May 20, 2019

Starting a Streak

Filed under: Leadership,Life,Significance,Uncategorized — Nathan @ 5:51 am
Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Starting a Streak

A good friend just broke a long sobriety streak, one that was just shy of twenty years. To his credit, he immediately pushed through the emotion of it and owned up to the lapse, but I suspect he was crushed, breaking a streak that long. Feeling that he’d let down those who rely on and support him. Knowing he’d damaged the trust he’d built up.

Let’s face it – we love a good streak. We love numbers. The late Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard, a former professor of mine (for a class called Thinking About Thinking, one of my favorites of law school), wrote Questioning the Millennium, a little book that among other things delves into our obsession with numbers. Round numbers, big numbers…and streaks.

But rather than our focusing on the streak, and that it’s broken, I think the far better view is to look forward, to recognize that my friend now has the chance to start a new one. The reality is that the length of time isn’t really what matters. That’s all nice and well and good, but what really matters is this moment. Our past has shaped us, and maybe we’re living with the consequences. But the only thing we can control is right here, right now.

Jesus told the story of an employer hiring workers for a day’s work in the vineyard (Matthew chapter 20). The employer hired some workers in the morning, then another group during the day, and then finally another group was hired just before quitting time. The employer promised each the same pay, and everyone was fine with their deal until those who’d worked the full day found out about the latter groups and felt cheated. When they complained, the employer basically told them, Don’t worry about anybody else. I’m paying you what I promised.

I’ve always heard this in the context of salvation – that it doesn’t matter when we accept Christ, as long as we do at some point. The takeaway is getting there, whatever your age.

But I’m also struck that Jesus doesn’t bother asking what the late hires were doing all day. Maybe it was productive and worthwhile. Maybe not. All the story mentions is that eventually they went into the field for the harvest.

Similarly, Jesus turns the focus of the woman at the well to not sin any more. He didn’t dump on her with her past. Paul reminds us to forget what is behind. Wait! No guilt? No angst? Just…forget it?!

My point is this: tomorrow morning, you may be dragging not only yourself but also a bunch of baggage out of bed and into your day. It’s easy to do. Our actions, words, decisions, they have consequences. Regret is natural. Some of us carry guilt with pride.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Free yourself from what is behind. Look forward to what is ahead.

Start a new streak.

December 6, 2018

Playing Well

“I would rather play well and lose than play poorly and win.”

– Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, 4-time Super Bowl champion

“There’s no such thing as a moral victory.”

– Just about every other coach

I was pondering the other day – again – what do you do when nothing seems to be going your way? Or when you’re completely outmatched before you take the field?

The current basketball team at one of my alma maters, Duke, is ranked in the top five and seems pretty solid. They opened the season by hammering then-number-one Kentucky and has played well in not only their wins but also their single loss.

On the flip side, the Stetson Hatters (what a great mascot) traveled to Durham last week with a 1-7 record, having lost seven straight. One ranking put them at 348th out of 353 college basketball teams.

Hardly a fair fight.

So I was pondering, what are you thinking if you’re Stetson? Sure, you want to win the game. You put your best plan in place and look to win the game, as Herm Edwards said. I never took the court, gridiron or diamond unless I thought I was going to win, although looking back, sometimes it was more delusion than confidence.

Winning is the point of keeping score. We never lost sight of that when I played college sports, or when I worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

But as you may have guessed, despite good intentions Stetson trailed 59-25 at half (including a 48-16 deficit at one point) on it’s way to losing by 64 points. Kind of had their hats handed to them, if you will.

Sounds a bit like a day I had last week.

So is there really no such thing as a moral victory? Is winning really the only thing?

I don’t think so.

Mike Young, the successful basketball coach at Wofford College, has an approach similar to Tony Dungy’s. Mike told me this fall that he doesn’t point the team toward particular fixed goals, but rather a standard based on several inquiries: Are we playing as well as we can? Are we growing and improving as individuals? As a team?

And finally, Did our performance this season demonstrate that we’d maximized our capabilities?

Sounds very similar to Tony Dungy. Tony measured his Colts teams not against other records in the league or even other Colts teams, but what were they capable of. His Super Bowl team was not nearly as talented as a couple of others that he had, but it maximized its potential by season’s end.

However, winning that championship wasn’t the measuring stick. Similar to that Super Bowl team, he had one team that exited in the first round of the playoffs that he felt was one of his most successful, since on paper it shouldn’t have been in the playoffs at all. It had maximized its potential.

We need to remember that. Every sales call won’t result in a sale. Every book won’t hit number one. (Unfortunately.) We won’t win every game.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re failures. Are we learning and growing? Better today than yesterday? That sales call may pay off later, or in some unexpected way. That book may deeply impact a few people.

Those are the measuring sticks we should be using.

Sure, we play to win the game. But as you do, remember that playing well and losing isn’t all bad, either.

November 18, 2018

Reflections from the Iowa Speedway

I recently had the chance to speak in Iowa for Keltek, Incorporated. In addition to speaking on leadership concepts from The Mentor Leader, their Director of Sales & Marketing, Jesse Peters, asked me to speak on the unique platform we each enjoy, which is one of my favorite topics. The basic concept of “platform” is that each of us has a unique sphere of influence that no one else can fill in the way we can.

No one.

Iowa SpeedwayAmong those in attendance that day at the Iowa Speedway – what a unique place to speak! – included everyone first responders from Iowa State Highway Patrol officers, EMS technicians, a couple of fire chiefs, several sheriffs, and numerous deputies, as well as the installers that outfit first responders’ vehicles in the workshop, receptionists and other administrative assistants.

The beauty of platform is that everyone from Tim Tebow to Tony Dungy, Oprah, the Governor of Iowa, and my retired next door neighbor all have one. My platform may not be as significant as theirs from a numbers standpoint, but there are particular individuals on whom I can have a greater influence than any of those.

That’s true for all of us. There are people we interact with, sometimes under our own roof, sometimes outside, who we can impact – for better or worse – in a unique way. As I spoke on this topic, I looked out into that crowd of first responders and others, and was again reminded that while I may have been onstage, they were going to go out and impact the world around them in a way that I never will.

And they got it. From Kelly and Jamie Milligan of Keltek to the other attendees there from all parts of Iowa (and some beyond), they got it.

Keep that in mind as you move through your week. You may wish your platform was bigger, or be frustrated or unfulfilled with your current situation. But don’t lose heart! Like it or not, there are people watching, people in need of a friendly word or a hand up, that Oprah, my neighbor or I can’t reach.

But you can.Iowa Capitol

October 2, 2018

Ring of Honor Reflections

Filed under: Life,Sports — Nathan @ 11:01 pm

“Okay, so how did you handle the bitterness?” Silence. “I mean, did it help that you immediately went to work for the Colts, or was there still some residual bitterness that you just needed time to heal, or maybe just pray your way through. Or both?”

More silence. He was about to speak but I jumped in to clarify one more time. We’d been really making good progress in the interview until I’d hit this snag. Maybe the wounds were still so raw he couldn’t articulate it.

“You said that you’d tried to build an organization and team in Tampa that did things the way you thought the Lord would want them. You and your players had been active throughout the community. You took a moribund franchise and put them in the playoffs every year. And for that…you were fired. So how’d you work through the bitterness of following what God wanted you to do and yet get fired?”

So it went in February of 2007 as I sat with Tony Dungy in his office in Indianapolis. We were beginning a thirty-day race to write Quiet Strength (we didn’t have a name for it yet), and I was trying to understand where he was coming from at critical moments in his life.

I was reminded of that conversation last week when my wife and I were guests of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Tony was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.

Ring of Honor collage            His answer eleven years ago underscored the attitude that made possible that evening last week: “Bitter? Why would I be bitter? God had work for me to do in Indiana, and unless the door in Tampa was closed, I would’ve never left.”

My response was probably also instructive as to my all-too typical mindset. “Wait. I’ve been bitter on your behalf for five years, and you weren’t even ever upset?”

He admitted to the all-too human emotion of disappointment, but said that he and Lauren hadn’t spent any time being upset with the Bucs or their owners, because there was another mission field.

I’d been scheduled to go the following week with the rest of the Bucs scouting department to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama but was told I had to stay behind. “Bill Parcells will be arriving while we’re gone, and somebody needs to be here to help him get settled.” While they were gone I’d grown a beard and had taken to wearing flannel – I looked like a malnourished lumberjack – and was so annoyed I should’ve had a High Voltage: Do Not Touch sign around my neck. (Coach Parcells opted not to come, and a month later we had Jon Gruden as our new coach, but that’s another story.)

So here we were, the Dungys, Tony’s players, coaches and front office staff from his Buccaneers tenure, watching his induction into the Ring of Honor, recognizing his place among the franchise’s greatest contributors.

My takeaway from the unlikely event of the night (at least in 2002 when he was fired by Tampa Bay)? Sure, don’t burn any bridges came to mind. But even more, it’s darkest before the dawn or God causes all things to work together for good seem even more apropos.

Look, I was also fired by the Bucs, but my induction into their Ring of Honor is…unlikely. But so often the greatest opportunities come out of the depths of seeming disaster.

Hang on. Keep scrapping. You never know what doors are opening, or why.


July 12, 2018

Belgium’s Red Devils

It’s true – I’ve been watching this year’s World Cup. Watching a lot of it. Of course, other than now knowing the term “set piece” and appreciating the cleanliness of the Japanese and Senegalese fans, I must confess to still not grasping the intricacies of the game.

But one thing is clear; teamwork is critical.

I was fascinated to see the comments of Roberto Martinez, the coach of Belgium’s team (the “Red Devils”), on the necessity of his squad to work as a unit. “Individual skills and talent are important, but in these tournaments, it’s absolutely necessary to play as a team,” he said. “The last thing you want at international football is to see a group of individuals hoping to get a result.”

So true, not only in international football, but also in other sports, as well as corporations and any team settings. A team is completely different than a group of individuals.

Three points jumped out at me from the comments of Martinez, who led Belgium to the Cup semifinals:

  1. They needed the right roster configuration. As the late (American) football coach Denny Green said, “I want the right players on the roster, not necessarily the best players.” Martinez, likewise, spoke of needing the right mix of attackers, defenders and others, even if that meant some of the players who “grab the headlines” didn’t make the team.
  2. That roster configuration included diversity for the benefits it brings. Youth and young blood bring “bravery and naivety,” but Martinez also sought the benefits that veterans who had played in high stakes international competitions brought. Tony Dungy tackled this with his first Buccaneers coaching staff, hiring the blunt, fiery Herm Edwards as his Assistant Head Coach to complement Tony’s soft-spoken approach. Neither needed to become something they weren’t, but both needed to appreciate the other.
  3. Belgium had to become a team that could handle adversity. And the only way to learn to handle it is to experience it. “We must become a team that can suffer when it’s needed to be a winning team….” Martinez explained.  It’s certainly no fun when it’s happening, but it’s a part of growth. For the Red Devils, or your team. As my friend Jon Gordon notes, maintaining a spirit of positivity helps us press on through bad times.

So as you work within your team – and teams are all around us, in our families, businesses, churches, sports teams, and organizations (including my wife’s Junior League!) – remember Martinez’ words of wisdom. At the end of the day, teams can accomplish more, but only if they are a team – not merely a collection of individuals.


March 18, 2016

2 Writing Tips

Filed under: Writing — Nathan @ 3:55 pm

One of the most common phrases I hear these days, when someone finds out what I do with a good deal of my time, is “I’m gonna write a book one of these days.” Something about books – and writing them – seems to hold quite an allure over a great number of people.

The good news, for those of you who fall into that camp of aspiring writers, is that writing can be learned. Sure, some people are naturally skilled at it, while others, well, write not so goodly.

I taught a Writing Workshop in January at a local high school (shoutout to The Rock School for having me!), and in preparation I went online to learn as much as I could about the habits, practices and philosophies of leading authors. I watched or read materials from Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Kate DiCamillo, Michael Connelly, C.S. Lewis, John Grisham, James Patterson, and others.

Although there were many ideas, two were held in common, almost universally.

First, write daily. As Mosley says, a story needs to bounce around in your subconscious to allow concepts to grow and storylines and characters to emerge. To do that, the story needs to be constantly in your brain. Grisham writes for two or three hours each morning, while DiCamillo limits herself to two pages a day. But all of them write daily.

For his daily writing, Stephen King says that he orients his desk to a blank wall, since what he needs to draw upon is in his mind, not outside a window.

Second, don’t revise as you write. That is, don’t worry about how rough your first draft is. For instance, if the bad guy is going to shoot somebody, just put the gun in his hand and write it: “The .22 caliber Glock clicked, the last sound poor, sweet, innocent Sam would ever hear, then the bullet exploded through his chest, shattering his ribs on its was to making an exit wound the size of a regulation NBA basketball.”

Does Glock make a .22? Would it click? Would there be an exit wound at all?

At this point, who cares? Just get it down on paper (or pixels). If you don’t know guns, when you’re revising, find someone who does. If you stop to do the research or find someone, you’ll lose the momentum you’ve been building by writing every day. (I was guessing that I was misspelling Dicamillo throughout by not capitalizing the “C” as I wrote, but I waited until I was done to go look it up. Sure enough, I was wrong. But I didn’t lose my train of thought – I’m learning!!!)

Finally, a bonus tip – tip three of two that I promised. This one doesn’t come from an author, but from “The Organized Mind” by Daniel Levitin, a UCLA brain researcher. Levitin is concerned, between the Internet, Smartphones and political candidates, that our brains are subjected to a daily influx of information the likes of which we’ve never seen in history. We are truly adrift in a sea of information. He suggests that we “offload” as much information as we can from our brains to an external device – a Smartphone, daily planner, etc. I use the terribly low-tech approach of 3×5 index cards with one item per card – a shopping list, an interesting turn of phrase, a possible subplot – and try and save my limited mental capacity for more important things.

So…write daily. Just get something down. And offload whatever you can.

And have fun!


October 10, 2011

Save Situation

Filed under: Life — Nathan @ 8:29 pm

I’m currently watching the Rangers play the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.  As a longtime baseball guy, I’m mildly embarrassed to say that I don’t even know what game it is, but I think – I think – that the Rangers lead 2-0.*  I could look it up, but I don’t trust Wikipedia.

Unless I’m on a book deadline.

In my defense, I was traveling this weekend, and simply lost track of the series.  Plus, the Rays and Braves may or may not have already been eliminated.

So I’ve got the game on in the background, and they just posted a stat in the ninth inning as Jose Valverde, the Tigers closer, came into the game to pitch.

It was a non-save situation, and his stats for the year were along the lines of:

50 appearances in save situations**: 0.53 Earned Run Average

26 appearances in non-save situations: 6.95 ERA

Leaving aside the argument of my law school buddy, John, who provoked a decades-long debate one night over tempura in Harvard Square that a save was no big deal, and he could complete a save 50% of the time despite not having pitched in years, I was shocked by Valverde’s stat.

What does that stat say?  Maybe nothing about Jose Valverde – I’m going to take liberties – but a great deal about a lot of us.

I mean, how hard is it to perform well in life when life is going well?  When it’s smooth sailing, can you hang on?  Can you build on your lead?

Maybe nobody can relate, but it seems like I went months without dates in high school and college (pretty much until I got married, to be brutally honest).  And those rare times when a young lady couldn’t find anything else to do, and did stoop to go out with me?  Inevitably someone else who had previously turned me down would show up at my door with a change of heart and want to go out.

When it rains, it pours.

But what about the rest of life?

What about the times when you can’t catch a break?  When you’re pitching from behind?  Can you just hold your ground?

Sometimes the little Dutch boy is the best we can hope for – keeping your finger in the dyke until the tide heads back out.

When I was working for the Bucs, Jon Gruden kept searching for guys who were “mentally tough.”  I’m not sure that the guys always knew what he was looking for, other than they were supposed to have scowls.  My thought is that he was searching for players who could set adversity aside and press on as if it had never happened.

“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…,” wrote Paul in Philippians 3:13.

Even as life bangs your around, and it will, keep pressing on.

By the way, after a leadoff double, Valverde escapes the non-save situation and kept the Tigers alive.

You never know.


*It was only 1-0 Rangers for the series, but Game One had a rain delay of more than two hours and finished long after I went to bed, so it’s fair that I thought it should count as two games.

**There’s more to it, but basically, a save situation is defined as one in which the pitcher comes into the game with a lead of three or fewer runs and finishes the game or the tying run is one base, up to bat or about to come up.  In other words, you come into the game when your team is ahead.


August 4, 2011

Happy New Year

Filed under: Life — Nathan @ 8:02 am

I woke up this morning and had no idea where I was.  No, it was worse than that.  I had no idea who was in the bed with me (as it turns out, it was the woman with whom I’m celebrating a 17th wedding anniversary this week, which is what we author-types call – wait for it – a happy ending).

That came on the heels of cleaning the porch last evening.  After seeing flying, stinging insects circling around (not yellow jackets or wasps – more like sleek, quick bees), I climbed, perching on a chair to spray the large, dark mud dauber-ish structure that had been built in the week we’d been on vacation, tucked away in a corner.  Up high.  Don’t see what could go wrong here.

As I sprayed, I realized that the “structure” was instead a large, dark moth as it took to wing and floated toward me.  It circled my head and torso.  Oh, not a moth.  A bat.  Sure.

All in all, I’ve been a little off my game since we returned from 75 degree mountain weather to the 95 degrees of home.  The bugs, bats and sleeping on the right side of the bed again, after a week on the left, have thrown me off.

But it’s good to be home.  And not because the vacation was anything other than outstanding.  For those who follow me on Twitter (and really, how are you reading this now if you don’t?), you know that we spent a couple of days in Atlanta, at the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, and went to two Braves games, courtesy of our friend, Clint Hurdle.  (Since Clint, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, was kind enough to host us, the Pirates have gone 1-7.  Sorry about that.)  Then we – my children, wife of 17 years who SLEEPS ON THE RIGHT, and parents – headed up to North Carolina for a few days.  The weather, small-town atmosphere, family bonds, watching my daughters hunt for snails and a relaxed schedule, all made for a wonderful time.

But it’s good to be home.  It all just feels…new.

A new NFL season, with so many friends (and clients) now having the uncertainty of will-there-be-a-season? behind them, replaced with the more familiar, comfortable angst of will-we-win-any-games?

A new school year.  A new dog.  Finally being settled in our home after two years of (mild) upheaval of moving and renting.

God gives us opportunities to reinvent ourselves, and as I look ahead to 95 degree days for the foreseeable future, this feels like another one of those.  And I understand full well the idea that “as man makes plans, God laughs,” but I think we are all called to push ahead, purposefully, in the direction we feel called.  Toward significance.

What do you have in store?  As for me and my family, who knows?  We should always look to the future with hope, I know, but sometimes it just feels more…obvious.  Things are at work.  It feels like a new start, even in the dog days of summer.

So I’m glad to be back.

Happy New Year!


June 13, 2011

Heading to Sleep

Filed under: Parenting — Nathan @ 6:42 am

Me and Jackson

I just put the dog to sleep.

I’ve slept on the couch for the last two nights to be closer to Jackson and react when he wakes, and sure enough, I was able to lay with him on his bed and pet him to sleep minutes ago.

In another nine hours or so, we’ll take him to the vet to be put to sleep.  I can’t bear to look at the clock.

That knowledge made for a hard night in our household.  Our eleven year old understood that it was her last night with him; our six-year old gathered that, but didn’t have quite all the details.  They knew that he wasn’t truly going “to sleep,” however, and their response of anguish and love was both unsettling and soothing for my wife and I.

Unsettling because of our own struggles in dealing with Jackson’s end of life issues.  He’s 15, barely.  As a springer spaniel, that’s no small feat.  As an incorrigible springer spaniel – “he’ll grow out of it,” they said. They were very wrong – living to 15 after all that he had done is unbelievable.  Two emergency surgeries to clear intestinal blockages and remove portions of his intestines, numerous emergency vet visits for eating “welcome Baby!” cigars, homemade play dough, chicken bones, an ACL reconstruction and a variety of items that I’ve found in the yard as I’ve mowed over the years – “How did that pass through?”

Soothing, because he’s been with us for every location on our marriage journey.  We’d been married eighteen months when we got him, and he’s been with us in each of our apartments, and has bounced with us as we’ve relocated from city-to-city, apartment to apartment, and house to house.  For fifteen of our sixteen years of marriage, Jackson has been beside us, eating whatever we forgot to put out of reach.  A fixture in our family’s life.

He’s also welcomed our two babies home with us.  He’s let them pull his fur as we’ve come running over to pry off those little fingers, and yet he’s slept beside cribs of those same children when they’ve been sick, repeatedly.

Jackson's 15th Birthday

As I’ve maintained, he’s not a particularly good dog, but Jack’s one of the nicest I’ve ever known.  (And the issue of the “good” comes down to poor, inconsistent parenting, without question.)

The vet didn’t think last summer that he would make it to Christmas, and sure enough, the last few months have been a struggle for him.  Another Christmas with him came and went, however, and we’re grateful.  In the process, though, it’s gotten harder with every step and new failure of a bodily function, but we’ve rolled with the punches.  Cleaning the house, sometimes daily baths for him, aren’t that big of a deal, especially when we know that our daughters are watching how we deal with the aging of a loved one.

The harder issue has been the failure of his mind.  He’s been wandering, pacing, head-butting blank walls while open doors stand inches away, growing increasingly agitated with each passing week.  I left Denver hurriedly a few months ago while we were editing “Through My Eyes,” afraid that he wouldn’t last long enough for me to return.  As always, he’s rallied somehow.  They’ve never had a patient who has stayed so physically healthy that they could watch his mind deteriorate and try different medications to address his issues.  We don’t know if that makes him lucky or not.

Ultimately, you can put us in the CS Lewis camp when it comes to animals in Heaven.  Watching her dog dying against the backdrop of a teacher who said that “animals don’t go to Heaven” was taxing on our youngest.  Our oldest got my message – “sometimes the situation calls for simply nodding even when someone is wrong” – but our youngest is struggling to resolve the conflict in authorities.  While I appreciate her solution – “my teacher is older than you and therefore she knows more” – I see me walking through it again with her: “I’m wrong a lot, but not today.”

I wish we didn’t have to decide anything, but he’s so tough, so resilient, that we do.  And at long last, we’re comfortable in knowing that his time is here.  He’s been a beloved companion and friend, and Dad’s only other boy in a house of girls.

He’s awake again as I type, trying to get to his feet, looking to pace aimlessly.  Today will be a day of eggs and pizza but no further rallies.  He’s been a great dog and had a good run, and as you hope with loved ones, will leave a void in our lives while we cherish the laughs and marvel at the stories.

And, as our eldest reminded us last night, by tonight, he’ll be healed and know where to walk, or even run.

Sometimes, as we struggle for what we tell our children to help them navigate the world, they help sort things out for us, too.  I appreciate my wife and daughters for many reasons, and their perspective is one of those.

But as the sun peeks over the horizon and through the trees, I still can’t look at the clock.

August 20, 2010

Tour Recap #5

Filed under: Book Tour — admin @ 1:53 pm

“Take a moment to think about the answer to this question: Am I prepared to have great success and not get any credit for it?

Who wrote that? I mean, really? It sounds great, but when push comes to shove…

Oh. The Mentor Leader, page 26. Well, it’s gotta be right, then.

Tuesday – the second Tuesday – of the book tour began in Orlando. I had caught back up with the group Monday night after spending the weekend with my family, and we had two book signings in the Orlando area that day: a Lifeway that morning, followed by a Family Christian Store in Ocoee that afternoon. Both went great, although I was a few minutes late for the Ocoee signing – I was having to drive myself and got gas en route. Whoops. So if you were one of the first ten people through line and only ended up with Tony’s signature, I apologize. Like you care.

Tony and the Whitaker family

We then raced off to Gainesville for our final signing of Tuesday, at the Books-a-Million near I-75. In a tour that included signings in New York, Chicago, Orlando, and Atlanta, Tyndale House had thrown in our hometowns of Jackson, MI and Gainesville as a nod to us. The one was so fun. I was interviewed by Chris Price, a longtime friend of WCJB-20, the ABC affiliate in Gainesville, and saw relatives, longtime friends, high school friends and their families, and friends of my parents and in-laws, all of whom live in Gainesville. My folks and wife flitted about, making sure that they greeted everyone they knew…DJ, my agent, later shared that it felt a little like the pride that you feel when reading the verse in which God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NLT) (NOTE: Look, I’m not the one drawing the parallels between myself and the Messiah. It’s my agent.)

My favorite moments of the night included quotes from a couple of the children there, including one from our home builder’s son, Beck, who kept telling people that his dad was building a house for Mr. Whitaker, and the daughter of Wayne, a high school teammate of mine, who asked, “Who is the man sitting next to Mr. Whitaker?”

Me and Gator Great Neal Anderson - isn't that a great purple and green shirt?

I also enjoyed seeing myself on the local news that night in a brief interview with Chris (“…it’s a joy to make a career out of riding Tony’s coattails…”) and I woke up, still aglow, looking forward to seeing the write-up in the next day’s Gainesville Sun. After all, I had contacted the writer, inviting him to attend and interview Tony. Since the angle was surely “Tony Dungy book tour detours to smaller city because local kid is his co-author,” I was looking forward to the coverage.

Nothing. By “nothing,” I mean, “lots about Tony and the signing, including a teaser on 1A, and a large photo – that me and my great purple and lime green shirt were cropped out of – on 1B, along with a terrific article…in which I’m not even mentioned in passing.”

But as I said in the beginning, I had to remind myself that life isn’t about who gets the credit. Ugh. Sometimes I’m tired of learning that lesson. I swallowed my pride and called the writer, thanking him for such a good article. And it really was a good article.

Wednesday morning I got up early and headed to Tampa, arriving at the signing at Lifeway for the second consecutive day…a few minutes late. I slid in next to Tony, who looked up, and through a grin, said, “My mother used to say that once is an aberration, twice is a coincidence, but three times may be a habit.”

We headed from signing to signing with a New York Times business writer, Charles Duhigg, in tow, who was watching Tony interact through the day. We signed at three places in Tampa, and while none drew crowds as big as his prior books, they were all steady and energetic.

Me, Tony and my high school baseball coach, Steve Russell

Just before the final signing concluded, we got the call: The Mentor Leader would debut at #2 on the New York Times bestsellers list of August 22, to go with a #7 ranking from Publisher’s Weekly.

We headed out to Bern’s a well-known Tampa landmark, for dinner to celebrate, both the ranking and the end of another terrific tour. Notably, Bern’s was also the site of Tony’s hiring as head coach of the Bucs, some fourteen years prior.

The next morning, we all headed our separate ways around the country, glad to rejoin our families, but sorry to see the book tour end so soon. Especially since Tony said during the tour that he didn’t foresee writing another book.

Looks like I’ll have to change his mind – for the fourth time.

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