This post isn’t about Mr. Manning, it’s not about football, and it’s not even about the news these days. This post is about lessons we can learn and questions we must ask ourselves if we want to become better. In the religious world, that statement in itself can seem humanistic, but these are human observations from a human author in an attempt to offer a human perspective so that we might seek what God has for us in the common grace he shows us each and every day.
I love watching interviews, exit interviews in particular, because when someone spends and dedicates their life to a certain craft or work their comments are a crash course in itself. Even with some of the accusations and controversies that swirl around his legacy, Mr. Manning is considered one of the most venerated ambassadors of the game of football. I don’t know what he’s like, I don’t know his convictions or theology, but what I do know is that I’ve got a lot to learn after hearing him announce his retirement (you can watch the whole thing online).
Here are seven lessons that I learned after watching the entire press conference, each with it’s own question to move us forward:
1) Make others better: Accolades and accomplishments can speak to corporate success, but they are most often singular in nature. Mr. Manning has been taunted for becoming a master of the game and for the tireless work ethic that he has become known for. But there are many accounts of how he has made others around him better–this is the singular accomplishment that I personally revere the most.
Question: How am I making others around me better? (e.g. My husband, my wife, co-workers, kids, friends, etc.)
2) Reverence for your “game”: Love and reverence are teammates. Mr. Manning explicitly addresses his work ethic, letting us know that it wasn’t to master the game, but because of his reverence for the game. Because football wasn’t “just” a game for Mr. Manning, the work that he put in was what it took for him to duly undertake the privilege of his position.
Question: Do I really believe that God is in control, because if He is then where I am is not a mistake. What role do I have where I am?
3) You have a voice: Solo acts do not recognize that they are part of a bigger play. Mr. Manning seems to have learned this very early on and acknowledges his position has given him a platform and a voice that goes beyond the game.
Question: Where arena does my voice carry most weight? Am I speaking into those arenas as best as I can? (Those arenas may just be a couple of people who you have a relationship with that no one else does!)
4) You will have pundits, praisers, and pummelers: The bigger your platform or voice, the more pundits, praisers, and pummelers you will have. There will always be people who think they know better than you. There will always be those who are your biggest fans, but those biggest fans can also easily become those who will pummel you when you don’t live up to their expectations.
Question: Whose voice matters most to me? Am I hearing my Heavenly Father’s voice loud and clear, as well as those He has surrounded me with in community?
5) Be grateful for your coaches and support staff in life: Football is a business as much as it is a sport, yet Mr. Manning has had the opportunity to call up and have good conversations with coaches past and present. I can only imagine the butting of heads and strong feelings that come with competition, but I truly admire the respect and humility Mr. Manning has in learning and seeking out his coaches for advice and encouragement. Not only that, Mr. Manning recounts all the support staff that have helped in in health and injury.
Question: Do I know who has contributed to my success? Have I shown my gratitude to them?
6) Choose what you can: Everyone is limited by something. Mr. Manning acknowledges, in his speech, that though he may not have been the most gifted athlete for his position, and though he had benefited from some good genes, he still had to choose to work hard at his craft. Everyone’s choices has a span, they can be limited or numerous in scope, but we can still find some choices to make. Even when he was having one of the worst seasons of his career, in the Q&A, Mr. Manning hoped that even in his limitations he tried to be the best teammate that he could be..
Question: What attitude can I choose right now? And beyond attitude, am I more like Christ today than I was any day before? If not, what’s gotten in the way?
7) Finishing well isn’t the only thing: The saying goes, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” That’s great for pee-wee leagues, and you’ll still hear that in the pros, but it’s just a truism (something that sounds true-ish, but not totally true). The ends do not always justify the means, though they sometimes work out that way. Just because something does not start out well does not mean we are justified in not doing it well throughout and hope that it turns out well. Mr. Manning’s career ends in fantasy form, but the way he has handled his career the whole way through seems to highlight how he finishes.
Question: What am I doing right now that will not help me finish strong? What’s one thing that I can do today to seek something eternal?