New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point Sunday for the first time in nine years, ending his NFL-record streak of 523 conversions. That one point played into the Patriots the AFC Championship loss.
“I feel like I lost the game for the team. It’s a sickening feeling. I can’t put it into words,” said Gostkowski after the game.
I’ve called Denver home for the past seventeen years. I have to admit, as much as I’m overjoyed we beat the Pats last weekend, I have deep compassion for Stephen Gostkowski. He took the majority of the heat for their team’s loss. And he handled his mistake and his team’s defeat like a complete pro.
I was the field goal kicker for my high school varsity football team thirty years ago so I understand the pressure of a field goal kicker. But I also understand what it feels like missing an extra point. There is nothing more humiliating for a kicker, than to miss a conversion.
I also have a lot of empathy for the Patriot’s kicker, because I found myself in a similar professional situation last week when I had a keynote speech in Dallas.
I was hired by an amazing organization to be the closing keynote speaker at their annual conference for over 200 restaurant executives, CEO’s, Presidents, COO’s and VP’s of successful restaurant chains from across the country. It was an important speech to an important audience.
Like Gostkowski, I’ve spoken to 523 audiences over the last few years and I’ve rarely missed a conversion. Speaking and connecting with audiences is my gift. And there is nothing I’m more passionate about than communicating with audiences.
But last week in Dallas, I missed this conversion kick. I blew the game. I bombed my speech. It was by far the worst keynote I’ve ever given. I felt sick to my stomach when I walked off the stage. And felt so undeserving for the polite standing ovation I received after my talk. I wanted to run out in the audience and apologize to everyone. And I’ve been in a funk all week asking myself how could I miss this extra point when I hit 523 in a row!
The answer: Everyone misses extra points.
An even better answer: Missing extra points is a good thing – because it keeps us humble. It keeps us on our toes. It makes us want to practice and prepare even harder. And it makes us better human beings and leaders.
There are always excuses for missing extra points.
Here are my excuses for that disastrous speech in Dallas:
1) Two hours before I took the stage, my wife called me frantic from the pharmacy in Denver telling me our health insurance was cancelled. And after a few phone calls I learned our health insurance carrier dropped coverage in Colorado and our policy was terminated December 31st (and I missed the announcement “letter” they sent in the holiday mail)! I felt nervous that my wife and I and our three children were walking around uninsured!
2) My normal keynote speech is 60 minutes, but the client wanted me to cut it by 15 minutes – so I felt a little rushed.
3) My new book, The Heart-Led Leader, came out only a few months ago and, to be honest, I’ve only given my new keynote a few times- so my confidence level was low.
4) I hate power point presentations. I have never used it in my last 523 speeches. But my new keynote has 44 power point slides. I spent 45 minutes on stage racing through 44 slides. Do the math – it was horrible!
But I realized that excuses are just that – excuses. And excuses don’t help any of us win – they only justify our losing. I also realized it is what we do with our excuses that makes us better, so:
• I’ve cut my power point presentation from 44 slides to 10.
• I have practiced my new keynote in front of a bathroom mirror a hundred times this week.
• I will make it a policy to never pick up my cell phone or check e-mail within two hours of getting on any stage.
I bet you my last paycheck that the New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who will not have an NFL football game for seven months, was on the practice field the morning after their loss to the Broncos kicking field goals – trying to get better and course correct his mistake.
A man I have deep respect for, my first boss out of college, told me something, “Mistakes are OK – they make us better – just don’t make the same mistake twice.”
Because – Everyone misses extra points!