Play the game hard – play to win…always

Great players and teams play to win…always, always, always. I recommend that you do the same. There is a reason they keep score in sports – to separate the winners from the losers. I am suggesting that life is not much different. There are winners and losers in life, and I do not want you to join the latter group. It is easy to be a loser. Winning, on the other hand, takes a lot…sometimes all that you have.

We marvel at individuals and teams who play the game hard and win all the time. A good example of a winner is Serena Williams. She is the best woman tennis player in the world. She won her first grand slam title at the age of 17 in 1999. Over the weekend she won her 23rd grand slam title which is an amazing achievement. No doubt – she is the best and always plays to win, even when she plays against her own sister.

Serena and Venus Williams are both champions who always play to win.
Serena and Venus Williams are both champions who always play to win.

I have already talked about playing fair – it is essential. All true winners, play fair and do not cheat. Simply put – cheaters are losers. I encourage you to play the game of life hard and play to win…always. Remember the words of the apostle Paul, a follower of Christ.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Play the game hard – play your best

Great teams are comprised of players who not only play their part – they also play their best. They give their all on a regular basis. What does it mean to play your best?. I am defining it in two ways. First, the things you don’t do when playing your best. You don’t slack, you don’t cut corners, you don’t go through the motions. Second, is a short list of what you actually do when playing your best.

– You play your part: see the previous lesson for details
– You prepare yourself: both physically and mentally.
– You practice hard: simulate and rehearse at full speed.
– You perform: give your best when it is game time.
– You learn from mistakes: not everything will go as expected.
– You get better: keep improving to achieve greatness.

Walter Payton was known for his brutal hill training routine. Few could complete his workouts.
Walter Payton was known for his brutal hill training routine. Few could keep up.

I am a big fan of figuring out new ways to get results through modern training methods. As a culture, we have figured out better ways to do a whole lot of things. But, I have yet to see someone who consistently delivers impressive results that does not give their best on a regular basis. Slackers take the easy road that leads to mediocrity. Many talk a big game, but few actually deliver the results.

Never die easy. Why run out of bounds and die easy? Make that linebacker pay. It carries into all facets of your life. It’s okay to lose, to die, but don’t die without trying, without giving it your best.
Walter Payton

Play the game hard – play your part

A large portion of success in life boils down to how you live your life, or to put into sports terms, how you play the game. I am accused on a somewhat regular basis of using sports metaphors to talk about life. It is true. I think that many lessons I learned playing sports can be applied to life. Life is a game we all play. It is up to you to decide how you are going to play the game of life.

The game of life is not a board game - it is a team sport.
The game of life is not a board game – it is a team sport.

I recommend you play the game hard, and have fun along the way. Be sure to do both. In order to play the game hard, you must first play your part. I believe that life is a team sport. We enter and leave the world alone, but we spend almost all of our days with others. If you look at great teams, they are made of great players. I believe that we all have a part to play, or a contribution to make in this world. Each of us has different backgrounds, talents, experiences, perspectives, opinions, knowledge, skills, and ideas. It is important that you figure out what skills God has gifted to you. Each of us is unique, so I challenge you to step-up and play your part. Don’t wait for others to ask for your contribution. Figure out what you have to offer, and offer it. People around you, and your “teams” will thank you later.

Set goals, and then achieve them

The older you get, the more the years seem to just slip away. Take the time during your winter break to set some goals for the New Year. Setting goals can feel overwhelming at times, so keep it simple. I usually try to determine the destination I want to reach by the end of the year. Think about what is it I want to achieve in 2017. The more specific you are when setting your goals, the better. For example, it is easy to say I want to get in better shape this year. Anyone can say that, and it probably will not inspire you. A better goal would be that I want to complete to be able to perform 100 push-ups or run the Army Ten-Miler in less than 80 minutes.

Running the Army Ten miler under 80 minutes is a clear goal.
Running the Army Ten-miler under 80 minutes is a clear goal. I did not run that fast in 2015.

The simple act of setting goals and writing them down helps put you on the path to achieving them. Last year I set a goal to read one book a month. I was watching too much television. I did not fully achieve the goal, but I did make a lot of progress. It is important to track your progress in order to hold yourself accountable. The list below tracks what I read last year.

Jan – Othello
Feb – King Lear
Mar – Why should anyone be led by you
Apr – None
May – None
Jun – First 90 days
Jul – The Obstacle is the Way
Aug – Ego is the Enemy
Sep – The Power of Habit
Oct – Outliers
Nov – Essentialism
Dec – Call for a New Strenuous Age

The list is hardly impressive, but it does show that progress was achieved. I have found that if I do not set goals, write them down, and track progress, then I tend to get less done. I kind of just muddle my way through the year…no way to live.

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you someone who will change history. Give me someone with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.” JC Penney

Take Advantage of the New Year

Another year has come and gone. The older you get the faster it seems like time flies. It is hard to believe that 2016 is already over. If there is one thing I relearn every single year it is that times keeps marching on. We cannot stop it, but we can plan for what comes next. With that thought in mind, take some time this month to ponder what you want to accomplish in 2017. It is a new year so think about what does a good year look like for you. What does a great year look like for you? What changes are coming up? What do you want to do?

For Gavin – you will go back to college and finish your freshman year. This summer you will need to get a job and earn money for next semester. You will start thinking about what you want to major in and then return to Richmond for your sophomore year. Filling in the rest of the story is up to you. For Riley, it is time for high school soccer, and you will start thinking about what college you want to attend. Grades matter, so do your best. You will also get your license and have a vehicle to drive. Probably time for a summer job.

I am planning some fun stuff for 2017 – we will return to Europe this summer to visit France (video below describes the potential options). We will likely return to NYC and perhaps visit the West Coast. I want you to think about your plans for 2017. Are there things you want to start doing or do more of, or do less of, or stop doing? Make the time to think about 2017. It will be summer before you know it. Personally, I have set many goals and made plans that I will share over the course of our time together. Happy New Year – hope it is a great one.

In the days of my youth
I was told what it was to be a man
Now I’ve reached the age
I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can
No matter how I try
I find my way to do the same old jam

– Good Times, Bad Times by Led Zeppelin