Vince Lombardi’s “20-Second Lesson …”
John Wood here, taking over the reins of The Writer’s Life. This week I’m going to look at five powerful sports stories, the life lessons you can learn from them, and how they apply to the writer’s life.
Let’s start with who many consider to be the greatest coach in NFL history, Vince Lombardi.
Lombardi’s ability to teach, motivate, and inspire brought out the best in players. As head coach of the Green Bay Packers, he never had a losing season and guided the franchise to victory in the first two Super Bowls.
Today I’m going to show you how a brief gesture by Coach Lombardi had a profound effect on one of his players.
In total, it took about 20 seconds.
The player was Jerry Kramer, an offensive lineman who spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the Packers. He was an All-Pro five times and a member of the fabled Packers Super Bowl teams.
In the HBO film Lombardi, Kramer tells the story about a time in scrimmage when he mistakenly jumped offside. Lombardi came over and got in his face and said …
“Mister, the concentration period of a college student is five minutes. High school is three minutes. Kindergarten is 30 seconds, and you don’t even have that. So where does that put you?”
After practice, Kramer sat in the locker room, hand on chin, elbow on his knee, eyes glued to the floor thinking …
“I’m never going to play for this guy.”
Just then, Lombardi walked across the room toward him. Kramer says in the film, “He slapped me in the back of my neck … messed up my hair, and he said, ‘Son, one day you’re going to be the best guard in football.’”
Then Lombardi turned and walked away.
“With that comment he allowed me to think about being a great football player. And from that point on, I worked my tail off. I gave him everything I had. It made a profound impact on my life,” Kramer says.
So what can we learn from this?
Two main things …
- While Lombardi’s style might have been a little abrasive for some people’s tastes, it’s important to recognize that when someone (like a mentor or client) offers you criticism about something you wrote, most of the time it’s meant to help you. You can either be hurt or offended by it, or you can look at it as an opportunity to learn.
- Each one of us has a great power within us: The opportunity to inspire and encourage your writing colleagues. Use the power of encouragement wisely, and my guess is your words will have a greater impact than you may ever have imagined. Show someone you believe in him, and, not only will you inspire and motivate him, you’ll create good karma for yourself.
Maybe you’ve experienced a similar 20 seconds in your life? Maybe you’ve even been responsible for a few key “20-second lessons” in a friend’s or colleague’s life — or perhaps you want to start. If you’d like to share a story of encouragement, you can do so by commenting here.
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