The Power | “Be an Athlete, Son!”

“Keep your head on a swivel,” probably the greatest lessons I learned playing “QB”, but not the only lesson I carry from my years of athletics and leadership.

I am, what you would call, a super nerd. I prefer “blerd”. I’ve always known I was a super nerd, my pops showed me I could ball, that I was an athlete. It took years of great coaching and me discovering my self-confidence for me to see it, believe that, and breathe it. Frankly, I’m still an athlete makes and I’m still learning how how my journey makes me a team leader in business & community. Below are three survival lessons from a 1st-generation kid turned entrepreneur and community leader, and bonafide pro-nerd.

Discipline is Success in Action, Succeeding is An Tangible.

Is there a sport more iterative than football? For the uninitiated, those who’ve never woken up to a 4 AM alarm, to only be awoken again be a 5 AM helmet to your chest may not see the systems at play, they may not know what it means to, “keep your head on a swivel”.

Football is

  • 50% preparation
  • 25% team-work
  • 20% self awareness and
  • 5% talent.

Ninety-five percent of being a successful athlete has nothing to do with juke moves, toughness, or physical competitive advantage. Teams can win with nearly any scheme, athletes compete from any place, if they’re willing to prepare body and mind, learn how to lead and be led. Most critically, if they practice full speed, using their talents and learn the principles beyond their limitations. Success in team work is practicing, drawing conclusions about the limits of individual prowess, and tying commitment to principles that lead to wins, and new lessons borne of success & failure.

Football is iteration, through practice of reinforcing preparation teamwork self-awareness in development. That first helmet to the chest isn’t a sign of failure, it’s your reward for having the awareness to protect your head, it’s part of a broader outcome only possible because you’re habits built trust with the coaching staff and it’s the disciplines penultimate motivation come to life, it’s an opportunity, so execute!

In business, tech, or teaching you’re not always preparing for a specific challenge; at your best you’re really practicing your discipline, experiencing as you experiment, and building trust throughout the process by returning to the moral and spiritual foundations (integrity) of your work.

Reinforcing Integral Decision Making.

To repeat a process over and over and expect different results is the definition of insane. In football, to commit to a process again, and again, for weeks, for months if you’re lucky, is an honor🤷🏾‍♂️. Football is a process; 10 hours of practice a day from June to September, and daily practice 6 days aweek during the school year. That’s just when you’re playing for free, no scholarships or signing bonus. So why do 10 years olds and 22 year olds love playing Amateur ball? Why did I, a self proclaimed blerd, love the process?

My high school coaches used to call me “Action Jackson!” I guess “integral-decision making Jackson,” didn’t really have the same pop!

I was privileged, I had the greatest coach on earth in my corner. I have a father-coach, who nurtured my competitive nature and built up my confidence as he instills discipline. There was no coddling, outside the game, we worked year-round, just so I could be 1% better week in and week out. Every action, on the field, in the house, our at school had to have a reason. I’m my house, “just cause” was cause for deeper inquiry. Or reflection *some call it grounding*

When I started playing ball I literally thought it was a game predicated on executing the same task 100s of times for the one moment when you can say we did our best and the score shows it. When it became apart of me, is finally understood, “my own wiring,” as a ball player, and as a young man, beyond the field.

In the same spirit of honoring discipline through success, developing integrity in practice continues to serve me off the field. As a leader I am trusted, implicitly or explicitly to build paths forward while maintaining the foundations. I’m one man, —hell, I’m one black man. Which mean my leadership comes with unique barriers, it always has, even when on the practice field. At the same time discipline in practice, and practice tied to a theory of impact and not simply “theory” continues to make the difference. Working and leading with integrity has landed me in great rooms and has minimized my exposer to environments that are predicated on results only thinking, and recency bias.

I know the value of now beating myself.

Be An Athelete Son, Keep Your Head on a Swivel

Media often makes the identity of the athlete feel unattainable, monolithic, in-human. Which is never been my reality—sports, teamwork, getting a little sweaty, obsessive and rowdy, we’ve all had those moments. Failing. Learning how to come back.. Unlearning the habits that defeat us.


Like I said at the top, the greatest sports lesson and the loudest voice in my head are the same phrase.

“Be An Athelete Son, Keep Your Head on a Swivel”

All coaches everywhere

We often tell people in moments of defeat, or during times of crisis and uncertainty to either keep your head down and do your work, or keep your head held high and don’t let this get you down. I feel there’s a time and a place for those messages in at the same time the greatest coaches in my life I’ve always told me to keep my head on a swivel. On the field keeping your mind present and active as things are happening to you and around you is the only way to play the game and succeed. Keep in your head down you make it hurt, and having your head up to high you might miss what’s happening in front of you.

Keeping your head on a swivel, is a fundamental piece of responding with agility to moments of crisis. This third lesson on leader ship during moments of crisis, or moments of explosive action in uncertainty has only lately revealed itself to be useful in my business life. As a black man keeping my head on a swivel has kept me alive, given me awareAwareness of my surroundings and he was for me, and his help me to support people like me who been marginalized because of the color of their skin or the station they were born into.

The funny thing about that lesson of being aware and remaining agile, is that nearly anyone can develop the skill set of self-awareness in the mental mobility to know how their environment, their community, and their priorities or developing around them, nearly anyone can keep their head on a swivel and make the integral decision based on practice; In any domain of excellence. Now I’m bring these lesson, as I have to all things, to my business.

Read more of The Power Series in the About Section

In business, tech, or teaching you’re not always preparing for a specific challenge; at your best you’re really practicing your discipline, experiencing as you experiment, and building trust throughout the process by returning to the moral and spiritual foundations (integrity) of your work.

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