Applying champion life lessons learned from the game of sports.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Talent or Character?

Interesting question isn't it?  What does it mean?  Why the words "talent" and "character"?  Well, the question to the question is, what is the more desired trait or best recipe for success when it comes to what an athlete possess; Talent, or Character?

Watching an athlete with a great deal of talent is an awesome thing!  Consider volleyball players competing in a match in the sand, digging, setting and spiking with great fluency.  What about the basketball player that can dribble through any trap, sees the whole court, knows where teammates are and is able to get the ball to them at the right time, in the right spot.  Think of the the linebacker that instinctively knows where the play is going and what the best angle is to make the stop or intercept the pass. Talent is a very valuable thing and it is something that is "given" to [us] by God.  Talent is a great thing and it should not be taken away from or devalued in any way.  However, is talent alone the most desired thing for an athlete to possess?  Perhaps, but there may be something else to consider.

What about Character?  Some very successful NFL Coaches have weighed in on this question of which is better, talent or character and the answers they give may surprise you.  Jim Fassel, former New York Giants Head Coach and current Head Coach of the Las Vegas Loco's in the United Football League had the following to say about this.  "If a guy doesn't have character-if I determine he doesn't have a substance and a character about him, a love of the game, to play the game and a responsibility about him, I don't care how good he is, it's not going to happen".

Former Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Superbowl winning coach, Tony Dungy indicates that the Colts put a greater emphasis on character over talent when they were considering which player to take in the 1998 NFL Draft; Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning.  Obviously, the Colts chose Peyton Manning. Both players were record setters at the colleges they had come from and both had the size and physical skills [Talent] to be great players.  In Coach Dungy's book, "Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance", he states, when Colts President, Bill Polian, was faced with the decision of who to draft, "what tipped the scales in Bill's mind were Peyton's work ethic, his love for the game, his approach toward football as a job and his quiet personal life.  Ultimately, when faced with the choice that would define the course of the franchise, the Colts based that decision on character..."  Coach Dungy adds, "For the Colts, character is a quality that can be measured just like height, weight and speed.  In fact, we put more emphasis on this area than we do on physical tools [talent].  Coaching ability or talent cannot make up for a lack of character."  Finally, Coach Dungy added there are only a few things that would knock a player out of consideration for them in the draft and one of them was, "character".  He stated the Colts had a category on their player evaluation forms called, "DNDC"- Do Not Draft because of Character.  A team that was a power house for many years under Coach Dungy's leadership, was built on Character over Talent.  They were willing to risk losing a "good" player in order to choose one that had the type of character they were looking for.

Well, that was the 1998 draft, Tony Dungy was Head Coach from 2002-2008 and won the Superbowl with a team built on Character in 2007.  Things are a bit different now....much more emphasis is put on the "results" and sadly, it doesn't matter how the "results" are obtained; moving up is more important than the way you move up.  "It doesn't seem to matter if a person follows the rules or breaks them, just as long as you come out on top", adds Coach Dungy.  "After all, that is what people will remember at the end of the day".

Sports teams, big businesses and corporations are all willing to sacrifice the way in which success is obtained for the mere attainment of the success.  Breaking the rules and competing in any arena with a lack of character does not go without consequence.  Either a person will get caught or they will always be reminded of how they achieved their success.  At some point they'll realize their dishonesty and lack of character and realize that perhaps they didn't have what was necessary to compete or win under "normal circumstances".  There are those who do care how the results are obtained; a boss, coach or an employer.  If they find you have compromised character and broken the rules in order to obtain the results, they may well question their "business" relationship with you.  Are you the type of person they can trust, can they count on you, will you cut corners in other areas?

There is no substitute for character and the benefits that living with and out of character yields.  Character begins with the little the opportunities in life to prove character grow, so does the level of character you're personally developing.  The Bible gives a reference that is applicable to this:  Luke 12:48, "...from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked".  We are faced with opportunities to exercise and develop our character every day; in the little things and the big.  We are often known by others by two things...our character and our reputation.  I love what John Wooden says about these two things, "Be more concerned about your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are".  Obviously, our character reflects who we are inwardly.

The take away here is that there are two very important factors that all athletes, business professionals, etc, possess and are evaluated on:  Talent and Character.  I believe Talent is extremely important and feel that everyone should work hard at continuing to develop their level of talent.  However, I also believe that 1.  Talent will only take a person or team so far, and, 2. that Talent takes second place or a back seat to Character.  It is documented that a person and a team that forms itself around and competes with Character will accomplish more, be more successful than a person and a team that is built solely on Talent.  When Talent reaches its maximum potential, success requires you to find another route to achieve it; this usually means cutting corners.  Character will never reach its maximum potential.  It is a quality whose potential is so great that it cannot be fully obtained; only developed.  Yet, the rewards and benefits of Character, far out-weigh those of pursuits, endeavors, teams, businesses and more built upon mere Talent.

Thanks for reading....