I was one of the millions who stayed up late, bit my nails, and celebrated when Clemson won the Football National Championship last night. This morning, in the warm afterglow of that victory, what did we learn?
We learned it takes time to build a champion. Saban coached at Alabama three years before he won a national championship. Swinney coached at Clemson eight years before winning a national title. If you want to do something great, personally or professionally, commit to the long haul.
We learned people want to cheer for winners. I pull for Clemson because my youngest daughter goes there. I’m invested. But I saw people I never knew were Clemson fans going crazy on Facebook last night when the game was over. In organizations, these are called “late-adopters.” They will join in the celebration, but don’t invest emotional energy in the early stages. This isn’t a good or a bad thing; it’s just a thing. But you need to know who they are and you need to know if you are one. Don’t let the late-adopters control your emotional energy.
We learned some people want to rob you of joy. I made the mistake of tuning to a sports call-in show. A guy was going on and on about blown calls that led to Clemson scores. His conclusion: Clemson didn’t win. There will always be people who want to take away the joy of victory. Do what I did: Change the station. Don’t listen to them. As Larry Osborne says, “Let the squeaky wheels squeak.”
We learned you can be great and not win every game. Fans may expect you to win all the time and be mad when you don’t. But coaches and players know that sometimes everything goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Alabama is still a great team and Saban is still the best college coach of our time. Alabama’s and Saban’s greatness will come out in what happens this week. I guarantee Saban is back working “the process.” Greatness personally and organizationally comes from sticking with it.
We learned Deshaun Watson is the best quarterback in college football. Lamar Jackson is great too, but who would you rather have in the last two minutes of the 4th quarter? Would you rather have the reward for individual achievement or the reward of being champions?
We learned you don’t have to be the star to make a difference. Hunter Renfrow isn’t the best receiver on the Clemson team; he’s just the guy who has caught two touchdown passes in both national championship games. (Full disclosure: His girlfriend was Sarah’s (my daughter) roommate for the her first year and half at Clemson. I once took him out for pizza with his girlfriend and Sarah. Since I paid for the pizza, part of his success is because of me). You may not be a star, but you can make a difference.
We learned it takes 59 minutes and 59 seconds to win a game. I know too many people who quit living and quit trying in the third quarter of life – usually when they are 45 or 50. Paul told us, “Do not grow weary in well-doing…” and “Run to finish the race and gain the prize.”
Finally, we learned victory is better than defeat. This is the heart of the gospel. We all are defeated in sin, until Jesus delivers us. We are winners because He won. Live in His victory!