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5 Money Lessons Learned From the Gridiron

5 Minute Read

At first glance, football might seem like a complicated sport. Especially when you listen to guys like Peyton Manning bark out strange code words in the huddle. 

“Blue 22, Red 17, Counter, Denver 20 … 55 is the Mike, set, go!”

What in the world does any of that mean? Well, your guess is as good as ours. And apart from a few private lessons with Manning, I doubt we’ll ever figure it out.

The good news, though, is that you can learn some other stuff from football—you know, important life lessons about money, leadership and all that—even if the play calls don’t make sense.


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Trust the people who’ve been there before.

In the football world, these people are called coaches. In day-to-day life, we call them mentors. If you want to win with money, you need to talk to people who have won with money. If you want to open a small business, you need to talk to entrepreneurs. If you want to be a writer, you need to talk to writers.

This concept is pretty simple, but it’s amazing how many people jump into something new without ever consulting someone who’s been there before. Seek out wisdom.

You might get booed.

Here’s the deal: When you start getting out of debt, when you start making serious changes to your lifestyle, people (like your friends) will notice. More than likely, a few of them will poke fun at you because you aren’t spending $50 on dinner with them every other night.

But you know what? That’s okay. A lot of football players get booed for a reason, and it’s not because they’re sitting in the locker room the whole game. They’re out there on the field, getting their hands dirty, and getting things done. Who’s booing them? People in the stands, sitting, doing nothing.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.

The old saying isn’t exactly true. The best football teams practice for hours and hours and hours before the season even begins. They go through drills, sprints and scrimmages day after day. But, still, when that first game rolls around, every team makes mistakes—penalties, interceptions, fumbles, missed tackles, blown coverages. Mistakes happen.

Does that mean you shouldn’t strive to be perfect, or you should slack off and just get by? Of course not. Whether you are getting out of debt, starting a business, or paying off your house, you should always shoot for perfection. The point is, you shouldn’t become such a perfectionist that when you make a mistake, you beat yourself up to the point that you give up or lose momentum. Keep practicing. Keep reaching for 100%. But don’t let one failure keep you down.

The Hail Mary rarely works.

In football, the “Hail Mary” is the final pass, usually at least 50 yards, at the end of a game. It’s the quarterback’s last attempt to lead his team to victory. It works maybe 5% of the time, if that. And even when it does succeed, it’s usually because of a fluke tip or weird bounce off another player. The Hail Mary pass is a complete last-ditch effort.

In your life, the Hail Mary might look like a loan from your brother to pay off a credit card and keep the creditors away. It might be the $50 you spent on lottery tickets. It might be the adjustable rate mortgage that you’re hoping you can get out of before it adjusts. This stuff just doesn’t work. If you’re trying to Hail Mary your way out of debt, good luck—because luck is all you’ll have to rely on. Make a plan for your money so you aren’t praying for a miracle when the bills are due. 

Defense wins championships.

It’s another old saying, but this one’s actually true. In the NFL, defense does win championships. A good offense is important, but the best teams know that a group of hard-nosed defenders is a must.

What does that mean for you? It’s health insurance, car insurance, life insurance—all of the things that protect you from life’s offensive attacks. It’s a solid emergency fund that will help you stay on your feet when you blow a tire or break your arm rescuing Whiskers the Cat from an oak tree. Without a doubt, you need a good defense.

So, you see, it’s true! You can learn a lot from football, even if your only understanding of football is the European kind with the round ball and high socks.

Ultimately, the winners are the ones who put in the time, work hard, and stay focused, even when they’re having a bad day or a bad game.

Winning with money isn't complicated. It just takes a plan. You can learn how to budget, invest effectively, make the right call on insurance, and so much more with Dave's all-new Financial Peace University. Find a class in your town now!

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