in Sports

Life is a Game of Inches (So is Football)

As I was sitting here looking through my fantasy roster(s) – thinking about how excited I am for another season of NFL football to get underway – I was reminded of this memorable clip from Any Given Sunday – how I felt when I first watched it, and what it made me think about as I sat here and watched it again and again. This powerfully written movie script is delivered perfectly by Pacino and speaks volumes to the game of football, all team sports, and more importantly life in general.

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“We can climb outta hell one inch at a time”

We’ve all been stuck in a rut, down on our luck, out of a job, going through a bad break up, losing a loved on – each of us has experienced a sense of personal ‘hell’ and when you’re in it – you feel like you’ll never get out, that it’s all too overwhelming to bear. It’s so much easier to give up and say “I can’t” – but it’s those individuals, those entrepreneurs, those businesses who face adversity and journey through hell, yet have the patience and persistence to move forward, inch by inch, who will stand above all the rest and see the most success in the end.

“When you get old in life things get taken from you. I mean that’s…part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.”

Recently I wrote about our collective quick-to-be skeptical state of mind – that when a stranger approaches us we automatically see them as someone who is out for our money or is trying to screw us in some way. But I guarantee you, if you have been in the situation of feeling ‘helpmess’ – or know someone close to you who has, you gain a new-found appreciation for helping people in need. It’s that “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone” mindset. But if you think like this, you’ve got it all wrong – We shouldn’t need a ‘wake up call’ – it’s not about waiting for life to pass you by, it’s about living every day is if it could be your last. NEVER let your passion for living subside!

“You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.”

Some believe in fate, some in free will. Me? I’m a proponent of opportunity. Whether the path is laid out for us or not is beside the point – The bottom line? We are given choices and decisions throughout our lives – some small, some much more substantial. And then we’re asked to make a choice. Life isn’t about fate or free will – there will always be results of your own actions and some things that will ultimately be out of your hands. But what we can control are the choices we make – the 4th and Goal, 3 seconds left in the biggest game of your life, should I run or should I pass decision that will define you. Focus less on the things you can and cannot control and instead, focus on the choices you make.

In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin’ to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin’ is! The six inches in front of your face!!

I’ll replace the word die with the word ‘fail’. It’s the guy who’s willing to fail that’s ultimately going to succeed. We are all inherinlty afraid of failure – nervous about walking the first step and taking a leap of faith into the unknown. But the people who get it understand that fear of coming up short of the goal-line doesn’t mean they should automatically play it safe and kick a field goal. They understand that sometimes, you just have to go for it – and that fear can be a motivator that drives success.

For everyone out there who is thinking about changing jobs, moving to a new city, and trying something new – the only person holding you back is yourself. Don’t let fear take control of your life – and understand that even the best of them, even the most successful, stumbled before they started running full speed ahead.

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Some things to chew on. I couldn’t be more excited for this football season to get underway (Go Titans! Bear Down Chicago Bears!) Enjoy your opening weekend and remember that both football, and life, is all a game of inches.

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    • Thanks Ben – It’s interesting where we draw our inspiration from – and the lasting impact one of these ‘speeches’ can leave upon us (Rudy is another great example). It’s the people who ‘go do something more’ that will ultimately get ahead. Cheers!

    • Thanks Ben – It’s interesting where we draw our inspiration from – and the lasting impact one of these ‘speeches’ can leave upon us (Rudy is another great example). It’s the people who ‘go do something more’ that will ultimately get ahead. Cheers!

  1. Love that movie clip, this post, the idea of life as a game of inches (and all other football metaphors :). A manager once told me that doing great work isn’t always about hail-mary passes. Sometimes you just have to focus on “falling forward.” Here’s an excerpt from an email from him that I saved:

    “A friend of mine was an NFL wide receiver a few years ago. He said his coach would tell him, “the key to winning football game is not the big plays that gain you 80 yards. The key to winning football games is to always fall forward, if even for a few inches.”

    As a leader, you’ll find that everything is suboptimal (resources, team capabilities, time available, budget available, alignment cross functionally, communication, etc, etc ad infinitum). Everything is suboptimal.

    The key to winning and being successful as a leader is to always fall forward.”

    • I 100% agree – each of us has the choice to lay down and take what we can get, or fight for that extra yard, the extra foot, those extra inches. Inch by inch when we keep falling forward – it adds up – it separates the winners from the losers. It’s that whole idea of “Who want’s it more?” – Are you going to let your competitors fight for that extra inch or will you fight harder. It’s those kinds of choices that each of us are faced with every single day. You work for one of the most successful companies out there Jenny, I’m sure you have this ‘falling forward’ mentality engraved into your work ethic each and every day. Very well said if I do say so myself.

  2. Love that movie clip, this post, the idea of life as a game of inches (and all other football metaphors :). A manager once told me that doing great work isn’t always about hail-mary passes. Sometimes you just have to focus on “falling forward.” Here’s an excerpt from an email from him that I saved:

    “A friend of mine was an NFL wide receiver a few years ago. He said his coach would tell him, “the key to winning football game is not the big plays that gain you 80 yards. The key to winning football games is to always fall forward, if even for a few inches.”

    As a leader, you’ll find that everything is suboptimal (resources, team capabilities, time available, budget available, alignment cross functionally, communication, etc, etc ad infinitum). Everything is suboptimal.

    The key to winning and being successful as a leader is to always fall forward.”

    • I 100% agree – each of us has the choice to lay down and take what we can get, or fight for that extra yard, the extra foot, those extra inches. Inch by inch when we keep falling forward – it adds up – it separates the winners from the losers. It’s that whole idea of “Who want’s it more?” – Are you going to let your competitors fight for that extra inch or will you fight harder. It’s those kinds of choices that each of us are faced with every single day. You work for one of the most successful companies out there Jenny, I’m sure you have this ‘falling forward’ mentality engraved into your work ethic each and every day. Very well said if I do say so myself.

  3. I’ve never seen that movie (because sports movies seem to often be the same script and I’m the only guy on the planet that’s not big on sports)…..but now I want to see it!!

    I’m right there with ya, though, Matt. Inch by inch, you can accomplish wonderful things. The key, I think, (and the hardest part in my experience) is pushing through on those really long inches. The ones that make you question the journey altogether. Get through those and the feeling of accomplishment is well worth it.

    • Don’t like sports? Come on man – we could have been best friends and you had to go and ruin it! ;) As you said, the hardest part is always ‘the longest yard’ – when you’re not really able to move inch by inch – the all-or-nothing moments that require a leap of faith.

      And you should check out Any Given Sunday – a little cheesy and over the top, but it’s got Pacino – need I say more?

  4. I’ve never seen that movie (because sports movies seem to often be the same script and I’m the only guy on the planet that’s not big on sports)…..but now I want to see it!!

    I’m right there with ya, though, Matt. Inch by inch, you can accomplish wonderful things. The key, I think, (and the hardest part in my experience) is pushing through on those really long inches. The ones that make you question the journey altogether. Get through those and the feeling of accomplishment is well worth it.

    • Don’t like sports? Come on man – we could have been best friends and you had to go and ruin it! ;) As you said, the hardest part is always ‘the longest yard’ – when you’re not really able to move inch by inch – the all-or-nothing moments that require a leap of faith.

      And you should check out Any Given Sunday – a little cheesy and over the top, but it’s got Pacino – need I say more?

  5. I am right there with you with my excitement for the football season starting and reading this post just makes it more intense. I love this Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday. I have never seen it all the way through, I might have to give it a second look. I love Jenny’s idea of falling forward and how it relates to your idea of life being a game of inches. Both really good insight on football analogies for life.

    I think the most important idea in this post, however, is the idea of being willing to die (fail) in order to live (succeed). There are many things that stop us from following our dreams, all of which are caused by fear. If you can control/harness your fear, you will be able to accomplish much more.

    • I would add that one of the greatest things keeping us from achieving success is success. Why? Because we feat being TOO content with nowhere to go and nothing left to accomplish. It’s our challenge to meet and exceed those goals, but to continue moving forward – staying hungry for more and going that one extra inch that no one else can achieve.

      The season is underway – not a good start for me personally – here’s to hoping the Bears can dominate the Pack on Sunday night (and that I will come out with the W against you this week).

  6. I am right there with you with my excitement for the football season starting and reading this post just makes it more intense. I love this Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday. I have never seen it all the way through, I might have to give it a second look. I love Jenny’s idea of falling forward and how it relates to your idea of life being a game of inches. Both really good insight on football analogies for life.

    I think the most important idea in this post, however, is the idea of being willing to die (fail) in order to live (succeed). There are many things that stop us from following our dreams, all of which are caused by fear. If you can control/harness your fear, you will be able to accomplish much more.

    • I would add that one of the greatest things keeping us from achieving success is success. Why? Because we feat being TOO content with nowhere to go and nothing left to accomplish. It’s our challenge to meet and exceed those goals, but to continue moving forward – staying hungry for more and going that one extra inch that no one else can achieve.

      The season is underway – not a good start for me personally – here’s to hoping the Bears can dominate the Pack on Sunday night (and that I will come out with the W against you this week).

  7. Good clip, but saying Hail Mary’s in life do work too.

    I had an ex-boyfriend commit suicide after our break up. The only thing that got me through was praying Hail Mary’s in my bed all night— praying for his soul.

  8. Good clip, but saying Hail Mary’s in life do work too.

    I had an ex-boyfriend commit suicide after our break up. The only thing that got me through was praying Hail Mary’s in my bed all night— praying for his soul.

  9. This clip is my favorite!! Being a college athlete myself I totally understand the analogy behind it and how it applies to life in general. This speech gets me fired up and want to make BIG things happen in life, sports, and every aspect of life. Nice post Matt!!

    • Awesome man – glad it served as some motivation for you personally Tony. As an athlete yourself – I’m sure you can attest to all of the points that were made here – that it’s the extra inch that separates the men from the boys, the winners from the losers. Cheers!

  10. This clip is my favorite!! Being a college athlete myself I totally understand the analogy behind it and how it applies to life in general. This speech gets me fired up and want to make BIG things happen in life, sports, and every aspect of life. Nice post Matt!!

    • Awesome man – glad it served as some motivation for you personally Tony. As an athlete yourself – I’m sure you can attest to all of the points that were made here – that it’s the extra inch that separates the men from the boys, the winners from the losers. Cheers!

  11. I just watched that clip 3 straight times. Amazing. What I got from your post is – don’t be afraid of fantastic failure and success is a bunch of small pieces of hard work put together. Great post, now I have to go watch the video again!

    • It is a great clip – right up there as one of the most inspirational movie speeches in recent history. You hit the nail on the head – when you can stop fearing failure and start using it as motivation for success – the sky truly is the limit!

  12. I just watched that clip 3 straight times. Amazing. What I got from your post is – don’t be afraid of fantastic failure and success is a bunch of small pieces of hard work put together. Great post, now I have to go watch the video again!

    • It is a great clip – right up there as one of the most inspirational movie speeches in recent history. You hit the nail on the head – when you can stop fearing failure and start using it as motivation for success – the sky truly is the limit!