Paul “Bear” Bryant was a celebrated American football coach at the University of Alabama for 25 years. At the time of his tenure, he set a then-record in college football for wins and national championships: 323 victories, 15 conference championships, and six national titles, and he was named the College Football Coach of the Year three times. When Bear Bryant died, it was discovered that at all times he carried around a quotation from Texan motivational speaker and accountant Heartsill Wilson with him in his wallet.
This is the beginning of a new day. I have been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it—or use it for good, but what I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.
Former players have stated that Coach Bryant would read this accountant’s words to his teams as a reminder to focus on strength and opportunity as opposed to weakness and the past.
I played college football for a motivational coach and leader who replicated Coach Bryant’s mantra. Every night at our team meetings during summer camp, our head coach would address the team by reciting another line of the quotation. Our coach would explain what those specific words meant to him and invite others to share their interpretations of each piece of the text. By the end of camp, the whole team had the quote memorized. The vision of the team was set.
THE MAGIC BANK ACCOUNT
Bear Bryant also carried a second slip of paper in his wallet. The scenario on this paper invites the reader to imagine having won a prize—every morning, the reader automatically has $86,400 deposited into a bank account. The following rules would apply:
- The money can’t be transferred into any other account. The reader is only allowed to spend the money.
- Anything left in that bank account at the end of the day is removed; the next day begins with a new deposit.
- The prize distributions could be taken away at any time.
I’m sure you’re already thinking of all the things you could buy with $86,400 a day. Knowing you’d get more money tomorrow, you may already be considering all the ways you’d take care of family and loved ones. But what if this is your reality now, if the only difference is that the $86,400 per day is actually time? You’re given a prize of 86,400 seconds every day, and you’re free to use those seconds in any way you choose. What’s more valuable: $86,400 or 86,400 seconds?
Many coaches I had through the years emphasized the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity on the playing field. It was often explained that, as every practice dragged on and each game wound down, the seasons would only go faster and the ability to play the game would eventually come to an end. True leaders motivate not to fear the end of the season or a job or even career but rather to put forth our best effort consistently and appreciate each opportunity before us.
SO WHAT? NOW WHAT?
Every opportunity ends in one of two outcomes—positive or negative, success or failure. The teams that have successful winning cultures are often led by coaches who have taught their players to effectively manage their emotions, regardless of the result. The ultra-high emotions following a successful outcome can lead to equally negative effects of becoming too low after an unsuccessful result, so managing emotional balance is key to maintaining focus.
To further accentuate this point, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick once said, “If you sit back and spend too much time feeling good about what you did in the past, you’re going to come up short next time.”
NCAA college football Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa was asked how he has been able to sustain so much personal success throughout his playing career. His response: “So what? Now what?” If Tagovailoa were to throw a touchdown pass, for example, he’d come off the field and ask himself, “So what? Now what?” Understanding there’s still work to be done and the game isn’t over, he reminds himself not to get too confident and lose focus.
Likewise, if he threw an interception in the game, he’d come off the field and still ask himself, “So what? Now what?” He was coached to manage his emotion and not to allow himself to compile negative results.
These lessons jotted on slips of paper aren’t limited to the football field; they apply in all fields. “I was just named employee of the month. So what? Now what? I need to continue working hard and will strive to be recognized again next month.” Or “This person just cut me off on my commute to work. So what? Now what? Is that truly a negative enough outcome to waste more prized seconds of today worrying about it?” Managing emotions is vital to self-motivation.
Whether you’re a coach, a player, or a management accountant, a clear vision ultimately leads to strong motivation for today. Whatever team you’re on, knowing your shared purpose for the day, regularly contributing to the positive execution of every opportunity and trusting your teammates are doing the same, and effectively working through adversity with ongoing passion and self-motivation will allow your team to have sustainable success. Strong leaders coach their teams and facilitate this awareness to build these winning cultures.
IMA LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
The IMA® Leadership Academy provides leadership opportunities for all members. From leadership assessment to leadership courses offered in person as well as through WebEx to participation opportunities in mentoring, be it reverse or traditional, the IMA Leadership Academy can help you meet your leadership goals and improve your leadership skills. For more information, please visit the Leadership Academy website at www.imanet.org/career-resources/leadership-academy.