Alabama football coach Nick Saban gave himself and his Crimson Tide team a well-deserved break after winning the 2018 college playoff national championship in an overtime victory over Georgia. He gave them all of 24-hours.
“In 24 hours you probably need to move on,” Saban said in his press conference. Saban is the highest-paid college football coach in America and, by most accounts, the hardest working. According to The New York Times, Saban has “nothing left to prove” after winning his sixth national title. But as Saban points out, “It’s not about winning the championship. It’s about something more than that.”
Saban doesn’t focus on outcomes as much as he focuses on competing and “being all that you can be.” And that’s why he gives himself and his players 24-hours before they have to get back to the grind. “Move on because there’s another challenge. You created a target for yourself in the future in terms of people who want to beat you.”
Saban believes that when people focus on constant improvement and staying ahead of the competition, the outcomes–the national championship or the big sales win– will shift in their favor.
Derek Dooley, currently the offensive coordinator at the University of Missouri, spent seven years as an assistant coach for Nick Saban. When asked by new coaches what to expect from Saban, Dooley says: “I tell new coaches that every day– every day– I don’t care if it’s March 10th, May 5th, June 28th, or October 14th, it’s 4th-and-1 for the national championship.” Saban expects 100 percent commitment in each and every practice.
Saban isn’t passionate about football; he’s obsessed with competition. The difference between passion and obsession often separates the good from the great in sports and business. Famed venture capitalist and billionaire, Michael Moritz (Google, LinkedIn, Paypal), once told me that he looks for entrepreneurs who have a healthy obsession with their product. Passion is great, but obsession is better, he said. After all, I’m passionate about golf, but I was never obsessed enough to practice ten hours a day, which is what it takes to play on the pro level.
Champions in sports and in business enjoy the grind.
One of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met is Hall-of-Fame San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Steve Young. We met to talk about his book, QB: My Life Behind the Spiral. Young’s work ethic is legendary. He played eighth-string as a college quarterback at BYU. Eighth-string meant he didn’t even suit up for games. In the off-season he threw 10,000 practice passes in just two months. He gave 100 percent to every play and every spiral. Young says his attitude and work ethic took him from the bottom to the top. He began to climb the chart and in his last year broke 13 NCAA records and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
Young told me he only knows one person with the same (or even stronger) work ethic than he had–legendary 49ers wide-receiver and teammate, Jerry Rice. After Steve Young had won his first Super Bowl and was named the league MVP, he returned to San Francisco for the victory parade. He then went to the team’s training facility to clean out his locker. The place looked empty. Then he saw Rice, alone on the practice field. Just three days after winning a Super Bowl, Rice was preparing for the next season. Young said he didn’t join Rice, but a few hours later, he started running.
Young–who now runs his own private investment firm– taught me a profoundly important lesson about leadership and success. He said the players who have above-average talent often don’t become superstars because they rely too much on their talent. They don’t have the work ethic. If, however, you can find a career or job where your passion and skill intersect–and work much, much harder than the next person–it’s a recipe for success in sports and business.
The next time you make a big sale or give a well-received presentation, take the time to celebrate. But after 24-hours hours, get back to the grind. Your competitors might already be there.
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