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22 Lessons From NFL Coach Jason Garrett on How to Lead a Successful Life

07/25/2013 05:32 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2013
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This week, NFL training camps opened across the country. Sports Illustrated was given exclusive access to tape coach Jason Garrett, the Head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He gave his opening remarks to the team in the form of "lessons" that will help his players succeed in the upcoming season. During his speech, I couldn't help but think how much everything he talked about correlates to the start-up life.

He began his talk by referencing the iconic Apple commercial: "Here's to the crazy ones." It's an awe-inspiring thirty seconds of television that goes above and beyond the simple sale of computers. It's about life.

Coach Garrett did an amazing job highlighting this fact. He told his team that thinking differently and making a commitment to that difference is a hell of a start in life, but it takes more than that to be great.

Below are the 22 amazing life lessons I took away from his speech.

1. This is a hard room to get into.
To be a professional in any field is an amazing accomplishment. To be a professional football player in the NFL, for the Dallas Cowboys, in a room with only ninety other players chosen from the entire athletic world - that's an incredible feat.

Building a business is hard. Building one that scale's is even harder. Know the fraternity you're trying to get into is elite. It's going to take everything you have to be among the best.

2. Your attitude is the only thing you can control.
Says Garrett: "It's the only thing we can control in our lives. Can't control the past - success - failure - what this person says, or what that person says. When you get up in the morning you can only control your attitude. The happiest people I know in my life, the most successful people I've ever known in my life, they have great attitudes."

3. Be at your best, regardless of the circumstances.
"Passionate people, with a single-minded focus don't listen to the noise," says Garrett. "Do you think Einstein listened to the noise? Do you think Dr. King listened to the noise? Ignore the noise. Be strong mentally."

4. It's going to take a relentless spirit.
The amount of energy and passion required to achieve greatness is incalculable. No matter how many books you read or seminars you attend - nothing will endure longer than your will to succeed. Be unyielding in your desire to win.

5. Overcome any obstacle in your way.
"Those guys that changed the world? Don't you think they had obstacles to overcome? You bet they did. Figure it out. No excuses."

6. Be the best version of yourself.
"What's your identity? Don't be some guy in your past or someone you aren't yet in the future. Be the best version of yourself. Have passion, a great attitude, a single-minded focus, relentless energy, and always finish. Never miss an opportunity in life to establish your identity. "

7. Make all decisions in the best interest of the team.
You will never do anything great in life alone. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it's a signal to all those who follow you that you believe in them so much that your combined successes are impossible without one another. This mission only gets accomplished as a team.

8. Coach my ass...MAKE ME BETTER.
" The coaches I hate in my life were the guys who allowed me to be as mediocre as mediocre can be. The guys I love to this very day - they rode my ass every day. They grinded me. It was hard. They made me better. "

Good investors work the same way. Most of them will bullshit you all day long. The best ones will work with you. They'll give you the one thing more valuable than money: their direct and honest feedback.

9. Expect great competition - it's the greatest league in the world.
Do you think you're different? Do you think you have more passion? Greater wits? More experience? A larger network? Execute 24-7. Force your competition to quit from the sheer exhaustion of simply trying to keep up with you.

10. Trust is earned. Respect is earned.
Don't expect anything. If you haven't earned it, then you don't deserve it. Treat others how you want to be treated. C'mon, we all learned this in second grade. It's unfortunate we have to remind ourselves as adults what respect is all about.

11. Always have your teammates' back.
"One of the greatest things that you can say in life is 'That guy was my teammate.' One of the greatest things that can be said about you is, 'That guy was my teammate.'"

12. Get stronger through adversity.
"We might lose a game, we might lose a first down; they may score a touchdown, someone may get hurt-- but you have to persevere."

13. Be on time and be ready to go.
"How you treat your commitments is a reflection of how important they are to you in your life. Don't ever be late."

14. Treat people and the facilities with respect.
It's easy to take advantage of all the amazing resources start-ups are sometimes blessed with (much like world class athletes). Game rooms, free food, 24-7 staff, etc. Understand why these resources exist and don't let them overtake your focus. You're at work to work.

15. Make every rep count.
"When the coach is correcting another player in the group - that's your mistake too. Pay attention - make the mental reps count so you are prepared in what may be your only opportunity to show what you've got."

Maybe you haven't started your own company yet, or you're still working through the "business plan," but that doesn't mean you can't be dedicated about learning from the people around you. Talk to them, learn from them, reach out to them. Everything they do, you'll probably have to do one day too.

16. Take care of the emotional part of your life. You're not alone.
Everyone has some personal issue they are constantly dealing with. Family, friends, money, broken cars, bad landlords - some way, some how, you've got to deal with this and come prepared to work every single day.

17. Hustle and compete.
"It takes absolutely no talent to hustle or compete. Set that standard."
You control your work ethic - no one else.

18. Step up and be a leader. Hold people accountable.
"We don't want flash - we want consistent guys we can count on every single day."
Great teams require great leadership. In the start-up world, the cardinal rule is to hire slowly, fire quickly. There's no better way to hold someone accountable, than to let go of them for underperformance.

19. Get to the next play - you've got to keep going.
The most common mistake entrepreneurs make is that they don't think their product or service is ready for press. The reality is that you have no brand or reputation. Most people who try early products will understand if things break. You're going to mess up. That's OK. Keep going.

20. Don't ever walk. Run. It's a mindset.

Nothing will irk a coach in any sport more than a player who spends time walking rather than running. Building a business or pushing out a product requires the same tone in hustle. Don't ever go slow. What does Zuckerberg always say? "Move fast - break things."

21. Give other people credit.
In a team sport, it's easy to identify the other folks who help lead you to victory. In the start-up world, it's just as easy. Think about the enormous amount of effort, money, energy, sacrifice, and mentorship you've received your entire life to get you to this moment by countless individuals who were compelled to see you succeed. Never forget them and always be grateful for what they've done for you.

22. Distinguish yourself with your play - not what you say.
There is no greater reflection of your success than the results you produce. They're worth more than a thousand press releases, articles, or twitter followers. Set clear goals and knock'em out of the park consistently.

Note: All italicized sections in this post are quotes attributed to coach Jason Garrett, stated during a recorded address on Sports Illustrated.