P.J. Fleck’s words boomed through my car radio. As 2017 starts, I can’t shake them. Fleck, then the football coach at Western Michigan, was giving an interview on the Jim Rome show on December 19. (If you want to listen, you can here: Fleck interview). His team was preparing to play Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Just a few years ago, Fleck’s first season, the Broncos finished 1-11. This past year Western Michigan went undefeated through the regular season.
Fleck told how his team made the turnaround. It came during a halftime in a tough game. With his team trailing big, Fleck simply asked his players: “when are you going to be tired of being average?” That question has resonated with me. Since I heard Fleck repeat it on the air, I have asked myself the same thing multiple times. Millions of people have access to the Rome show across the country. But I felt the words were meant for me. 2017, you are the year. No more settling for average.
Fleck went on to describe how it looks daily. It’s not about being perfect in everything. Instead, it’s “being willing to strain.” He asked his team to put forth maximum effort on every play, every practice rep. When an opponent knocks you down, be willing to jump back up and sprint to get back in the play. Don’t lay on the ground and wait for the next snap. Make the most out of every single play.
I’ve never played tackle football in my life. But sitting there listening to Fleck, I was ready to put on pads and a helmet. His words went deeper than football, however. They are applicable to most aspects of my life. Doing a job isn’t the same thing as doing your best at a job. Running follows. While it’s impossible to run all out for every single workout, it is possible to put everything into training. I should be pushing outside of my comfort zone regularly. That’s something I haven’t been doing. I’ve avoided many track workouts, and I’m far too content to lock into easy run pace instead of doing a progression or harder run.
Striving to be above average applies to my work as well. On Saturday, I had a customer who came in for a new pair of running shoes. He immediately asked about any shoes on sale, and he was comparing prices on amazon.com while I talked to him about shoes. Because of his questions and attitude, I didn’t do as good a job trying to help him as a runner as I should have. He was wearing cotton socks. I should have mentioned how synthetic socks are much better for exercise and running.
He had a pair of eight-year old Super Feet inserts in his old shoes. I asked about them and he said he wasn’t interested in a new pair, but I should have given more examples about how his pair was trashed. I also didn’t mention to him that I’m trained to fit him for shoes. He was asking about certain sale shoes, and I was content to just answer his questions. Instead, I should have talked to him more about his running and given more advice. My failure wasn’t in missing sales — I’m positive he wouldn’t have purchased anything else. I failed at trying to help him as a runner.
My boss did call me out on how I didn’t dig deeper with the customer, and I remembered Fleck’s words. I shouldn’t be content with average. Perfection should be the goal. And even though it’s not truly attainable, I need to be willing to strain for it.
I love this time of year. The calendar flips over, and we all get a chance to take on a new year. It’s reviving. I don’t set specific resolutions. My goals haven’t changed since 2016 ended. But 2017 will offer me another opportunity to put everything together.
I know I’ve settled for average in the past. By that, I mean I have been far too quick to give up. Settling has become normal. I’m tired of being average. When you settle for average effort, you get average results.
I might end up with average results, or even below average, with either approach. But as long as I make a commitment to straining for better, I will live with my outcome.
Fleck also said the key is putting action behind your words. What he said on the Rome show will not make me more consistent in my life and in running. The words I’m typing right now won’t make me choose to strain the next time I face a challenge. And reading this post will never make you choose to strain to give better than average effort.
We must put action behind our words.
It’s a new year. My smallest and biggest goals are all in front of me.
It’s time to strain.