Be a person on a mission

Jan Garrison

Gordon talks to Culver students


May 6, 2022

There is a difference between a mission statement and people on a mission, best-selling author and speaker Jon Gordon told students at Culver Academies Thursday. Almost every organization has a mission statement. But it takes people on a mission to make the statement come to life.

Gordon was on the boarding school’s campus as part of the dedication ceremonies for the Schrage Leadership Center. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility was conducted Friday afternoon.

Gordon held three sessions Thursday afternoon and evening. A former lacrosse player at Cornell University, he met with the CMA Prep Lacrosse team in the afternoon. He then met with a select group of athletes in Roberts Auditorium for a 30-minute question-and-answer session before his one-hour all-school session to finish the night. His appearance was sponsored by the Michael Schrage ’66 family.

Gordon said people on a mission are focused on the meaning and purpose of the organization’s mission and vision statements – whether a business, athletic team, or school. “You are in the present moment, your feet are here.”

He told the small group of athletes that “your state of mind determines how you perform. Never bring your past performance with you.” Do not dwell on past failures, let the though go, and move on. NBA players call this “the next play.”

Worrying about what might have been or your mistake creates “clutter” in your mind, he said, and creates a “low state of mind.” Clarity is needed to create the “high state of mind,” also known as flow.

“Love this moment,” he said. “Love what you are doing right now.” That love incorporates the power, joy and passion to compete.

“Love is the greatest human performance. Love provides freedom and joy. Love can cast out fear.” Love for the game and for your teammates allow you function at a high level. Love leads to serving, which leads to caring.

Gordon did a Q&A session with Culver athletes before the all-school meeting.

“One person can’t make a team but one person can break a team,” he said. In his book, “The Energy Bus,” he wrote about “energy vampires,” whose attitudes can suck the spirit out of a team. The University of Georgia football team started calling out these players during team meetings, he said, but did with love for the player. That is the importance of the four Cs, he said, “communicate, connect, commit, and care.”

The Clemson football team won the national championship when Dabo Swinney and players selected “Love” as the word for that year. He has worked with the Tigers over 10 years, he said, and they have been a consistent top performer and won two national championships over that period.

The “we before me” attitude is what helped carry the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl, he added. Gordon has worked with Sean McVay since he became the Rams coach. The culture is so strong that even Odell Beckham Jr. was shouting “we before me” from the sidelines during the game as he encouraged his teammates.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were having trouble coming back from a disappointing end to their previous season, he said. The biggest problem was they were not letting the past go. Once they did that and began to “attack the new opportunity” of the current season, things turned around. They returned to the love of competing and the love of the process. And won back-to-back Stanley Cups.

“Culture is everything,” he said. Everyone must have the same vision and purpose. They must know “where are you are going and why you are going there.” Most people quit a marathon at the 20th mile because they are tired and they can’t see the finish line. Most people get burned out at work because they have forgotten or don’t have a vision of ‘why we do it.”

Gordon suggested the students select “one word to win each day.” Then have a vision for what that word means. If you can win each day, you can win the future, he said. Then Gordon asked for suggestions from the audience.

Perseverance quickly came up. One person suggested grit. “There’s no quit when you have grit,” he fired off.

Another girl suggested bubbles. Gordon asked why. They are light, airy, and uplifting was the response.

He replied, “I like it.”

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