Not that long ago, UFC star Ronda Rousey was billed as “the world’s most dangerous woman” and with commercial endorsements and movie appearances seemed poised to make a major impact on pop culture. That was before two "setbacks" in the Octagon. While her star has dimmed considerably in those last two fights, Rousey’s story offers valuable insights and serves as a warning for those of us who get too wrapped up in our jobs.
Stringing together a series of twelves straight wins, Rousey rocketed to the top of her sport while her looks and charisma helped her transcend her brutal sport. News stands across the country featured magazines with Rousey on their covers, including the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She was selected as the Best Female Athlete Ever by voters at ESPN.com. Hollywood came calling as Rousey appeared in “The Expendables 3,” “Furious 7,” with other projects also lining up.
Then it all came crashing down....
In the final seconds of a loss at the hands of Illinois State in October 2005, the Southern Illinois University football team experienced what appeared to be a nightmare.
Coach Jerry Kill, one of the masters of rebuilding college football programs, collapsed on the sidelines, his body convulsing as he suffered a seizure. Players panicked, not sure what to do, as Rebecca Kill, who knew that her husband had epilepsy, scrambled from the stands to be near his side. Coach Kill was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In a moment which shows how perspectives change, he would later call the seizure one of the best things to happen to him.
Even as his cancer went into remission, in the years ahead at Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois University and, eventually, the University of Minnesota, the sight of Coach Kill suffering seizures on gameday would be repeated five more times. But, despite Coach Kill going down on the sidelines, his teams handled it far differently than his players did against Illinois State. Even as Coach Kill was being attended to during those games, Tracy Claeys, one of his assistant coaches, would put on his headphones and lead the team. It was the ultimate example of that core sporting (and business) principle: next man up.
The truly great ones, no matter their level of expertise, are always learning. Unlike many of us who grow complacent, the truly great are aware that there is always room to improve and ways to grow. They never believe they know it all.
Just as important, the best of the best know there are always places to go to learn more and people to learn from.
I experienced this lesson firsthand recently while recording the first episode of “Go Big,” a new monthly online learning series featuring John Maxwell, the top leadership expert in America, and yours truly discussing leadership with the greatest minds in sports.
“Go Big” launches on Sunday, November 20. To learn more about it and for a FREE opportunity to watch our first interview, go here. Full details on the program Maxwell and I will host are at LeadersGoBig.com