This article was originally published on Oct. 19, 2016.
In life, like all games, there are rules, many skills are required, and there are no do-overs. It can be a challenge.
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. When I was 4-years-old, my parents moved our family to Brandon, Manitoba -- a small town a few hours west of Winnipeg. We didn’t have much in the way of material possessions, but I wasn’t going to let anything hold me back.
Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, or any details about your past, you can achieve and do great things. What’s holding you back?
Here are five tips from my playbook on how to break through your mental and physical barriers to win in the game of life.
1. Understand what you bring to the game.
Think about your gifts and abilities. Write them down. You have many -- intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional -- all unique to you. There are abilities you use out of necessity. There are the abilities you use for hobbies or down time. There are the abilities that you are passionate about using. Then there are gifts and abilities that you haven’t developed yet -- but will need to develop them to take you to the next phase of your life.
All of these make up an important part of who you are as an individual.
2. Understand the rules of the game.
When you understand the rules of the game, you gain a clear understanding of the key plays you’ll need to execute. Your game plan will be based on what needs to be executed. What play must you make to win the opportunity in front of you -- are you in still in school, early career, mid-career, close to retirement… In any stage of the game, you must have goals you are working toward to get the win. Ask yourself -- what must be done to insure that win.
3. Define your WIN and put together a game plan.
Your win is different from mine. It’s unique to you. Your game plane should be scaled down to a day-by-day approach focused on small wins that will equal big wins. Knowing your gifts/abilities and understanding the rules of the game will help you draw the big picture game plan. From there scale it down to the little wins that must happen to achieve big picture success.
4. Be disciplined and flexible.
Doing what needs to be done even when you don’t feel like it is paramount to success. It’s also key to make corrections to your game during the micro wins and losses -- if you wait too long, it will be too late to adjust.
Your long-term goal requires that your short-term goals be flexible and constantly adjusted. In my final year of high school my coach needed players and he convinced me to play. Walking through that door led to five years at the University of Manitoba which led to an opportunity with the NFL. I was not invited to the NFL Combine. I had to be flexible and unconventional. I stood outside the combine handing out VHS tapes (anyone remember those?) in brown envelopes to scouts or coaches who my agent sent out to see me. After fracturing my ankle with the Cleveland Browns, I ended up with the Chicago Bears my rookie year.
The odds were stacked against me but I went on to have an 11-year career in the NFL. The average career length for an NFL player is 3 years.
At each level, I needed to adapt physically and mentally and exceed expectations and be better than my competition. One adjustment meant gaining weight until I was 315 Pounds. Another adjustment required that I lose the weight and become a lean 260 pounds. Professional athletics is a highly competitive, dynamic field and if I had not been able to adapt every step of the way, I would not have seen 11 years.
5. Mentors -- find one.
Receiving feedback, advice and support from someone you trust, who is where you want to be someday, is invaluable to accelerating the execution of your game plan.
A good mentor will share their playbook so you can learn what they did to get where they are and how they overcame challenges. A mentor will introduce you to key people. A mentor will also guide you on ways you can fill in areas where you might have gaps. My mentor was the one who shared why it was so important to prepare for life after football while I was still in the game. That was the best advice I could have been given. It led me to think bigger and build my life with focus.
Several of the dreams I had as a young boy have been fulfilled beyond what I could have imagined, and several are still in the works. I challenge you to start with these steps -- invent something, come up with the next big idea, solve a problem, create and build something amazing, or fight for a good cause. Whatever it is, wherever you are, there is nothing holding you back. It’s time to win.