The Denver Broncos, guided by quarterback Peyton Manning, tied the score in a recent game against the Seattle Seahawks with 18 seconds left.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks back to victory in “sudden death” overtime with 13 plays for a touchdown. It was an amazing game to study in terms of teamwork, conditioning and good coaching.
In my observation, Wilson possesses three qualities that high school students could emulate to make them as successful in their studies: self discipline, pursuit of goals and the ability to learn from mistakes.
During my 31 years as a high school teacher, I had to deal with many students who disrupted classes and caused the class, them and me grief. It wasn’t because these students were dumb. In actuality most of the troublemakers were very bright. They simply lacked self-discipline.
When I talked with them in the hall, I found these students to be totally unaware of the reasons why they were acting up. Their desire to draw attention to themselves was greater than the maturity they needed to exhibit to learn the material.
Self-control is what Russell Wilson exhibited in spades when he was a student at North Carolina State University and later at the University of Wisconsin. When asked by his friends to go out and party, Wilson stuck to his books. Not once was he tempted to let up. To have that level of self-discipline is amazing for any teen or 20-something, but it is the reason why a man who is only 5’11” could take the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory.Wilson is able to be self-disciplined because he has a clear set of goals constantly before him. Without strongly held objectives to accomplish it is difficult to be self-disciplined. As the song goes, “You can’t have one without the other.” Clear goals help us to set priorities to accomplish what we want in life.
Often with the students in my class who acted up, their long-term goals were fuzzy and nonexistent. They would often ask, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?” or, “Is this material going to be on the test?” If I got paid a dollar for every time I heard these statements, I could have retired a millionaire.
Students who are successful in school and life have clear, long-term goals for their future. If they don’t understand why they need to learn some material, they have sufficient trust in the teacher to believe that someone who is older and more experienced might know more than they do. Students who do poorly usually don’t trust adults, possibly because they have not experienced much to trust from important adults in their lives.
Russell Wilson has also been successful because he learns from his mistakes. He’s been able to reflect on what hasn’t worked and what has, and then made adjustments to change the game. With a great coach like Pete Carroll to teach him, Wilson is able to learn and grow. The ability to admit mistakes requires humility and self-awareness—in a word, maturity.
Most of my students who acted up in class were not humble and did not reflect on what they were doing. They had unrealistic beliefs about what they could and could not accomplish. They lived mainly in the “intense present,” a trait common to many adolescents, but not for those who can stop and think and reflect. The ability to reflect is a skill that can be taught and learned if the drive is strong enough.
Success only comes through self-discipline, a strong clear sense of direction and purpose and the ability to reflect and learn from mistakes. We’re fortunate to have a team that possesses these qualit