USC Trojans head coach Pete Carroll & special teams coach Schneider prepare by studying film. (photo by Ho-Se Tseng, USC staff photog)

  Even after school there is more homework to be done, albeit a different kind. Adult homework is preparation.

As far as I’m concerned you can never have enough of it. Whatever field you have chosen you should never enter a business meeting without studying. Or a sales conference without researching. Or a theaterical play without rehearsing. Or a footbsll gsme without practicing. Otherwise you are asking for a passport to failure.  

Preparation is the foundation for sucess. The difference between someone who is successful and someone who is not, is not about talent. It’s about preparation. So much of what successful people do – knowing their competition, making their luck, being equipped to take risks, overcoming adversity, dealing with success – is tied to the powerful principle of preparation. It enables people to move ahead, stay ahead, and live ahead.  

Through the years what I have always learned and always reinforced is that the way you go about doing your homework translates into the way you end up performing. Being ready for any challenge in business or life, provides the cross-hairs for taking dead aim at the heart of success.  

When I was with the San Francisco 49ers, there were players that had won 3 or 4 Super Bowls, yet they practiced at a premium level every day! Other teams might feel you can slack off from time to time, but with our team — or any winning organization — there is no other way to go. You have to practice at game speed – otherwise how do you expect to play perfectly on game day?  

It’s like I tell the team from time to time – we have one chance and one chance only to be successful on Sunday and that is if we have the most thorough week of preparation possible. We start even with the competition on Sunday, but we get ahead of them from Monday through Saturday!  

It is why our practices are so demanding. We go through every conceivable situation and how we should respond. We work on visualization, going over every detail. We run every play 100 times in our minds. That way whatever happens in the game, we have seen it before.  

We want our players so disciplined that their reaction is instinctive. No one can wave a magic wand on Sunday, make a great pregame speech, and expect to go out and win one for the Gipper. But if you approach things on a day-to-day basis, then you have a chance for greatness. And the only way to reach this level is to never let up! Always expecting the best forces you to operate at a higher level.  

The other thing we do is run plays until we do it right. When I was with the San Francisco, 49ers quarterback Steve Young used to call me “Mr. Do It Again”. But if we didn’t run the play perfectly, the way it was supposed to run during the game, sorry, we are going to do it again.  

We’ve adopted the approach – but not the nickname – in Denver. During our preparation for Super Bowl XXXIII against the Atlanta Falcons, the players felt like they had our game plan down just the way we wanted. It got to the4 point that the players were saying, “Get us away from these coaches! Let play already.” The Wednesday before the Super Bowl, we were crisp. Not once in practice did the ball touch the ground. We are in sync, we were in tune, every pass was on the money. John Elway was conducting his orchestra like few things I have ever seen during my coaching career. Watching John throw prefect pass after perfect pass, a memory hit me out of nowhere. I looked over at Gary Kibiak, our offensive coordinar, who was with me in San Francisco for the 1994 season, the year the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl. 

 “Hey Gary, I asked, sidling up next to him. “What does this remind you of?” 

 “Steve Young”, Gary said, “That Thursday practice, boss.” 

 That Thursday practice was when the 49ers were preparing for Super Bowl XXIX against the San Diego Chargers. We were crisp. Not once during practice did the ball touch the ground. We were in sync, in tune, every pass was right on the money. Steve Young was conducting his orchestra like few things I had ever seen in my coaching career. 

 And Steve, like we thought he would, carried his prefect preparation from Thursday to Sundat. He threw for an NFL reord six touchdown passes and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXIX, a 49-26 49er win. 

 And John? He too carried over his perfect preparaion from Wednesday to Sunday. In what turned out to be his last NFL game, he threw for 336 yards, and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII, a 34-19 Broncos win. 

 Funny how that works, but it always does. The way to bring out the best in you is not by chance, but rather through preparation. 

 Adult homework (preparation) – as much as we all would rather not do it – does have its rewards.  


— Mike Shanahan
from “Think Like A Champion”  by Mike Shanahan & Adam Schefter


It’s Not Magic. It’s About You!

Coach Mike Shanahan, former head coach Denver Broncos, part of 3 Super Bowl winning teams (1 w/ 49ers & 2 w/ Broncos)

Don’t wish for something.

Go make it happen. You don’t hear successful people wishing for something, do you?

They make up their mind and go get it. There is no reason you can’t do the same.

It’s not magic. It’s about you!

— Mike Shanahan

(from “Think Like A Champion” by Mike Shanahan & Adam Schefter)

Joe Torre On Winning



From Business Week’s “Competition Issue” (8/21/06)

Joe Torre On Winning 

“Don’t be afraid to fail, encourage your talent, and use your heart. And never be unprepared…”

 Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It’s about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result.

 To emphasize the importance of preparation, I make my players recall a painful memory from the fourth game of the 2004 American League Championship Series. We were up three games to none against Boston, and carrying a one-run lead heading into the last inning of the fourth game at Fenway. Mariano Rivera was pitching when he walked the leadoff batter. Boston decides to put in a pinch-runner, a guy named Dave Roberts, who would change the tide of the game and the entire series when he steals second. Bill Mueller comes to the plate, hits one through the middle. Roberts scores to tie the game. The Red Sox would go on to win it 6-4 and fight their way back to take the championship. Roberts hadn’t had an at-bat all series, but he was prepared to do the job being asked of him. As tough as that game was, I use it and Roberts’ performance as an example to my players. You may be frustrated by not playing — that’s my decision. But you have to understand when I put you in, you had better be ready to play because everybody in that clubhouse is relying on you. There will be a time when everyone on the team is going to contribute to winning a pennant.

 As a member of a competitive team, you want to make sure you have yourself ready to play. You don’t control anything but what you do. As a manager, you are responsible for everybody. You’re the final decision-maker. It’s tougher to do what I do here, but, I will tell you, hitting with the bases loaded is no day at the beach either. After 25 years of managing teams, the last 11 with the Yankees, I have learned not to live in the past and dwell on something that failed. The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden told me once that you can be prepared and have the best talent there is, but you can’t necessarily control the outcome.

 I believe anybody who is not afraid to fail is a winner. I remember seeing my older brother, Frank, playing for the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series in 1957 and 1958 against the Yankees. I look back and admire him so much because he never seemed to worry about leaping to that next level. He just seemed to thrive in the pressure, never asking himself “what if I fail?” That’s why having perspective is so important. If you talk about game seven of the World Series, it becomes so enormous that it scares the heck out of you. If you take it to a level that it is a baseball game and that one of two teams has to win, all of a sudden your chances are better.

 These days it is so important for a CEO, or any manager, whoever it is, to be aware of his or her personnel. We are in an age of computers, and everything is so damn impersonal. But in the end, it still comes down to people. You have to make people feel necessary. Even if their contributions are minor, it adds to everything else. That’s what makes the machine work. I love players with heart, not necessarily emotion, but those who deep down are driven by something more than mind and body. I don’t play favorites. The 25th member of the squad is just as important as the first guy. And I can’t let my own emotions get in the way of competing. I have had to release guys I loved, and keep players I didn’t necessarily care for.

 I played and managed in more than 4,000 big league games before I ever got to a World Series. But all that experience without a championship helped me prepare for what I needed to do when I came to the Yankees. When I first accepted the job at the end of 1995, my brother Frank said I was crazy. Others were writing about how I wasn’t capable of doing this. All I knew was that George Steinbrenner was the guy who was going to give me the tools. Then it was up to me. I wasn’t afraid of the challenge. I saw it as a big opportunity. Still, even with all the talent and resources we have here, having heart is what really makes a difference. As a manager, or if you’re running a company, you want to know that you can ask somebody to do something and that they are going to find a way to get the job done. That’s the essence of a competitor.

 The toughest decision for any real warrior is deciding when to step away from the fight. I always think to myself that if February rolls around and I’m not excited about going to spring training, it’s time. It never happens. A few weeks ago we won a real nail-biter down in Texas and afterwards my stomach was burning. It was the first time in years that my stomach burned like that. One of my coaches, Larry Bowa, said to me, “See? You still want to do this.” I do love the feeling of a big win. But again you don’t have to have a World Series ring to be a winner. A winner is somebody who goes out there every day and exhausts himself trying to get something accomplished. Being able to get the most from their ability. That’s what characterizes a winner.