I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Don Yaeger. I’m embarrassed to say that before I did, I had no idea who he was! So for those in the same boat, by way of introduction, Don is a business leadership coach, a New York Times best-selling author and longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated. He has done some fantastic work over the years working with The Great Ones, and made quite an impression. Accordingly, I’ve read more than a few of his books over the past couple weeks.
As a kid growing up watching the 85 Bears, I thought Walter Payton was invincible. His autobiography offers so many life lessons I can only hope to pass down to our boys.
“Consistency is the most difficult thing to attain in life. Anyone can be good for a day, or a year. But can you be consistently great? That is so much more difficult. It requires a person to continue to work hard even after they have achieved success. It requires sacrifice, even after sacrifice is no longer required. It requires a hunger in a person that is about more than just making it. It is about staying there.”
For investors, Payton exemplified a trait we discussed in our Annual Letter. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” Payton was a reasonable man. He was quick, but not fast. If he ran conventionally, he may have failed conventionally. Instead, he developed a stutter step to help him break long runs. Opponents didn’t know what he was going to do. They didn’t know if he was going to go straight, come right at them or stop. “If you break free and are running down the sideline, the defensive guy who has an angle on you is already calculating in his mind where he’s going to hit you. He knows where you are going to be at a certain time because he’s judging your speed.” So that’s when Payton would start his stutter step and change speed. When you do that they have to think and that gives you the edge to go right by him. It is a way of breaking long runs when the other player is faster than you.
The NFL could use more men of this character today. How many professional athletes could express this sentiment from Payton? “They paid me for football. But I would have played for nothing because I had fun.” Not many, I’m afraid. That said, we are still having fun at Broyhill, enjoying what we do and the people around us. Although, perhaps not as much fun as the 85 Bears and The Superbowl Shuffle!