Think Big. Live Small.
I started my teaching career at my alma mater, St. Paris Graham High School in rural southwest Ohio. Graham, named after 4-H founder AB Graham, was known for a few things, but we were most well known for our incredibly successful wrestling program.
Jeff Jordan, a legend in the wrestling world, was the head coach while I taught and coached at Graham. His teams won a state championship in every season he was the head coach. They also claimed a few national championships, which isn’t bad for a rural public school of about 700 students.
After seven titles in a row and an eighth clearly on the way, I asked Coach Jordan how he kept the edge to maintain the level of wrestling year after year. It caught him off-guard. His first response was, “what do you mean?” Surely he knew they were the best. How do you improve on being the best?
Jordan explained, “There are thirteen weight classes. I want us to have thirteen individual state champions. If we get thirteen state champions, then I want us to have thirteen pins in the state championship match. Winning the state is something that happens as a result of dominating. We want to dominate.”
I wasn’t thinking big enough.
Why Should We Care?
Our dreams, or thinking, limit us more often than it elevates us. We are much quicker to point out, to ourselves and others, where we will likely fail rather than our potential success. We limit ourselves far more than others limit us.
However, thinking big is only half of the puzzle.
Along with that vision of thirteen state championships in thirteen weight classes, Coach Jordan’s teams worked. A lot … to the extent that seemed unreasonable to people outside of his program. The time, the effort, and the sacrifice were extreme.
For those that shared the vision, it just became the norm or what was required. It became an investment rather than a sacrifice. And, most importantly Coach Jordan and his wrestlers ignored those that didn’t share the vision. They were not in the arena, so their opinion was obsolete.
They trained as if they had never won a match, and like their next match was the most important one of the year. They practiced as if each takedown drill would perfect that one move that would seal the state championship. Details, execution, and repetition were the means.
They thought big, but they lived small.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Thinking big and living small is a challenging paradox. Big dreams often lead to a disregard for the basics and fundamentals. Yet, the basics and fundamentals only provide so much power when not coupled with the vision of our potential. Here are a few ideas to help with thinking big and living small.
We need to be sure to not limit ourselves with small thinking or big living.
Thinking big and living small provides the narrow path to excellence.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.