3 Leadership Lessons from College Football’s Opening Weekend

College FootballLabor Day weekend is a bittersweet time. As the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier with each passing week, cooler temperatures and shorter days signal the pending end of summer. But as the seasons change, the leaves turn, and families head back to school, a new feeling is in the air. The feeling of an age old tradition, filled with passion, excitement, and pageantry.

Football season is here. The best time of year.

The opening weekend of the 2016 college football season did not disappoint, filled with surprises, upsets, and standout performances. But if we take a closer look, beyond the scores, highlights, and newswire headlines, we will find 3 stories—3 powerful, moving, extraordinary narratives—that provide brilliant examples of leadership and character for each of us to emulate in our own lives.

Great leaders live with persistence, patience, and presence—and we need not look any farther than 3 exemplary student-athletes to find examples of these leadership qualities.

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6 Things It Takes to Lead a New Organization

Smith & GilfillanToday, I’m excited to share a conversation with two courageous leaders – Dan Smith and John Gilfillan – who are each rising to the challenge of using their leadership gifts and talents to start new organizations – church plants.

Starting a new venture of any sort is hard work (we have experienced this first hand at Next Level Performance), and statistically, church planting ranks with the likes of restaurants and retail stores as one of the most difficult new organizations to start and successfully sustain. Yet, Dan and John are already off to a strong start. Why? Leadership. In a new organization, everything rises and falls on it, and these two men are both leading well and learning a lot every step of the way.

Dan and John graciously took some time to share the most important things they are learning about leadership through the challenges of starting and leading a new organization.

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3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated From High School

o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebookI recently had a chance to speak to a group of over 150 senior scholar athletes from several high schools around Southwest Michigan who had earned over a 3.25 career GPA. I shared with them the 3 things I wish I knew when I graduated from high school. Here are the highlights of the message:

It was the game of all games. The game of the century…literally. It was the 100 year anniversary of the tradition-rich rivalry between Orrville High School—my beloved hometown in Northeast Ohio—and our unspeakable nemesis, Wooster High School. As if this Friday night under the lights could get any better, we were hosting this game for the ages. The stadium was standing room only and it was the perfect opportunity to finish the regular season in style before the playoffs began.

That night I threw 1…2…3…4…5…not touchdowns…but interceptions. Without sharing another word, you can probably guess the final outcome of the game.

But even though I gave the ball away 5 times, I also gained something that night. I gained a powerful lesson. A lesson I carry with me to this very day. A lesson that my high school football coach had the opportunity to share with me not once, not twice….but 5 times, after each interception. (Maybe that’s why it stuck with me so well!)

“The next play is the most important play.”

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10 Things Being an Athlete Taught Me About Leadership

NLP EncoreAn impactful leader in my life used to go camping with his dad growing up. His dad would always say: “Leave the campground cleaner than it was before.” While he meant it literally, he was also conveying a deeper message – leave your legacy by paying it forward for someone else. In Jesus’ words: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48)

I’ve often asked myself: Why have I been given the life experiences I have? And while I still don’t fully know that answer, I believe a big reason is to use them to serve others. It is in this spirit that Next Level Performance was formed – to deliver elite sports performance training while paying forward the valuable leadership and character lessons athletics can teach. It is our desire that every Next Level student-athlete would use the platform of their sport to be a positive difference maker both on the field and in their schools and community.

So what are we trying to instill in our Next Level athletes? Here are 10 things athletics taught me about leadership that I hope to invest in each athlete we touch at NLP:

1. It’s not about me

I will never forget sitting in rookie meetings with the Indianapolis Colts and listening to Clyde Christensen outline that football is a brotherhood, not a family. “If we are a train going down the tracks and one of you falls off,” he began, “in a family, the entire train would screech to a halt, we would all jump off, pick you up, dust you off, and slowly start the train again. But this is not a family, it is a brotherhood. And the train is screaming down the tracks toward our first game in 21 days. So if you fall off the train it is your job to catch back up, because we have no time to slow down for you.”

It was a powerful reminder that there is no indispensable person. No one is above the team and we all have an important role and responsibility to fulfill.

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4 Leadership Lessons from Bethany Hamilton

IMG_4108About a week ago I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Bethany Hamilton in front of over 2,000 people at the “Think Big!” event at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bethany’s incredible story has inspired millions around the world, as she overcame losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack to go on to become one of the most successful athletes ever in the sport of surfing.

In spending time with Bethany, her husband Adam, and her son Tobias before, during, and after the event, one thing is clear – Bethany is a great leader and role model we can all learn from. Every opportunity is a chance to learn something new, and I believe Bethany’s story, her demeanor, and her character all present leadership qualities we can learn from and emulate.

Specifically, here are 4 leadership lessons we can learn from Bethany Hamilton:

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