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Brett Favre

Ice In Their Veins…
They are risk-takers and don’t fear making a mistake.

It was third and seven. Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers were on the Minnesota 16-yard line and threatening to score. As the play clock wound down, the veteran quarterback read the defense and changed the call on the field at the last possible second.

Then came the snap. Farve dropped back and, ever the gunslinger, fired cleanly into the hands of wide receiver Greg Jennings as he stepped untouched into the end zone.

For Favre, the touchdown pass was the NFL-record-breaking 421st of his career.

A 17-year NFL veteran, Favre will go down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. On the first ballot, Favre will, no doubt, be inducted into the hall of fame and his bust will stand forever in Canton, Ohio.

But while the number of touchdowns Favre threw may be his crowning achievement, it was the record he broke two weeks later that would define his path to greatness.

October 14, 2007, in the fourth quarter of a game against Washington, Farve threw deep off his back foot into the outstretched arms of Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor. The interception gave Favre an NFL record high 278 interceptions for his career.

As he told me in an interview in December,

“If I hadn’t set the interception record, there’s no way I would have ever set the touchdown record. I was never the best player on the field, so I had to try the hardest.”

Brett Favre became successful because he was a risk taker. As he so perfectly noted, it was the interceptions, not the touchdowns, that made him a great player.

He was a fearless playmaker who took chances on the field and, in turn, made a difference. For every mistake Favre made, he made up for it with three or four outstanding plays. In an era of conservative and precise game-managing quarterbacks, it was his willingness to take risks that allowed him to lead his Green Bay Packers to a win in Super Bowl XXXI.

“If I had my way there would be no punting on fourth down; no throw-away passes,” Favre said in a 1997 Nike commercial. “I would never be told to slide or step out of bounds. Safeties would learn to fear my footsteps.”

And that’s exactly how Favre played.

A 38-year-old Favre announced his retirement on March 4, 2008. He had endured a long and trying career filled with triumph, failure and criticism. But through it all, his high-risk, high-reward style has been a constant to his success.

At Southern Mississippi, Favre started his freshman year as the seventh string quarterback. However, just three games into the season, he became the starter. After becoming a second-round pick in the NFL, would go on to start an NFL quarterback record 275 straight games. Ironically, Favre threw a touchdown on his very first NFL pass – but it was to the other team! The same Washington Redskins, who would account for Favre’s record-breaking 278th interception 17 years later, scored the defensive touchdown in that game his rookie year.

“He was a risk-taker, a gambler, a gunslinger, and that bravado appealed to Americans,” said Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films. “There was a grandeur about him and that’s something that will ride out of the game with him.”

If one thing is for certain, no matter the team or his age, with Favre under center you could never count him out.

Tips from the Great Ones

Everyone wants to experience the kind of success Brett Favre has had over the course of his 17-year career, but few have the courage to face the failures necessary to achieve such greatness.

Favre was special not because he threw more touchdown passes than any other player in history, but because he was ready and willing to put everything on the line at a moment’s notice if it meant giving his team a chance to win.


Thomas Watson, founder of IBM once said, “If you want to increase your success rate, then double your failure rate.” The first step to finding more success is trying new and innovative things. Doing that, he said with confidence, will almost assuredly produce record failures.

How you deal with failure is ultimately what will help you succeed. Once you’ve failed, running right back onto the field with confidence is the key to success. The question is do you have the courage to face failure and learn from your mistakes?

Think of courage as a muscle. 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.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said he always worried most about playing a team that committed “thoughtful turnovers” — a sign that players are pushing harder than their opponent.

“If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not doing anything,” Wooden said. “I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

If you have an idea that you believe will improve the way you do business, give it a try. If it fails, try something else. It sounds simple, but most of us are so risk-averse, so afraid of failure, that we never act on great ideas.

Think of failure not as an end but as a means through which you can achieve greatness. Imagine the history that would be lost if Brett Favre would have given up after his first NFL pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by the other team.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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