Winning Lessons from Joe Montana


- Jay Maharjan

In my view, Joe Montana is the best quarterback ever lived. I was a student at Pitt when Montana played for a local team – Kansas City chiefs in the mid-nineties. Fast forward ten years to 2004, I was thrilled when I had a chance to meet him in person as I was consulting another sports legend and the 9 time olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. Though both Carl and Joe were humble and world-class atheletes, I just could not help to notice how humble Montana really was. He was so humble that he came across almost as if he was nervous talking to people around him.

After his retirement, unlike many famous professional atheletes, who cashed in with endless endorsements and lucrative network broadcasting deals, Montana took a higher road and stayed out of limelight in most part. Some are quick to point out that Montana didn’t have the chops, personality off the field to make it on televison. I beg to differ. I think Joe Montana chose to be driven by a different value-system in life that he has always been content with leading a simple, meaningful life.  Yet, there is a lot we can learn from his humble approach to sports and the businesses that he lead.

I recently saw him speak on his Winning spirit and the secrets of his undeniable stellar career -  told in a very humble manner. FYI, Montana has also written a great book The Winning Spirit. I highly recommend that entrepreneurs, professionals from all walks of life read this book.

Here is a quick take-away, synopsis.

a. Know What You want

Many people do not have a clue what they want. It is nothing wrong knowing later in life, career – but it is extremely important to know what you want at some point. Knowing exactly what you want brings the best out of you. With this newly found passion mixed with a right dose of competence (which can be developed over a period of time, with right practice, knowledge ) leads to a sustainable, successful life.

b. Cultivate the right attitude

In sports and life, attitude is everything. Keep in touch with your inner self and know early on why you do what you do.     Visualizing success scenarios and maintaing positive attitude leading to it is one of the methods many successful people use routinely. Montana shares an amazing anecdote about one of his team mates Ronnie Lott, who went for the ulimate sacrifice when Lott chose to get his crushed finger amputated and stay in the game over the option of staying away from the game for six to eight weeks - setting an ulimate example of positive attitude for his fellow atheletes.

c. Fail fast and move on

This one really applies well for entrepreneurs. As I frequently write on this topic, everybody makes mistakes. Make sure to recognize it, fix it and move on. As an entrepreneur, learn from your weaknesses early.

d. Welcome pressure

Back to the reference of Montana’s body language and humble attitude, Montana uses this sports analogy that in any profession (or life) it is good thing to have pressure. Montana recalls that he felt he was under pressure beginning of every game he played in his career. Embracing pressure, he stayed focused and was able to perform at his best.

e. strive for perfection

The beauty of going for perfection is that you are striving, reaching for perfection with a clear knowlege that you will never reach perfection. However, this process will definitely make you stronger, better at what you do.  This practice also allows us to utilize our full limit by injecting right practice, dedication.

f. Walk like a champ, Learn to build confidence

Confidence is not an innate trait. Human beings develop confidence over a period of time, maintaining right practice. Always know that you have potential to achieve confidence. We achieve confidence as a result of ongoing practice, preparation and securing right knowledge. Always learn your weaknesses, strengths in time and improve, exploit those traits as champs do.

g. Lead By Example

Confidence is the bedrocks of leadership. Leaders walk that talk. People do not become leaders just by becoming great artists, atheletes, statesmen. Leadership is based on action not just possessing an influential position. Be that person, as a leader, who will be able to help take people to the places that they wouldn’t be able to reach on their own.

h. There is ‘I’ in the team

My interpretetion of Montana’s take of this statement is that individualism is extremely important even in the context of a team dynamics. With confidence, individualism and strong communication skills, team members loose  groupthink attitude and become successful collectively - by clearly being able to define what their roles are, how they can add value and what they can expect from other team members.

i. build trust and consideration

As an entrepreneur, we can build trust among peers and and sub-ordinates by being truthful, having couragious conversations and avoiding unrealistic expectations. Also, believing in what you are doing is right and expressing with conviction is a trait that is very important for entrepreneurs.

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