A Lesson In Competition From Jim Harbaugh

Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 10.37.09 PMI’m not supposed to like Jim Harbaugh, but I do. I’m a Trojan after all. I won’t go into the details because they’re irrelevant here, but suffice to say Harbaugh has few USC admirers after his tenure as Stanford’s head coach.

The reason I’m a Jim Harbaugh fan and was disappointed to see the 49ers Super Bowl comeback fall short is because of what he taught me as a teenager. It’s stuff I carry with me to this day and makes a difference in my business.

Jim taught me to compete

I was a good athlete growing-up, but I wasn’t the best. I supplemented my football training at a place that held classes focused on balance. We performed all sorts of exercises while balancing on beams and balance boards. Among the athletes taking the classes were a few of the Chicago Bears… including a backup quarterback named Jim Harbaugh.

I was the only high school kid in the group. Everyone was else was either a pro athlete or a college athlete looking to go pro. Needless to say, I felt like somewhat of an outsider.

Everyone was nice, but I always felt like they were going easy on me. Everyone accept one guy.¬†You guessed it… Jim Harbaugh.

Screen shot 2013-02-03 at 10.36.15 PMJim was always competing, and it didn’t matter if it was against one of his teammates, or Tony Gnau from Lake Park High School.

He also pushed me just as hard as he pushed everyone else. While my balance may have been good, these guys were bigger, stronger and faster in every other respect… and I took a beating.

Jim never let me back down. Whenever he saw my spirits faltering, he was right there in my face encouraging me to keep going. I’ve never forgotten those lessons.

life lesson pays off

Looking back,¬†moments like those helped propel me into Division I college football. On the surface, I wasn’t talented enough to play at USC, yet I played all four years.

Eight years ago I left TV news to start my own business. I had zero business experience. Yet, here I stand today, making a living doing what I love on my own terms.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I don’t owe it all to Jim Harbaugh. There were plenty of people along the way who helped shape my character, most importantly my mom and dad, but he was one of those people.

Believe in yourself and work your butt off. That’s a recipe for success.

–Tony Gnau