This is the 44th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.
Champions once sat where you’re sitting, kid.
The Football Hall of Fame (and every other Hall of Fame) is filled with names of people who sat, week after week, without getting a spot of mud on their well-laundered uniforms.
Generals, senators, surgeons, prize-winning novelists, professors, business executives started on the end of the bench, too.
Don’t sit and study your shoe tops.
Keep your eye on the game.
Watch for defensive lapses.
Look for offensive opportunities.
If you don’t think you’re in a great spot,
wait until you see how many would like to take it away from you at next spring’s practice.
What you do from the bench this season could put you on the field next season as a player, or back in the grandstand as a spectator.
When I first started reading this, I thought that Mr. Gray was making the point that many successful people in medicine, academia, and business may not have fared as well in the world of sports, but that they still learned many valuable lessons such as how to be a part of a team, how to work hard in order to accomplish a goal, how to win gracefully, and how to handle defeat.
But as I keep reading, I realized that this was geared towards those athletes who are struggling to succeed at their sport. Gray’s reference to the doctors and business executives was to show that these people at one time had also likely struggled to achieve success in their particular occupation.
There are certainly hundreds of stories, real-life and Hollywood, that have depicted such situations. The basketball player who didn’t make his high school team and then goes on to an amazing career in the NBA (Michael Jordan); the football player who was drafted in one of the last rounds, and goes on to have a Hall of Fame career (Tom Brady); the down and out boxer who goes on to become world champion (Rocky); and the kid who only got in for the last two plays of his one and only 95-pound football game and went on to become a world-famous blogger (yours truly).
So there’s certainly enough motivation out there for the struggling athlete to stick with it through those tough times, and even when he or she may not make the team or become a superstar, the lessons picked up along the way will last a lifetime.