When achieving your goal is certain, do you keep pushing to get better?

How do you adjust in the face of pending achievement? Do you run through the tape or to the tape?
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In one respect, this post is painful for me to write because, as a former athlete at the University of Tennessee, saying anything positive about Alabama borders on sacrilege.

I did not watch the national title game, but a friend sent me the forty-five second video below that I encourage you to watch.

Here is the situation. Alabama is up 42-14 with 7:00 to go in the game…and they have the ball. That’s right, they are up by 28 points, with one of the top five defenses in the country to back them up, with barely seven minutes left. They are seven minutes from achieving their goal, a national championship.

In other words, victory (achieving the goal) is all but certain. Let the victory parade plans begin.

And then this…

That’s what champions do. That right there is why Alabama has won three of the last four college football national championships.

With victory all but guaranteed, their quarterback, A.J. McCarron, is still pushing, still chasing perfection. His passion for excellence does not wane, no matter the score.

Neither does it wane for their coach, Nick Saban, who is fired up with a twenty-eight point lead and seven minutes to go as some coaches get all year. He still expects excellence. He knows that his team can do better and anything less than their best will not be tolerated.

What about you?

How do you adjust in the face of pending victory or achievement?

Do you let up? Tolerate mediocrity? Do you coast?

Or do you keep pushing? Perhaps even push harder?

Do you run through the tape or to the tape?

When victory is clearly in sight, champions in sports, in business, in life, push even harder. They turn it up a notch. Excellence, in the eyes of a champion, is not shown only on the scoreboard. It’s shown in giving everything they’ve got on every play.

So, what about you? What do you when you’re about to reach your goals?

16 thoughts on “THIS is What Champions Do

  1. Wade_Thorson says:

    Very good point Matt! When it comes to sports and coaching I would say I have been more prone to keep pushing for those very reasons, but when it comes to leading my team I probably normally let up in that case. Thanks for the reminder, this is definitely an area I will need to work on. In the case of projects I see the result of this all the time, project completions end up being drug out maybe 1-2 weeks or more because we walk to the tape and not run through it.

    1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      When I’ve coached youth soccer I NEVER slow down, even if we are way up. I may move some kids around to teach them other positions, but I NEVER tell them not to score. Because, to me, coaching kids is about teaching them about life…and this is a HUGE life lesson. Don’t quit. Be your best.

      1. Wade_Thorson says:

        I agree, and as you said I don’t let my teams I coach slow down so why would I do it at work.

  2. Kid’s little league with teams randomly matched up, I would slow up a bit.

    National title where each team has earned the right to be there? I’m going to push hard hard hard to show that we are the best and to avoid the situation that will eventually happen of letting up and they lose. That’d suck to tell the team, “We lost, but we had a great 3.5 quarters and got to rest for a bit.”

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great quote Bryan. Imagine that coming from Ditka. 🙂

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    I have always pushed myself to become a better writer, songwriter, and musician, and now blogger. However, if we push too hard, we wind up burned out or sick as you pointed out in your post yesterday. So I do take intentional breaks where I might “coast” for awhile. I do accept less than perfect musical recordings and writing as it’s still practice and helps me to gain new skills and learn new lessons. But then I’m not an athlete on a team either, just a creative individual who’s constantly trying to better his art.

  4. Jon Stolpe says:

    It’s an interesting question. Generally, I think I push through the finish line. I know I certainly encourage that with my own kids as they participate in sports and academics. But I honestly also realize that it can be easy to coast to the finish at times if we know the goal achievement is guaranteed.

  5. Carol Dublin says:

    Great post (and yes, I’m a little partial because I’m a HUGE Bama fan), but that’s one of the things I admire about Coach Saban – he always talks about playing the full 60 minutes. Push to the end, push harder to the end, don’t let up. That’s the only way to do it in my book.

    1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      And what a great life lesson he is teaching his players by having that attitude!

    2. Matt McWilliams says:

      I figured you and Jeremy Carter would like it 🙂

  6. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    THANK YOU for posting this Matt. I didnt watch the game, but I gotta be honest with you, the one thing that absolutely drives me CRAZY about football is the fact that they just run the clock out at the end of the game. I cant stand seeing them just kneel with 45 seconds left or whatever to run out the clock and end the game.
    I’m with you, push till the end! When I was in youth sports I would get annoyed when people would say you should stop playing your best players or “be nice” to the other team if you were up by 3-4 goals.
    What are we teaching? I have a huge amount of respect for this QB. He wasnt just playing against the other team, he was playing against himself. He was pushing the edges of HIS limits, not just hard enough to beat the other team!
    This video was a breath of fresh air! Thanks Matt

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I don’t mind the knee at the end. That is a way of winning.

      But at the point of this game, they are still trying to get better and get ready for next year.

  7. Tom Dixon says:

    Don’t we see this in business all the time? You have made your quarterly number – so you can let off the gas, right? Keep some for next month…. Not in that situation now, but have seen in the past. One of the problems for publicly traded companies that have to hit specific numbers…sometimes it is just as bad to make more money if it is a “surprise” to wall-street.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I’ll even admit to doing it.

      I had a client back in 2004 when I first got into online fundraising. I got a percentage of the funds raised each month and a bonus if we hit a certain number.

      On the last day of the month, having already hit the bonus number, I held back an email until the first of the month.

      I ashamed to admit that.

  8. Joshua Rivers says:

    I wish I could say that I’ve always given everything to the end. Too many times, I’ve cut corners, slowed down, or quit early. I’ve settled for “good enough.” I’m determined this year to be much better. Thanks for the encouragement!

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