Jim Harbaugh has one of the best motivational quotes in recent years:
“I vow I will attack this endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
He was referring to his new position as head football coach at Stanford University in December of 2006. He then made Stanford a national power.
Two years ago, Harbaugh left Stanford to become head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Using that same approach he has guided them to the Super Bowl where they will take on the Baltimore Ravens, who, ironically are coached by his brother John.
When they were kids, their dad, Jack, would drop them off at school. Each morning he would say, “Okay men, grab your lunch boxes and attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!”
Years later Jack Harbaugh told writer Jeff Arnold this:
“In this world, you can choose to be positive or you can choose to be negative. You can choose to see things through a set of eyes that sees good or you can choose to see things in life that aren’t so good. At least every day, they were reminded to look at it through a positive set of eyes. Let the lens of your eyes be positive.”
Because he has such a fire within, I have made it a point to follow Jim Harbaugh closely in recent years – especially after he made that ‘enthusiasm unknown to mankind’ statement. I read a lengthy Sports Illustrated feature on the late Bill Phillips, a man remembered for being an outstanding father. One of his sons, Andrew, had played for Harbaugh at Stanford. Harbaugh had flown across the country for the funeral of Phillips:
“Deeply impressed by the memorial, Harbaugh made a decision on the flight back to the Bay Area. The 2010 Cardinal would dedicate the upcoming season to their families. Before every practice and home game of Stanford’s finest season ever, the team filed past a board in the locker room festooned with family pictures of the 107 players and 28 coaches and other staff members.
Harbaugh returned to campus with an assignment for each player. “Each guy wrote a letter to their mom and dad, telling them how much they appreciate them.” The idea, he says, “is to include them in the season as much as possible.” (Excerpt from a December 2010 Sports Illustrated article by Austin Murphy.)
Harbaugh also took the time to write a four page handwritten letter to Janet, Bill’s widow. She has kept it on the table in her living room and read it countless times. Part of it reads:
‘You also must find comfort in knowing that the amazing qualities we all see in Andrew have come from you and Bill. He plainly gave his most tender care and deepest love to his family. He also received his most profound joy from the same. Bill Phillips’ legacy will live on through his four sons because they were his foremost priority, and have the imprint of a man who led from the front with a true heart.’
This past winter, Harbaugh was in Indiana visiting his brother-in-law, Tom Creen, who happens to be the head basketball coach at Indiana University. During one of their games, Harbaugh became a team manager. During every time-out he hustled around and handed players water and towels. He set their chairs up for each time-out (picture below). This was a man making millions of dollars a year as head coach of the 49ers! Why did he do that? It’s part of his wiring.
When the team flies, he always gives up his first class seat to a different player and then moves around the plane talking with players.
One of the reasons he has been so successful by utilizing motivation is that he truly believes it. His players respond to his authenticity. That is a key in today’s world – being genuine and authentic. One of his favorite things to say to his players is, “Who has it better than us?!” They all yell, “NOBODY!”
So, as the Super Bowl approaches, I encourage you to approach the recruiting process, your academics, your community service, and your athletic development with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind! It sure has worked for Jim Harbaugh.
Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker and the author of the book “Stoke the Fire Within.” His next book “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” will be out in the spring of this year. While on the speaking trail, Adams says company leaders often tell him they look to hire true college student-athletes upon graduation because of their competitive natures, ability to manage time, leadership abilities and their commitment to being team players.