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Any organization or business that has found a level of success and sustainability undoubtedly knows their product or service better than anyone else. Their understanding of the value of their brand to meet the needs of their target market outmatches that of the competition. But what really drives the long-term success of an organization? What sets an company apart from the countless others that never find their footing?
It’s the “why.”
During my four years playing Big Ten football for the University of Minnesota and six years in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals, I suffered five documented concussions. The last one happened on the training camp field in Cincinnati, and it was the final time I laced up my cleats as a professional football player. After eight long months of recovery, I came to the difficult decision to call it quits.
I tell the story often about sitting across the table from my wife, my college roommate, and his wife. The three of them were fondly reminiscing about their wedding, but as I sat quietly and listened, I grew confused why I shared none of these memories. I interrupted and asked why I wasn’t able to be there. The three of them laughed it off as one of my usual jokes. But I wasn’t having it. I asked again, and the air in the room grew tense. They pulled the wedding photo book out, and there I was. Not only did I attend the wedding, I was in it. I even sang a song.
This isn’t an isolated incident for me. Unfortunately, as a result of years and years of head trauma playing football, this is my reality. In my book Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away, to be released this fall, many of the stories I share from my childhood and beyond come from my parents, my wife, and other loved ones. There are gaps in my memory that can’t be filled no matter how many photos, videos, and stories I see and hear.
My “why” for stepping away from the game I love was simple. It was no longer worth the risk. My greatest role in life was not catching passes from Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl, although I’d done that. It wasn’t even sitting under the leadership of one of the greatest coaches and mentors I’d ever known, Tony Dungy. It was, and is, loving my wife and my four daughters with everything I am. What if I wake up one day and suddenly have no memory of even those I love the most?
Football was slowly chipping away at my identity in the form of my memories, so I walked away. For the first time in my life, I made an intentional choice to care about my brain.
Enter the MVP Program.
My experience with traumatic brain injury and memory loss have led me to the discovery that our minds, and specifically our memories, comprise our identities. This is the foundational principle behind the MVP Program. Who am I without my memories? What relevance do I have to the people and things around me if I have no memory of them? My ability to recall events, people, and places give my life meaning.
You may not have memory issues like me, but I want to connect you to the importance of your mind. We are, at any time, the sum of our experiences, or rather our ability to recall them. Our present becomes our past with each passing moment, so each present moment shapes our future identity. When we understand this, the gravity of every moment becomes apparent and important.
Once we understand how our memories shape us, we become acutely aware of what is important to us, our values. If every moment matters, what matters in these moments becomes quite clear. These are principles such as honesty and integrity that are outward extensions of our inward self. When we know ourselves and our values, we discover that we have tremendous value, to our employers, coworkers, families, friends, and even those who only observe us at a distance.
Grasping our identity and realizing our values defines the “why” in our lives. This is our purpose, the driving force behind every word and action. Every decision we make and every word we say fits clearly within the framework of our purpose. Without purpose we are aimless and ultimately irrelevant, but with a clearly defined purpose based in our identity and values, we will be consistent, unwavering, and ultimately relevant.
The 2006-2007 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, a team I’m honored to have been a part of, knew their “why.” From August through January, we established our identity as a championship-caliber team through shared memories of struggle against opposition. We knew our value, to the league, to the fans, and to ourselves, because we lived our values of hard work and integrity. And our purpose was clear: show up and be the better team.
That’s how we became champions on that rainy February evening in Miami, Florida. Who are you? What are your values? What is your purpose? If you can answer these questions with clarity, you will never live the same. It will affect every decision. It will impact every relationship. Your organization will be revitalized. Your personnel will be reenergized. You’ll see the difference in every aspect of your business life as well as your personal life.
It is my goal to connect you to your brain, and ultimately, your purpose. Are you ready?
Learn more about the MVP Program here.