I would rather do things that I fear than live a life with regret. I have had people tell me they wish they were more like me, not afraid to try new things or go after big goals. While I appreciate that sentiment, it is a bit misguided. I do get afraid and nervous, and I struggle from time to time with self-doubt. The difference is that I still go after the goal or try the new thing that is causing fear, nerves and self-doubt. For me, regret is scarier than fear; regret is permanent, fear is temporary. This is the place I often draw my courage from when I find myself nervous to try something new or afraid that I may fail.
Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to hear one of the best speakers teach on living a life with no regrets. Coach Swider, the head football coach at Wheaton College, is living an exceptional life and through speaking has been sharing his wisdom beyond the locker room. He speaks with NFL teams, various companies, at graduations and at professional development conferences. I feel fortunate I have been able to hear him speak on more than one occasion, and I want to share what I have learned with all of you.
Here are Coach Swider’s 12 concepts to know so you can live a life without regret.
- Someone has to want to be motivated. If they aren’t, you can’t do it for them. You have a choice what kind of person you want to be. Make the choice to be a person who wants to be challenged, motivated and confronted.
- Integrity-Can you be trusted to do what is right? Be a person of honesty, with good character, and be loyal.
- Audit the state of your soul. Leaders reflect where they are in their heart. When perspective is lost a person can become disoriented, irrational and frustrated. Regain perspective. When Coach Swider’s team lost a game he came home and was so angry he decided to rake leaves. Later that night he was having trouble sleeping when his son came into his room. Coach said, “Are you having a hard time sleeping?” His son responded he was. He said he was thinking so much about something, mind you he was under the age of 10-years-old. So Coach asked him what was on his mind, and his son said, “Dad when I come play football for you will I call you Dad or Coach?” All of a sudden Coach Swider’s perspective was restored to what really mattered in life. His son respected him so much as a coach he wanted to address him as that, but also loved him so much as a father he wanted to call him dad. When his son did play for him he called him Coach on the field and Dad in the offices.
- Quitting is NOT an option. When you take on an opportunity or join a team of any kind think of the worst possible conditions when you commit. It is easy to say yes when things are rosy and clear and easy. But what about when the conditions are tough? When Coach Swider speaks to his team at the first day of practice he paints a picture of a day when it’s 30 degrees, they are tired, the field is muddy, it’s finals week, and he is pushing them and in their face at practice. He then asks, do you still want to commit to being part of this team and all that it means?
- Seek to serve rather than to rule. Amazing leaders are selfless, humble and service-oriented. This world and life do not revolve around you. Serve others and your joys will be greater.
- Your mission should be motivated by cause. What are you motivated by; playing or winning? If you are on a team and you are motivated by playing you are concentrating on yourself. If you are motivated by winning you are focused on what is best for the whole team and the team’s goal as a whole. Glory is a bad motivator, instead fight for a cause. Ask the question what is best for us/ for the organization/or for the team? And then check your individual goals and make sure they line up.
- Do not treat people as things, people matter. When you place rules and demands on people without a relationship it will equal rebellion. People want to know you care before they care about what you know. Time spent on developing relationships is never a waste of time. Learn to really listen and wait your turn to talk, listen to understand, not to respond. Make yourself available to everyone.
- Discipline-be willing to labor wanting nothing in return. Can you work at something and not be paid or recognized in any way?
- Competent-are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? The small details in life matter, they turn into the big things. Are you willing to pay attention to those minute details and make them important, even though there aren’t immediate returns?
- Enthusiasm! Genuine leaders lead with energy, passion and enthusiasm. If you have ever been in a room with no enthusiasm or energy, you are part of the problem. Have a powerful and positive presence. Is this who you are? Energy and enthusiasm can overcome anything!
- Moral Courage-This is the ability to act despite your fears, to do what’s right because you know that it is right. One year Coach’s son played in a junior high football league that won the entire league and were champions. His son’s coach asked where they wanted to eat and celebrate and the boys said Hooters, so they went to Hooters. Coach Swider’s son said he was uncomfortable going there and didn’t want to partake. He gave his money to one of the boys and asked them to bring his sandwich out to the parking lot while he waited on the curb, where he planned to eat. The whole team went in and 15 minutes later the entire team came back out. The coach said they decided it wasn’t right and that they could do better. In that moment Coach Swider’s son, who was only 13-years-old, had moral courage and did what was right. His actions changed the hearts of grown men and shifted the direction of that entire team.
- Understand the responsibility of being part of the team. You are part of something more, this is not a place to allow ego, pride or jealousy; those things are poison and will destroy your team, it’s only a matter of time. Be more!
* The 2016 season marked Mike Swider‘s 21st as head coach and his 32nd as a member of the Wheaton College football coaching staff. Since taking over the program in 1996, Swider has posted a 181-47 record with a 79.4% winning percentage, which ranks him first all-time in both categories among Wheaton’s 21 head football coaches. He also holds the eighth-highest winning percentage of any active Division III coach and is among the top-15 highest winning percentages of any coach in Division III history with 10 or more years of experience. During Swider’s tenure as head coach, the program has reached the NCAA playoffs nine times in the last decade, won eight CCIW titles, produced 36 All-Americans and 210 All-Conference players.