The storyline has gotten a lot of attention these last couple of weeks, but as most anyone who follows sports knows, this weekend’s Super Bowl will be the first ever pitting two brothers against each other as head coaches of the competing teams. Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers are slight favorites over older brother John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens. When this matchup began to look real, I imagined what it would be like to sit in the skybox at this game with Harbaughs’ parents. You look at one team and see your son making the game’s big decision. You look at the other team and feel the same anxiety. Then, if you’re Jack Harbaugh, the family patriarch, you realize that something you said consistently during the childhood of both men has translated into this Great Moment.
“Who’s got it better than us?” was a constant question in the Harbaugh household. As the story goes, it’s a question that Jack, the father, presented to his three children—sons John and Jim and daughter Joani—often while driving them to school or practice. Their answer from the backseat was just as consistent as the question. “Noo-body,” the children would respond as if it was the magic key that unlocked the car door.
It appears that simple family Q&A created the password for a remarkable moment in NFL history. Jack, a lifelong coach at the collegiate level, gets to watch from the skybox as his boys lead their teams. It’s a coaching accomplishment without precedent. When it comes to NFL success this season, nobody has been better than a Harbaugh.
The lesson here is embedded in the confident philosophy of Jack Harbaugh. No matter their circumstance growing up—and as an itinerant coach, the family moved often from city to city, one small house to the next—he never let his kids feel overwhelmed by their surroundings. The constant reminder to be grateful of their own situations helped fuel them to create future successes. Rather than dwelling on petty comparisons of the haves and the have-nots, the Harbaughs developed a mindset that assured them they possessed all they needed to effectively pursue greatness.
It’s a mentality that Jim Harbaugh took into his 49ers locker room. From team T-shirts with the slogan to the constant yelling of the “Who’s got it better than us?” phrase in the team huddle, the 49ers have made it their goal to let their performances on the field mirror the accompanying “Noo-body!” response.
The story made me think: What words were said to you that left that kind of impact? What words have you said that others carry with them today? Think about the final words you say each day to your kids and loved ones. Could those words or actions be the fuel needed to drive them into their own greatness?
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