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Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO”

Learning from A Master: Review of “Bear Bryant, CEO”

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    Richard Truman.  2006.  Bear Bryant, CEO.  Sweetwater Press.

    Legendary coaches are great sources of inspiration and wisdom, and Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the iconic coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide from the late 1950s through the early 1980s, is revered as something approaching a minor deity in the state of Alabama.  There is a museum named for him at the University of Alabama (my alma mater), and every year adds a new pile of books to the literature on the man and his legacy.  Last Christmas, I was given a copy of Bear Bryant, CEO, a short volume that compiles anecdotes and quotes from the great coach’s career.  As one might expect, it’s a very easy read, and its contents are a great source of inspiration even when they are almost creepily reverential at times.  There is much we can take away from the book, and even if you aren’t an Alabama football fan you might find it useful.  Here are a few takeaway points.

    Fundamentals Matter. Bryant, “the master of hard work and determination” (p. 7), was obsessed with perfect fundamentals.  This paid off handsomely everywhere he went and culminated in six national championships during his tenure at the University of Alabama.  Sound fundamentals mean not having to think about the basics and, therefore, having more time and energy to devote to higher-level creative projects.

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    Principles Matter. Bryant was also devoted to principle in part because of the way compromising his principles would change incentives.  When it was suggested by higher-ups that Bryant compromise his principles at the University of Maryland, he resigned instead.  This didn’t seem to affect his job prospects: he left Maryland for the University of Kentucky and went on to become one of the most successful and revered coaches in the history of sports.

    Details and Delegation.  Bryant also noticed the little things and delegated authority where necessary, all the while shouldering blame when things went wrong and making absolutely certain that everyone knew that he was the boss.  The book relates a story about Bryant talking to one of his assistant coaches before a game.  Bryant notices that the wind is a little peculiar and suggests that his assistant take this into consideration.  This illustrates a couple of important things.  First, Bryant paid attention to a small detail that might matter.  Second, he has delegated its analysis to a trusted subordinate.  This allows him, as head coach, to focus on bigger and more important issues.

    Just Do It.  Bryant was a doer, not a dreamer, and he expected nothing less from his players: “(i)t’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.”  This was also reflected on a plaque Bryant allegedly had in his home: “Ask God to bless your work.  Do not ask Him to do it for you.”

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    Know What Your Time is Worth.  Bryant was extremely conscientious about making the best use of his time.  A poem Bryant was fond of sharing with friends is entitled “What I Have Traded”:

    This is the beginning of a new day.
    God has given me this day to use as I will.
    I can waste it or I can use it for good.

    What I do today is very important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.
    When tomorrow comes this day will be gone, forever,
    Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

    I want it to be gain, not loss, good, not evil,
    Success, not failure, in order that I shall not
    forget the price I paid for it.

    For Bryant, every minute of every day was precious.  It’s difficult to imagine him (or, say, Joe Paterno) frittering away a morning on Facebook.

    Always Evaluate What You’re Doing and Don’t Be Afraid to Change.  As the 1970s started, Bryant’s Alabama teams had weathered a few down years and people were wondering if Bryant was washed up.  A few weeks before the start of the 1971 season, he installed the wishbone offense.  This set the stage for unprecedented dominance as the Crimson Tide went on to compile a record of 103-16-1 in the 1970s.

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    There is much to be learned about productivity and discipline from great coaches like Bear Bryant, John Wooden, Woody Hayes, and others.  Bear Bryant, CEO is an interesting contribution to the “management and leadership lessons from coaches” genre, and it will probably be interesting even to people aren’t Alabama Crimson Tide devotees.

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    Last Updated on June 19, 2019

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

    Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

    By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

    In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

    1. Speed reading

    Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

    Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

    2. Public speaking

    Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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    Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

    Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

    3. Spanish

    As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

    Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

    One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

    It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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    Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

    4. Accounting

    If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

    This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

    Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

    5. Microsoft Excel

    Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

    Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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    Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

    6. Blogging/Vlogging

    Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

    Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

    7. Weight training

    Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

    We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

    Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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    8. Photo and video editing

    In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

    Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

    Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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