Do you consider yourself a role model? Well, you are.
People are watching, no matter what your age.
Young or old, male or female, affluent or struggling. People around you are watching.
Maybe you’re in a significant leadership position at work or in your church. Perhaps you have a national platform of some sort. You might be active in your community. Or maybe you’re “just” a mom or dad. But unless you’re in solitary confinement, the people around you are watching. (Well, even in solitary confinement, hopefully the guards are watching)
We might eschew the responsibility of being a role model. The thought might have never crossed your mind. The truth is that the way we live our lives really does matter. Each of us has the opportunity to be a positive influence in others’ lives.
And no matter our age or position, we also can learn from the well-lived lives of others. What a gift to be inspired by another’s example.
We were offered that gift again this week.
A legend just retired from the game of football at the ripe old age of 39. And whether you love football or think it’s a barbaric sport, there is much to be learned from the remarkable life and career of Peyton Manning.
In case you’ve been in a sports-free zone for the last several decades, here are a few of his accomplishments: After a remarkable college football career with the University of Tennessee, Peyton spent 18 years in the NFL. He led two different NFL teams to Super Bowl victories: the Indianapolis Colts, and most recently, the Denver Broncos. (No other quarterback has ever done that.) He’s the first and only NFL quarterback to ever achieve 200 career wins. Five times, he was selected as the MVP of the National Football League. The records go on and on. Manning is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
But what’s most notable about Peyton Manning, and what is an inspiration to us all, is the example he has set with his character.
Here are some of the significant life lessons he taught by example:
1. Don’t give up when adversity strikes. Manning faced a lot. Despite enduring significant physical challenges (neck surgeries, resultant numbness in his fingertips, torn plantar fasciitis), he didn’t give up on his calling. He continued to take the necessary steps to heal and rehabilitate. After being out due to injury for several games this past season, he wasn’t automatically placed in the starting position even when he was ready to resume play. During those games when he was on the sidelines, he continued to advise and encourage the younger starting quarterback.
What sort of adversity are you facing? Does an obstacle, failure or disappointment make you want to give up? Think again.
2. Realize that “to everything there is a season.” In his retirement press conference this past week, Peyton said: “I’m totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven’t even discovered. Life is not shrinking for me, it’s morphing into a whole new world of possibilities.”
Even when a wonderful season of life is ending, there can always be beautiful new beginnings. That’s true whether you are retiring from a successful career, facing an emptying nest, newly single due to death or divorce, or facing a milestone birthday. New possibilities always exist if you look for them.
3. Be grateful to those who have helped you along the way. Both in interviews after the recent Super Bowl victory and during his recent press conference, Manning talked about having reached out to express gratitude to those who have helped him throughout his football career. He acknowledged all five of his head coaches and noted that they “have helped me become better at my craft and have helped me become a better human being.“
Who has encouraged you along the way? Have you taken the time to say “thank you” either with a phone call or (better yet) a note? Notice that Manning expressed gratitude for those men impacting his character, not just his professional skills. Have there been teachers or mentors in your life that have had that type of influence? Why not thank them today?
4. Know what you want your legacy to be. And live that way. Accolades for Manning have been flowing this past week. One of the frequent refrains: that he inspired everyone, both teammates and competitors, to raise the level of their game. His preparation was legendary. He revered the game of football.
When asked by CBS before Super Bowl 50 how he wanted to be remembered, with tears in his eyes, Peyton replied: “for being a good teammate and for being respected by my opponents.”
Oh, that each of us would pursue our life calling with excellence and preparation, and that we would inspire those around us to do the same. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want said at your own funeral? Does your current behavior align with those goals?
5. Enjoy the gift of “the little things” each day. “Our kids are small now, but as they grow up, we’re going to teach them to enjoy the little things in life because one day they will look back and discover that those really were the big things.”
Peyton then recounted the moments of his football career that he will miss. And all of them involved people.
As we move through our days, let’s not become so preoccupied with our to-do lists and goals that we miss what’s most important: the people in our lives.
Thank you, Peyton Manning, for being an incredible role model.
And thanks to each of you, too, for being a role model in your own world.
The picture shows Peyton Manning with his son, Marshal, at a Saturday Bronco’s practice.
Receive a regular dose of encouragement by signing up for the Leave Nothing Unsaid / Jody Noland newsletter!