Coach observes faith is key to overcoming adversity

| Tom Bengston | August 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

If you have been working for a while, you have likely faced some kind of adversity — loss of a major account, reprimand from a boss or perhaps you’ve been laid off or fired.

People typically deal with adversity in one of three ways: by quitting, by blaming someone else or by turning the situation into an opportunity.

What do you do?

Quitting is sometimes the right thing to do. But usually, if you have invested in an education and have developed substantial experience in a particular occupation or career, quitting is the wrong choice. Quitting means giving up on your co-workers and yourself.

Blaming others is a way to spread the pain around, but it’s not a good strategy for improving your situation. Blame just alienates those around you, and they might be the best people to help you turn things around.

There’s a label for people who turn adversity into opportunity: winners. These are people who keep at it and don’t blame those around them but look within themselves to see what they can change to make the situation better.

Getting serious about faith

Someone who knows a thing or two about winners is former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. I remember when Osborne brought his Cornhuskers to the Metrodome in 1983 and they drubbed the Golden Gophers, 84-13. One of the most successful college football coaches ever, Osborne went on to serve six years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speaking at a business meeting recently, Osborne explained that faith became increasingly important to him during his coaching career. In the latter part of his tenure, he said he prayed with his players before going onto the field, and his staff tried to make it easy for players to get to Mass or services.

Over the course of 25 seasons, Osborne observed thousands of men transition into the work world after a college football career. He said the men generally fell into three groups.

The first group is made up of men who relied only on their athletic prowess; they generally achieved little later in life.

A second group of former football players had intellectual ability in addition to physical strength. They went to class and excelled academically as well as athletically. Some of these men enjoyed success later in life, Osborne said, but still, many didn’t amount to much in the world beyond the gridiron.

Stronger than before

In addition to physical strength and intellect, Osborne said a third group of the former football players had a serious faith life. These men, he said, were by far most likely to enjoy a fulfilling life. “The Greeks,” Osborne shared, “said a man’s education is not complete until he is strong physically, advanced intellectually and developed spiritually. Everything I’ve seen confirms that to be true.”

Osborne said all three groups of men encountered adversity in their post-football lives, but usually it was the ones with the spiritual heft who were able to turn a negative experience into something positive and move on, perhaps even stronger than they were before.

So if you find yourself quitting or blaming others when something goes wrong, consider where you are spiritually. It might not be your career that needs attention; it might be your faith.

Reach the author at, where he writes about the integration of faith and work.

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Category: Faith and the Workplace