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Beating the Odds

The Biggest Mistakes Competitors Make

Forty-four years ago this weekend, Joe Namath changed our world.

By leading the New York Jets to an upset over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, Namath rescued the Super Bowl and pointed it toward the iconic event we know today.

He did it by avoiding the two biggest mistakes people make: underestimating themselves, and overestimating the opposition.

Even though his team was a 19-point underdog, Namath guaranteed a victory. Later, he explained how and why.

“I knew we were as good as they were,” he said, referring to the Colts. “I had played against some of them.”

In other words, Namath didn’t give the Colts too much credit. And he didn’t sell his own team short. To Namath, nothing mattered except his own eyes. The odds didn’t matter. Neither did the experts, the histories, the newspaper stories. Nothing mattered except what would happen on the field, and Namath had seen enough to know that his team could compete.

Believe it or not, every day puts you in the same situation that Namath was. You see teams that you think you can’t make, rivals you can’t beat out, games you can’t win. This is a classic case of giving yourself too little credit, and giving the other party too much credit.

Here’s a rule: Get rejected by the right person. If you’re going to get cut from the team, then let the coach do the cutting. Don’t do it to yourself by not even going out for the team.

If you’re going to get beaten out for a job, let the other person do it with performance, not because you gave up.

And if you’re going to lose the game, do it on the field, not because you formed an opinion on the outcome even before you tried.

Before Super Bowl III, experts didn’t even know if there would be a Super Bowl IV. The first two Super Bowls had been so lopsided that there seemed to be little point having the American Football League continue to compete against the National Football League.

Namath thought there was a point. He believed in himself and didn’t puff up the other team. He went out and competed. And because of him, we know what 100 million people will be doing on Super Bowl Sunday — watching the game.

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Would you like to improve at what you do? “The Improvement Factor: How Winners Turn Practice into Success” can show you how! Are you a coach? “Ten Things Great Coaches Know” can make you a better one. Looking for motivation? Read “Thank God You’re Lazy!: The Instant Cure for What’s Holding You Back.”


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