Vince Lombardi on Courage

May 10, 2017

Vince Lombardi spoke often on many of the intangibles that allowed people to be successful.  One of his favorite subjects was courage.

Success is never final.  Failure is never fatal.  It is courage that counts.

The following is an excerpt from the book What it Takes to Be #1, written by Lombardi’s son, Vince Jr.  He talks about his father’s view of courage.

Courage is the habit of mind that allows us to meet danger, opposition or hopelessly long odds with poise and resolution.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  Contemporary culture in America –as captured in action movies and page turning novels–gives the impression that success comes from fearlessness.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you don’t occasionally experience pressure, fear, tension or anxiety, you had better check your pulse.  As they say, you might be dead.  Courage means experiencing fear, labeling it for what it is, acknowledging that you are afraid, and, if it’s important enough to you, pushing ahead in spite of your fear.  In some cases,  courage means submerging yourself in the daunting circumstance and hanging in there until you have gotten used to it, mastered it and your fear has abated.  All leaders experience fear (no matter what word they use to describe that condition).  They feel that clutch in their gut, the rush of energy, the quickening of the heart as the adrenaline starts to surge and the flush of capillaries in the cheeks.  This is fight or flight, a legacy of our prehistoric ancestors, and it’s a good thing.  It means that you’re getting ready for what lies just ahead of you.  

Coach Lombardi would often talk about courage in football terms to his players.

“The Packers thrive on tough competition.  The team has always welcomed it.  The adrenaline always flows a little quicker when we are playing a tougher team. “

Lombardi loved to dramatize courage when his teams experienced defeat.

“I have been wounded but not slain; I shall lie here and bleed a while.  The I shall rise and fight again.  The title of champions may from time to time fall to others more than ourselves.  But the heart, the spirit and the soul of champions remain in Green Bay.”