Peyton Manning is an NFL quarterback. I am an attorney. You might be a school teacher, fireman, electrician, CEO, small business owner, stay-at-home mom/dad, or any vocation that you have made your career or life purpose. Peyton Manning is facing a dilemma – should he retire or come back for another year? A future Hall of Famer who will be 39 this March faces the decision to hang it up on his football career – or gut it up for another try in 2015. ESPN hadn’t even had a chance to summarize the Bronco's loss to the Colts in Sunday’s game for the television viewers when other media types were asking Peyton in his postgame interview if he would return for his 3rd season with the Broncos. What is he to do?
Well, if you step back from the celebrity status of Peyton Manning and look at what he has to decide, you might be able to see yourself in his dilemma. Yes, the “dilemma” is more attention-grabbing when you are as famous as Peyton Manning in this USA NFL Football driven country. However, the thought process and decision-making that he will have to go through is as pertinent to you as it is Peyton. And it just doesn’t apply to retirement decisions. It applies to continuing in school or dropping out, to staying in your chosen field of work or changing your career, to moving from your current employer to another employer or to starting your own business, to sticking with a marriage that has problems or getting a divorce. Each of us every day human beings face this “Peyton Manning Dilemma” in one way or the other.
How can you compare Peyton Manning retiring as an NFL Quarterback to us common folk, you ask? Because the common thread that ties all of us together is one thing: do we have it in us to put in the work?
Peyton wouldn’t retire if all he had to do was show up and be assured of a 13-3 season and a return to the Divisional Playoffs next year with no injuries. Of course, he would play for the millions Denver is paying him and the thrill of millions watching him on TV – living and dying with every pass and interception. But it doesn’t work that way. There are no guarantees – in his life or our own. The question he has to ask himself, and we of ourselves, is whether we will put in the workday in and day out. Is the goal we are seeking worth the sacrifice and risks we will have to make to achieve it. No one will be watching Peyton Manning this off-season as he heads to the weight room to lift at 6:00 am. No one will be watching him as he throws 500 passes in the Spring to no-name receivers at his practice facility. No one will be following him as he heads to the film room to break down last year’s games and find the small cracks in his game that he has to work on to get better and grab that gold ring. No one!
The same holds true of our personal dilemma choices – no different than the decisions that Peyton Manning will have to evaluate. Do you have the stamina to put in the drudgery work day in and day that is needed to maintain and be better than you are today? Do you have the “grit” to focus on the small things you have to do to become better and succeed. What are the goals you seek? Where have you set the bar for your life? What are the risks you will face in going forward with whatever decision you may make? I am a practicing family lawyer. I have been doing this for a lot longer than Peyton Manning has been an NFL quarterback. But I understand his dilemma. I ask myself every day if I have the passion to work all weekend or get up at 4:00 a.m. to get do the final preparations for a big trial or mediation where the entire future of my client’s family will be determined. Do I have the patience and fortitude to wake up in the middle of the night worried about some obscure evidentiary point on a piece of crucial evidence I have to get before the judge or jury? Do I have it in me to strive to be better than I am today? Or is resting on my laurels ok at this stage of my career since I have put in 42 years already? So far, the answer has been yes. When the answer is no, then I need to retire just like Peyton might do.
Money won’t be a factor in Peyton’s decision. Money shouldn’t be a factor in your decisions. Just like Peyton, the money will be there if you work at being the best you can be – the best NFL Quarterback, the best mom or dad, the best plumber, the best CEO, the best teacher, or the best husband, wife, or significant other. Besides, most of the time we can’t control the money – we can only control ourselves. What we want to be, and what we want our legacy to be, is totally an individual and internal deliberation. In the end, it boils down to commitment. We all have to ask ourselves what our real and true level of commitment is to what we want to be. Without commitment to our goals, plans, career, and family, we are merely floating through life, fooling ourselves, and setting us up for disappointment. Embracing the commitment you have will lead to the work you have to do to reach where you have decided you want to be. The commitment has to be renewed daily. The vision that our commitment fuels must be seen daily. Ignoring these truths puts us at risk in everything we do as human beings during our short time here on this earth.
Does Peyton have the commitment? We’ll have to see. More importantly, do you?