“You won’t get any better sitting on the bench.”

The Ohio State University wrestling coach, Tom Ryan, took a small step that changed his life.  -a step that separates every great accomplishment from the ordinary.  He decided to take charge of his future.  

The amazing thing about this decision is that it came at a point when Tom was a winning college wrestler.

He had received a full scholarship to a major NCAA university wrestling program.  By most standards, he was close to the top of his athletic ability.  But he chose to leave it all behind and take a risk in hopes of becoming a great wrestler.

Tom gave up his scholarship to walk on to the legendary wrestling program at the University of Iowa under Head Coach Dan Gable. This was a huge gamble that could have destroyed his wrestling career. 

While sitting on the bleachers watching Iowa wrestlers on the first day, Coach Gable introduced himself with a few words that would stick with Tom for the rest of his life.  I want to focus the rest of this article on the profound truth that Coach Gable gave to Tom that day, “You’ll never get any better sitting on the bench!”

Take responsibility for your goals

Coach Gable’s words deeply impacted me after hearing Tom tell this story, and I’ve been thinking a lot about why those few words of simple advice had such an impact on me. There are a few simple implications from this advice that all of us can learn from.

The first implication is that you must take responsibility for your goals.  If you’re the kind of person who is waiting to win the lottery before you have the kind of lifestyle you want, chances are you’ll never get it. If you’re waiting for Prince Charming to come by and change your circumstances, you might be stuck where you are forever.

You alone are responsible for achieving your dreams.  When Tom dreamed of leaving a good wrestling program to compete with the best program in the country, he was taking charge of his goals, rather than waiting for his coach to make his dreams come true.  Treat today like it’s your chance to take a step toward the life you want to live.

Complaining doesn’t change anything

There are two types of people in the world: those who complain about their circumstances and those that do something about them. The irony is that the people who complain rarely do anything about their circumstances.  

Conversely, those who do something about their circumstances rarely complain about them.

Complaining is just another way to not take responsibility for your life situation.  Do something about your circumstances if you’ve been dealt a tough break, instead of complaining.  

Every great act takes hard work

Great accomplishments ALWAYS come through great effort.  What Coach Gable was saying to Tom is that becoming great will take a lot of hard work… but, you won’t get any better until you start working.

I have seen complaining people become complacent in their circumstances.  They basically decide that things will never get any better in their life, so why even waste the effort? This downward spiral becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in their life.  It turns out, the opposite of the hard work principle is also true. 

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with 1 step.  And the greatest accomplishments in life are only possible after you decide to give the effort. The hardest work you might do today is simply deciding to start the effort. Tom would never have become a champion wrestler and the coach of a national championship team if he had decided to stay on the bench that day.

Listen to the whole interview with championship coach Tom Ryan HERE.

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