As the name on the email alert faded in and out of the corner of my laptop screen I did a double take in disbelief. This has to be one of my buddies messing with me. There’s no way he’d be sending me an email, I thought to myself as I clicked on the name to open it. But as I began to read the heart-felt words that described the emotions LEAD…for God’s Sake was bringing into the light, I knew it was real. One of the most successful coaches in the country, a guy I had prayed would find this book some day, Urban Meyer, had not only found it, but had been deeply moved by its message.
Minutes after I replied to his email, Coach Meyer called me. Determined to go deeper into the heart of the parable, he bombarded me with questions. Eventually, our discussion shifted to the personal trials and triumphs of his past, and how his drive to stay on top in college football had almost destroyed everything that really mattered to him. Physically and emotionally spent, he’d ripped his hands from the steering wheel — for a second time — and walked away. That was last summer.
Recently, a wonderful article about Urban Meyer was featured in ESPN the Magazine. In it, Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) provides readers with a rare glimpse inside the mind of a man driven to succeed at the highest level of college football. Even more importantly, he takes his readers inside the heart of a man who, while passionately pursuing everything he thought mattered, almost lost everything that really did matter. Eventually, the article mentions the email Urban sent to me, and then talks briefly about the role LEAD…for God’s Sake played as a turning point in his life.
Of course, having the book mentioned in ESPN the Magazine is an honor. But even without the mention I’d recommend this wonderfully written article to everyone in leadership. Why? Because despite the fact most of us will never scale, much less sit on, such a visible mountaintop of success, almost all of us at some time in our lives will wrestle with the very same motives of the heart that Urban wrestled with. We’ll wrestle with motives that drive us toward what our culture defines as success. We’ll wrestle with motives that lure us toward serving our own interests above the interests of those who matter most in our lives. And maybe most troubling, we’ll wrestle with motives that, over time, have shifted under the pressures of our surroundings. In essence, the answer to the question, why we do what we do today, may be very different from what it was years ago, before the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of success crept into our lives, and blinded us from the truth.
In my last blog I discussed the dangers of Flying Blind or, lacking self-awareness. In it, I suggested a few keys to avoiding these dangers. Interestingly, Urban Meyer’s story in the ESPN article is a great follow-up to that blog, as it provides numerous examples of not only the dangers of flying blind, but of the damages that can occur as a result. In addition, much of the process Urban went through that eventually opened his eyes to reality, parallels the honest reflection, recognition, and feedback process discussed in the blog.
The bottom line is this, although none of us can change our past, we can all learn from it to affect our future. This is why I believe there is great value in studying the life of Urban Meyer. Yes, Urban hit a wall and experienced great pain, which most would agree was an impetus to his change. But the fact of the matter is, many of us hit walls and experience great pain in our lives, yet persist in our stubborn ways. Denying the validity of the pain as a sign we need to reassess, we continue in our downward spiral refusing to open our eyes to reality.
At some point, each one of us must choose to wake up. Urban did just that. He walked away from something most of us might not have had the strength to do. And, with God’s help, he opened his eyes to the needed change. With a renewed passion for living and leading from the foundation of his true purpose, he began a new journey; one focused not only on doing the right things in the right ways, but most importantly, one focused on doing things for the right reasons. And THAT is where everything must start!
Don’t forget to check out the featured article on ESPN here!
View Todd’s interview with Urban Meyer here