How to Defeat Your Goliath

Ice in their veins
They are thoughtful risk-takers and don’t fear making a mistake

Two years ago, when I began interviewing Baylor University head football coach Art Briles for our new book Beating Goliath — available this week — I had no idea how much impact the experience would have on me. Through the writing process, I was consistently fascinated with Briles and his fearless perspective on life. As we progressed, I began to see that what started as a book project on an exceptional coach had transformed into a collection of valuable lessons on navigating through the challenges of life.

Briles is best known for his dynamic years as head coach at Baylor and the University of Houston, but his story begins in his hometown of Rule, Texas, where he learned the importance of hard work and faith from his parents. That faith was tested on October 16, 1976, when Briles’s parents and aunt were on their way to see him play college football at the Cotton Bowl, the historic stadium in Dallas. During the game, Briles searched the packed crowds for his parents—but they never showed. Briles did not find out until after the game that his family had died in a head-on collision with another vehicle.

Art Briles

That event shaped Briles into the man he is today. Though devastated and confused, he remembered his parents teaching him how to face adversity and to not let fear prevent him from moving forward with his life. Incredibly, he was able to channel the tragedy of his family’s accident into an unstoppable desire for personal and professional success.

“I was still around to live a full and vital life, to make everything my parents had helped me become worth something,” Briles said to me. “I could wake up every day knowing that my life was still here and still wonderful. Or, I could pack it in.”

Tips from the Great ones

Briles has remarked that he learned his perspective from his father, Dennis, who left him with a series of life lessons when facing any “Goliath”. He taught his son that the world doesn’t give you handouts, and that he had to work hard and earn everything he desired. He also taught Briles to never back down from the challenges of life and—most importantly—not to live in fear.

“The only way I have been able to survive is to be mentally tough, and to sustain,” said Briles. “You have to find a way to get past the suffering.”

Art Briles and Robert Griffin III

Briles put these lessons to work as a football coach, where he instilled the same lessons from his father into his young players, helping them to find a reason to excel. He has established a reputation for turning struggling teams into winners, from his years as coach at Stephenville High School to running backs coach at Texas Tech to head coach at the University of Houston. When Briles was hired to coach Baylor in 2007, he was faced with a familiar task—his own daughter, in fact, asked him if he was thinking straight when he took the job. In just his third season, he led the Bears to their first bowl game in fifteen years and last year they won the conference championship.

“The simple truth about human behavior is that nobody wants to copy some ordinary program,” said Briles. “They want to follow people and programs who have achieved something great.”

Hear what Art Briles had to say about sustaining a winning culture with Baylor football!

Facing the possibility of failure—and embracing the challenge—is a characteristic of truly Great winners. If we continue to stay within our comfort zone and expect different results, we are simply fooling ourselves. Like Briles, we can condition our mind not to accept the idea of failure. For the players on any of Briles’s football teams being the best requires the development of mental toughness. You can be the most physically gifted person, but if you’re not tough on the inside, then you’re not going to be able to sustain and fight on when things are not going your way.

Are you afraid to fail? Think of courage as a skill. The more you develop and strengthen it by putting yourself out there, the more willing you will be to fail. The more you are willing to fail, the more success you will find. Most of us are so afraid of failure that we never act out on innovative ideas. You cannot shortcut the process of becoming truly Great. How you deal with failure is ultimately what will help you succeed. Be bold and live fearlessly!

What is your Goliath? Have you ever learned a lesson that has helped you overcome challenges? Reply to this email. I’d love to hear your story.

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    Don……your daily motivations and articles like these never cease to amaze me!
    They seem to say the right things at the right time.

    Thank you for your consistent motivation! I appreciate you and your team.


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