I am headed to the College Football Playoff championship game in Tampa, Florida. I know, tough job. I could be closing the year-end books and preparing the SEC reports right now. Just remember, I actually have work meetings during the trip and will miss my wife terribly, so not all roses. But yes, I will enjoy great hospitality and hopefully a great football game.
But that’s not the point of this post. Instead I want to write about dealing with failure.
Visiting the athletic directors this weekend (the reason we are here is to meet with them, the athletic directors are members of an association and they hold meetings during the CFP weekend and we are a sponsor of their association) reminds me of how excellent they are at dealing with failure. Their coaches as well. I admire their resolve, maybe because it’s much more difficult for me.
You might call me a sore loser. Luckily as I’ve aged it’s toned down (no more throwing the monopoly board at Mom after she charged me rent for the hotels she built on Pennsylvania Avenue) and what remains is relatively healthy competitiveness. But I still wouldn’t make a great sales person, where they fail far more often than they succeed. I just don’t handle loss or rejection well.
And there is no way I could be a college athletic director or coach. I am the guy that takes two days to get over my team losing – and I’m just a fan! Coaches have literally hours or minutes to come to grips with the loss that just occurred and refocus themselves, their staff and their players on the next opponent and the next game.
I saw Gene Smith, athletic director for “the” Ohio State University, a few weeks ago in Las Vegas – his basketball team was playing at T-Mobile Arena in the CBS Sports Classic. He was as social, jovial, courteous and professional then as all the other times I’ve been around him. Just a class act. The thing is, his football team just suffered a really tough loss, they weren’t really competitive in the Fiesta Bowl/CFP semi-final game against Clemson. Yet when I see him this weekend, I know he will be the same friendly, professional and jovial Gene Smith I am used to. I admire him for this, and I know there are many ADs and coaches just like Gene. We can all learn from them.
I know there are some key drivers of their ability to be resilient. Gene is very grounded in family; he posts the best pictures of his grandkids on twitter!
Gene also takes a long-term view, he views his job as a being that of a steward building a program. That “program” mentality is common among great leaders – it’s a great thing to win a championship, even a one and done – but it’s much better to build a long-standing program that regularly competes at the highest levels.
And folks like Gene don’t “do” life alone. They rely on their peers (who perfectly understand their situation) and their families (who DON’T CARE about their situation because they love them unconditionally.
These are lessons we can all take to heart and apply in our own situations. I am still pretty steamed that my Denver Broncos didn’t make the playoffs though – gonna take some more time to get over that one.