To say that Green Bay loved Brett Favre is kind of like saying Charlie Sheen loves parties. Walk into any junior high school in Wisconsin and you’ll find classrooms full of 13 year old boys named Brett after Favre brought home a Super Bowl win in ‘97.
So when Favre’s backup stepped up to take over, it couldn’t have been easy on him. Aaron Rodgers was inexperienced. And young, And drafted 24th. Rodgers was stepping into big shoes in a city that lives for football and had grown accustomed to a top notch quarterback.
The media was ruthless. Fans were skeptical of Rodgers’ ability and they weren’t in the mood for a leap of faith.
But despite endless hounding by the press, Rodgers never took the bait.
They asked if he felt the baggage of Favre’s legacy. He said no, he never felt any baggage.
They said Favre was irreplaceable. Rodgers agreed that Favre had an amazing career.
Rodgers never asked for mercy or understanding or for fans to cut him some slack. There was no drama, no excuses. Just a quiet guy with an unwavering focus on playing good football.
Even when they openly predicted things like, “He won’t be any good for a few years” and “It’s going to take a while for him to develop as a leader”, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t buying into it.
He wasn’t telling himself, “They’re probably right, I’ll probably suck for a while. Favre is a legend and I’ll probably never be that good.” Even when he had full permission to shrink, he didn’t. He didn’t entertain the limited expectations of himself.
You might be wondering how I know what thoughts Rodgers did and did not entertain. I don’t know him. I’ve never talked to him and I don’t personally know anyone who has.
But I know for sure that he didn’t focus on those thoughts because he was good—really good, even—almost from the beginning. It took him only three short years to go from “backup” to “Super Bowl MVP”.
I can look at his results and what he accomplished and know that he wasn’t holding himself to the modest goals everyone else was holding him to.
He had some moments of self-doubt, I’m sure. Probably a lot of them. But from his results, we know he was able to acknowledge those fears and then return his focus to being a really good quarterback.
You don’t tell yourself, “I’m nowhere near as good as Favre and I probably never will be” and then be that good in just a few short years. That’s just not the way it works.
You don’t set a goal to jump 6 feet and clear 8 feet. If you clear 8 feet, you were aiming at least that high. Probably much higher. You don’t say, “I hope I don’t get fired this year” and then end up CEO. If you end up CEO, it’s because you set your sights that high or higher.
For Rodgers to achieve something as big as being Super Bowl MVP, somewhere in his mind he saw it happening that way. If his goal was, “Don’t make an ass of myself, don’t choke, try to fill Favre’s shoes”, he wouldn’t have been MVP of the Super Bowl. If his goal was to be an outstanding football player, he might.
So that’s how I know what Aaron Rodgers was thinking. It’s pretty simple, actually. I just look at his results. You can always know where someone’s focus is by what shows up around them.
There are tons of distractions in the world. There are external distractions, like other people’s judgments and opinions. There are internal distractions, like our own self-doubts and fears. And no one will be perfectly focused all the time. But…really and truly…you do have a say in where you place your focus. They can try to distract you, but you’re the one who chooses to take the bait.
I know it’s incredibly cheesy and cliché to write about the underdog’s triumph through determination and hard work. And trust me, a football game is the last place I ever thought I’d feel this kind of inspiration.
But Rodgers’ accomplishment is an amazing reminder of the power of focus. We create things that match what we’re focused on. And we all face millions of distractions and threats to that focus every day. The distractions are part of life. But when you figure out how to set the distractions aside and purposefully choose your focus, you get to be MVP of whatever you want.