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Who’s your biggest competition? Yourself. Or at least it should be.

I woke up this morning feeling a little sluggish. Got up, made some coffee and started browsing Pinterest for some motivation to share with my fellow Grinders. Wouldn’t you know about half a scroll through the page, I run into this quote. It’s one of my favorites.

I recently returned to Boise from a stint up in the CFL. I was signed with the Ottawa Redblacks and in the middle of training camp when I was struck with an injury. Unfortunately, the timeline of the injury was too long to hang around on the injured reserve list, so I was released and sent home to rehab and recover. Before I left, there were a couple of  pieces of memorabilia I kept. A workout shirt, a hat, and the same quote above that was the front page of our playbooks.

This was my 3rd professional football team, post college,  I’ve been with. 3rd time trying, 3rd time not making the finals roster. 3rd goal not met. 3rd failure. Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and now Ottawa. 0-3 on final rosters, but 3-3 on memories I’ll never forget.

Here’s the thing, I don’t view it as failure. In fact, coming home from Ottawa, I felt the most accomplished than I had in years. Since the last attempt at football in KC.

Accomplished?

*reporter taps the microphone – “Tyler, you do realize you didn’t make the team right?”

Touchè. But that’s not the point. Or rather, that wasn’t the only point of me going to Ottawa.

Before leaving I had been working in a sales position for almost 2 years. Honestly, it wasn’t a bad gig. Money was good, the people I worked with were young and hungry, and there was a lot of opportunity for me at the company. But, something was missing. Passion.

I could feel it coming inside. For some reason I had a feeling the fire was still there all along. Then one fall day, I woke up and knew what I had to do. Fast forward two months of training, working  and speaking with agents, talking to scouts and pestering GM’s and in front of me sat a contract to play for the Ottawa Redblacks.

Although a contract, legally binding with terms and conditions based on performance, it was just a piece of paper. A representation of an idea. The idea that, “If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen.”

Once the contract was in place, it gave the goals credibility. It made the dream real again. The dream of holding the title “professional football player”.

In the months to follow I spent countless hours training. Hours on the field, in the weight room, and in the film room. Pouring myself into training and getting myself back to a physically and mentally sharp level. I quit my job to focus on training and spend more time on the field. Each day I pushed harder, ran extra routes and caught more passes. It’s the hardest I have ever worked to prepare for football. Ever.

So then, why am I not totally down and crushed by an injury taking away my opportunity? Why did I not come back and pout and get depressed? I have in the past. My experience in Tampa Bay made me want to forget football completely and move on. Why was this experience different? What changed from the first two chances?

I changed. My goals changed and how I went about my goals changed. I stopped worrying so much about the situation and focused on what I could control, myself. I stopped worrying about the other players and what and where they were training. I stopped stressing about the coaches and front office staff that would be evaluating me on a daily basis. I let go of the pressures from home and let go of trying to achieve others’ goals. For one of the first times, the only competition I kept track of was the reflection in the mirror.

By judging progress off myself, the overwhelming feelings, the outside pressures, the gravity of the situation all became background noise. Each day was a new chance to get better, to master my craft and hone my skills. And each day, things got easier and progress was clearly being made. All the way up until the injury I pushed to get a little better each day.

I may not have achieved my goal of making the roster in Ottawa, but I still have a tremendous sense of accomplishment about the entire CFL experience. I learned to push myself as an athlete and student of the game and to me, that’s a huge achievement that transcends sport and carries into life. That, was the real goal.

When you wake up in the morning and see your reflection in the mirror I hope you get excited. The person you see is your greatest competition, your biggest motivator and even more so your biggest fan. You, yourself, set the standard of excellence and each day you have to look yourself in the mirror know how hard the person looking back will work for their goals.

The mirror holds more truths than people realize, but often times, it’s the hardest place to find those truths. Starting today, don’t compare yourself to others. We’re all on different journeys and paths. Push yourself and know that the most satisfying feeling, is knowing you pushed yourself to your limits and achieved things you never thought possible.

Everyone has their own Grind. Let your mirror be your daily reminder of yours.

Grind On.

TGDS