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What the Green Bay Packers Can Teach Us About Bouncing Back…

in Do What You Love, Money Basics, Pay Off Your Debt

It’s been a tough road, but the Green Bay Packers are the best in the world at what they do.

This past Sunday ended the year long journey to prove just that.

In order to win the Superbowl, the Packers had to:

  • Beat the Giants and Bears – both playoff caliber teams – in the final weeks of the season. A loss to either would have meant their season would end before the playoffs even began.
  • Travel with little rest into Philadelphia and defeat the red hot Eagles team.
  • Swing down to Atlanta to challenge the #1 seed, NFC favorite, and well-rested Falcons.
  • Return back to Chicago to play their cutthroat rivals in freezing weather on a sloppy field of grass and mud.
  • And finally, travel to Dallas – and amongst all the pomp and circumstance – defeat another tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And they did it. One by one.

If there was one thing that marked the Packers season more than any other… it was overcoming adversity.

Coming into the 2010 football season, most believed the Packers to be an above average team. There was a lot of hope, energy, and optimism about the possibility of a deep run into the playoffs.

But within the first few weeks, players started going down.

Ryan Grant, a hard-running back who helped diversify the offense, was knocked out of the season in the first game.  Ouch.

Then came Jermichael Finley, a nearly unguardable tight-end who specialized in attacking the middle of the field, where Green Bay’s offense is most potent.  Out for the season.

Next up, Nick Barnett, the middle linebacker and leader (play caller) of the on-field defense. Again, gone for the season.

By the end of the season, 16 players were on injury reserve (out for season essentially) – 7 of those were starters.

Many others missed big chunks of games before coming back throughout the grueling schedule. Only the Indianapolis Colts had a worse series of consistent injury setbacks.

The only difference?  Indianapolis gave up. Anyone who watched the end of the season will tell you the same. They had lost all hope and it showed – big time.

Even in the Superbowl, when the heart and soul of the Packer team – veterans Charles Woodson and Donald Driver – were taken out of commission, the Packers just plowed forward.

The Packers got knocked down – time and time again. But they always got back up.

They got up… and up… and up… and up… and now they are champions.

Lesson #1:  The ability to adapt is far greater than having a Plan B.

At the beginning of the season, there’s no way the coaches could have crafted a plan for losing so many of their weapons and leaders.

Rather than spending their time trying to predict the impossible, the Packers simply worked on adapting. For the last decade, the team has always built themselves deep. The staff and coaches have always striven to select, sign, and reward *value* over raw talent.

As such, they were able to fill in. They could mold to their surroundings.

They could bounce back when they got knocked down.

Sure most of us can handle a single setback. Maybe even a second or third, before collapsing.

But what about setbacks 8, 9, and 10?  What about 16?

In order to handle everything life can throw at us – in sports or life – we have to intentionally choose to be flexible and dynamic.

Flexibility is a choice.

That’s why I’m so passionate about aggressively removing restrictions like debt and clutter. For years we’ve been taught to leverage debt as a tool and that buying a lot of crap would give us security and freedom.

As it turns out, it’s just the opposite. We’re slowly figuring that out (as are some NFL teams), and we’re becoming more and more pissed!

You can’t plan for next year. This isn’t 1954…your company has no loyalty to you anymore. So stop trying to formulate a Plan B and start making Plan A worth living!

By paying off your debt and selling all the crap in your life you can opt-out. You can actively choose flexibility over a false sense of security.

The Packers have shown us that this investment can pay off big time.

Lesson #2:  Keep your eye on the prize. And make the prize not suck.

The Packers were able to bounce back – and march onward to win the Super Bowl – because every single player bought into the vision.

Every. Single. Player.

They set a clear, passionate, and emotional goal. The Super Bowl. It’s not just an event – it’s every football player’s dream.

Almost all of the players, coaches, and managers live and breathe football – and have all their lives. You rarely get to the top of the game without a long track record of football obsession.

They’ve been dreaming of this since they were little boys. Acting out the final seconds of Super Bowl glory in backyards, side streets, and pee-wee fields across America.

They’ve devoted their lives for a chance… just a chance…to try and win a Super Bowl.

But they had to believe, deep down at the beginning of the year – This *is* possible. Not only that, they had to pledge themselves to a game plan, a work ethic, and a resolve to stick together when crap hit the fan.

On many sports teams you can’t even get the starters to buy into a system or vision. Coaches fight with star players. Owners fight with coaches. Drama invites more drama and teams are split down the middle.

There is no prize but more money, more attention, and more ego.

That’s never been the Packer way.

The Packers have their share of star players, but rarely is the light hugged or fought after. Their coach could care less about fame or credit. Every player on that team cared about one thing.

Winning the Super Bowl – as a team.

I can’t tell you what your Super Bowl is.

But nobody loses weight, because it’s “healthy”. No one pays off their debt because it’s “good to do”. And no one chooses to reject rampant consumerism because some guy named Baker said they should.

They improve their lives because of the why.

The deeply emotional and insanely passionate WHY of their own lives.

What’s that burning desire that makes you wake up in the middle of the night? What’s the deepest vision you constantly dream for your family… your children… your future?

That’s your Super Bowl.

And every member of your team has to buy into it. No exceptions.

I’ve heard very few success stories that started with “My wife wasn’t on board at all, but despite her beliefs, I did it myself and now everyone is happy.” This method almost always ends in some form of disaster.

You’ve got to have a vision that inspires and rallies every member of your team. If it doesn’t… keep adjusting. Work on communicating, on going deeper with the vision, and on adapting ’til everyone starts to enlist.

It *is* possible. It just takes work, communication, and patience.

Lesson #3:  Surround yourself with the best support in the world.

The city of Green Bay has a population of 100,000 people.

Try finding another professional sports team in a market of 100,000 people. It’s extremely rare. Larger markets equal more money, so almost any team based in a smaller community sells out to a larger location.

Not Green Bay.

The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned franchise in American sports (according to Wikipedia). They are the only one left standing in a world full of money-and-power-hungry owners, managers, and players.

I recently read an article that stated a survey showed 73% of Green Bay residents identified themselves as Packers fans. Try finding that in any other city in the U.S.

Clay Matthews recently joked the only thing about living in Green Bay that was negative – was if you missed a tackle or a coverage on Sunday, you heard about it on Monday from the little ‘ole lady in the produce section.

Packer season tickets have been sold out for decades upon decades. They are passed down from generation to generation and nearly impossible to get. Packer fans are proud and passionate, regardless of the season or year.

I’ve written about the power of surrounding yourself with like-minded people in depth.

More and more, I believe it to be one of the largest determining factors of success. You need not only mentors and peers who believe, you need to start helping and inspiring others.

When you fully immerse yourself in support and inspiration – on all levels – it’s nearly impossible to fail.

When you’re picking yourself up after a stumble, you’ve got to do the heavy lifting. But sometimes the easiest way to get back on your feet is to have someone there to help you get your balance.

Lesson #4: Make no excuses. Instead, do something.

Whining, finger pointing, trash talking, justifying… that’s what losers do.

They are cheap tactics, in sports and in life.

Why do you think everyone hates the Jets?  (Sorry Gary, it’s true)

Sure, talk a little. Dance like B.J. Raji when you score a touchdown. Show them who wears the championship belt. When you get a sack… flex and scream your heart out.

But then get back to work.

Don’t take turns personally attacking other teams. Don’t run your mouth because there are a view cameras and microphones around you.

When you do lose, don’t blame teammates. Don’t blame single plays, coaches, or unfair officiating.

Take responsibility. Improve. Do the work.

The Packers aren’t perfect by any stretch, but as a whole – their coaches, staff, and star players are fantastic at this.

They are humble. They pass around the credit and take responsibility when they mess up. They ooze trust.

Frankly, it’s refreshing in the professional sports world and one of the core reasons I’m proud to be a Packers fan.

*****

The economy is bad.

Times are tight.

Some foreigner took my job.

It’s nearly impossible to get unemployment these days.

House prices are falling.

I got tricked into a bad mortgage.

Obama is running this country into the ground (just like Bush… and Clinton… and Bush before him…).

*****

Every single one of those may be true. But who gives a crap?

They don’t mean anything.

You have a choice of what happens next. You *can* control your personal economy.

However bad your situation, there is help available – if you are willing to get past the dozens of excuses and justifications – and actually do something about it.

It may take months… it may take years… but it’ll never happen without being honest about who is to blame for your situation not being where you want it to be.

Life favors those who stop justifying and start doing.

How to be a champion…

  1. Throw away Plan B. Instead, invest in flexibility.
  2. Ensure your prize at the end doesn’t suck. You’ll never care enough to finish.
  3. Immerse yourself with passionate, like-minded people. You’ll need them.
  4. When in doubt, shut up and do something. Step up to the plate.

Life is going to knock you down.

How many times are your willing to get back up?

Xoxoxo,

-Baker

p.s. Everyone knows this was the best commercial. It wasn’t close.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandon Winters February 10, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Wow – was the first thing that came to mind.

This was epic Baker, Lessons 1 and 4 are powerful bits of insight I whole-heartedly agree with. Way to put something amazing together, cheers to that!

Brandon

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Joel February 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Adapt, Adapt, Adapt, Adapt, Adapt and keep going.

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Jenna February 10, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Let’s hope the Pats have a great season next year, since they were knocked down this year.

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Gary Arndt February 10, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I’d add one other thing….

During the week before the game, some gossip sites had people stake out local strip bars and night clubs. Ben Roethlisberger and other Steelers were spotted partying. Hardly any Packers were seen going out. Aaron Rodgers said he spent every night in his hotel room studying game film.

This work ethic is something all the Packer players have been talking about all year. There is no way they could have overcome all those injuries if they didn’t work hard. No team has ever had that many injuries and made the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl.

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The Single Saver February 10, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Being in Ohio, I have an obligation to root against the Steelers (LOL!) so am glad the outcome was as it was. I would say you are right on with all four of your points, Baker. Success never comes by accident!

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Meg February 10, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Green Bay is rather small and sleepy, until game day…. The population surges. Those who don’t have tickets sit in the bars in the town. :) I can only imagine Lambeau field on game day…. The only time I got to be there it was empty and quiet and I got to be on the field. :) (And in the locker rooms!) I’m sure most of Wisconsin are Packers fans, I know I am. :) (Well, if I have to be a fan of anything. I don’t actively follow football, I only watch the Super Bowl.)

Anywho, wanted to say great article and parallels. :D Maybe my biggest issue is that *I* don’t believe I can achieve my dream…. My key supporters do, I’m not so sure. Guess I really need to get rid of my doubt and get that crazy self-confidence going…

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Sarah Russell February 10, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Go Pack Go!!! Seriously – if you want to see some heartwarming stuff, lookup coverage of the Monday event to welcome the Packers back to Green Bay. Something like 50,000 people turned out in negative ass degree weather to cheer on the team.

(Grew up in MI, now in WI, and trust me – it’s way better being a Packers fan than a Lions fan… :) )

Great post, great parallels and great lessons – thanks for sharing!

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Gordie February 10, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Even Plan A’s need to be thought of with a lot of flexibility in mind. Business plans are the same. Things almost never go according to plan.

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Living the Balanced Life February 10, 2011 at 7:57 PM

Even though I am not a big football fan, I love this post. The correlations you made were awesome and so true. I love that you say we have to be flexible and not focus on Plan B. That we have to take responsibility for our own path, our own future. I had been planning on writing about taking responsibilty for our lives, and this just fueled that fire!
Love this post!
Bernice

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Maggie February 10, 2011 at 8:07 PM

Go Pack! Love this post, so true in all aspects. And did anyone else notice how many of the commercials involved violence. I was dismayed.

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wilson usman February 10, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Even though my NYjets lost, I wanted Green Bay to win so bad. Towards the end I thought the Steelers were going to come out with a miracle and ruined my hopes.

Anyway #2 is one of the tips I keep always closest. If we’re not hungry for something, we have nothing to fight for. YOU GOTTA BE HUNGRYYYYY!!!

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Chris Alta February 12, 2011 at 4:13 AM

that’s right brotha you gotta stay hungry and fierce in your business if you wanna succeed!

cheers!

I’m always in the kitchen
-Chris Alta

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Larry Scarbeau February 10, 2011 at 10:58 PM

I cannot agree more with your lessons of success especially when life seems to have a way of messing with our Plan A.

Having said that there is more to success in life than just being flexible, passionate about why you want it, surrounded by great supporters and taking action. In my humble experience over almost 60 years the key element that has helped me to weather storms that I did not see coming is an unshakable faith. I am not referring to a religious belief in a particular doctrine – rather it is a deeply spiritual awareness that nothing happens by chance.

Your right on the ‘money’ with your example of living without the trappings of ‘worldly success’ going thru life holding lightly the things we value. I believe that what really matters at the end of life is not how many things we leave behind but who we leave behind whose lives are better because we lived.

Keep setting a great example for all of us.

Larry – an old guy who is still learning, growing and loving.

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Caleb Wojcik February 10, 2011 at 11:49 PM

Lesson #5: If you lose to the Detroit Lions in Week 15 you are doing something wrong, so you better win out and get the Lombardi trophy.

#4 rang through best with me. Throw out the excuses and DO something about it. Great post as always Baker.

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Alice February 11, 2011 at 5:55 AM

Thank you very much for this post. I needed this today. I’m taking Plan A and running with it and I’m scared, but it feels right for me and for my family. The Superbowl’s not widely talked about down here in New Zealand, but this year is Rugby World Cup year and we have not won it since 1987 so I’m hoping the All Blacks will take a few leaves out of the Packer’s book about humility, teamwork, shared goals etc. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to making our own Superbowl/World Cup a reality :)

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Todd February 11, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Baker, I like it. This reminds me of “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome”, the unofficial mantra of the Marine Corps.

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Miss Britt February 11, 2011 at 9:49 AM

As a huge Packers fan, this post made me a little weepy.

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KathyK February 11, 2011 at 12:27 PM

Great post! Not a football fan. But this will be talked about at the dinner table tonight with my children.

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The Single Saver February 11, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Hey Baker, OT, but when do we get to see the new RV design?

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Holly Roberts February 11, 2011 at 4:14 PM

So, I have recently become an avid reader of yours and a few other choice blogs (I know late to the dance…what can I say). However, I’ve been pulled out of reader-dom and have been thrown into mustcomment-ville.

This post is fantabulous. I love everything about it, first, it has sports analogies, growing up in Nebraska and living north of Indy, I love me some football. And second, it is spot on! We all have some facet in our lives we know we need to change, we also know it is easier to not work on said-facet, and it is even easier to blame someone or something else.

I really “get” this post, it hits me right between the numbers and I for one am not going to drop the ball. Ok, I might, you never know – but I won’t be afraid to brush it off and try again.

I’ve got my eye on the prize and my prize doesn’t suck!

Thanks Baker, I really needed to hear this today! You rock!

Holly

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Jonathan Nealey February 11, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Great article! Go Pack!

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Chris Alta February 12, 2011 at 4:08 AM

I’m not a huge football fan but instead a huge soccer fan, so for me this would be the World Cup.

Same exact concept though brotha Baker. I love how you just throw away plan B and get straight to being flexible. Great way to stand back and really take a look from outside of the box. I personally like to take Tony Robbins approach and “burn all other bridges” so that I only have one option and that one option is a must. Flexibility is something I can definitely take into account though while I’m crossing my only bridge.

Great post and way to throw in football into the scheme of things..way to NOT be boring haha

cheers!

I’m always in the kitchen
-Chris Alta

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Kevin M February 12, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Also there is this re: Packer fans -
http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/07/6006589-packers-fans-shovel-out-lambeau-field-ahead-of-victory-celebration

I heard a quote once (can’t remember where) that life will knock you down enough on its own, but you should never knock yourself down by making excuses, saying you can’t, etc. I thought that was pretty cool.

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lc February 12, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Great post, Baker. As an original Packer, it can be difficult to encapsulate and/or convince others what makes us and our team so special, but you’ve managed to sum it up nicely – small town, big hearts and a magnetic effect. Great parallel to how we can all help ourselves, no matter what happens, with determination and hard work.

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Manuel February 14, 2011 at 5:03 AM

The fourth striked me most, When in doubt do something. A lot of people just keep on whining and end up getting nothing done. Great post.

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Chris Czarnecki February 14, 2011 at 1:02 PM

I’m a Wisconsin native and my family is proudly one of the Milwaukee (gold package) season ticket holders. This is a great post, Baker. Good lessons on how a team of highly motivated individuals, all seeking the same goal, can accomplish the very highest goals. It’s not about talent, it’s about heart and desire (and talent helps too!).

Only question is – why this photo from the 2009 season of Pittsburgh beating Green Bay in a regular season game?? We should have one of Aaron Rodgers and the BELT.
Best!

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Emily February 26, 2011 at 4:15 PM

I don’t watch football, but I certainly can see the analogy. Flexibility is key. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and being able to adapt when the unexpected/unwanted happens is one of the greatest characteristics that leads to success.

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C.J. March 6, 2011 at 12:59 AM

Great post….even though I’m a Steeler fan from Pittsburgh! The details of the season and the trials the Packers faced, as you told the story, really brought your analogy alive with some memorable life lessons. I bookmark a lot of blogs but not a lot of blog posts. This one got bookmarked!

Here’s a little challenge you may want to take up….what lessons can we learn from the Steeler’s season? That feeling of getting right to the peak of the mountain then taking a tumble all the way back down…..I’ve been there.

Anyway, I’m enjoying your blog immensely. Great work!

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