Then I wrote them this little note:
If you got this far and read all of this, good for you! Most guys, even some of your teammates, couldn’t be bothered. It’s little efforts like the one you just put in that add up over time. They make you wiser. They make you smarter. They help you to see things that most people never see. They make you more successful as you learn how people succeed.
When I was little we used to have those book fairs. Remember those things? My mother and teachers were always trying to get me to read. They were smart. They always steered me towards books on football, or about football players because they knew I loved the game and played ball all of the time.
Well every so often I would come home with a couple of books. I hated to read. It hurt my eyes. It hurt my head. But eventually, I would get bored and read a little. My favorite stories were about my favorite players, many of whom are in the hall of fame now.
In reading those stories I learned that succeeding in football isn’t easy. Many of my favorite players were not the best players on their teams growing up. But they did all had a few things in common. First, they really wanted to be good. Second, they sacrificed a lot of their time practicing and working out. Third, they fought through pain and inconvenience and adversity; things that other guys just couldn’t seem to fight through. Finally, they sought out anything that would help them get better. They would ask questions, read books, watch videos, go to camps, etc. In short, they never gave up and they kept looking for answers.
As I got older, I broadened my interests. I became interested in History and Philosophy, Politics and Music, Education and Psychology. I also became interested in other sports. I got to know a lot of people from different places who had different life experiences.
The bottom line is that I discovered that people who were successful in whatever they did had those same things in common that those football players did in those first books I read.
I found out that the way to win is the way to win. It doesn’t really matter what field, or court, or lab, or classroom, or city or country or era.
We all have natural talents. Some guys are naturally smarter, or stronger, or faster. Some are naturally better at math or English or basketball or wrestling. But in everything I read, in everything I learned, it wasn’t the most talented person who was always the winner. More often than not it was the player, or student, or businessman, or leader, or father who learned these little lessons, consistently applied them with all of their might, and never gave up.
Here we are at the end of Tony Gonzalez’s career; a career that was just getting started when this article was written. We know now that he is going to the Hall of Fame and is likely to be considered the greatest tight end of all time. He said he was once the worst player on the worst team. Just look what initiative and perseverance did for that man, and all of the people he has inspired.
The people, both kids and adults, who don’t pay attention to such things, will never know how much they missed. They just stay the same, and grow little, if at all, as others pass them by; their minds and time focused on things that will never get them any better.