That was Coach Taylor’s mantra to his team, although he never detailed what it meant. But it stuck with Street, who expressed his first positive sentiment in weeks since his opening-game tragedy.
I’m re-watching the series as I exercise each morning and I realized what “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.” means to me. It has application to every part of life, whether it’s business, personal growth, sports, music, or anything that one sets a meaningful goal to achieve.
“Clear eyes” refers to the destination - a well-defined vision, goal or objective that is inspiring and provides focus and clarity about the benefits of achieving it. As long as those benefits are meaningful, appealing and rewarding, individuals and teams will commit, won’t equivocate and will grind to get there.
“Full hearts” refers to the journey – which is never one of linear progression. There will be pitfalls, impediments, challenges and detours. A full heart, my interpretation of it at least, is the fulfillment found individually and collectively as the team works together to overcome the barriers, show resilience during adversity or even failures, and celebrates the successes on the way to the ultimate vision.
“Can’t lose” doesn’t mean that there won’t be losses, missteps or failures during the journey. There will be. It means that if the team perseveres through those moments of adversity, they will ultimately be richer for the experience and will find rewards and benefits – not just for themselves, but more importantly, for those they serve whether they are clients, patients, students, guests, fans, consumers, the community and on and on.
A recent one-year stint as a brand strategy consultant for Cerner, a global healthcare technology company, reinforced the importance of having a clear vision that inspires commitment from its employees, who then find fulfillment in collaboration, celebrating success and overcoming adversity in the incredibly complex healthcare world. We worked on an enterprise value proposition, redefined our brand position, messaging and guidelines including our voice and tone, visual identity and much more. Then the team took on the gargantuan, ongoing task of getting all 26,000 employees in 35 different countries on the same page. There were umpteen versions of PowerPoints, strategy documents, messaging statements, graphics, etc.
Through it all, in a universally remote work landscape because of the pandemic, team members from the executive level, branding, creative services, corporate marketing and sales leadership collaborated toward a singular vision – to make healthcare more accessible and simplify it for everyone from the doctor to the patient. The work was incrementally fulfilling with each meeting in which teammates would press the “Love” button on Microsoft Teams when another teammate contributed something like proposing a new idea, graphic or coming up with the perfect word to lend poignancy and precision to a message. The work will continue toward the vision. After all, making healthcare simpler and more accessible is not far off from trying to achieve world peace.
Sports offers more broadly relatable examples because of its relevance and exposure to many more people. In this case, the examples have some geographical parochialism:
- Salvador Perez tied the Kansas City Royals record for home runs this week at an astonishing 48, which leads all of Major League Baseball. Perez has endured miserable baseball since his teams went to two World Series in 2014 and 2015, and his teammates from those teams are all gone. However, he consistently speaks of clear vision to win another championship, has embraced this new set of teammates, deflects credit to them, his coaches and training staff and even the fans for making him feel special. His perpetual smile indicates his heart is full, not because of his accomplishments, but because he is playing the game he loves, with people he loves, in a city he loves. While the ultimate goal is still down the road, he revels in the journey.
- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who had never thrown an interception in September or had a losing record in his career, now has thrown three interceptions and the Chiefs have a 1-2 record. The consummate leader, Mahomes revealed yet another element of his resilience and focus on the ultimate goal with a simple Tweet: “A little adversity never hurts…we will be back soon.” Mahomes possesses the most essential ingredient of leadership - honesty. When he or one of his teammates isn’t doing what it takes to achieve the vision of winning another Super Bowl, he is honest about himself publicly and honest with teammates one-on-one, simultaneously providing encouragement and constructive criticism. That honesty builds trust, which is a fulfilling characteristic for any team.
- Mizzou’s Head Coach Elijah Drinkwitz is just in his second year heading up a young team with mostly players that weren’t highly ranked. He has had inordinate success recruiting in his short time but his most talented players are freshmen or seniors in high school, which is a good sign for his vision to win championships. However, his 2-2 team is having growing pains with two close losses. His response was refreshingly honest and put the onus on the most experienced leaders – the coaching staff – to help the team overcome the adversity: “We have who we have and we need to adjust the scheme to make it match.” The message not only puts the weight on the coaches, but it’s also a subtle signal to fans this part of the journey is to make the most of the current resources while still aspiring to higher achievements over time.
- Nearly all baseball fans thought the St. Louis Cardinals were done even as late as early September. Until they went on an incredible 17-game winning street to clinch a post-season spot this week. That doesn't happen without an aspirational vision to always compete for championships, experienced leadership like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright who teach younger players about a culture that doesn't compromise its standards.
Unlike a TV series where Coach Taylor just MAY take his Dillon Panthers to a championship just in time for the season finale, real-life visions often take more patience. So while it’s essential to have clear eyes on the vision, it’s just as important to fulfill hearts on the way, especially in the challenging moments. Do that, and you can’t lose.