You Don't Have to Watch Football
A couple years ago I was challenged to write my Life Code, basically a list of rules chosen to guide my life and how I live it. I was intrigued by the assignment. Although I had never written a Code like this, I had given a lot of thought to the topic. When I started reading Emerson and Thoreau in English class my junior year of high school, I caught the philosophical bug. I then read accounts from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom described essentially their own Life Code. I went to college and took an intro Philosophy class in the first semester of my first year and I was entranced. At the most basic level, I was just trying to find the thing for which I think we all search, purpose and meaning for this strange thing we call life.
So fast forward twenty-five plus years from those impressionable scholastic days, after having gained a little experience to go with the reading, and we arrive at my Life Code at age 46. Making its debut at number one on my list is this simple creed: Don’t Follow the Herd - They Don’t Know Where They Are Going.
This leads directly to the title of this Lesson - You Don’t Have to Watch Football.
In the Spring of 2015, my wife Heidi asked if I would be interested in going to a live event in Las Vegas, in the summer, for 5 days of intensive personal development. My answer came out before she was done asking. I was in. From the time we met, Heidi and I vowed to each other that the key to life and happiness was growth and we would always support each other’s individual growth as well as our growth as a couple. The event was life changing to say the least. I was exposed to Robin Sharma, John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols, and Colin James among others.
The first day we were home from that Vegas event (by the way, 113 degrees on the concrete of the Vegas strip is hot regardless of its dryness), I disconnected all three cable boxes in our house and drove to the cable company to turn them in and cancel service. This, in smoker’s terms, was a cold turkey quit from the mind numbing addiction that was TV. For me, it was all TV. Shows, movies, HGTV, talk shows, news, and sports. All the sports.
I had grown up with TV. It was usually on in my house. I was a kid of the 80’s and the onset of cable TV. My mom loved sports so the Cubs game would be on in the daytime during the summer (that 1984 Cubs team is still my all-time favorite), football would always be on Sundays, golf most weekends of the year, tennis for the majors, basketball (the college game dominated my youth), and frankly anything else that might be on. We would watch the morning shows, the evening news, the nightly sitcoms, and the late night talk shows. At the very least, TV was the background buzz in my house. And I loved all of it. TV informed me. I learned from TV the way today’s youth learns from YouTube. I was watching Jeopardy! every day. I grew my love for sport and was also exposed to music by MTV. I never thought TV was a bad thing or that I watched too much.
Although my years in college provided a little reprieve from TV, I welcomed it back whole-heartedly in my adult life. When I owned a golf store for nearly 10 years, the centerpiece of our store was a set of three TVs with ESPN or Golf Channel playing continuously - all day, every day, for 10 years.
I knew more about sports than anyone needed to know. Heck, I could have been one of those guys on ESPN who were paid to watch and talk sports all day long. And then, a little thing called Fantasy Football entered my life. This made every game a compelling one to watch because nearly every real game had fantasy implications. And the NFL got smart. They added a Thursday night game and a Sunday night game so TV watchers could watch Thursday night, Sunday early, Sunday late, Sunday night, and Monday night. And if you were really sick, you could watch college football all day Saturday. It wasn’t enough to just play fantasy football. You had to watch all the games so you could really live and die by your fantasy football decisions.
So there I was, standing in front of the cable company desk, with three cable boxes in my arms, and a little white flag of surrender in my hand. I didn’t know what cold turkey was going to feel like. I didn’t know if there would be withdrawals, night tremors perhaps. I was pretty sure I was going to survive and maybe, just maybe, I would get way more in return than what I was giving up. I was willing to try. I had twin babies and I wasn’t going to spend their life on the couch eating a bag of pretzels.
I made it through that entire first NFL season without watching a single game. I also didn’t watch the Masters or the US Open. Then I didn’t watch the next NFL season, not a single down of a single game. Then the next season too. Then another season after that. Of course, I also didn’t watch any TV of any kind. No shows, no news, no HGTV remodel shows, no late night.
I wanted to live a life that was different. I knew that if I was the guy who watched every NFL game (insert college basketball, golf, tennis, baseball, NBA, etc.), every week, every season, I would never live the life of my dreams, and certainly not the life of growth I had vowed to Heidi.
It was time to ditch the herd, decide it wasn’t going the right way, and go alone down my chosen path. You don’t have to watch football.
Here’s what I learned. Sometimes you need a drastic pattern interrupt. I could have tried to watch less TV. I could have limited nighttime TV. I could have tried to go one week without TV. It was the act of “burning the boats” that solidified the conviction of my decision. The result was amazing. Oddly, I didn’t miss watching sports at all. In fact, I now have a secret hack that I use to fill my itch for sports. I keep track of results and stats (which is super easy in today’s digital world) and it makes me feel connected and informed while saving myself hours upon hours of my life. I still can converse with friends about sports without ever having watched the events.
As I became a Dad, I wanted to be intentional about my availability to my kids and wife. Much of the reason why our life works well today is because we are intentional about our time. We have routines in place to plan the week’s calendar and meals, keep the house in good order, and continuously visit our dreams and goals. Watching TV just doesn’t fit into that schedule very well. As the years have gone by, we have slowly re-introduced TV into our lives, but it serves now as a special treat and the time spent is usually planned and limited.
As for that Life Code, I thought I would share the whole list here (always subject to modification, addition, subtraction, and enhancement). Although #1 is the focus of this lesson, notice the others that creep in as well.
Don’t follow the herd - they don’t know where they are going
Trust Your Intuition - Always
Be Open-Minded and Don’t Judge
The Key to Happiness is Growth
Act quickly but strategically
Be Impeccable with your Word
The secret to everything is energy - be mindful of your own and surround yourself carefully
Say “I love you” and express gratitude
Take calculated risk - don’t be afraid to go for it - you’ll always land on your feet
Pay Attention and Be Here Now