • This is an important question about what really matters, but isn’t asked enough and is usually answered with surface level activities.
  4. How can you add value to your family?
    • We can set up mission statements for our family


Question asked in a video from Centier Bank:

  1. What do you appreciate most about leaders? The responses:
    • Example
    • Passion
    • Character
    • Coaching
    • Lift people up
    • Clarity
    • Give opportunity
    • Learn
    • Let others leader
    • Authenticity
    • Courage
    • Honesty
    • Focus
    • Encourage
    • Communication
    • Failure is an option
    • Open
    • Personal
    • Caring
    • Present
    • Invested
    • Humble
    • Safety
    • Real
    • Challenging

Invest in your people and get out of the way. Give people the opportunity to lead, fail, get back up and lead.

Tommy Newberry Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

Tommy Newberry is a leader and author of multiple books. He wrote books such as The 4:8 PrincipleI Call Shotgun, and Success is Not An Accident.


Leadership Principles from Tommy Newberry:

  1. We all want things, but we have to get up and go get it. Only the magnificent minority get up and go get what they want.
  2. Our best decisions and our worst decisions all started with a thought…all future decisions will too.
  3. Think 4:8
    • What are you thinking? Look ahead at your thought life.
      • We often think more about what we don’t want than about what we do want.
      • The average person thinks 50,000 thoughts per day (the vast majority are repeats from yesterday)
      • We want to change, but we want to stay the same. We want to change but we aren’t willing to change the way we think.
      • We have to line up our thinking with our hopes and goals and dreams. Every thought is a seed. Random negative thoughts won’t yield much, but consistently bad, negative thinking is of great concern.
    • Every moment is a new beginning for us to begin thinking in a new way.
    • Our emotions allow us to feel what we’ve been thinking about, giving us the opportunity to reevaluate what we’ve been thinking and dwelling on.
    • We feel what we dwell upon (if you feel rotten, what have you been thinking about?)
    • We soak up our surroundings
      • It’s so hard to pull someone up to your level
      • It’s so easy to be pulled down by the negative people around you
        • The one who is negative and cynical always has the leverage on you
  4. Think Huge
    • Think beyond where you are, who you are, what you’re doing, etc.
    • Where do you want to go?
      • Using today we can shape tomorrow
      • What are you shooting for?
        • There should be an urgency here
        • Be concerned with your future because you will live all of your life there
    • In life there are a bunch of options, like in the grocery story. At the end of your life you will have a cart full of stuff. If you don’t have goals (a shopping list) you will end up with things you didn’t want in your cart.
    • Like with a GPS if you don’t get moving, you won’t get any instructions (a.k.a. You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving)
      • If in doubt, take action!
    • SDIMJWT — develop goals on this
      • Some Day I Just Might Want To
        • (develop this with a team or in a marriage and make it Some Day We…)
    • Be intentional
  5. Tomorrow Changes Today
    • If you want tomorrow to be different, today must be different.
    • Your decisions determine your direction which determines your destination.
    • Ask yourself: What’s been working, what has not been working, and what am I going to change?

John Maxwell Leadership Notes from #LeadMichiana

I had the opportunity this weekend to attend the Lead Michiana conference in South Bend, IN. This event was put on by Justin Maust in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the City of South Bend. The following will be some of my notes from the John Maxwell segment of the conference.

Leadership Principles from John Maxwell:

  1. “If you will spend one hour a day on the same subjective for five years, you will be an expert on that subject” – Earl Nightingale
  2. The better the leaders are in your organization, the better your organization’s chance for growth
    • Leaders develop daily, not in a single day. As leaders in an organization, we need to spend our resources (time, money, etc.) on improving our leaders.
    • The people in our organizations are the most appreciable resource we have, but we have to train and equip them.
    • There is no room to “microwave” leaders; we must “crockpot” them.
  3. 5 Levels of Leadership:
    1. Position — as a level one leader, people follow you because they have to
      • 80% of leaders stay in this level
      • Being a level one leader does not make you a leader. A person may have a position, but the position doesn’t make you a leader.
    2. Permission — as a level two leader, people follow you because they want to
      • Followers of level two leaders give a significant amount more of energy to the organization because they have a relationship with the leader and want to be there.
      • In order to be a great leader you have to connect with people.
      • If you are going to lead, you have to listen (listen, then learn, then lead).
      • Most leaders lead by assumption, assuming they know where their people are, what they are passionate about, where they are going, etc. Leaders need to walk slowly “through the crowd” in order to know their people.
      • Level two leaders are servants.
      • True leaders don’t need to be introduced.
      • There are three questions followers ask their leaders (leaders should ask themselves these same three questions):
        1. Do you care for me? (Do I care about others?)
        2. Can you help me? (Can I help them?)
        3. Can I trust you? (Am I trustworthy?)
    3. Production — as a level three leader, people follow you because of what you have done for the organization
      • This level is where you really get the credibility to lead. People want to follow successful people.
      • Leaders cannot send people where they have not gone. As leaders we have to be tour guides instead of travel agents.
      • You reproduce what you are, not what you want.
      • Level three leaders lead by example.
      • You attract who you are, not who you want. The better producer you are, the better people you attract (on a scale of 1 to 10, if you are a 5, you will not attract levels 6-10).
    4. People Development — as a level four leader, people follow you because of what you have done for them personally
      • Level four leaders are good recruiters.
      • You can only raise a person’s skill level one or two levels, so recruitment is essential. If someone comes in with a skill level of three, then you will most likely only be able to raise their skill level to a four, or at most a five.
        • Recruit with care. Don’t hire the wrong person for the job.
      • After recruiting, you must train and equip your leaders
      • Five steps to equip people well:
        1. I do it.
        2. I do it and you are with me.
        3. You do it and I am with you.
        4. You do it (and I hope you are better than I am!)
        5. You do it and somebody is with you (you’ve never equipped someone until they equip others).
    5. Pinnacle — as a level five leader, people follow you because of who you are and what you represent
      • When you do levels two, three, and four well, for a long time, level five happens naturally as a result

I hope these notes help you grow as a leader! I know there are some challenging concepts in here. Work your way through them, take the time to do them well, and strive to always improve as a leader.