Entrepreneurship Lessons from Vince Lombardi

Written By Dave Lavinsky
Chalkboard with a stick of chalk

Last night I watched a great documentary about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.

The man’s track record speaks for itself. The year before he became head coach of the Green Bay Packers, the team had just one win. In the subsequent 8 seasons, Lombardi coached Green Bay to 5 NFL championships.

In the documentary, there was footage of him saying he regretted coming up with phrase “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  He said that as long as every player on his team gave 100% of themselves during every game, that he would accept a loss. I like that leadership lesson — you can’t criticize team members who didn’t win if they truly gave it their all.

Some other great lessons from Lombardi (all of which can be applied to business):

1. Model the best: Before going to Green Bay, Lombardi accepted an assistant’s job at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In that position, he worked under legendary head coach Colonel Red Blaik (who had just coached Army to two national championships before Lombardi arrived).  At West Point, Lombardi learned from the best.

2. Love What You Do: Lombardi had incredible passion for coaching football. You could see that he truly loved his job. And that’s why he was so successful. As an entrepreneur, you have to be passionate about your business and what you’re trying to achieve if you’re going to be successful.

3. Focus on Goals: Lombardi had incredible focus on specific goals he set. When he was an assistant coach, he focused on his dream of becoming a head coach. When he became a head coach, he focused exhaustively on his dream of winning an NFL championship. Once he won his first NFL championship, he focused exclusively on winning a second NFL championship. And once he won his second NFL championship, he focused on becoming the first coach to ever win three consecutive NFL championships (which he did).

4. Nurture employees. Lombardi was incredibly tough on his team. He put them through extremely rigorous drills and calisthenics. However, he truly cared about his team. And he felt it was his responsibility to not only make them winners on the field, but winners off the field. He believed it was his responsibility to build the character of his team members so they became “fine men.” Because he cared so deeply for his players, they cared deeply for him. And they gave it their all on the field not only to win, but to please the coach who they truly admired.

5. The final lesson from Lombardi may be a lesson he didn’t want to teach. This lesson is that with success there are trade-offs.  Lombardi was neither a good husband nor a good father to his two children. In fact, his family couldn’t even speak to him on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays during the football season (because Lombardi was preparing for the next game). And Lombardi worked extremely long hours too.

Importantly, not all successful people work ridiculous hours nor neglect their families. But you need to figure out the trade-offs you’re willing to make. I believe a lot of these trade-offs have to do with the type of venture you are starting/running. For example, some ventures may require you to go to events, trade shows, etc., and thus a lot of traveling. This may be too big a trade-off for some folks. If so, that’s fine…just choose a venture that requires less travel.

Vince Lombardi was the son of a butcher. And he was passed up on an important coaching job once because “his last name ended with a vowel” (meaning that they were prejudiced against the fact that he was Italian). So, nothing was handed to Lombardi. He went out there and took it! Which is what we all need to do too!

Final note: I hope you learn these lessons from Vince Lombardi. I also hope his story inspires you. Finally, I want you to realize that if he can do it, so can you. Reading and watching biographies of successful people allows you to see that they really didn’t have anything that you don’t. They are just ordinary people like you and I. But they had powerful dreams and weren’t afraid to go after them.

Final, final note: Want to be like Vince? Want to run a company where not only do you have the best employees, but they give it their 100% all every day? If so, read and click below to learn how to build this type of organization (FYI, the US Army bought several copies of this program to train their top people — nice validation that this program is that good!).


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