Today I’m putting my hands in the air for the Seattle Seahawk’s fun-loving, shit-disturbing All-Pro cornerback and my new hero – Richard Sherman. I’ve been a Seahawks fan for a few years now but no player has inspired or delighted me quite like the mighty Mr. Sherman. He’s spirited. He’s sharp. He’s intrepid. He’s the quintessential athlete on top of his game. He’s an outspoken provocateur with a Twitter account. There is something about this cat that triggers my inner rascal and fills me with an odd optimism. I believe there’s a lot to be gleaned from his playbook. Here are six things we can all learn from Richard Sherman:
1. BE AUTHENTIC
Don’t be afraid to show up in the world. Be who you are. Be bold and unabashed. Don’t concern yourself too much with other people’s approval. In her eloquent TEDx Boulder talk “Rethinking Unpopular,” fiery business blogger Erika Napoletano speaks to this very idea; the people who truly dig you for who you are will hang in there with you no matter what. Anyone else isn’t worth wringing your hands over. In fact, if you water yourself down in an effort to somehow be more acceptable to other people, you risk mediocrity. For the love of God, why would you want to do that? Eliciting strong reactions, good or bad, is far better than indifference. Richard Sherman has his fans and his detractors, but nobody is indifferent to him. It’s because he has the balls to be who is is without apology.
2. BE PLAYFUL
It’s pretty clear that Richard Sherman has a whole lot of fun out there, on the field and off. Whether you’re an NFL cornerback or a clerk at the 7-11, there’s something to be said for bringing a playful spirit into everything you do. A light touch is its own kind of magic. It’s infectious and infuses the world with a little more joy. And there is nothing more appealing than someone who does not take him/herself too seriously. As part of the “Bleacher Report,” Richard took to Bourbon Street to interview unsuspecting football aficionados about who is the best lockdown cornerback in the NFL– Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman. His interactions with the fans were highly entertaining and epitomized good-humor and grace. Perhaps if we all took such a playful approach to our days, life would be much easier. It would certainly be a whole lot more fun.
3. BE SMART
Do your homework. Know your shit. While this is applicable in all areas, it is especially so in our professional lives. Chatter and swagger aside, Richard Sherman is a brainiac with a ferocious work ethic. On his blog, Richard posts a pre-game assessment on whatever team the Seahawks will be playing that week. If these posts are any indicator, he thoroughly studies his opponents, making microscopic observations and taking note of all their strengths and weakness. In one interview, he said he watches about 30 hours of film a week. That’s crazy dedication. But that’s what it takes to get the job done. Even though we may not be Stanford grads with a degree in communications, we can certainly rock our brains, put in the time and take care of business.
4. DON’T LET THE HATERS GET YOU DOWN
One thing I find especially fascinating about Richard Sherman is his ability to cheerfully deflect criticism and to fearlessly get up in the face of his naysayers. His Twitter dustups are infamous. His smackdown with Skip Bayless on ESPN’s “First Take” was epic. And, of course, his answer to taunting from Tom Brady launched the “U Mad Bro?” heard round the world. The man’s got a spine and a sense of humor. He remains undaunted, no matter what they throw at him. Optiumus Prime is Teflonic. We all deal with critics and assholes from time to time. Wall-to-wall thick skin is a sound investment for any house.
5. BE GENEROUS
Richard Sherman has made it his mission to help kids who don’t have the adequate tools or means to be successful. Growing up in Compton, CA, one of the grittiest hot spots for gang activity in the United States, Richard saw firsthand the inherent difficulties that arise when there is inequality in opportunity and a shortage of resources. Blanket Coverage-The Richard Sherman Foundation is dedicated to providing school supplies, equipment and support for school-aged children who might otherwise go without. His generosity is having an impact. As one student said, “It makes me wanna just grab life.” While we may not be be professional athletes with charitable foundations, each of us has the capacity to be generous in our own way. It can be big or small. It can be anything from volunteering at a fundraiser for cancer research to helping the elderly neighbor take out the recycling. In my case, it could be as simple as hauling myself out to pick up the teen animal, as opposed to making him take the bus. We have daily opportunities to make something better for someone else. We should seize them.
6. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF
This seems to be the fundamental sensibility of the Seahawks team in general and it’s been a consistent theme in post-game commentaries from Richard, especially in come from behind victories. In the press conference following the Hawks 23-20 win over Houston, he said, “Belief in ourselves is always evident. There’s never a sense of doubt.” To keep believing in ourselves when we’re on our backs and the odds are against us is perhaps the most powerful and important choice we can make in life. If other people give up on us, that’s unfortunate. But if we give up on ourselves, we are willingly snuffing out our own flame and slamming the door shut on any potential for greatness. It’s not over until we say it is. I can’t think of anything more empowering than that.
So there you have it. As I move through my days and come up against my own personal challenges, I often think about Richard Sherman and how he might be in these situations. If I know I have a rough day ahead of me, I carry his picture in my pocket for a little extra soul muscle. Interestingly, it’s been very helpful. It may seem unlikely and perhaps a little goofy that a middle-aged mother/singer/writer like me would have a 25-year old professional football player as a role model. But why the hell not? I’m a firm believer in taking inspiration from wherever we can get it. Our trip here is short. Sometimes it’s hard. Any lifelines along the way should be welcome with high fives, enthusiasm and gratitude. Richard Sherman is “better at life.” Maybe we can be too.