Category Archives: Lessons From The Gridon Series

How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

This article, “How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life,” is the fourth installment in the Lessons From the Gridiron Series. You can read previous installments by following the links below:

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part One

The Truth About Money and Happiness

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part Two


How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

The batter confidently and calmly strode to the batters box. He dug his cleats into the dirt, settled into his stance, and awaited the first pitch. The pitcher delivered a pitch down the heart of the plate, and moments later, the ball sailed over the fence just left of dead-center field.

One at bat. One pitch. One home run.

Life is not always kind. When adversity - stress, debt, pressure, or a bad job - slams the door in your face, you can give up or choose to reinvent yourself and improve your life. Don't give up! These tips will help you find your strengths, reinvent yourself, and be happy!The small crowd cheered as the batter rounded the base paths and pumped his fist. The rest of the team poured out from the dugout and mobbed the batter.

It was a moment that occurs with regularity during a baseball game, yet this home run was different, monumental even.

It had been launched by Heisman Trophy winner and former-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

Reinvention: From the Gridiron to the Diamond

Set aside any personal feelings of ambivalence you may have for Tim Tebow for a moment and appreciate the facts of the previously described sequence of events. Tebow, a polarizing athlete, broadcaster, and public figure, had just homered in his first professional baseball at-bat.

Yes, he is playing an instructional league. Yes, the competition is non-elite. But to reinvent yourself in the manner that Tebow did in that moment is a remarkable example.

reinvent-yourself-tebowTebow last played competitive baseball approximately twelve years ago as a high school junior. Ever since hanging up the baseball mitt at that time, his life has been focused on football. He achieved tremendous success during his collegiate career at Florida, where his performance on the gridiron indicated that he was destined for a long career in the NFL.

Yet, aside from a handful of special moments, Tebow struggled to live up to expectations as an NFL quarterback. Though he displayed unquestioned grit and toughness, questions about his passing ability loomed large. After being traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, Tebow struggled to fit. Over the next few seasons, he bounced from the New England Patriots to the Philadelphia Eagles.

To his credit, Tim Tebow never stopped trying to succeed as a football player. Though he is now pursuing a baseball career, we may not have seen the last of Tim Tebow under center on the gridiron.

When Adversity Strikes, Reinvent Yourself

Despite our best efforts and intentions, life will not always be kind to us. When adversity rears its ugly head and slams doors in our faces, we can give up or choose to pursue a new path. The following steps can put you on the path to reinvent yourself.

1. Identify and apply transferable skills. Each person is unique and possesses abilities and skills which are transferable in nature. Tebow is attempting to transfer his strength and overall advanced athletic abilities from the gridiron to the diamond. Likewise, a downsized IT sales team leader may attempt to utilize his charm, emotional intelligence, and negotiation skills to reinvent herself as a real estate broker. Or perhaps a teacher who is an expert communicator and problem solver may seek to reinvent himself as a life coach.

2. Determine your values and passions. While transferable skills make indicate your values and passions, it is possible that your former career was holding you back from your best contributions. When life gives you lemons, don’t instantly look to make lemonade. Pause and take stock of the situation. Ask yourself how you arrived at this current place. Examine your options. This is an opportunity to do what excites you! Perhaps you will choose to make lemon meringue instead.

3. Find a mentor. Learning from a mentor is one of the best ways to reinvent yourself. If you are sincere, hard-working, teachable, and dedicated, you will find a mentor who is willing to invest in you. Later, you can pay it forward by mentoring someone else in their journey.

4. Tap into your network. While a mentor will be integral to your successful transition, one person is not sufficient. Reach out to everyone you know and share your plans with them. Articulating your position, hopes, and dreams will not only open up opportunities, but it will also help you clarify the path ahead of you.

5. Be patient and resilient. Times of transition can often be the most trying times. Success is not often something to be found overnight. When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, he initially struggled to find success despite his undeniable skill and brilliance. In 1986, he funded the The Graphics Group, which later became known as Pixar. This group eventually created the hit feature Toy Story and was later purchased by Disney, in turn making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder. This is just one example of the power of patience and resilience in attempting to reinvent yourself.

6. Stop at nothing to reinvent yourself until you succeed. Tebow kept trying and kept searching even when things didn’t go his way on the football field. He played alternate positions, stayed ready, and made the most of his opportunities. When this didn’t work out, he pursued other paths such as broadcasting. Now he is giving baseball a try, playing for the New York Mets instructional team.

7. Embrace past failures and learn from them. Failure need not lead to embarrassment . We all fail. Take your lumps, learn from the experience, and move on.

8. Project confidence. When trying to reinvent yourself, you will experience doubt and hardship. Sometimes, you may have to fake it until you make it. But if you display a lack of confidence, it will show. Create a list of your skills and best qualities and review it on a daily basis. Keep a copy in several places around your home, office, or maintain a digital copy on your phone.

Winning Time

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step in the right direction. That direction may change over time. When it does, remain bold and view hardship as an opportunity.

In what ways have you had to reinvent yourself? Personally? Professionally? Financially? How did you do it? 

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 2

Today’s piece, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 2, is the third installment in the Lessons From the Gridiron Series. It follows the first installment, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1, which presented lessons from the the life of University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh, and the second installment, The Truth About Money and Happiness, which chronicled lessons on the link between money and happiness from the life of O.J. Simpson.

Uncommon financial lessons

Discipline and Routine

Each morning, Jim Harbaugh takes an uncommon and disciplined approach to getting dressed. He pulls on a pair of khakis and a long-sleeved shirt featuring the maize block M, and he is ready to begin his day.

For as long as his wife, Sarah, can remember, Harbaugh has maintained this simple wardrobe. When she attempts to throw away his $8 khakis, he visits Wal-Mart and buys more.

Say what you will about this practice, but Harbaugh is a man of routine and discipline. He wisely spends little time on trivial matters like choosing clothing. He is focused on football.

In 2014, the San Francisco 49ers senior manager of digital and social media experienced Harbaugh’s disciplined routine for himself. Consider the following noteworthy bullet points from a day with Harbaugh:

*Harbaugh was already awake, dressed (in khakis), and at work before sun rise.

*Before heading to meetings with assistant coaches, he took out the trash, watched Judge Judy, brought his kids to school, and played with his young son. He still arrived to the practice facility very early.

*Harbaugh drove a used Chevy Silverardo.

*During lunch, Harbaugh sits with his players. Discussions are rarely football-related.



What if the average person applied similar discipline and routine in managing his personal finances?

Learning From Failure

As quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1990s, Jim Harbaugh had his share of run-ins with then coach Mike Ditka. In 1992, the two engaged in a famous fight after Harbaugh called an audible to a pass play and promptly threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown. Ditka berated Harbaugh on the sidelines, and the Bears lost the game, 21-20.

One year later, Harbaugh’s stint with the Bears was over and his confidence was crushed. Yet, Harbaugh would go on to earn the nickname Captain Comeback with the Indianapolis Colts after leading the team to an unexpected trip to the AFC Championship Game.

uncommon financial lessons
Harbaugh with a Mike Ditka jersey at 2015 Big Ten Media Days (Credit: Freep/Paul Beatty/AP)

Many people in Harbaugh’s position would prefer to forget about the fallout in Chicago and focus upon his success with the Colts. Not Harbaugh. He still keeps a framed note from Ditka in his office. The note reads,

“I am still — believe it or not — your greatest fan.”

At Big Ten Media Days in July 2015, Harbaugh brought — you guessed it — a Mike Ditka jersey. The scar from 1992 has clearly healed. Deep in his soul, Harbaugh knows that his hardships with his former coach have led to his successes. He prefers to embrace his previous failures rather than seek to erase them.

In fact, it is quite possible that Harbaugh does not believe in the existence of failure. After his 49ers lost the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, he famously quoted Hemingway, “A man can be destroyed, but he can’t be defeated.”

What if the average person applied similar resolve and learned from his financial failures?

1% Mindset

“Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

This has been Jim Harbaugh’s mantra for years.

In a February 2016 Player’s Tribune article, Harbaugh explained that the mantra started with his father back when Jim and his brother John were kids.

When I was growing up, there was a local car dealer in Ann Arbor that had a program where the coaches got to drive the extra dealer cars. We didn’t have much money, and we didn’t have a car of our own, so my parents shared the dealer car. Sometimes my dad, brother and I would walk outside and the car would be in the driveway. Other ties, if my mom was out, it wasn’t.

“Hey Dad, where’s the car?”

“No car today, guys. We’re walking … Grab a basketball: 100 with the right, 100 with the left. Let’s go!”

So we’d dribble down the sidewalk, dad leading the way, yelling: “Who’s got it better than us?!”

Me and my brother trailing behind, chanting: “No-body!”

For a boy who moved almost constantly, Harbaugh has never once failed to appreciate his position in life. In his mind, the answer to his father’s question wasn’t just senseless parroting; he meant it.

What if the average person understood and appreciated his many blessings?

Wisdom in Stealthiness

Last fall, Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines embarked on a journey. Harbaugh informed the media in typical fashion:

Just to let you know, we’re into a submarine, and you won’t see us for a while. You won’t hear from us. You won’t see us. We’ll be working. We’ll be in a bunker . . . until we decide we’re not.

During the days which followed during the team’s fall camp, Harbaugh did not give a single media interview. Practices were closed to the media and public. Players lived in dorms and spent their time strictly with their coaches.

One can easily surmise that talk is cheap to a man like Harbaugh. He would rather let his team’s performance on the field speak for itself than praise his players for the media.

As an added benefit, the stealthiness of the team’s “submarine mode” provides every possible advantage on the playing field. No lineups, formations, starters, or plays are divulged until the last possible moment.

What if the average person embraced stealthiness and opted to live a modest life of anonymity and simplicity?

In all likelihood, volumes could be written about lessons learned from the life of Jim Harbaugh. Which themes resonated most with you?

The Truth About Money and Happiness

This post, The Truth About Money and Happiness, is the second installment in the series, Lessons From the Gridiron. It follows the previous post, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1.

I will never forget the evening of June 17, 1994. I can vividly recall sitting on my living room floor, watching the action unfold. I was watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks when NBC interrupted the programming with a breaking news corner-cut in. A white Ford Bronco raced down the 405 freeway and was chased by a convoy of police vehicles. Oddly, as time passed, it became clearer that the chase wasn’t really much of a chase.

When I awoke the next morning, I asked my parents about how the chase ended. They told me that OJ Simpson had finally stopped running after two hours and gave himself up to LA police.

O.J.: Made In America (Credit: ESPN)
O.J.: Made In America (Credit: ESPN)

All of my memories of this experience came flooding back to me recently when I watched the recent ESPN series, O.J.: Made in America.

As I watched the five part mini-series, I observed that Simpson’s happiness came from all the wrong places: fame, possessions, people, even alcohol and drugs. After being mired in controversy, Simpson’s fall from the throne was predictable. Like many celebrities before and after him, O.J. became addicted to alcohol and drugs later in life when money, notoriety, and women ceased to provide the happiness he craved.

In my opinion, it was his preoccupation with seeking happiness in all of the wrong places that led to his ultimate arrest and imprisonment on kidnapping charges in 2008.

The Mindset of More

Dream big, but don't allow the link between money and happiness to grow too strong. Seeking happiness in the wrong places is a losing proposition.Most of us will never know what it is like to a football star. We won’t experience the life of a film and television actor. In fact, few people, past or present, can claim to understand the life of Orenthal James Simpson. His nation-wide fame began at USC, where he played football and won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. It only escalated as Simpson moved on to the NFL and the big screen.

O.J. Simpson appeared to have it all. Yet, in his mind, he was never satisfied, trapped in a race and perpetually seeking more. In his mind, the widening gap between his expectations and reality lead to unhappiness and discontentment. In his mind, chasing happiness and hoping to find it in people, possessions, and fame was akin to running toward an end zone that would always remain a few yards out of his reach.

It was a losing proposition.

How to Live a Life of Simplicity Instead of Enslavement

Like O.J. Simpson, the average person is destined for an unfulfilling life the moment she chooses a life of enslavement to possessions. By perpetually seeking more, she is likely to live a far less satisfying life.

It is no secret that money provides varying degrees of security. When utilized properly, money can meet the physiological, safety, belonging, and even esteem needs proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” It can be leveraged to meet our most basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – as well as satisfy our vain ambitions – status, friendship, romantic relationships, employment, and socioeconomic status.

Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs (Credit: Wikipedia)
Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs (Credit: Wikipedia)

Yet, despite our human instincts which seek to convince us otherwise, there is not a linear relationship between money and happiness. Researchers have not yet established solid proof that money can or cannot buy happiness; in fact, a quick review of the research over the past ten years reveals that behavioral psychologists may be more divided on this issue than ever before.

Furthermore, it can be argued that possessions do not contribute to increased happiness. At a basic level, we value possessions based upon their utility. If we do not or cannot utilize our possessions, they cease to provide value or retain a maximum level of importance to us. For example, if I gifted you a pair of Wave Runners but established the conditional precedent mandating that they sit on blocks in your garage on a year-round basis, they would not increase your happiness. In fact, their presence might even lead to unhappiness every time you drive by the beach and lament their lack of utility.

Perhaps the link between money and happiness does not lie within how much money or how many possessions one possesses, but instead lies in purposefully managing the money  and possessions which pass through his hands.

A UCLA study revealed that those people who would prefer having more time rather than more money also reported being happier. Respondents in the study frequently indicated that when life offered time/money “trade-offs,” more time led to greater happiness. Among the reasons cited for choosing time over money:

*Working 50 hr a week, with 2 hr of commuting a day, leaves only a few hours to spend time with my children and wife.

*I want to enjoy the pleasures of life and have artistic projects I want to complete.

*Because all I ever do is work. I just want to enjoy myself.

Seven Action Steps to Increase Your Happiness

In accordance with your values, strive to live a life of relative simplicity rather than enslavement to money and possessions by following these seven steps:

  1. Identify your values and spend accordingly. Spending money can make you happy when it aligns with your values.
  2. Give 10% of your income (gross or net is up to you) to a worthwhile charity, religious organization, or research fund each and every month. In doing so, you will gain emotional and psychological control over your money and practice good stewardship. The joy of giving money is unlike any other feeling, and it is often contagious!
  3. Wait 30 days before making unnecessary purchases. Write down the desired purchase and reasons for making it, and if you still want the item after 30 days have passed, then make a decision which aligns with your values. A majority of the time you will discover you no longer want the item as badly as you once thought.
  4. Dream big, but do not allow your happiness to depend on the achievement of your dreams. I have made this mistake and paid dearly for it.
  5. Slow down, unplug, and cherish experiences with loved ones. Relationships are the real treasure in life.
  6. Do not allow the fear of missing out to influence your spending. Social media envy can easily incite jealousy and lead you to believe that more possessions or experiences will increase your happiness. Do not yield to those desires!
  7. Spend money on other people. Spending generously on others will make you happier than spending on yourself. After all, there is a reason that Warren Buffett is delighted by his own plan to give away 99 percent of his wealth.

In 2008, O.J. Simpson’s improbable run of good fortune came to an end. At his sentencing, Simpson offered an apology, telling District Judge Jackie Glass he was “sorry, somewhat confused, [and] apologetic. I just wanted my personal things. I was stupid. I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was doing anything illegal. I thought I was confronting friends. I thought I was retrieving my things. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody, and I didn’t mean to steal anything.”

These were the words of a man desperately clinging to the hope that once again, his charm and charisma could rescue him. In a moment of opportunity, Simpson squandered his chance to take responsibility for a lifetime of seeking happiness in all the wrong places and damaging countless lives in the process.

Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown-Simpson, offered a much more succinct and sincere assessment of all that had transpired.

“It is very sad to think that an individual who had it all, an amazing career, beautiful wife and two precious children, has ended up like this. Allowing wealth, power and control to consume himself, he made a horrific choice on June 12, 1994, which has spiraled into where he is today,” she lamented.

May we all strive to develop a healthier attitude toward wealth and never allow money to control our happiness.

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1

Today begins a multi-part series titled Lessons From the Gridiron. Today’s installment, Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part 1, is a character study of one of the most eccentric and competitive men to every play the game of football, James Joseph Harbaugh. Please check back next week for the continuation of this series.

It initially struck me as an unremarkable tweet:

Harbaugh Tweet

Yet the above image featuring the wise words of University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh has been the desktop background on my PC for over a year. Every time I consider changing the display, I reconsider, as the message has guided me well – at work, at home, on the run, with this blog, and, of course, in my finances.

If you’ve been reading FinanceSuperhero for a while, you may recall that I strive to live by the question, “What is it time for now?” Though Harbaugh didn’t inspire this question, he is certainly a master of making the most of the present at all times.

Coach Harbaugh undoubtedly has his detractors and critics. He is quite possibly equal parts genius and simpleton, open-book and enigma, competitor and friend.

Despite the apparent string of contradictions, one thing is abundantly clear:

Jim Harbaugh stops at nothing in the pursuit of success.

The Young Milk Boy

At an August 2015 media day, a young boy asked Coach Harbaugh how much milk he would need to drink in order to grow up to be a quarterback. Not surprisingly, Harbaugh offered the boy a bear hug and advised him to “drink as much as your little belly can hold.”

In January 2015 HBO feature and Detroit Free Press article, Harbaugh shared the similar plan that ultimately helped him grow to become a 6-3 quarterback.

I prayed about it a lot – ‘I want to be 6-2, I want to be 6-2. So we started delivering milk everyday [in school] and we got one free milk for delivering all the milk. But every kid that was absent, every kid that was sick, every kid that didn’t show up or didn’t want their milk, that tray would go back to the little milk room and I would just drink as much milk as my belly could hold. I drank a lot of milk. Whole milk. Not the candy-ass 2%. . . I finally got to 6-3.

Without question, Harbaugh possessed relentless intensity and desire to excel even as a grade school milk boy. He grasped at an early age what many never will understand: each moment offers a singular opportunity to grow.

What if more of us treated every dollar with the same care and intensity?

A Unique Drive

From the ages of 10 to 16, Jim Harbaugh lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while his dad worked as an assistant football coach for the Wolverines. He reportedly still gets his hair cut today at the same barbershop, State Street Barbershop, where he received haircuts back in the 1970s. He knows the streets of Ann Arbor like the back of his hand.

Though Harbaugh is a man of precision and direction, those characteristics do not stop him from pausing to learn important lessons. A Bleacher Report article details the following illustrative story:

As [Harbaugh] explained it, he was on his way to the office when he noticed a traffic light wasn’t working; a cop was standing in the middle of a busy intersection, directing cars this way and that way. The female officer displayed such command of the intersection that Harbaugh pulled over to the side of the road, mesmerized.

For half an hour, Harbaugh sat in his car and studied the scene. He was nearly late for practice because he was so enthralled with the skill and the savvy of the traffic cop. “I like to watch people doing their job at the highest level,” he said. “I really do.”

On the surface, this behavior seems wasteful, at best, and insane at worst. Yet, to Harbaugh, a devoted maximizer, it was an opportunity to learn something new and apply it to his own craft.

What if more of us sought to learn at all times and applied newfound knowledge to become a wiser budgeter, investor, and employee?

Unparalleled Persistence

For a man who was once observed doing push-ups with a walrus at a zoo and maintains a healthy affinity for climbing trees, Jim Harbaugh defies convention at every turn.

Most notably, while others are quick to give up multiple times over, Harbaugh persists.

When the khaki-wearing coach saw the woman of his dreams at a restaurant, he promptly approached her to introduce himself. Says Harbaugh

Sarah was there getting take-out . . . I saw her leaving. I went up to her and asked if I could meet her. She said, “Sure, you can meet me.” I didn’t believe her, at first. I thought it was one of those fake numbers she was giving me.

But I called her. Multiple times. Like, nine times before she returned my call. I could tell she was a winner. All the way.

What if more of us sought to act with even a fraction of the persistence which Harbaugh exhibits on a regular basis?

Say what you will, but Jim Harbaugh has a knack for getting what he wants. He has a profound ability to visualize where he wants to get and enact a plan to get there. And he possesses an uncanny ability to learn extraordinary lessons in the midst of ordinary experiences.

Oh, and he and his wife Sarah recently announced that she is pregnant with their seventh child.

True to form, Harbaugh said he will be “attacking this pregnancy with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

Do the above stories and themes resonate with you? Are they applicable to your pursuit of financial excellence?