Field Goals and Career Success

The college football season finally came to an end on Monday.  Alabama beat LSU for the national championship 21 – 0.  In the run up to the game, Sunday’s New York Times sports section had an interesting article by Pete Hamel, one of my favorite writers, on missed field goals in college football this season.

Pete noted that the first time Alabama and LSU met, there were no touchdowns in the game – only five field goals.  He pointed out that the Alabama kicker made only two of six kicks.   Alabama made five field goals on Monday night – and missed an extra point after a touchdown.

Pete also pointed out that Oklahoma State, Oregon and Boise State probably missed a chance to play in the national championship game because of missed field goals and that Stanford, Georgia and Virginia Tech lost their bowl games because of missed field goals.

These misses were not without consequences off the field.  Boise State kicker, Kyle Brotzman and Alabama kicker Cade Foster had to shut down their Facebook pages after receiving hate mail and death threats.  That’s way out there.  No football game is that important.  Interestingly, Cade Foster didn’t kick for Alabama on Monday.

There is some career success advice that comes from these missed field goals.  Jay Feely kicks in the NFL.  He once was the subject of a satirical skit on Saturday Night Live after he missed three kicks in one game when he was playing for the New York Giants.  He says, “I give myself until Monday afternoon to think about the previous day’s game, and then I move forward.”

Jordan Williamson of Stanford missed two field goals in their bowl game versus the Oklahoma State.  One would have won the game, the other would have sent it into another overtime period.  Jordan seems to be made of some pretty tough stuff.  Stanford Coach David Shaw said, “I’m not worried about this lingering for Jordan.  It’s going to make him tougher and stronger.”

And that’s the career advice to be found in this post about field goals.  Point 7 of The Optimist Creed says, “Promise yourself to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.”

Ann Landers has a great quote on the idea behind point seven in the Optimist Creed…

“If I were asked to give what I consider to be the single-most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye, and say ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me’.”

I like what Ann Landers has to say here because it is a bit of reality check. She’s right, trouble,  setbacks, failure – and missed field goals — are an inevitable part of life. Self confident people look trouble squarely in the eye and move forward. They are not cowed by their failures, rather they embrace them and use them to move towards their goals.

If you read this blog somewhat regularly, you probably know that I am a big tennis fan. The Australian Open, the first major tennis tournament of the year will start next week.  I’m looking forward to it.  In 2008, I watched two great matches at the Australian Open.

First, James Blake won a great five set match. He lost the first two sets to Sebastien Grosjean. Then he won the next three to win the best of five set match. He was down four games to one in the fourth set, but won in a tie break. He was gritty and refused to quit.

To put it in terms of The Optimist Creed, James Blake was able to “forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.” In this case, it was a very recent past — the first two sets of the match.

At that time, Roger Federer was one of the best players in the world. He still is.  He had a terrible match against Janko Tipsarevic in that tournament. He made 64 unforced errors and lost 16 of 21 break points. If you follow tennis, you know that this is a recipe for losing – just like missed field goals are a recipe for losing in football.

However, Federer won the match in five sets. Afterwards he said, “He (Tipsarevic) was just going for his shots and kept making them. In the end, I just tried to block out all the chances I missed.”

The Optimist Creed shows up again. By blocking out “all the chances I missed” –forgetting about the mistakes he made in the match, Mr. Federer was able to win.

I believe that James Blake and Roger Federer won those matches because of their self confidence, their optimism, and as Ann Landers says, their ability to “look it (trouble) squarely in the eye, and say ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me’.”

The career success coach point here is simple common sense. Successful, self confident people – whether field goal kickers, professional tennis players or you and me — realize that mistakes are part of life. Learn from your mistakes.  Build on this knowledge.  Commit to Point 7 of The Optimist Creed, “Promise yourself to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievement of the future.” If you do this, you’ll be on your way to creating the life and career success you want and deserve.  I have created a .pdf of The Optimist Creed that you can frame and hang in your workspace.  If you want a copy, send me an email with the words “Optimist Creed” in the subject line.

That’s my career advice on lessons learned the hard way and The Optimist Creed.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site last September.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



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