On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks will play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX (49). The Super Bowl is one of the biggest days in professional sports. I have watched them all since the first in 1967, with the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs. There is obviously a lot of hype in any Super Bowl and this one, with the “deflate bowl” debacle, will capture extra attention and add to the drama. I would like to use the backdrop of the Super Bowl to share with you some thoughts on excellence.
I was 13 years old when the first Super Bowl was played between the Packers and the Chiefs. I was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers, probably because the 49ers weren’t very good at the time. The Packers coach was Vince Lombardi. Mr. Lombardi had such an impact on the game and profession of football that the winner of the Super Bowl is awarded the Lombardi Trophy each year. There have been many great coaches before Lombardi and there certainly have been some great ones since him, but there is only one Lombardi Trophy.
I admired Vince Lombardi and his method of leading, coaching and caring for his players. He was one of the best, and I often quote him and enjoy the folklore of his philosophy on life. I often say, “Luck is preparation and opportunity coming together at the same time.” This was one of Mr. Lombardi’s favorite sayings when someone would comment that the Packers were “lucky” to win as often as they did.
In his first season with the Packers, he took over a team that had lost 11 of their 12 games the previous season. They were clearly the worst football team in the league. At the first team meeting, he began the legend by saying, “Gentlemen, I have never been associated with a loser and I certainly am not going to start now. I am not remotely interested in being just good. Each day we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence”.
For the next ten years the Green Bay Packers were simply the best team in the league and one of the greatest teams of all time.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
-Harry S. Truman
Bart Starr was the quarterback of the Packers over that ten-year period, and by the time his career was over he was one of the games finest of all time. Besides his skill as a quarterback, he was also known for his leadership, his sense of commitment, and his relentless pursuit of excellence. In the famous “Ice Bowl” against Dallas in 1967, he went five-for-five in the final drive of the game scoring on a quarterback sneak as time ran out. In the Super Bowl article, he concluded by saying, “The desire to excel is paramount. When you seek to lead a life of integrity and to make a difference in the lives of others, it’s incredible what you can accomplish.”
Over my career, I used Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” as a tool to guide me in building the companies I have had the honor to run. I truly believe that if you, day in and day out, chase Perfection you just might catch Excellence. It is not easy to chase Perfection, but seldom does one achieve Excellence without focus, determination, and hard work.
As we start our third year at SD Mayer & Associates, I know we will chase Perfection in all we do as a company. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, “I am not remotely interested in being a good firm.” The idea of chasing Perfection and catching Excellence is a pretty good concept. I hope that you too will adopt that philosophy.