Recently I read Wins, Losses, and Lessons, Lou Holtz‘s autobiography. Lou Holtz is a former college football coach and member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Holtz currently works as a college football analyst on ESPN. He is well known for his ability to inspire and his wit. Reading this book was a pleasure.
Holtz played football at Kent State University and began his work as a coach during his undergraduate years. He was an undersized player, but his work ethic and desire stuck out to his coaches who eventually gave him the task of coaching the freshman team at a nearby high school. Holtz went on to coach in a variety of assistant roles and got his first head coaching gig at William and Mary in 1969. Throughout his career Holtz moved around to several teams with stops at NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Additionally, he coached the NFL’s New York Jets for one season. In his book, Holtz talks about the internal struggle when deciding to make career moves each time he switched jobs. It is an introspective look at how his career and his family had an impact on each other. Holtz collected 249 career wins in college football and won the national title at Notre Dame in 1988.
Holtz came from a from a close knit family with few resources. The first chapter of the book is aptly named “Its Not What You Have, Its Who You Have”. This title reflects growing up in family that could not afford many things, but did have each other and were able to help each other become great people. Several lessons can be drawn from this experience that influenced his leadership style down the road. Because of his upbringing, Holtz did not take anything for granted and worked hard for everything he earned. Additionally he learned how to respect people and work with them, recognizing that your relationships are the biggest asset you have. As is commonly discussed in both athletics and the business world: in order to perform the best, you need the best people.
Holtz has a unique and refreshing take on success. He does not suggest that success is solely determined by your results against your competition or strictly your performance. Holtz teaches that success is determined by you giving your very best. If you try your hardest and give 100% towards your goals, you will achieve them and you will find success. So maybe he isn’t exactly discounting results as your determining factor of success, but rather he has outlined a recipe for success. Create a goal, give it your all, and you will be successful. As he explained to the players on the Ravenna freshmen team “If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. If not, don’t waste your time or mine.”
Core values are paramount to Holtz’s leadership technique and his teachings. He breaks everything down into three simple rules. Follow these rules and you will be successful at anything you undertake. “Do what is right. Do your very best. Treat others like you’d like to be treated.” Or as Holtz has famously put into question form:
- Can I trust you?
- Are you committed to excellence?
- Do you care about me?
In closing, Lou Holtz is an excellent leader and a powerful motivator. He shares many profound thoughts regarding family life, relationships, work, and personal and professional development. During the college football season, Holtz is featured on several ESPN shows and does many “motivational speeches” as if he were the coach in the locker room. These speeches are often very humorous and show great insight into his ability to lead. If you happen to catch one, make sure to watch as it will no doubt be entertaining.
Finally, I selected several of Holtz’s thoughts that I believe to be extremely powerful and universally applicable. Which lessons from Holtz’s coaching careers have made an impact on you?
- “I learned early on that if you help other people get what they want, you get what you want.”
- “The most important decisions a man makes in his life are what kind of relationship he has with God, whom he marries, where he lives, what he does for a career, and what kind of example he sets for others.”
- “Hard times will come. They always do. But when it happens, remember that deep faith, hard work, and an unwavering commitments to your goals will turn today’s tragedy into tomorrow’s triumphs.”
- “Winners don’t need to make excuses, and they don’t have time because they are too busy finding solutions.”“I told every athlete that I coached that the only thing I expected from him was the best he had to give. I pushed men beyond what they thought they were capable of…Consequently, no one asked me for anything other than my best.”
- “There is no magic touch. Hard work, discipline, and perseverance win more often than they lose.”