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Career Success Lessons From The Super Bowl Coaches


The Super Bowl is only a few days away.

Today I want to provide some career success advice that I picked up from the Harbaugh brothers, the opposing head coaches in Sunday’s game.

Jim coaches the 49ers.  In the 10th game of the season, he stated a new quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, after his first team QB, Alex Smith was hurt.  That’s not so unusual.  However, he kept playing Kaepernick after Alex Smith was OK to play.  That is unusual.  And it opened him up for a lot of criticism.  We don’t know if Alex Smith would have led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.  But we do know that Colin Kaepernick did.  Pretty gutsy move on Jim’s part.

John coaches the Ravens.  Late in the season, he fired his offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron and replacing him with Jim Caldwell.  This was also seen as a controversial move.  John said that changing offensive coordinators so late in the season was “part of a progression to become as good as we could possibly be.”

And that’s the common sense point here.

It’s easy to make changes when things aren’t going well.  It’s harder to make them when you’re doing OK.  They could backfire.  You have to have courage to make these kinds of moves.  Courage might be in the Harbaugh brothers DNA.

The same applies when you’re running a business.  Apple was making a fortune selling iPods.  Then they came out with the iPhone that let you make phone calls, take pictures and listen to your music – and do lots of other things as well.  Many companies say that they know they have to cannibalize their current products to come up with innovative new ones.   Few have the courage to do something as drastic as Apple did.

If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, you need to take a lesson from the Harbaugh brothers.  Be willing to make changes when things are going well.  Don’t wait for a catastrophic collapse or failure to change.

Don’t let your fear of losing what you have prevent you from making significant gains.

Tweet 45 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Everyone is afraid sometime.  Self-confident people face their fears and act.  Look your fears in the eye and do something.”

The Harbaugh brothers both made gutsy moves this season.  And they paid off.  Both of their teams are in the Super Bowl.  They faced their fear of criticism and had the guts to make the changes they deemed necessary.

This is true in your career too.  Should you take that lateral move that might position you for bigger and better things?  You may be afraid that a lateral move may be seen the wrong way by some people.    You may be afraid that you won’t be up to the task.   Regardless, you have to face your fears and act.

12 very common fears

  1. Fear of failure – This type of fear has its roots in the misconception that everything you do has to be 100% successful.
  2. Fear of success – This type of fear is based on the idea that success is likely to mean more responsibility and attention, coupled with pressure to continue to perform at a high level.
  3. Fear of being judged – This type of fear comes from the need for approval that most people develop in childhood.
  4. Fear of emotional pain – This type of fear is rooted in wanting to avoid potential negative consequences of your actions.
  5. Fear of embarrassment – This type of fear is a result of empowering others to judge you when you demonstrate that you’re only human by making mistakes and having lapses of judgment.
  6. Fear of being abandoned or being alone – This type of fear is related to rejection and low self-esteem.
  7. Fear of rejection – This type of fear comes from personalizing what others do and say.
  8. Fear of expressing your true feelings – This type of fear holds you back from engaging in open, honest dialogue with the people in your life.
  9. Fear of intimacy – This type of fear manifests itself by an unwillingness to let others get too close, lest they discover the “real you.”
  10. Fear of the unknown – This type of fear manifests itself as needless worry about all of the bad things that could happen if you decide to make a change in your life.
  11. Fear of loss – This type of fear is related to the potential pain associated with no longer having something or someone of emotional significance to you.
  12. Fear of death – The ultimate fear of the unknown.  What will happen once our spirits leave our bodies?

I’m sure the Harbaugh brothers faced several of these types of fear as they made their decisions.  Fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of being embarrassed, fear of the unknown, fear of loss come to mind.

Action is the antidote to fear – whether you’re a coach trying to get your team into the Super Bowl or you’re trying to take your career to the next level. In most cases, you’ll choose wisely and your fears won’t be realized.  In the cases when you choose poorly, you’ll find that failure isn’t as catastrophic as you imagined.  Successful people learn from their failures.  By taking action on your fears, you win on both counts.  You win if you make a good decision and things work out.  You even win if you make a bad decision and things go poorly, because you have an opportunity to learn from your decision and the subsequent problems you faced.

Regardless of who wins on Sunday, the Harbaugh brothers are both winners in my book.  They were willing to make hard decisions.  These decisions worked out for them, but they could have backfired too.  John and Jim both faced their fears and acted.  If you want to create the life and career success you deserve, take a lesson from them.  Don’t let your fears hold you back.

Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.


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