Something happened to me recently that turned out to be a huge learning moment. If you follow me on the blog or on social, you know my son Axel has a dream of becoming an NFL quarterback so I surround him with the very best coaches to help him fulfill that dream.

He has the same quarterback coaches as Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. His coaches work with a total of 13 quarterbacks and Axel is the youngest. One day one of his coaches tells Axel that Matt Ryan will be in town soon to train and invites him to come. So of course Axel’s face lights up, because six weeks prior he’d just watched Matt quarterback the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. So Matt comes into town and, at first, we just watched him. This guy had just lost the Super Bowl and now he’s out working on his quarterback mechanics, like basic fundamentals that you’d think a Super Bowl quarterback would be way beyond. And that’s just not how it goes. Those are the guys that are always going back to the basics to get better.

Axel is following everything Matt does—footwork, arm motion, head movement, where his eyes are looking, how he’s opening his hips and closing his shoulders—and mimicking him. When Matt is done then Axel goes through his training with the coaches. So we didn’t want to be fan boys trying to get a picture with him. We wanted to be peers—players.

After Matt finished two hours of training, he went up to each coach and receiver to thank them and shook their hands. Then he comes over to Axel and me and tells Axel he was impressed with his footwork. So I say to him, “Thank you for letting us watch you train.” And Matt responds, “I’d like to see him (pointing to Axel) move and train.” And then asked if anyone had a camera because he wanted a picture with Axel, who grew about three feet that day. He made it all about Axel. Instead of trying to be cool and blow this kid off, Matt made it all about Axel.

When I asked Axel what he learned by watching Matt, he said, “I learned how to lead.” We have this preconception that leadership is thundering away and telling everyone what to do, and sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s making everyone great; being ultra aware of all that surrounds you. Matt also understood how people, and in this case, a kid, looked up to him, and that’s a major responsibility. I wanted Axel to see that one day that’s going to be him and he’ll have to take care of the kids who are now looking up to him.

So I tell that story to ask, “How are you leading?” Are you raising the standard everywhere you go? In every environment you enter, are you acknowledging and taking care of everybody in the room or on the field? That is your job. It’s a huge responsibility and most people don’t want it, including 98 percent of the quarterbacks in the NFL. They’d rather not have it. Not Matt Ryan. He makes no excuses, doesn’t blame his coaches or teammates when things go wrong and takes ultimate responsibility for the entire world around him.

Look at your world. Where are you leading and where are you not? Remember, it’s your job to raise the standard of every room, every environment you enter.


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