Today’s post is the featured article from the September 2009 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
They weren’t my typical audience. It wasn’t my typical setting for a presentation either. Nor were my khaki shorts or red golf shirt my typical speaking attire. But it was certainly my privilege.
It was late Tuesday afternoon. It had been a fairly hectic day and I was catching-up on some emails when I opened the following message from the head coach of our local high school’s varsity football team:
This is Mike Stine from Naperville Central. I was wondering if you would like to speak to our varsity team this Thursday night. We do a motivational night with the team and your name came up as a person we should have talk to our team. This week is dad’s night so the dads will be with us.
Put me in front of corporate professionals, college students, or even an audience of professional speakers … I’m confident and good to go! A high school varsity football team … not so much!
But I immediately knew, in my gut, it would be a memorable experience.
As if it were meant to be, I was in town and wide-open for Thursday night. I waited until I knew Coach Stine would be finished with his afternoon football practice and dialed the cell phone number he had provided.
We connected and confirmed. Coach then began to give me the details. “Just meet us at the school. Immediately following our practice, we will board buses and go to our secret place. You can choose any topic you think appropriate. We sit around a fire and teach a life lesson. We do this every week of the season.” I would soon learn that not only does Mike Stine, his coaching staff and his varsity football team do this every week … but it’s a handed-down tradition his dad had done during his 30-year coaching career.
While Thursday night was open, the time in-between was packed. That is probably why my brain was working overtime when I woke-up at 3:00am on Thursday morning thinking about what to say. I wanted it not only to be meaningful to this outstanding group of players, but also for their dads.
Each player and dad could tell you if it was individually meaningful to them. But there is no question the message would prove to be “timely” for their experience on the gridiron the following night … literally.
My message was simple … every second counts.
In the macro picture of life, I wanted to make a case that time is a gift in our lives and we have to own how we use our time. In the micro picture in life, I also wanted them to see there are some events in our life where we only get one shot at it …. and especially in those cases … every second counts!
I used their Friday night game as the case in point. I noted they would take to the field for 2880 seconds … a set of seconds that would only exist one time. There would also be the seconds of warm-up, the seconds of time-outs and the seconds of halftime. In the end … every one of those seconds would count.
While it is fun to make the seconds count with the momentum of being in the lead … I also knew, from experience, that it was much harder to own every second when all odds seemed against you. For the pIayers, I tried to relate it to being behind in a game. For the dads, translating the analogy of the message to struggling in a devastating economy, was an easy crossover. It is those times, the seconds count more than ever.
It isn’t a matter of finding the time … it’s about finding something within you to make the seconds count.
Friday night rolled around and by halftime the cross-town rival had rolled to a 17-0 lead. It was brutal.
As I watched the team leave the field for halftime, I started recalling the conversation Coach Stine and I had on the prior night’s bus ride back to the school. He talked about the critical need for players to believe in themselves. And he shared with me the motto of this team’s t-shirts: Character equals strength: Are you strong enough?
I knew, as they took the field in the second half, their character and self-belief would be tested.
I also knew every second was going to count.
Throughout the second half … second-by-second … they demonstrated their character, confirmed their belief and rolled to a 21-17 come-from-behind victory.
As I cheered them on … I didn’t know if they had really even heard my message. But it was clear to me they certainly knew how to live it.
Tomorrow you will be given another set of 86,400 seconds. There is no need to count them … just the opportunity to make them count. It’s time to get your game on!