Life Can Be Unpredictable
But Preparing To Win
Requires A Schedule
In the mid-1960s The Rolling Stones recorded a song titled “Time Is On My Side.” It was one of their first recordings and it was a big hit.
In the song, Mick is philosophizing about a wayward girlfriend. She’s running around instead of staying faithfully by his side but instead of expressing hurt feelings Mick patiently waits claiming that “time is on my side.” And he confidently asserts that “She’ll come running back to me.”
Now, you might be wondering what a song about wayward girls sung by one of Rock N Roll’s most prominent bad boys has to do with winning. Well, the context of the song isn’t important but the refrain is.
The main issue in the song is “Time” and Mick repeatedly says it is on his side. In fact, at the end of the song, he builds to a crescendo with: Time, Time, Time is on my side.
But there is good reason to think Mick may not be correct. Time can be on your side but there is no guarantee.
And that brings us to Tom Coughlin and the book he wrote. The title of Tom’s book is:
Earn The Right To Win
And it’s worth reading because it makes some universally valid points about winning.
Tom’s claim to fame is the fact that he won top prize in one of the most competitive sports in the United States, NFL football, and he won it twice. That’s not an easy thing to do and according to what Tom says in the book, he didn’t do it accidentally.
Another fact to note is this is actually Tom’s second book not his first.
That’s important because the first book written by recently celebrated icons says mostly what the publisher wants said. They’re interesting reads but rarely compelling.
Tom wrote that book after he won his first Super Bowl. His second book follows his second Super Bowl win and in it, Tom is telling us what he wants to say. He’s telling us how to win and he’s proven that he knows how to do that so he is worth hearing.
His primary message focuses on Preparation and every chapter elaborates on that idea.
In chapter 1 he emphasized building a structure. The two most important thoughts in that chapter were one, start by setting a big goal (not a small one), and two, learn to work with what you have in hand.
In chapter 2 he emphasizes the wise use of time. In fact, the title of this chapter is a play on a common phrase.
The Time of Your Life
That phrase is usually reserved for the best periods of our lives and the most memorable events but Tom makes it clear that your entire existence can and should contribute to the “Time of your life.”
This chapter is all about scheduling the use of time and Tom uses several common quips about time to make his points.
- Time is an opportunity, never a luxury.
- Time can’t be found or made but only spent and it must be spent wisely.
Obviously, managing time is an important issue for any person wanting to win at their particular game in life.
And from a biblical perspective, time is the one thing that makes us all equal. It is the one gift God has given to each one of us in equal amounts. I’m not talking about how long each person lives but how long each second lasts. It’s the same for everyone. Sixty seconds are exactly the same for you as they are for everyone else. The difference is what you do with them.
How we use time determines whether we change for the better or the worse. Time makes us all equal and time and changeability are two things that differentiate us from God, but that is another post.
The Bible has quite a lot to say about time but I’ll say more about it just now.
Before I get into the core of Tom’s teaching on this point let me make it clear that good time management isn’t about being in a constant state of motion. “Busyness” is not evidence that you are using time well. “Activity” must be well mixed with focus and prioritization.
It’s not the number of hours you put in but the way you use those hours that matter. And Tom agrees. The very first section of his second chapter is:
Use Time Effectively
In which Tom says, “There are no trophies awarded for working the most hours.” Even though Tom is a hyper-busy person by nature he is smart enough to know that being busy isn’t the same as being effective so he makes an effort to squeeze waste out of his schedule.
One of the things he does to achieve that is start team meetings 5 minutes early and he expects everyone to be in place and ready to start at that time or suffer a fine for being late.
In the next section of this chapter Tom says if you want to use time effectively you must:
Make A Schedule And Follow It
This idea is so simple and so obvious you have to wonder why someone would need to write a book and say it. In any other setting, that kind of remark would be considered a sarcastic insult.
But the truth is many people never make a detailed schedule for any day. Of those who do a good portion never follow it through. It’s easy to draw up a schedule. The hard part is following through. A scheduled plan is easy to come by but difficult to live with.
In fact, people fail to follow schedules because it is rare that life ever happens according to plan and when the unexpected happens adjustments are required. Frustrating! Human nature doesn’t like surprises and to get around that Tom prepares primary and contingency plans for every day. That way they never lose time or waste energy fretting over changes in the schedule.
He teaches that the best way to be prepared for the expected is to prepare well for the unexpected.
In the next section, Tom makes the point that if you want to make good use of the “Time of your life” you must include . . .
Long Term Planning
Long-term planning is another idea, like making and following schedules, that is often neglected. People excuse their lack of long-term planning because they’ve been led to believe that detailed planning requires special gifting.
That is, the people who are good at long-term planning are mysteriously gifted at birth with this ability. But the ability to plan is a responsibility, not a gift. It has nothing to do with your nature.
The reality is the future happens to everyone, not just those who have the “gift.” Good planning involves a learning process not naturally given insight.
We either learn how to plan for the future or we are unprepared when it arrives.
Using Tom’s model and the need for financial security we might say:
- Plan to save money regularly: weekly or monthly.
- Plan to accumulate a targeted amount at certain intervals.
- Plan to use that money to make income producing investments (passive income).
This long-term approach is important because worthwhile goals are achieved only on a long-term basis.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Medical doctors don’t qualify in one year.
And this has nothing to do with sheer, nose to grindstone discipline.
The more you make plans, attempt to follow them, and adjust for unforeseeable events, the better your planning becomes and the more motivated you’ll be to follow through.
Discipline without planning and adjusting is like working at midnight with the lights off.
In chapter 1 Tom said we are to begin by setting a big goal. Now he says we must make daily, weekly, monthly and yearly plans to reach that goal. And there is an additional benefit.
Making and adjusting plans not only helps us develop better planning skills, which in turn feeds our motivation. The plans we follow eventually become habits, good ones.
The things you do by habit don’t require discipline!
And that brings us to his last point and the best one of all.
Stay Prepared For An Unexpected Opportunity
For me this was the most significant idea in this chapter and another way to say it is to keep working during the downtrends.
No person’s progress is ever graphed by a straight-line projection. Life is full of naturally occurring downturns.
The young person who works hard to finish in the top ten percent at high school finds themselves surrounded by high achievers in university and are no longer special. University presents them with a new set of challenges, in addition to studies, through which they must prove themselves all over again. It’s a downturn, a good one.
The type of work Tom does illustrates this well. NFL teams start their preseason workouts with as many as 80 players on their practice rosters but must reduce that number to 53 by the time the season officially starts.
That means at least 27 players who start with a team will eventually be released. All of them have the same aspiration, to play in the NFL and win the Super Bowl.
Being released is a misdirection. It’s downtime, a lull in the process, and how they respond to that may determine whether they eventually reach their goal.
Tom says instead of giving up, continue to work toward your goal. You don’t have to be on a football team to train for football. You don’t have to be employed as an accountant to learn accountancy. You don’t have to be contracted by a publisher to learn the art of writing.
When Tom was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars he assumed his head coaching days would carry on in the future. He continued to believe and act like a head coach. He did all the things head coaches do and when the Giants came knocking he was ready. He hadn’t lost any ground.
When between jobs rather than lose sight of your goal and look for a different job, keep preparing to do the kind of work you do better.
As I said before, the Bible makes some significant statements about time and Paul was the author of one of them:
Behold, NOW is the acceptable time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation. 2 Cor. 6:2
The most important time you will ever manage is the time you have right now. The only way to make yesterday’s problems better is to do something now. The only way to make tomorrow’s opportunities more profitable is to prepare for it now. The only time you can get saved is now, whenever that may happen for you.
The only time we really have is “Now.” When tomorrow arrives it becomes “Now.”