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I first began following the career of football coach Lou Holtz when I read
about something he did when he was in his 20s; i.e., write
down a list of over 100 things he wanted to accomplish in his
life . . . among them: jump out of an airplane, land on an aircraft
carrier, go out on a submarine, appear on THE TONIGHT SHOW
with Johnny Carson, go white-water rafting down the Snake River,
play the greatest golf courses in the world, have dinner in
the White House, meet the Pope, learn to juggle and do
magic, and run with the bulls in Spain with a slower person.
The amazing thing is that 40 years later, he has accomplished all
but two items from his original list.
So when I saw his autobiography, WINS, LOSSES, AND LESSONS
came out, I knew that I just had
to read it to find out more about this amazing guy . . . and I'm glad
that I did.
Holtz is a guy who seems to have lived his life to the fullest--and loved
every minute of it . . . his book is funny, at parts, but also touching
in others . . . it is one that can be enjoyed by any football fan or
Notre Dame graduate; however, others will like it too.
There were several memorable sections in it; among them:
* I learned what it takes to be a great teacher, because I had
some great ones. My history professor Dr. Kaplan, for example,
was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic that he inspired me
to become a history major. In that first year I realized that to
be a good teacher you had to (1) know your subject inside and
out, (2) be able to present what you know in a cohesive and
interesting way so that your audience understands what you're
talking about, and (3) have enthusiasm for teaching.
Every good professor I've known has embodied all three of
these traits, and every bad one has fallen short in one or
more. I knew that if I was going to become an effective coach,
I had to embrace the principles of good teaching. What I didn't
know was how soon I would get to test my abilities.
* More than once, I jumped into the middle of a scrimmage
without pads to demonstrate a blocking or tackling technique.
I know this shocked a lot of players, but I was passionate about
doing things the proper way. If I got down in the middle of a pile
with no pads, there was no reason that kids who were much
bigger than I couldn't do the same when fully outfitted. I told them,
"If you're going to be something, do it to the best of your ability.
If not, don't waste your time or mine." Those are words I
repeated throughout my coaching career. How good those
players were was not important to me. What was important
was the effort they showed. I wasn't a great player, which
meant I had to put forth 100 percent on every play just to equal
those athletes who were more physically gifted than I.
Overcoming my own physical shortcomings made me a better
coach because I knew what it was like to give everything you
had on every play. I still can't understand people who fail not
because they aren't physically or mentally up to the task, but
because they simply don't put forth the effort to succeed. If you
aren't going to be the best you can be, why try?
Lastly, there was this fantastic bit of advice for anybody choosing
* We prayed a lot, talked a lot, and wrote a lot of things down. Out
of that discussion came our creed for what's important in choosing
a profession: First, you have to do something that you love. Work
isn't work when you love what you do. If you dread going to the
office in the morning and can't wait for the workday to end, you
need to seriously rethink your career choice. Second, you need to
find something you do well. You might love to play golf, but if you
shoot 100 every time you play, you're not very good, and you're
going to starve to death playing golf for a living. Finally, you have to
find somebody who will pay you. You might love something, and be
very good at it, but if no one is willing to pay you for doing it, you
don't have a career. I love eating Snickers bars, and I'm very good
at it. Unfortunately, I've yet to find anyone who is willing to pay me
to eat Snickers bars, so that aspect of my life doesn't qualify as a