SIDNEY — Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz used humor and storytelling, Thursday, April 27, to impart the wisdom he has gleaned from his 80 years of life to an audience at Sidney High School.
Holtz was the keynote speaker of the Game Plan for Financial Success forum presented by Eikenberry Retirement Planning, of Sidney, to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke County.
“I’m going to talk about things I believe and how to have success in life,” he said.
He regaled the crowd of about 250 people with football stories from his days as the leader of teams at University of South Carolina, Notre Dame and University of Arkansas. And he filled the auditorium with laughter by peppering the stories with witicisms.
“I graduated from high school. I was in the bottom third of my class. If it wasn’t for students like me, there wouldn’t have been a top half,” he quipped. “I’m a simple guy. I can follow instructions. I’ve been married 56 years, so I’m well-trained in following instructions.”
Along with the fun, Holtz offered motivational ideas.
“I was born with a silver spoon,” he said. “I was born in a cellar in West Virginia. We had one bedroom — for parents, children, all of us — and a kitchen. We lived there seven and a half years. But I was born with a silver spoon because I was born in this country and my parents gave me love. It’s not what we had but what we were taught.”
As an adult, he discovered a book, “The Magic of Thinking Big,” by David Schwartz. He followed its advice and wrote down his goals for five areas of his life: family, religion, finances, profession and excitement. And he focused on the acronym, WIN, for “what’s important now.”
“You need four things: something to do, someone to love, something to believe in and something to hope for,” he said. “You’re either growing or you’re dying. Are you trying to accomplish or maintain? Everything starts with a dream.”
Holtz encouraged people to take responsibility for the choices they make and noted that there is always a choice to be made in responding to what life throws.
He listed three rules to live by and amplified each with examples from his own experience.
“Rule No. 1: Do right and avoid what’s wrong,” he said. “It’s wrong to be bitter.” He recounted that at the University of Arkansas, he ran an “honest” program for seven years and had the best win/loss record the school had ever had.
“And they fired me and wouldn’t give me a reason,” he said. “I was bitter.” He considered having a press conference to defend himself, but on the advice of his wife, he did not.
“I never said a word,” he noted. Two years later, he was a candidate for the coaching job at Notre Dame. When the president of the Indiana school called the Arkansas man who had fired Holtz, the president learned that the firing had been based on a rumor that hadn’t been true. Holtz was hired at Notre Dame.
“I end up at Notre Dame because my wife didn’t allow me to be bitter,” he said. “What’s your attitude when things go wrong? Enjoy life! Don’t walk around like it’s a burden.”
In 1992, he recalled, his 18th-ranked Fighting Irish were to go up against the third-ranked Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. Having dinner with his wife in an Orlando restaurant a few days before the game, Holtz had to hold his temper again.
“A waiter said to me, ‘Do you know the difference between Cheerios and Notre Dame? Cheerios belong in a bowl. Notre Dame doesn’t.’ I was getting really mad and my wife said to me, ‘Are you going to let someone who doesn’t know you, whom you’ll never see again, ruin an evening with your family?’ She was right. I let it go. But before I left, I called the waiter over. ‘What’s the difference between me and a golf pro?’ I asked him. “A golf pro gives tips,’” Holtz said.
The coach’s second rule is to be the best you can be.
“This is what I learned from Woody,” he said. Holtz was an assistant coach to Woody Hayes at Ohio State for one year.
“Your obligation (as a coach) is not to be well-liked but to make (the players) successful,” Holtz said. As an example, he told about a time in 1978 when he had suspended three key players from his Arkansas team just before the Razorbacks were due to take on the much more heavily-favored Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl. He sat his team down and told them he’d read all about how, without those key players, they couldn’t win. He asked the team how they could win.
One by one, the players began to talk about what they were good at. Arkansas beat Oklahoma 31-10.
“They focused on why we could do something. You win because you focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do,” he said.
Teamwork and changing to meet mandates, not change for its own sake, lead to success. In school sports, there are two mandates, he said: to graduate students and to win. In business, there are also just two mandates: satisfy customers and make a profit.
“It’s not complicated,” he added.
Rule No. 3 is to show people you care.
“You’ll never meet people again. They need a smile,” he said. “Why do we have to wait till someone has a catastrophe to show we love them? Make sure people would miss you if you didn’t show up. The only people we miss are those that add value to other people’s lives.”
In closing, he noted that he has never needed a fourth rule.
The event opened with a forum during which representatives of investment firms discussed how their services support the work of Eikenberry Retirement Planning. Local certified financial planner Nick Boeckman served as master of ceremonies. John Eikenberry moderated the panel discussion.
Dean Zayed, of Chicago, founder and CEO of Brookstone Capital Management; Jim Pritchard, of Aurora, Colorado, a partner at W.E. Donoghue & Co; Tom Hardin, of Indianapolis, chief investment officer at Canterbury Investment Management; Phil Graham, of Charlotte, North Carolina, chief sales officer of Financial Independence Group; and Michael Scarborough, of Annapolis, Maryland, president and CEO of Retirement Management Systems, talked about the strategies their firms use to guarantee financial growth for clients.
Jennifer Bruns, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sister of Shelby and Darke County, provided an overview of her organization’s programs.
“We helped 550 children last year,” she said. Following a silent auction of items autographed by Holtz, raffles of locally-donated themed baskets, and door prize drawings, the Eikenberry firm presented a $10,000 check to Bruns for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.