In leadership, it’s magical how far a little gratefulness can go.
By Steve Reese
My brother Mike and I love hunting together. He introduced me to the sport around 10 years ago in his attempt to get me to do something a tad more exciting than sitting behind a keyboard and mouse. Throughout the years, what I have come to appreciate more than “bagging the Big Buck” are our nightly conversations around the fire. Honestly, I don’t think the word “conversation” does our talks much justice. They were more of a philosophical “free for all” that explored every conceivable topic. Our Greco-Roman style conversations ranged from how we related to our wives to why I would ever think that bringing vegetables to the hunting lease was a good idea to who could go the longest without taking a shower. I’m proud to admit that I lost that contest!
When it came to my career, Mike would inevitably crack a smile and say, “Steve, You’re the luckiest slob in the world. Without a doubt, you were born with a Silver Horse Shoe up your &^$*!” (I’ll let you fill in the blanks on what housed the Silver Horse Shoe!) And you know what? Mike made a great point. I’ve had the honor to be in the Sports Entertainment Industry for over 20 years and have had an opportunity to work with some of the biggest name in the NFL, MLB and NBA. More importantly, I’ve had the fascinating opportunity to pull back the “curtain” and witness the countless “Wizard’s of Oz” who work behind the scenes to make this industry so magical.
But every time that word “lucky” tumbles from my brother’s tongue, we both laugh because we know that our past has been anything but lucky. For my three older brothers and I, growing up mimicked a bad Alfred Hitchcock movie filled with far too many episodes of domestic violence. It’s been nearly fifty years, and I still vividly recall the feeling of being on the wrong end of the boot more times than I care to remember. I don’t know about you, but I don’t call that being very lucky at all. But then again…
Maybe, just maybe, my brother has been right all along. As I look back on my early life growing up amidst domestic violence, there were some extremely difficult lessons that I was forced to learn in the middle of all of that chaos. These lessons have not only been invaluable in my personal life, but my professional life as well.
An example of one of my hard-earned lessons was about the importance of gratefulness. During those dark days, being grateful wasn’t only “nice to have,” but it was key for my survival. It was an attitude that allowed me to focus on the positive and what was going right. It was obvious what wasn’t going right. I only had to look at the bruises on my body to tell me that. But what I needed was to have that small sliver of hope that I’d eventually make it out of a seemly impossible situation. And being grateful about the smallest of things eventually led me down the road of hope and a constructive end.
In business, I’ve come to learn that extremely successful leaders also possess a high degree of gratefulness. In my life, a good example of this was Jeff Fisher, the current Head Coach of the St. Louis Rams. When I worked for Jeff at the Tennessee Titans, there wasn’t a day that went by where he didn’t let those around him know how grateful he was for their hard work towards our goal of making it to the Super Bowl. During that time, many who worked for Jeff would have marched to Hell and back if Jeff had asked them to. Eventually, after four seasons of winning fewer than half of our games, we made it to Super Bowl XXXIV. Had it not been for Coach Fisher’s grateful attitude and the hope it instilled in each of us, I seriously doubt we would have made it out of the AFC Central that year, let alone to a Super Bowl.
I have a pretty good excuse—as well as anyone—for being angry, bitter and negative. And God only knows that many of you also have some great excuses. But just because we have a good excuse for living with a chip on our shoulder doesn’t mean that it’s a smart idea to do so. In the end, we’ve got to choose to live positive lives and think positive thoughts despite the negativity that swirls around us. In our media-driven world that makes its mark through shock and negativity, realize that you’ll set yourself FAR apart from the rest of the crowd by doing the opposite. Through simply being grateful and displaying that sliver of hope, others will attract to you like moths to a flame.