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By Lou Holtz
From the first time that you left your own backyard or went to school, you soon discovered that some other people may be bigger, faster, stronger, quicker and smarter. You also discovered that not everyone thought you were special like your grandparents did. If success was acquired by talent only, you could ascertain at an early age who would be the stars of tomorrow. This is not possible because of the life skills one must or should acquire. Notice, I said acquire which means everyone can achieve these skills.
Just as there are 10 Commandments, I believe there are a minimum of 10 Life Skills that are critical to one’s success and happiness. Time and space will not allow me to elaborate on them as much as I would like, but I feel I would be doing you a disservice if I don’t cover them briefly. These are not necessarily listed in any order of preference.
What you are capable of doing is determined by the amount of talent that God gave you. What you actually attempt to do is determined by your motivation, but how well you do something is determined by your attitude. Attitude is a choice you make. God gave you the power to laugh, think, create, imagine and plan, but the greatest power you have is the power to choose. You can choose to succeed or fail; be happy or sad, help or hinder, laugh or cry, etc., but the greatest choice you make daily is the attitude you will possess.
How can you every stay out of trouble if you don’t develop respect for yourself, authority, other people, elders and tradition? If you respect yourself, you will find it easier to respect others. Respect for authority is a necessity—your teachers, coaches, principal, policemen, etc. It also behooves you to respect women and your elders.
III. Passion to Succeed or Self Discipline
This entails two things - sacrifice and get rid of all the excuses why you can’t succeed. I don’t ask our athletes how many want to win. The question I ask is, “Can you live without losing or failure?” Everyone wants to win when the TV lights are on, the band is playing and the crowd is cheering. You cannot succeed without sacrifices regardless of your intentions. Losers think of sacrifice as punishment. You have to lift weights or refrain from eating junk food. Getting your rest is not punishment but sacrifice. While we are at it, get rid of all the excuses why you can’t succeed. Don’t adapt a loser’s limp. The man knows he can’t succeed so he pulls up lame and then says, “Don’t blame me, I wasn’t given a chance.” How strong you desire to succeed is illustrated by the amount of self-discipline you exhibit on a daily basis. Discipline is not what you do to yourself, but what you do for yourself.
You are going to get knocked down, and too many people stay down wallowing in self-pity and waiting for someone to lift them up. I personally feel when you are knocked down, you have two choices—get yourself up or stay down. People can’t lift you up. They can help you but not lift you up. This is your obligation. Once you adapt the attitude that every time things don’t go well, you will respond positively. Then, you will inevitably enjoy success. I have had a lot of adversity in my life, but every time I have responded positively to it, it has made me stronger and better.
V. Expectations or Dreams
Many people don’t accomplish much because they didn’t expect much. Be a dreamer and don’t underestimate your capabilities. You must have goals and dreams or you will just flounder. Remember all conflicts occur because of expectations, yours and theirs. Always have higher standards for yourself than others. Expect more from yourself than your parents, teachers, and coaches do and you will breeze through life.
You don’t just tell someone to “go tackle”, you teach that person the fundamentals of how to tackle. The best students are the ones that can read and write. Unfortunately, not many coaches emphasize fundamentals, and those that do are met with strong resistance from the participants. It is critical to master the fundamentals, as it is the foundation for success. You wouldn’t build a house on sand, nor should you build a life on anything other than a solid foundation, which is fundamental.
Many years ago I was told that, “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” To me, this means to display good manners. No longer do we teach manners nor place importance on them as in days past. I can assure you, we still emphasize manners. To say, yes ma’am, no sir, shake hands firmly, look people in the eye, take your hat off indoors, say thank you, table etiquette, etc., is important. Manners do not only send a message that you are respectful of others, but you are humble as well.
Perhaps the most critical social skill an individual must possess is trust. You cannot have any long lasting relationship with an individual unless it is based on trust. Your parents, coach, teammates, etc., must be able to trust you. Trust can be gained by only one way, and that is to continuously, “Do right.” If you have any doubt about the right thing to do, I suggest you consult the Bible. I feel confident you know the difference between right and wrong. Do what is right and avoid what is wrong, and you will always have the trust of other people. It is as simple as that.
IX. Commitment to Excellence
Not everyone can be first team, All Conference, or All American, but everyone can be the best they can be. We believe there are four qualities that every player should possess.
1. Give great effort
2. Know your assignments
3. Play Physical
4. Encourage your teammates.
Failure to excel in any of these areas is completely unsatisfactory. Whether you are involved in academics, athletics or a household chore, you must do it to the best of your ability. To put it simpler, do you have high standards for your productivity or low ones? If an individual doesn’t have a strong desire to be the best they can be in every area of their life, I firmly believe he or she is leading a flawed life.
X. Care About Other People
This is something we can and must learn. From the time we first entered this life, we labor under the misconception what the world revolves around us. One of the very first words we learn is mine. Never forget that we live in a selfish society comprised of undisciplined people. We must learn to be disciplined and totally unselfish. If you want to have more true friends than anyone else, just be a friend and like more people than anyone else. It is impossible to dislike someone if they truly like you. A sincere love of people is a free pass to success. You can always find reasons to dislike someone or you can find reasons to like them. It all depends on whether you are looking for the positive aspect of a person or a negative one.
This article is probably too long, but I say it is too short. I could write a book on the necessity of learning these social skills. As a matter of fact, I did. This shocked a lot of people because most of my teachers didn’t think I would read a book let alone write one. I have been a teenager; you have never been 64. So, trust me when I tell you achieving success and happiness is not complicated. Success and happiness is achieved by an uncommon person who is willing to do the things that an average person won’t do because an average person is basically lazy. Be an uncommon person.
Winning Every Day: The Game Plan for Success
Lou Holtz, Foreword by Harvey MacKay