American football is tough business, even brutal. The game is intense, hard-hitting and fast. Faster and more physical than ever before. Victory doesn't go to the weak; it belongs to those who can finish strong. And that means being able to play as hard, with as much focus, in the fourth quarter as you do in the first. Mental discipline must match physical discipline for this to occur. The adrenaline is long gone by the fourth quarter; it must be replaced by effective training, supported by sheer will.
The importance of the first three quarters is to get you into the fourth, with a possibility to win. How many of us have seen leads evaporate at that crucial time, if a team loses its edge by becoming complacent from sitting on what they thought was a comfortable lead? Or weakening and losing because they just become plain old tired -- the hands-on-hips, out-of-breath kind of tired. The kind of clock-watching tired that just wants the game to be over. It's at that pivotal moment that you make a decision to Win, or fade away and Lose.
The game of business can also be tough, even brutal. Competitors and customers don't always play fairly. If you're in a service business, the season can be long, even brutal. The first quarter may be fast and fun; the second and third will turn into something else, as the summer heat bears down. Ultimately, it's what you do in the “fourth quarter” that defines you. What will you do? How will you be remembered? Can you find it deep inside you to finish as strong, or stronger, than how you started? That's what winners do.
Here’s a quote from General Stanley McCrystal that sums up what it takes:
“There’s likely a place in paradise for people that tried hard, but what most matters is succeeding. If that requires you to change, that's your mission.”
When you make it into the fourth quarter, play like it’s a new game. Adapt your game plan, dig down deep and bring something to the field of play that the competition hasn't felt before. Enjoy the Game – and the Journey! (It's a long season!)