On New Year’s Day, I watched my alma mater, Texas Christian University, win the Rose Bowl. I can hardly believe it happened, even though I still have a red mark on my cheek from the game day tattoo. TCU is a small, private, church-affiliated liberal arts school. About 6,000 attended when I was there. Now there are about 8,000, but still. Music and ballet versus a behemoth like Wisconsin, with its 42,000 students? Imagine the video you shot of your child’s elementary school Christmas pageant winning an Academy Award and you can get an idea of the improbability of TCU playing in the Rose Bowl, let alone winning it.
They’ve finished the year with a perfect 13-0 record. There was no magic involved, only a lot of determination and hard work.
Determination and hard work are no fun, but what I’ve learned from watching TCU during the past few years can be applied to more than just football.
1. First you need a goal. Then you need to write it down. Then commit to it.
A pyramid of steps supporting the top goal of a national championship hangs in the TCU locker room. The bottom level includes attitude, extra effort, mental toughness, chemistry and accountability. They’ve taken a huge goal and they’ve broken it down into achievable steps and they look at those steps every day.
2. You actually have to work toward achieving the steps leading toward your goal.
The football team holds regular practices. Have you scheduled a regular time when you work toward your goal?
3. Be prepared to give something up to achieve your goal.
I’m sure there were times when the team would have rather slept in or watched TV or partied with friends instead of working out. But they knew if they weren’t physically prepared, they couldn’t win games.
4. You have to live with yourself.
There’s a saying that you should be careful how you treat people on the way up because they’re the ones you’ll meet on the way down. I’ve liked how their coach refuses to beat up weaker teams for the sake of running up the score. Decisive victories, yes. Obscene blowouts, no.
5. Stick to your game plan. Be consistent.
There are going to be ups and downs, but if you stick with what’s been working for you, you’ll achieve your goals. Sometimes in bowl games, teams forget the methods that got them there and try for flashy plays that don’t work and then they panic. And fail.
6. On the other hand, you need to adjust your steps if you realize they won’t help you achieve your goal.
To play for the national championship, realistically, a school must belong to a conference that’s part of something called the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). TCU is not and after winning all the regular season games for the last two years, it was obvious that they wouldn’t be able to reach their goal of a national championship unless they joined a BCS conference. So that’s what they did.
7. How you handle victory is as important as how you handle defeat.
8. Don’t lose sight of what’s important.
Sometimes it will be your goal and working toward it, and sometimes something else will take precedence. And that’s okay.
Anyone else setting goals this year?