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Life Lessons From a Grocery Stocker

Gregg Hillyer
By  Gregg Hillyer , Progressive Farmer Editor-in-Chief
Kurt Warner (Elsa Haschâ??, â??Allsportâ??, Getty Images)

Kurt Warner's story is one of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. From stocking grocery shelves to playing arena football to Super Bowl champion quarterback, MVP and NFL Hall of Fame, Warner's improbable journey took many turns and detours. Yet, he never lost sight of his dream to be a professional athlete.

Along the way, he gained invaluable lessons in life from coaches and others who helped him stay focused on his goals. Those same lessons can help you on your own journey.

-- ALWAYS AIM FOR EXCELLENCE. Warner recalls a high school basketball coach who chastised him for not playing his best against lesser talent. "It's sometimes easy for an athlete to take the mindset, 'I just need to play well enough to beat you,' and so you drop your level of play," he says. "Never let the actions of anyone else dictate the effort that you give at any moment. I always want to push myself to be the best that I can be whether on the field or in life. Why do anything if you're not going to work, to be the best, to live with a spirit of excellence in everything that you do?"

-- LIFE IS DEFINED IN PRACTICE. When he was on the University of Northern Iowa football team, Warner could not figure out why he spent most Saturdays sitting on the bench. When a teammate told him he wasn't playing because he wasn't good in practice, Warner waved it off as an excuse used by the coaches. "I never thought of myself as a bad practice player, but I didn't think of myself as a guy that wanted to go out and dominate practice. That, to me, wasn't what it was all about. It was about those big moments under the lights."

Eventually, Warner realized you let people know who you are going to be by what you do every single day in practice. If he didn't play well away from the lights, why should the coaches expect anything different on game day?

Warner began applying that principle to his personal life, too. "I can't be a good husband or father just during the big moments -- like an anniversary, birthdays or a special school event. [My family] wants to know what I'm going to do in practice. How do you show up every day? Ultimately, that's what's going to define us."

-- DON'T BE AFRAID TO FAIL. The undrafted rookie was invited to the Green Bay Packers minicamp. At his first day of practice, the coach told Warner to go in. "I remember thinking to myself, 'OK, you know, here's the moment of truth, because if I go in now, and I don't succeed, it's just going to give them a reason to cut me.' I'm like, 'Coach, I'm not ready. I just got the playbook.'"

He was cut shortly after. "I showed them in that first moment that I wasn't ready to have the ball in my hands and to be able to lead the team. They understood my fear of failure meant that I wasn't ready to handle the situation that was the NFL. Afterwards, I told myself, 'Never again am I going to be so afraid to fail that I don't put myself out there and give myself a chance to succeed, or give myself a chance to learn from that failure.'"

-- INTERNALIZE REPEATEDLY TO IMPROVE. When things go against you, it's easy to often look outside of yourself and blame others, Warner explains. "Instead, you need to look internally and look for opportunities to better yourself, identify the flaws that you may have or the weaknesses, and address them. What can I learn from this adversity so I can get better?

"The greatest leaders, the greatest players that I've been around all have the ability to do that. As a result, when presented with the next opportunity, you're ready to succeed ... to ascend instead of descending."


-- Congrats to Ask the Vet Columnist:

Progressive Farmer's own longtime Ask The Vet columnist, Dr. Ken McMillan, was inducted into the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame recently for his years of service and contributions to the state's livestock industry. Ken is a cattleman, raising Polled Hereford cattle at the family operation, Meadowlake, and he's a partner in Pell City Animal Hospital, at Cropwell, Alabama.

-- Write Gregg Hillyer, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, email gregg.hillyer@dtn.com, or follow Gregg on Twitter @GreggHillyer