I first saw this PaineWebber investment group advertisement featuring then-Michigan head football coach Bo Schembechler many years ago. His implied investment advice was obviously inspired by his motivation mantra for the Michigan players.
My initial reaction was one of bemusement…and then I started to think about it. He goes on to say, “The moment you stop growing you begin falling behind.” The more I thought about it, the more I began to believe in the fundamental truth of its assertions. When we think we are keeping up with life – doing OK, “holding our own” – we may actually be falling behind due to the fast pace of today’s world. Much of what we learned in school is now out-dated. What new knowledge have we gathered and what additional skills have we forged? I got out my cutters as I am often wont to do, and I carefully trimmed the full-page ad from the magazine. It has had a prominent display space in our back hallway for many years now – a constant admonition and reminder about the trap of complacency to me to and anyone else who might happen to notice it.
Coach Schembechler was very successful during his long tenure as the University of Michigan’s head coach. Usually a coach of that caliber has the proven ability to motivate his players. One of his star pupils years ago was a young fellow who played quarterback there, one Jim Harbaugh who is now familiar to sports fans as the newly-arrrived head coach who rejuvenated the San Francisco 49ers football franchise into a Super Bowl team in two short years. Less well-known, but equally impressive: Prior to arriving in San Francisco, he stopped in Palo Alto to turn around a dismal Stanford University football program by going from a 1-11 record to 11-1 in three years. His coaching results have been amazing. What is his secret?
I was excited and pleased to read in the sports page last fall that Coach Harbaugh has a sign prominently posted in the 49ers training camp which reads…..I’m sure you can guess! He obviously paid attention to his coach at Michigan and believed in the message he received there.
At my age, I do pay attention to his admonition because I believe in it. I liken the personal concept of “keeping up” and “maintaining one’s status quo” to the illusion of the hard-riding cowboys of the early silver screen. The camera faithfully recorded the landscape flying by as the hero chased the bad guy on horseback – at full speed. The reality, of course, was that the cowboy was mounted on a stationary “horse” while a stage-hand vigorously operated the endless-loop panorama in the background.
The punch-line for the cowboy and the lesson for us might read, “The world is passing you by as you sit there so comfortably.” For us seniors on the other hand, after several decades of personal striving to “get better” and with a still-healthy determination to keep on trying, it is wise to occasionally sit back and smell the roses for just a little while.