Build a Legacy From the Beginning

Sep 10, 2022

A conscious approach to cultivating dominance was the most striking thing I saw in Bill Walsh’s players at the 49ers.
Keena Turner was an all-time great linebacker, but I think he has nightmares from my time in San Francisco. I would pester Keena with questions about how Bill coached and how Eddie DeBartolo ran the team. Keena, Guy McIntyre, and others spoke about Walsh and DeBartolo with a sense of reverence and awe. But the theme that always came through was constant focus on their goal for perfection in performance.

To be truly great like that 49ers team, you need to concentrate on continual improvement every day. If you fixate on a single win alone, there is often a false sense of completion when the real work is only just beginning. You can’t ignore immediate challenges, but must preserve a long- term mindset.

Build a Legacy From the Beginning
Walsh was empowered to succeed and help his players excel because the team owner, Eddie DeBartolo, was so supportive. If you’re serious about building a dynasty and dominating over a long period of time, you must look after your people from the top down and the bottom up. The best example of this today (outside of the All Blacks) is Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick at the New England Patriots. Recognizing this, Tom Brady and other star players have been willing to take less than they’re worth in the open market to stay and help the entire organization make something with an even greater, lasting impact: history. It’s not about getting a win. It’s about domination.

When I first met with Jim Gavin, the Dublin Gaelic football manager, we discussed winning an All-Ireland, but I made it clear that I felt we had to focus on building a dynasty by winning multiple championships. This meant doing things like creating a pathway for youth players, cultivating a longer-term view for senior ones, developing a game model, and maintaining staff continuity. The reason for this was that almost every team I’d seen win one national title never won the next one, largely because they hadn’t had their eyes on creating a dynasty, but instead pursued a “win now” philosophy.

Three days after claiming the first All-Ireland trophy, Jim and I sat together in a quiet corner of The Gibson Hotel formulating a plan to win the following year’s champion- ship. Continued excellence must always be the goal for great teams.
What success are you striving toward that cannot be sustained without strategy?



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