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A team can in a way, be compared to a machine, an engine that in order to work at its peak efficiency and power, must have all of its parts in perfect working condition, and all of its parts working in unison to produce the most horsepower. If one part gives out or fails, the engine becomes weak and loses efficiency.

And just like an engine, if there is a weakness on a team, then the horsepower of the team becomes weak or inefficient. But the big difference between a team and an engine is this: if an individual part fails on an engine, let's say a fuel pump, there are no other parts that can take over or lend a hand to help. A generator cannot take over the job of a fuel pump.

On a team, we must all be ready to help, to take over when one of our teammates is struggling or down. This is how we keep the team running at peak efficiency.

The engine in a race car has a goal. That goal, the desired result, is to make the wheels turn as fast as possible. In order to do that, all the parts need to work in concert, at peak efficiency, to produce the most power, and as a result, the fastest car. That is the goal.

The mechanical aspects of an athletic team must be the same to make the team the best that it can be, to eke out the most horsepower that the team can produce. But in order for that to happen, the team must also have a goal, and that goal, or any result that the team is striving for, must be clearly defined to the team by the coach. Then, for that goal to be met, the individual members of that team must all believe in the idea of attaining that same common goal. This defines for the individual, the key role that they must play, so that they can strive to be the best part of that team that they can be.

I grew up in the shadow of Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in sports history; all sports. The Green Bay Packers grew a dynasty that dominated pro football for almost a decade, and literally changed the face of professional football forever. They didn't have great, superstar players. They had a great team. They were fundamentally strong, and I mean their fundamentals were as close to perfect as they could be, but their greatest asset was their teamwork on the field. They have been called the greatest football machine to ever take the field. There's a reason that that word was used to describe them.

I often ask the question, “Who is the best player on your team?” Players always give me the name of either the highest scorer, or the athlete with the best “skills”. They're always surprised when I say, “No. The best player on the team is the best team player. The one who will sacrifice glory for the good of all.”

For example, if I were faced with, let's say, strengthening my offensive game on a soccer team, thereby increasing my ability to score more points, who would I be looking at to recruit for that team? I would be looking at players who have scored the most goals, right? That's right, but the players that I would be most interested in picking up from that high scorer's team would be the players on that team with the most goal assists. They play the more important role. Without their support, that high scorer is just another player. After all, if he could score all by himself, then we'd only need one player on the team. Sure, the one who scores the goals gets the glory, but it is because of the team effort that he is able to do so, and no one, especially the high scorer, should ever forget that. A team depends on all of its parts, all of its members to do a job consistently, and effectively, in order to be successful over time.

In my years of amateur and professional sports, along with decades of working with the US Navy SEAL teams, I've learned a few things about determination, effort, and success, but most importantly, I learned about teamwork. The US Navy SEAL teams represent the ultimate in the teamwork ethos. There are no individuals on a Navy SEAL team. There is no I in team. There is no I in the US Navy SEALs, and there was no I in Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. A SEAL team is a well-oiled machine that depends on a group of dedicated and highly motivated individuals to do their job correctly and to the absolute best of their ability. Every member knows that all of his fellow teammates depend on him to do his job and he also knows that they have his back if he struggles or falters, and that they will sacrifice their own safety to protect him, if necessary.

There is no glory in what a Navy SEAL team does. There are no superstars, no high scorers. In fact, most people will never hear of their successes or their wins. Yet, they are without question, the best in the world at what they do, bar none. The stakes in the “game” that they play are much higher than for any sport. If someone makes a mistake, or if they fail, people die. There are no higher stakes. They represent the ultimate in team effort, and teamwork under the most difficult conditions any team could ever face. In this game, the opponent isn't trying to outscore you, or beat you. They are trying to kill you.

How can they function in this type of environment, under this much stress, with such efficiency and consistent success? Because they have discovered the value of ultimate teamwork, and they epitomize the effectiveness of those fundamental principles. Principles that you can also use to further your ability to succeed on a team or in life. The principles are quite simple and basic. Here are the fundamental five:

1) Complete and absolute mastery of simple fundamental skills. There's a truism I use in my classes, which reads, “An expert is one who has mastered the basics.”

2) A personal commitment, a conviction that you will never quit, and you will never, ever let your team down. “A man who stands by his convictions never stands alone.”

3) A physical confidence built upon the result of a shared experience of the most rigorous physical conditioning and training that exits. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi.

4) A psychological confidence built upon the firm knowledge that all of your fellow teammates will always perform to the utmost best of their abilities, will never quit, and that you can count on their full support in a time of need. “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being scared and still doing what you need to do in the face of your fear.”

5) They have a common goal. The team always has a clear and common goal defined by their leadership, and the entire team is always fully committed to the completion of that goal.  “Extreme goals + Extreme efforts = Extreme results.”

Their means and goals may differ from rest of us, but these principles are the same for any team in any sport.  You can learn to apply these principles to any team that you're on whether it is in sports, in business or in personal relationships. They can guide you in the way that you interact with others and you can use them to as a formula to create a program of ongoing success in your life.  You can and will succeed if you always do the right thing every time you are faced with adversity. Never learn from the average, learn from the best.

And always remember, “If you leave everything on the field, you leave the field with everything.”

Ernest Emerson


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