Today is a big day for me! While most of my work, as you know, centers on sports and business, all of my work revolves around leadership. Today, I get a chance to see my 27th book get published, and my third with Brian Kilmeade. We have studied U.S. history for great lessons in leadership, bravery, and moments that changed the world. I hope that you will enjoy this blog...and even go out and grab a copy of our new book!
With cannons firing and rifles cracking, the British army surged forward towards the huge earthworks the Americans had erected to block the invaders’ path to New Orleans.
On this cold, foggy January morning in 1815, the last battle of the War of 1812 was being waged across a narrow strip of land that would decide the fate of the city and potentially even the whole of the Louisiana territory.
For the past few weeks, General Andrew Jackson and a ragtag army of volunteers, militia, locals, Native Americans, fishermen, slaves, and pirates had fought to hold the city at all costs, but they were bruised and battered. The redcoats seemed poised at last to succeed. Their only obstacle left was to scale a small moat and massive bulwark that the Americans had constructed out of the Louisiana muck across the stretch of dry land of Chalmette Plantation between the Mississippi River on one side and a swamp on the other.
The night the before, the British had made their final plans. General Packenham asked Lt Col Mullins to confirm the location of the essential supplies: ladders, fascines, and bales of sugarcane tied together to fill the moat. Mullins, in turn, had reached out to an engineer officer, who assured him that everything was secured in the advance redoubt—the temporary shelter the British had erected en route to the American line, in anticipation of the battle to come. Satisfied with the engineer’s answer, Mullins had assured the general all was as it should be and the attack launched as planned the following morning.
It is the beginning of October. The postseason has begun in baseball. College and pro football seasons are in full swing and basketball is in its preseason.
And for many of the rest of us who work in the “real world” we have just started the fourth quarter of our fiscal year. All of us – from the Los Angeles Dodgers to Oracle want to FINISH strong.
So what can the Great teams in sports teach us about winning in the fourth quarter? Lots, actually! The best teams win in critical situations.
The world of sports abounds with magical records that no-one-believed-would-ever-be-broken. Consider New York Yankee Lou Gehrig’s grueling mark of 2,130 consecutive baseball games played, which stood tall for 56 years: Cal Ripken, Jr. smashed it by playing in 2,632. Or Hank Aaron’s 1976 career home run record of 755. Insurmountable! Until Barry Bonds passed it in 2007. Leonidas of Rhodes’ 2,168-year-old mark of twelve individual Olympic titles? Unbeatable! Until Michael Phelps churned right by to capture his 13th individual gold medal last year in Rio.
One such unsurpassable mark was John Wooden’s UCLA men’s college basketball team's 88-game winning streak, set between 1971 and 1974. None of us imagined that any other team—especially in the topsy-turvy sport of basketball—could ever win 89. Yet along came the UCONN women’s basketball team, and pushed right past UCLA to win 90 straight games and set a new record in December of 2010.
What I remember most clearly about those post-record-shattering December days, was the collective uproar about the validity and integrity of the Huskies’ phenomenal achievement. Pundits and pedants alike cried foul: You can’t compare the women’s game to the men’s, they claimed. The competition UCONN faced was not stiff enough, they argued setting the consecutive-wins record was a much easier feat for head coach Geno Auriemma than it was for the inimitable Wooden, they insisted.