9/11: Did We Forget?

15 years ago today, on September 11, 2001, the world woke up just like any other day.  Millions of people got ready for work and made their way to the office.  Thousands got on planes, expecting the same result as they had gotten hundreds of times before.  They depended things to be as they had been in the past.

But as we know, this was going to be a day that would be remembered forever.  Thousands of innocent lives would be lost.  The United States of America would be under attack.  And fear would reach new heights.

The world was glued to their televisions for days.  We wanted to understand why such acts would be undertaken, and how such evil could exist on this planet.

Whether you’re in America or another country, I’m sure you will always remember where you were when the news came that terrorism was taking place, and that lives were being lost.  You will always remember how it made you feel.  And everyone will remember the phrase that was born of this event “We will NEVER forget“.

It is now 2016.  So many things are happening everywhere we turn.  We have a political debate between two candidates in which many American’s are struggling to decide why EITHER should be the next president.  We have fighting and debates occurring in multiple circles.  We see people all over the world turning to social media to tell the whole world how they feel about EVERY situation that occurs.  Social media has become very “UN-SOCIAL”.

I’ve kept my silence as others have stood their position.  I have remained tight lipped as many friends and social media connections have gone out of their way to show their support of one side or the other of a topic of debate.  I’ve watched as the world abuses their freedom of speech by talking far too much about their stand on things.

On this day, I’m anxious to see the stand of those that make a significant influence in the world.  I’m talking about famous actors, speakers, authors, and professional athletes.  All over the world, fans are watching.  Some are emulating and supporting their favorites.  Some are embarrassed by them.  Some are unsure how to react and/or respond.

I’m not here to judge anyone who takes EITHER side of a debate, a discussion, a political party, or a problem that we face.  I’m looking at the facts at face value.  My challenge to the NFL Quarterback that feels he will sit through the American National Anthem to show his protest for all the wrong in the world is this – “Sir, you are symbolizing your take on the events that are ruining this country and the world.  YOU are SITTING DOWN and not taking a STAND”.  Honestly, it needs to be said.  I don’t make tens of millions of dollars in salary.  I don’t have a platform to stand on to address millions.  My challenge to this arrogant athlete would be that I don’t see him spending one penny of his extravagant salary to teach awareness to the next generation.  I don’t see him spending one penny to fund activities that could bring change in the world.  This is because he is SITTING DOWN.  He’s out to make a scene for something he has much more power and ability to influence.  I don’t buy it, and I never will.   I’m embarrassed for him.  I’m embarrassed for the National Football League, and I’m embarrassed for the media and for America to let someone with such a tiny percent of compassion have so much power and authority.

Let us go back to our promise and commitment in 2001.  Let us “Never Forget” what we have gone through as a country, and as a WORLD.  Let us never forget that there is almost ALWAYS something more that we can do to create change for any situation we do not like.

Sitting down is not the answer.

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

Cam Newton Peyton Manning

How many of you watched Super Bowl 50 this year?  For those that know me, I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so I didn’t have a favorite team. To me, I was just watching the game for the love of the sport.

When the day started on Superbowl Sunday, I did not expect to learn a valuable leadership lesson from the whole event. But I did.

Two things happened on this day. And both involved interviews with the QB from each of the two teams that were playing in the Superbowl. If you’re not a football fan, the QB is the leader of the team on the field. They understand the plan for the game, and they work with the coaches to define the plays that they are going to execute in the attempt to win the game.

The first thing that I encountered was a pre-game interview with the Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

If you don’t know this great QB, he has the most records in football than any other in that position – just a few of the records he holds are:

  • Most TD = 539
  • Single season TD record: 55
  • Most passing yards – season:  5,477
  • Most games 300+ yds:  86
  • Most passing TD in a single game:  7
  • Most games with a passing rating higher than 105:    92
  • Most games with a perfect passer rating of 158.3:    5
  • Most seasons with 350+ completions: 9
  • Most games completing 80-percent passing: 16
  • Highest completion percentage in a postseason game with 450+ yards: 81.8
  • Highest yards-per-game, season: 342.31
  • Most seasons passing for 4,000+ yards: 14
  • Most consecutive seasons with 25+ touchdowns: 16
  • One of two quarterbacks to ever beat all 32 teams
  • First quarterback to beat 31 franchises: 2007
  • Most Games Won by a QB: tied going into the Super Bowl and got it with the win

When you see someone like this be so successful, it’s hard to believe that a person with this much success could be humble and respectful. But in this case, Peyton is one of those great players that fans of other teams hated to love. Football fans like me show their support for their team by despising the great players and star players from the other teams. But in the case of Peyton, he’s one of those players that everyone respects, regardless of their selection of a favorite team.

PeytonInterviewIn a pre-game interview, Peyton was asked the following::

What would be the legacy that Peyton Manning wants to leave behind?

His answer was inspirational:

Two of the most important things to me would be that my teammates said that I was a great teammate. That’s important to me. And, I think, the coaches that I played with and I played against would say that they respected me. That would be important to me.

That’s something that my dad always told me to strive for. Earn the respect of your teammates. Earn the respect of the coaches that you played for and that you played against. So that would be the most important thing to me from a football standpoint. I’ve worked hard for that and I hope that I can maintain that and keep that in tact.

CamInterviewOn the other team was our star Carolina QB, Cam Newton. He’s young, he’s fresh, he’s excited about football, and he has been quoted as saying that football has always been his life. While some players saw football as something they did, Cam saw football as something he ‘was’.

After the Superbowl, the media flocked to both teams. They wanted to cover the responses by both the winning and losing teams. As Cam sat in the interview, he was visibly sad, depressed, and low. When asked questions about the game he responded with:


  • We got out played
  • They just played better than us
  • They made better plays than us – and that’s what it came down to
  • We had opportunities – and we gave the game up
  • It wasn’t anything special that the other team did
  • They scored more points than us

His interview lasted only a little more than 2 minutes. Many were upset at him for how he behaved. Many were angry that he would not sit there and take the questions and give the fans (his customers) what they wanted.

I’ll be honest, my first reaction was disappointment in his behavior. How many of us get to walk out of our job when things are not going well? Have you been in a meeting where you are the center of the discussion, things were not going well that day, and you stand up, walk out without saying anything, and go home? Probably not. Yet this is the job of the players in football, and one of their stars did this very thing.

I then began to look back to the other QB, Peyton. I recalled many big games in which he lost, where he would give the media and his fans as much time as they wanted in the interviews after a game in which he lost. A few years ago, Peyton was in the Superbowl and he lost to another team, and this very thing happened.

But the story behind all of this is as follows – it took maturity and learning for a veteran like Petyon to handle the pressure, disappointment, and impact of losing a big game. Cam will learn from this loss. And hopefully he will be prepared for the interviews in the event he loses another big game.

How can we apply this to our own lives as leaders in our professional and personal lives? What is the lesson to be learned here?

The FIRST lesson is simple…

Great leaders are not defined by how they behave when things are going great. They are defined by how they handle situations when they are NOT so great.

Cam was well known for his celebrations during the game and the leadership he exhibited with a team that seemed unstoppable throughout this past year. He was always smiling, driving, motivating and giving direction to his teammates.

But when facing a team that came prepared with a strong defense that would shut down the aggressive attack of the Panthers, Cam was unable to handle it.

How many of you have had a ‘bad day’ at work in the last month? If you’re a leader, it’s so hard to keep your head up, and to motivate your team, your peers, and to keep pressing forward. But I challenge you today to keep going. There will be times when you are the only thing that will motivate someone else on your team. And being a leader is a big responsibility. But you can do it!

The SECOND lesson is about servant-leadership….

Servant leadership is an unselfish approach to leading others, giving direction, and being part of their success.

If you look at the statistics of this Superbowl, you will find that Peyton Manning did not have one of his STELLAR performances. While he holds almost every record you can imagine for a QB, it was not his performance that won the game.

It was the performance of his team as a whole. The performance of the defense that broke down the attack of the Panthers. And the performance of the players around Peyton that supported him and took his direction with unconditional trust.

You don’t have to be the star of the team. You don’t have to be the one making all of the big plays and doing all of the great work. But if you want to be a strong leader, you will find a way to drive your team with MOTIVATION, ENCOURAGEMENT, MENTORING, SUPPORT, and RESPECT.

It’s amazing how we can learn something about leadership in almost everything we do, everywhere we go, and everything we see or hear in the world. My challenge to each of you is to let LIFE teach you how to grow and become a great leader. Look around you, enjoy the times you have, and seek to find a story, an example, and a lesson from what you are experiencing.

And if you do that…you just might get that interview at the end of your career…where you can say “I am respected by my peers, my teammates, my manager, and managers on other teams”.

I wish you the best!

Who Will Win Superbowl XLVIII?

It’s almost time for kickoff of Superbowl XLVIII (48 for those that are Roman Numeral illiterate).  As the Denver Broncos take the field for the AFC and the Seattle Seahawks take the field for the NFC, many people will be gathering around the stadium in New York, as well as around their televisions to watch the event.  Parties will be taking place, and fans of these teams will be happy or sad by the time the game is over.  Fantasy football will be at it’s peak, with the winners showing their pride in selecting the right team for their season.

But for me, it’s one of the first times that I do not care who wins.  In so many years past, I have either had a team there that I really wanted to see win the game, or, in many cases, there may have been a team I really did NOT want to win the game (that has happened a lot lately).

But as these two teams take the field, I see myself sitting back and just enjoying the game of football.  I get to enjoy just watching two teams go head to head for the Vince Lombardi Superbowl Trophy, and be happy or sad based on who wins it.  I have been known to be superstitious about the fact that I can control the win or loss of a team, simply by ‘willing’ the team to win or ‘wishing against’ the team I hope will lose.  There are now some very funny commercials about football superstitions  (“It’s only weird if it doesn’t work!”).

I thought about this over the weekend, and it struck me as a great metaphor for how we should look at events in our day to day life.  Too many times we position our lives as if it is the Superbowl and we are ‘required’ to pick a team we want to win or a team we hope will lose.  We see events at work or in our personal lives as ones in which we must either win or lose – and there will be no room for a break even, or even a win-win situation.

My challenge to each of you, is to step back and examine how you approach each event in your daily life.  Are you struggling with everything that is going on?  Are you trying to drive things to a win at all costs?  Are you subconsciously wishing for someone to lose?  If so, think about the situation – is it truly important?  Take yourself out 6 months, 1 year, 5 years and ask yourself if this is really important enough to be anxious, losing sleep, or worried about.

So as I sit back and relax with no tension for a team to win or lose, I ask you the following… what can you sit back and relax about tomorrow, this week? or this month?  What things can you stop worrying about and let the ‘game of life’ take it’s course.  Focus on the important things.  There are many things in which you MUST worry, and you MUST win at.  But that list of things is probably much shorter than the one you are carrying with you right now.

Work the list.  Everyday is a new kickoff and it starts off with 1st down and 10 yards to do.  It’s your decision how you plan the plays to be successful.

Enjoy your game!

Playoffs? Don’t Talk About Playoffs!!

Jim Mora says "Playoffs?  Don't Talk About Playoffs!"
Jim Mora says “Playoffs? Don’t Talk About Playoffs!”

This weekend the NFL will be featuring the AFC and NFC Championships. Being a football fan, this is an exciting time, knowing that the two winners will be playing in Superbowl XLVII.

However, it’s just not the same when your team is not in the race to NFL World Champions. Having the playoffs without your team in them is like going to the school dance without a date. It’s exciting, fun, and you will have a good time. But it’s better if you have someone there with you that you care about the most!

So let’s talk about my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. For those of you who don’t know them well, they are the only team in history to have SIX Superbowl wins. They gave us such great memories in the 1970’s and 1980’s. From the “Steel Curtain” to “The Immaculate Reception”, they have been a team to follow.

No, this is not an Emmitt Smith jersey!
No, this is not an Emmitt Smith jersey!

So you may be asking “Mike, you were born, raised, and live in North Carolina. Why are you not a Carolina Panthers fan?”. First of all, when I was growing up, we didn’t have a team. But most importantly, I was raised to be a Steelers fan from the very start. My grandfather, Charlie Lyles, was one of the biggest fans of the Steelers. I spent many Sundays, with my grandfather and dad, watching our team play on TV. Those are memories I will never forget.

Me @ 11 yrs old
Me @ 11 yrs old

Growing up, I didn’t know there was even an opportunity to be a fan of any other team. I watched the Steelers play their many rivals – the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns were the two that stood out as the one’s to beat. When these teams were playing us, we would sit glued to the TV, cheering on our team to beat the opponent. My birthday parties were soon themed as Steelers Parties. And all my friends knew who I felt was the best team in the land.

So now I’m much older than I was during those Steelers birthday parties at 11 years old, but the tradition of Black & Yellow still holds. I’ve followed this team for life, and don’t see it changing. I’m a die hard fan, and if you want some evidence, check out a few of my Steelers Notes below:

  • Didn't Know I Used to Play for Steelers?
    Didn’t Know I Used to Play for Steelers?

    In the 90’s, I joined the Steelers Fan Club. The most memorable benefit of this membership was that you were granted one VIP pass to the Steelers training camp in Latrobe, PA. My brother and I packed up and took a trip to the camp, got to stand on the sidelines during practice, meet several of the players, and get autographs. I remember that our air condition broke on the car about fifteen minutes into the trip and we spent the rest of the trip in the heat, but I will never forget that trip with my brother

  • In 2002, I had the privilege to attend my first AFC Championship game. The Steelers were highly favored to win over the visiting New England Patriots. I remember it was uncharacteristically warm that day – when Pittsburgh saw weather in the 30’s in January, this game was played with the temperature in the high 50’s. The game didn’t go in the Steelers favor, and the Patriots went on to win one of many superbowls in the early 2000’s. (this is when I added the Patriots to my list of rival teams which I could never support).
  • My Son's First Steelers Game @ 7 Months Old
    My Son’s First Steelers Game @ 7 Months Old

    In 2003, my son, Wynston, was born, and in August 2003, the Steelers were visiting the Carolina Panthers. So my young son, at the time 7 months, got to experience his first Steelers game, in a full Steelers outfit, complete with a Steelers bib and bottle. Someday he can blog that his love of Steelers started at birth just like mine.

  • It's Only Weird If It Doesn't Work!
    It’s Only Weird If It Doesn’t Work!

    I have a t-shirt, which says “It’s Not Just Football, It’s Steelers Football”. This old t-shirt gets washed in the offseason. Then, when the season starts, I wear it every game, and then hang it up, unwashed, until the next game. I’ve worn it to live games and at home, and I’ve came to believe that it helps them to win. It’s a crazy superstition, but as the commercial says “its only weird if it doesn’t work”. I also have one of the famous Steeler “Terrible Towels”, a small square yellow towel, that has never ever been washed, and I carry it with me for every game. It’s traveled to many live games, and if it were ever lost, I don’t think the Steelers could ever win again.

  • In January 2011, during the playoffs, I watched as the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots, making the Steelers the host of the AFC Championship game. I called up my friend, John, and we bought two tickets, drove to Pittsburgh, and prepared for the game. It was 9 degrees on the field that night, but the game was one to remember, as the Steelers defeated the Jets and moved on to the Superbowl. Unfortunately, they were beaten by the Green Bay Packers that year.

So, as you can see, it’s hard for me to watch the playoffs this year without my team there to cheer on. And two teams who always battle hard with the Steelers (the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots) play on Sunday. Who do I pull for in this game? Can I vote for both to lose? I guess not.

With that said, the playoffs these year have been so exciting so far. Close games, double overtime, and historical plays. We can only hope that this continues to happen in the AFC Championship and NFC Championship games as well as the Superbowl. But in the back of my mind, I’ll always wonder ‘what if the Steelers could have made it to the playoffs’. But unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Whoever your favorite team may be, if they are playing this weekend, I wish you the best of luck. For all of the fantasy football fans out there,  I leave you with my predictions – not sure it’s worth much since I predicted at the start of the season that the Steelers would win the Superbowl – but here they are:

  • AFC Championship Game – Baltimore Ravens 35, New England Patriots 31
  • NFC Championship Game – San Francisco 49’ers 27, Atlanta Falcons 17
  • SuperBowl XLVII – San Francisco 49’ers 24, Baltimore Ravens 21 (in Overtime)