Two Simple Steps To Greatness: Thoughts on Personal Success from an NFL Hall of Famer

I’m not a huge fan of televised awards ceremonies. The awards usually don’t mean much and sometimes are even quite contrived. However, I do pay attention to the various college and professional sports Hall of Fame events. The nominees for these awards are usually people who have worked very hard; paid a price; remained unworldly disciplined; disregarded their own health and safety in many cases, for the love of excelling in their game.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame held its induction ceremonies in late July of this year. Among the inductees was Aeneas Williams, who as an Arizona Cardinal was one of the better cornerbacks in NFL history. Every inductee is allowed time to say thanks and speak about their experiences. Sometimes these speeches are funny; sometimes sad; sometimes very emotional. But the 25-minute speech that Aeneas Williams gave was to me, more about a WINNERS philosophy on life! The foundation of his presentation was specific and would apply to highly successful athletes or any business person or entrepreneur.

In his powerful and passionate induction speech Williams said he wanted to leave listeners with an understanding of his two guiding principles; “Begin with the end in mind “and “Die empty.”

Kent Somers, a sports writer for the Arizona Republic/ capsulated Williams statement by saying, “In other words, set goals and give everything!”

Williams said, “I’ve already written my obituary. Most people go to the grave full instead of empty. If I would ask you where you can find the most wealth, don’t tell me Fort Knox. Don’t tell me money. Don’t tell me a house. I’ll tell you where you can find the most wealth: It’s in the cemetery, because most people go to the grave full instead of empty.”

The message is simple, most people whine and complain about their station in life, their income, their job, the size of their house or their bank account, and yet never really put forth the effort required to excel; to go above and beyond at their endeavor in order to “earn the right” to have a better job; higher pay; bigger house and more. Most business people and entrepreneurs never fully commit their heart and soul to being their very best both personally and professionally and in football terms, “Leaving it on the field!”

I believe that most of the true “secrets of success” are really quite simple. It is the personal commitment and discipline that makes the implementation of the secret hard.

Let’s break down what Mr. Williams said;

  1. “Begin with the end in mind!”: This is simply a declaration of the importance of having very clear goals in mind. It is said that 98% if our society has NO written goals. The 2% that does are the heralded athletes; business people and entrepreneurs that we read about and wish that we could be them. If you simply know where you’re going then it’s always easier to get there.


  1. “Die empty!”: Never take life easy; never take it for granted. In order to win in today’s world, nothing is free and for that matter it never has been. You must work and work hard at those things that you want most in life. In the end my greatest fear is that I might be able to say that I did not work as disciplined as I could have; continued learning as much as I should have; that I didn’t prioritize and manage my time as well as I could have; that I could have improved myself at least 1/10th of 1% more each day.


Most great athletes in all sports will tell you that their goal is to consistently improve their skills, to go to new and unfathomed levels. To push themselves beyond all expectations and constantly work to build confidence; endurance; quickness; speed; mental sharpness; strength and knowledge with the end result of achieving their personal vision and goals!

So the ultimate question is, was I describing a great athlete or a successful businessperson and entrepreneur? The answer is both. Success has a recipe. And the recipe does not change. Try to change it and you screw up the recipe. The key ingredient to the recipe is ongoing effort, work, and commitment.

The message: No matter what your definition of success is, Get off your butt, put in the effort and give it all that you have, give it everything! Make that vision happen and “DIE EMPTY” and satisfied that you’ve done your best.

If you need some help finding your vision or focus, give me a call or write, this is what I do at Grow Southwest, and we’re open for business.


Coach Dan


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