I was peeing blood all day.
If you’ve ever peed blood, you know it’s scary.
Turns out, I had a slight bruise on my kidney from a helmet to the back a few days before.
Somehow, the doctor cleared me to play that night.
I walked into my football coaches office, and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to suit up for the Friday night game.
I told him I was.
Ok, he said.
I started to walk out of the office.
I turned around.
“You need to step up. If you want to keep your spot, you need to step up,” coach told me.
There is a lot of pressure on athletes, especially in the Midwest. It’s this strange thing that wraps your identity in your performance. I respect and appreciate many things about being an athlete, but there is a lot of pressure.
So, there I was. A teenager. Peeing blood. Scared. Asked to “step up.”
“Ok,” I said.
And I left the office.
I ended up making some big plays that eventually won us the game that night.
“You stepped up tonight,” my coach told me in the locker room after.
That was almost 20 years ago.
Recently, I had a conversation with my old coach. We had an inspiring talk. He’s a good man who has accomplished tremendous accolades over his career.
Once a player, always a player, I asked coach if after all these years, he had a motto, or phrase, or something that he lived by.
“Next, Not Last.”
That was it — he answered in less than 10 seconds, and it was perfectly impactful.
Focus on what you can do next. How can you be better. More prepared. More humane. We’ve all made mistakes, lots of them. The question becomes what are you going to do NEXT.
I’ll never forget this advice.
I’ve made bad decisions in my 36 years here on Earth.
I once made plans to go on a date with one of my client’s sister behind his back. He found out. I no longer had him as a client. You’re fired, he told. And I no longer had a date with his sister. You told my brother? I don’t want to date you anymore, she told me. Not a fun day.
Another time, I was supposed to accompany a homeless man to a social service agency. Then I forgot he was supposed to call me to arrange a time. He called me 10 times at the time he was supposed to call. I saw the call an hour later. I called him back, but it was a payphone. I never saw him again. I still feel bad I didn’t help.
One of the clerks from the supermarket forgot to charge me for my second bag of food. I knew he forgot. I could have said something. But I didn’t. I left feeling ashamed of my integrity.
Every time I do something wrong, I know it’s not right. I think we all do.
I often wonder if my coach knew that I should probably not have played that night. I wonder if he balanced the value of my winning play over my compromised organ. I don’t know, and I don’t blame him. He was doing the best he could.
I try to default into believing that we are all doing the best we can. Otherwise, life would be so disappointing.
Maybe today we can wake up with some blood coming out of our system.
And tonight, still win the game.
Because today’s moments are tomorrow’s memories.
May we all be so lucky to get another chance. Another morning that our eyes open to the light of a new day with new possibilities and lessons and failures and life.
And if we get that gift, may we remember it’s best used if we focus our energy and efforts on…