I was watching a pre-season football game this last weekend and the announcer said something that really struck a cord with me. It was something like this. “Well now Chris, he’s only 5’11” and 205lbs, but he plays much bigger than that. He plays like he’s 6’4” and 220lbs and that really makes it hard to get a play on him”. At first, I was like “shut up!” “That makes no sense at all!” But then, as I watched more and more of the game, I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head, because that’s not the first time I’ve heard that type of analogy, especially during a football game. It got me to thinking;
Just what is “playing bigger than yourself”? and can that play into real life, our career and our relationships?
Well, as most of you know about me, when my mind hooks into something, it rarely lets it go until I’ve fully went at it from every single angle and I can fully understand it. So, after many hours of dissecting and analyzing that phrase, I think I’ve come up with just what the hell those full of B.S. announcers are talking about when they say that.
Let me tell you a little story that will become relevant hopefully at some point of this segment.
I’m about 5’9” or so and am always somewhere around 220-235#, give or take a few cinnamon rolls, aka Christmas time! I’m not tall, but I’m not short. I’m thick, but wouldn’t say I’m muscular, but also not really chunky either. Let’s say I’m well marbled, shall we?
I can tell you that other than a stint in high school where I shrank down to about 170#’s for awhile, I’ve been around this height and weight-ish since 6th grade. I was an early bloomer for sure. Oh, I have to add that I’m not very fast either…not even remotely fast. Think of your gramma trying to outrace you to the fridge, type of fast. Well, I’m also pretty mild-mannered and laid back in my disposition. I learned pretty early to let water roll off my back, and I never liked conflict or fighting, or violence really. I still don’t, to be truthful.
…How in the hell is this getting to this month’s subject?
Okay, I’m getting to that. I’m setting up the background data. It’ll relate. Trust me.
Okay, so despite my not-so-stellar athletic package, and being about as dangerous as a small kitten, (Even had a teacher nickname me “marshmallow”), I never had any problems holding my own on a football field, a weight room, or wrestling mat, although I was much better at the football thing. Well, I was a 5’9” 190# lineman but by no means a hefty lineman. As a matter of fact, playing varsity ball, we played against late 260#s linebackers and early 300#’s lineman! And these were big dudes, too! Well, to me anything over 6’ is tall, but anyway these were bigger than that! Pretty effing intimidating!
Here’s the deal though. From my “halls of the iron mountain memory”, I never gave up a sack and have to say that I was a nightmare for linebackers and nose tackles on run plays. Why? Because, when I put on the uniform, I became 6’5”, 300# and meaner than a junkyard dog. The helmet was almost like my mask. In it I could be whatever I wanted, play as hard as I could, knock someone as hard as I can, grunt, groan, yell and let it all hang out, with zero repercussions.
So that is what I did. And I was pretty damn good at it! I played like each play was my last. Give me last year’s All-State nose guard to block, no problem. Block that 3-year starting varsity linebacker, yawn. My own best friend growing up was an all-state linebacker by high school. He knew me inside and out. This guy was the epitome of the “cock of the walk” at every part of the game, but line him up against me in blocking drills, and that boy was “pancaked” almost every time!
(Pancake) – When you block someone so hard, they end up on their back. Flat as a pancake.
Gotta’ say I really enjoyed those drills!
It doesn’t take too many times making “the cock of the walk” look like a “Tom turkey” to get around that you are no one to be messed with on the field. By my senior year I had some of the local colleges calling, and my coaches spent early mornings and afternoons honing my skills so I could look my best for the potential recruiters in the stands. Coaches from other teams would stop me after games and compliment me on how I “stuffed” their best guy and shake my hand. Pretty cool stuff for a 17-year-old kid.
Here’s the kicker. This never got to my head. Count off these things that I already knew about myself at that time; I’m a “not tall”, not fast, not muscular, non-jumping white kid from Billings. I didn’t “and still don’t” have good hands, Rich Eisen could’ve made me look slow in the 40-yard dash, and I couldn’t throw. The reality was for me that high school ball was it. Once I graduate, it’s reality and finding a career that did not involve “pancakes”. At least not those pancakes. No one was going to really look at a too short, too light, slow white kid. I knew that and was okay with it. I did love making my coaches give me extra attention though! Never told them, I wasn’t going to college. Why? It got me out of the conditioning at the end of practice…score!
Here’s what I realize now about my football years and how they are the only thing relevant to this story.
I was playing bigger than I really was.
Yep. I was refusing to let my deficiencies be my definition.
Did I over-simplify with this example? Yes, but it is a clear example of the core meaning of that statement.
I’d bet that each person reading this has had or is now “playing bigger than they are”. Think for a second. Go to a time, an occasion or day when you did something you never thought you could do. A time when you were not going to be limited by what you or someone else thought you could do, and you blew right past expectation and limitations. How’d it feel? Maybe you never even realized it at the time. That’s okay. In my example it was years, decades before I realized it. The key here is to figure out the why, and then harness that into a reason to get up in the morning and do it again and again.
Here’s another example of this:
Plant Services, Inc is consistently playing bigger than its physical size. From the very beginning, I knew that mountain that PSI would have to climb was huge. Simply awe inspiring. So big the top of the mountain couldn’t be seen due to the clouds surrounding it. But, here’s the deal. In my mind, we would not be denied. We’d do things that large companies did, only smaller. I’d wake up each day and do something I thought a business owner was supposed to do, and when I didn’t even know what that was, I researched it. I read about it in books… (they’re those things you keep on the shelf with paper inside for all the digital age youngens). I did that every day, and forced myself to quit thinking like a small, no matter, tiny, not gonna’ make our mark type of company. Failure was not an option, so we just wouldn’t fail. Now, we “learned” along the way, many, many things to NOT do, but we never let that keep us down. We never put a timeline on goals, or a dollar amount as our goal. The goal was to simply compete every day. Take another step forward, push our boundaries, force ourselves to outperform what we did yesterday. And now, here we are. PSI, and our personnel are doing things, completing projects, hiring personnel, utilizing vision and are competing in this giant world of huge companies, and we are winning. Not winning as like a game or race that we get to go home after the 4th quarter and relax. No, this race starts anew every single day. Yesterday is over, today is now. Take your place at the line and drive it over the line first. Make every thing you do help you play above your abilities, so you have a chance to compete.
Think about it. From the statement we make as we drive those beautiful, lifted, red trucks down the road and into the plant, to the Leadership Chapters, to the swag, to our overall attitude, and never die resolve that goes from top to bottom of the organizational chart. I bet there’s not a single person here that came from a competitor that did not, or does not want to take them down, in some fashion or another.
The key is to take that thought, that feeling when they duped you, made you feel the size of a pea, shamed you or otherwise tried to put you in a box that they defined, and light a match to it…burn it as your fuel to shine each day.
Think of our business world as a football field or paint ball course where our goal is to get to that customer before they do and out-compete every other company trying to get there. Whichever way you do that is only about what limitations you put on yourself. Decide each day that you will not be determined by boundaries that keep you down. Dedicate each day performing better than you did the day before.
When you put on your PSI clothes today, use that moment to flip your switch. You are no longer John Q Public. You are now (insert your name here), who is a damn important piston in this engine that is systematically taking down its competition. The power and desire you bring to this engine is what shoots us off the starting line each day and rips us down that track to the finish line first. Who cares if you may not be National this, Corporate that, CEO/CFO/COO or whatever? You can still do things that a CEO would. Do things that you see your supervisor doing that you want to do. Act unselfishly, smile and bring up the person below you, put in that little extra that you see your boss doing. Hell, show your boss how to do it, if that’s the case. The point is to not limit yourself based upon your position. Positions are just spots on an organization chart. Your worth, your wealth each day here is purely defined on your input. Literally what you put into your efforts each day is what you will reap down the road. Here’s an example for you that completely took me off guard, but definitely fits into this subject:
In 2016, we took on a cool bunch of fellers in Salt Lake City. We hired 4 techs in various degrees of position and 1 Operations Specialist. It wasn’t any match made in heaven for sure, as I clearly hired a bunch of cowboys and 1 lone “follower”. The problem is the follower was supposed to be the leader, but I quickly found out that he could not lead. At all. Long story short, that “leader” eventually flunked out and could not handle the job, but along the way, a real leader arose and just blew me away with literally everything he did.
Passion, check. Desire, check. Decision making, check. Aptitude, check. Leadership, check. Attitude, definite check! This dude was calling me up and advising me on things, or moves, or decisions before I was making them. I felt that this guy was reading my mind on what to do next, because he’d call and advise me on the very next thing I was going to address, before I told anyone! I was thinking, “I have to do something with this guy!”. This is our Leader. This is exactly my vision for someone to take the reins in SLC and help steer this ship. I was thinking “this guy’s only a technician?”. “Where the hell has he been, and why did they NOT see this?” “He has brains, vision, sees the picture past his own needs, wow I need to put this guy in a better spot to help us all.” So, after many meetings with my right hand man and MRS. PSI, I drove to SLC one day, took this guy to lunch and offered him the job he has now.
That guy, if you don’t already know, is Mr. Nick Mitchell.
Despite his position of “Lead Technician”, Mr Mitchell was “Playing the Hell out of his mind” and playing even bigger than that monstrous frame he holds. He had no idea what was to come, and I can damn sure tell you not only wasn’t he expecting me to promote him, he definitely wasn’t expecting me to promote him all the way to National Sales & Operations Specialist. He just knew he had to “up his game”, if we were to beat our competition, so that is what he did each day. He upped his game, he took chances, he did things he thought someone that was a leader would do, despite not being an official leader, AND at that time, already having a boss who was supposed to be doing that very thing.
I’m very happy to say that he is still utilizing all of those skills today to help mold and inspire others here to take their game up another notch and push this engine at high speed!
We have many of these success stories at PSI, Nick just happens to be a great example I utilized today.
So, lose your ideas of what you can do, who you can be, what value you think you have, and take a chance on yourself. What do you want to be? What do you see above or in front of you that you want to be doing, a level you want to be performing? Maybe it’s not a position at all. Maybe it’s just a feeling you want to have when you go home to your family. A feeling of purpose? The satisfaction of a job well done? The joy of knowing you helped your fellow man/woman today? What do you want to do/be/accomplish?
So, go do it!
The only thing holding you back is you.
Once you acknowledge that, figure out what it is about you that is keeping you in check, you can then make a conscious decision to get rid of it, go around it or through it and realize your full potential…or at least the satisfaction of trying to.
Play bigger than yourself today. You have no idea what you can accomplish…
…Until you do!