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Why I'm Crushing on Nick Saban

Posted by Ronda Conger on
Why I'm Crushing on Nick Saban

* No, I did not really get to interview Nick Saban, but a girl can dream (and Photoshop), can’t she?


All I can say to you is Nick Saban. Nick Saban, Nick Saban, Nick Saban. If you have been following me, or listening to me…if you've heard me speak or read any of my books…You know a story or quote that I heard from Nick Saban, the head coach of Bama football, is going to be in there somewhere. Big fan! BIG fan!

If you haven't seen Saban’s documentary, “The Art of Coaching,” with Bill Belichick, please go watch that as well. Success leave tracks. We've heard this a million times because it's true. After all, when people are winning–when people are successful, it means that they've got a set mindset. It means that they have set processes. It means that they can bring team members, and humans together to do great things. Not just once, but over and over again. Saban has seven, maybe eight championship rings…This man gets it!

One of my favorite quotes from Saban is, “As a coaching staff…my players…my team…the most important thing you could do every day for us is to bring your energy and smile.”

Let's just let that sit there for a second.

The most important thing that you could do… let's take it further. The most important thing that you could do, for yourself, your family, your team, your buyers, your clients, your community, and the people with whom you interact…the most important thing you could do, Saban says, is bring your energy and your smile.

Will you practice? Just smile for me? Is there anything that feels better than smiling? I don't think so. All those endorphins and things go into your brain and things are firing right now. And you're like, “Yeah, life is good.” Which then, in turn, affects your energy.

I want you to stop, write that down, and share it with everyone you know. Do an energy check and a smile check. Saban’s not wrong, folks. He's not wrong. 

I had the pleasure of listening to Nick Saban speak at Leadercast. Saban spent most of his time outlining what he expected from his players and coaches. He talked about how he coaches and what he believes in. He told some fun stories from his past, and I'll share one with you. Not verbatim, but close.

As a boy in high school, Saban talked about working at his dad's full-service gas station. When a car would pull up, he would run out, pump their gas, and clean their windshields. On one of the days, unfortunately, Saban’s girlfriend had dumped him. So…he goes to work and he's visibly upset. He's having a rough day. In turn, he gives horrible service. He doesn't wash the windshield; he doesn't say “please” and “thank you.” He's mopey and he's pumping gas and suddenly, his dad says, “Hey, Nick, can you come to see me for a second?” Saban goes into the filling station, and his dad says, “You know, you can't let one negative thing affect everything else.” Nick looked at him and thought, “What? You don't understand. I'm upset.”

His dad said, “Here's the deal…Yes, you got dumped. So that's one thing–girlfriend dumped you. I get that. That's one thing, but now you're doing a bad service job. So…now you're probably going to lose your job and you know, that's not fun either. You can't lose your job. When you lose your job because of your bad attitude and your work ethic, your dad's going to be mad and then you're going to have a sore butt!” He said, “So you look at that…one thing ruined three things.”

I love that story because we, as humans, might have one bad thing in our day–too many stoplights on the way to work, bad traffic, bad weather, or a bad hair day. And sometimes, we let it take everything else down with it. We decimate everything else in our path because of ONE…bad…thing

The world needs your energy. We need your smile. You know you have mental toughness when you can be happy, no matter the situation, no matter what's going on around you. You have the flexibility, the adaptability, and the mental strength to not show it, to not complain, to not gripe, and not to negatively affect everyone around you.

Saban also discussed his in-your-face accountability style. It’s direct and, I imagine, intense, but it comes from a place of love. If you’ve found yourself in the presence of Nick Saban, you probably already have high expectations of yourself–high expectations of where you're going and what you want out of life. So…you're going to be OK with someone who is going to demand a high standard out of you. Not only is he going to demand it, but he's also going to hold you accountable

We, as humans, we're uncomfortable when we start talking about expectations, standards, and accountability, right? We just want lots of niceness…so we can all be cupcakes and snowflakes and sing Kumbaya and YMCA. But no, that's not what high standards, expectations, and winning looks like.

When you love what you do and you love your team, you demand the best from them. You hold them accountable and you confront them. Because when you do that, you're saying that you care enough about them to speak up and you want the best for them. 

This isn't about being nasty or mean. This is about being with people–about leading and coaching the people in your life to a high standard. That's my jam. I get that. I love that. I hope you do too. I hope that you look at this and think, “man…you know, there's something there.” Success leaves tracks. There's something there.

Channel Your Inner Saban

Is there a higher level of accountability you could bring to yourself, your life, your family, and/or your team? Is there something that you could work on, think about, and move towards? Channel your inner Saban and get after it! Because I know I did. I wrote down so many notes when I heard him speak. I think his secret sauce is there in my notes. 

Nick Saban is also a big “together” guy. He says this “togetherness” will help, but he believes everyone must take individual responsible for their actions and attitudes. And he’s right. You're responsible. Not the weather, not your spouse, not your mom, not your kid, not your dog, not the traffic. You’re responsible for your actions. When you are part of a team or a tribe, you have to respect that. We must bring that energy and smile that we talked about. Energy and smile…that's what I'm looking for. When you bring those, that's where all the magic lies;  that's when you get to do really big things.

I loved Saban’s whole perspective! He says, “don't worry about the actual play or the moment. Think about your players. Think about your team.” I love that! That is such a different way to look at it. Some people are 100% in the game, focused on processes, and focused on their numbers and they forget that none of that's going to happen if they don't first focus on the players.

If they don't focus on coaching and training and loving and serving and accountability and confronting people and demanding that they hold themselves to a very high standard, then nothing else will work. 

The other thing I think is important is: It’s up to you. Do you understand that you are responsible for your motivation? There's no one else that can make you do something. You are responsible for your determination. You have to decide how accountable you're going to hold yourself, what your standard's going to be, what you're going to do. You must determine the level you will reach, and what kind of energy are you going to bring. What's your smile going to feel like? Are you going to take responsibility for your actions? Or your inaction?

So Glad You’re Here

If you've heard me speak, you've heard me share Nick Saban’s, “I'm So Glad You're Here” anecdote about the Blue Angels. How powerful that is? I'm telling you, I heard that story and it was life-changing for me to make sure that I honor all the people in my life. Just in case, if you haven't heard it, here it is really quick:

Nick Saban heard the blue angels speak years ago and he remembers how they talked about one of their traditions. In the morning, they come together as a team. How important is that? They come together as a team, as a tribe, working on common goals, common attitudes, energies, and where they're going.

They come together and before they go up into the bright blue sky, they turn to the pilot to their left and then turn the pilot to their right and say, “So glad you’re here!” That statement is so powerful. You're honoring your team. You're honoring that you are all here today, that you woke up. That is one of the most powerful things I think we could do as humans. That’s why I adopted it. 

When you wake up tomorrow morning, say, “So glad you're here!” to friends, family, your spouse, your kids, whomever is beside you–even your barista. When you walk into the office, go over to your teammates and say, “So glad you're here…I couldn't do it without you, so glad you're here because, man, it would be no fun if you weren't here.”

I'm telling you, my crew, my tribe at CBH–there's nothing like it. The energy, the passion, the love, the fun. When I walk into that building I can barely stand myself. I'm so glad that I get to spend my days with amazing humans.

Nick Saban. Ahhh. Chef’s kiss once again…this guy!


Be great. Be great. Be great.

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