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Herm Edwards on leadership, preparation and legacy

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The charismatic ESPN analyst Herm Edwards kicked the motivation factor up a notch at the 2014 Advisor Network Summit in Las Vegas, citing personal stories of the obstacles he encountered and the dedication and discipline he procured from his years of experience as a pro football player and head coach. His speech about “doing the little things” and “executing your vision” easily applies to the insurance industry and advisors’ practices. Here are just a few snippets of his words of wisdom.   

Commit to your position

“Know your role. Everybody knows who Tom Brady is. Does anybody know a center? You could care less who the guy is…The center hikes the ball to Tom Brady. The center gets hit in the head 70 times in the game. But if my job is to hike the ball to Tom Brady and I do my job right, there is great success. When you win the Super Bowl you get the same ring Tom Brady did, because you understood the job.

Sometimes we don’t like where we sit in our job. When you decide to choose your vocation, you’ve got to really like it. You’ve got to like football, because this is a hard job. So the center is brought up saying, ‘I’m going to be the center, I’m going to hike the ball to Tom Brady, I’m going to get hit in the head.’ He does that for 16 weeks. When you stand in front of the masses on the podium, it’s all worth it. That’s the type of people you want on your team, people who understand their role. All good teams are built that way.”

Planning is pertinent

“Sometimes we get so stubborn, we don’t want to tweak our plan. A plan that can’t be tweaked becomes a bad plan. If you’ve got a goal without a plan, that it’s just a wish.”


Always be prepared and ready

“I heard somebody on a radio show, and the question was, ‘Coach, sometimes the rookies don’t get as many reps as the better guys; that’s not fair.’ And I started laughing. Who came up with the rule that life was fair? Who mandated that? Life ain’t fair, ladies and gentlemen. Life’s about opportunity. It’s not a career, pro football, it’s an opportunity. If you don’t like it, don’t play. That’s the rules of life.

When your opportunity comes, you’ve got to be prepared. I was not drafted. I came in as a free agent. I started the first pre-season game, and 10 years later I was still starting. I didn’t let other people put limitations on my expectations. Don’t allow that to happen, regardless if it’s fair or not. It’s about opportunity. Put yourself in the position for when the opportunity presents itself, you can go. ‘I’m prepared to do this; I make good decisions every day. I put myself in position when I get my chance, look out!’”

The responsibility of your leadership

“Coach’ is a very powerful seat. When you have a whistle around your neck, your responsibility is to give answers. They also want trust. In football, if players don’t trust the head coach, you’ve got issues.”

“Look at yourself. He missed the tackle, but who’s coaching him at the time? When you sit in that leadership position, if things aren’t going very well, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, that’s Jim’s fault.’ No, it’s your fault, for allowing it to happen. Your job is to not allow your players to fail. You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

“I like to have a team full of people who can deal with inconvenience. Chaos. It happens.”

“When it gets tough, you weren’t going to allow the players on the team to tap out.”


Be willing to adapt to how things are changing

Change: if we’re not wiling to change, we’re not willing to grow. The NFL has changed. You look at how we play football now, compared to how I played it. It’s changed. You’ve got to adapt.”

Integrity is everything

“Your words and your life should match up. What we do in the dark comes to the light. When your words and your life match up, that’s integrity. If you can look someone in the eye and trust them, that’s everything.”

Consider your legacy

“When the book of your life is written, what will it say? Hopefully when I leave, I’ve made the game better. I’m an ambassador for the game. We look at athletes and we say, ‘What is their legacy going to be?’ Everybody in this room has their own legacy. My father once said, ‘Your prized possession is your last name.’ You have a legacy. You hand your last name down to your children, and your profession becomes a part of your legacy. That’s big.” 

For more live coverage from the 2014 Advisor Network Summit, please go here.


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