Issue 90

“Achievement is an act of the will.”
Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor

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Selections From Elite Coaches 

Pat Summit
“A lot of people can win once. They get lucky, or follow their intuition, or strike on a good short-term formula. But very few know how to repeat success on a consistent basis. Long-term consistent success is a matter of building a principled system and sticking to it.”

(Pat Summit, born 1952, recently retired as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team. She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA  basketball history of either a men’s or women’s team, with eight national titles.)

John Wooden
“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
“Never mistake activity for achievement.”
“Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.”

(John Wooden, 1910 –2010, won ten national championships in a 12-year period—seven in a row—as head coach at UCLA in a feat never equaled.)

Eddie Robinson
“Coaching is a profession of love. “You can’t coach people unless you love them….I never won a game.  They did. ”
“I firmly believe that football players and coaches are entertainers.”

(Eddie Robinson, 1919 –2007, is the second winningest coach in NCAA Division I football. For 57 years he was the head coach at Grambling State University, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.)

Lou Holtz
“Telling people what they need to hear is hard, so most people choose not to do it…Truth is suppressed in deference to feeling.”
“People perform to the level expected of them…Because I demanded nothing short of greatness, the players elevated their performance far beyond anyone’s expectations.”

(Lou Holtz, born 1937, was head coach at the College of William and Mary, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina State, Notre Dame (consensus national champion), South Carolina, and the New York Jets. He is a noted motivational speaker and sports commentator.)

Dean Smith
“What to do with a mistake:  You recognize it. You admit it. You learn from it. And you forget it.”
“Families have rituals, so do religions, and I realized that the men’s basketball program at the University of North Carolina did too.  Rituals are tools in building family life, church life, teamwork, and company life. They are tiny, repetitive gestures with which you build togetherness.”

(Dean Smith, born 1931, was head coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 36 years.  During his tenure, the Tar Heels won two national titles and appeared in 11 Final Fours.}

Pia Sundhage.
“It’s absolutely vital that even if you’re feeling stressed, your players should absolutely never see it. In fact, as often as possible they should see the opposite.”
“The name on the front of the jersey is much more important than the name on the back”

(Pia Sundhage, born 1960, was head coach of the US women’s national soccer team from 2008 to 2012, when she became head coach of the Sweden Women’s national team. Her US team won two Olympic gold medals and finished second at the World Cup.)


Mike Krzyzewski.
“The culture of honesty is a culture I love….I tell all our team members, ‘we need to communicate in ways that are more direct than most people are used to. We can only do this if we learn to tell the truth.’
“A leader has to show the face his team needs to see.”

(Mike Krzyzewski, born 1947, long-time Duke head men’s basketball coach, is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history.  His teams have won a record 79 NCAA tournament victories, while averaging 25 wins per season. On August 24, 2008, Krzyzewski’s U.S. team won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. On August 12, 2012 Krzyzewski’s U.S. team duplicated the feat by winning gold again at the 2012 London Olympic Games.)

Homer Rice
“You can motivate by fear, and you can motivate by reward, but both those methods are only temporary. The only lasting thing is self-motivation.”

“Whatever you want, fix it in your mind in exact detail; then write it down so it will be abundantly clear.”

(Homer Rice, born 1927, was head coach at the University of Cincinnati, Rice University, and the Cincinnati Bengals. He was athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech.  As high school football coach, in 1961 he won the Winningest Football Coach in America Award—102-9-7.)

Paul “Bear” Bryant.
“I’ll put you through hell, but at the end of it all we’ll be champions.”

(Paul “Bear” Bryant, 1913 –1983, was head football coach at Kentucky, Texas A & M, and Alabama.  His teams won 6 national championships and 13 conference championships. When he retired in 1982, Bryant held the record for most wins as a head football coach in Division I football history.)

Tom Landry
“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, see how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.”

(Tom Landry, 1924 – 2000, during his 29-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys won 5 NFC titles and 2 Super Bowls, and twice was named NFL Coach of the Year.)

Joe Torre
“In my book, whether you’re making one hundred thousand dollars per year or ten million, you’re required to run hard to first base.”

“During my eight years as a player with the Braves, I was fortunate to hit behind baseball’s all-time home run king Hank Aaron. One day Hank and I were talking about batting slumps when he made a comment that has stayed with me ever since. “Each at-bat is a new day.” I’d take it even further. We don’t just have the opportunity to start fresh each day. we have the opportunity to start fresh each moment. In baseball, a hitter mired in a slump can belt a homerun on any pitch.”

(Joe Torre, born 1940, was a nine-time All Star player—a first-and third baseman—for the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals.  He was player-manager of the Mets, and managed the Braves, Cardinals, and NY Yankees, where his teams won 4 World Series titles.)


Lincoln is everywhere these days.  The Spielberg movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, and there are repeated references to Lincoln in Obama’s speeches, renewed interest in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magisterial “Team of Rivals,” and even a ridiculous movie called “Lincoln the Vampire Hunter.”

Naturally I’m pleased.  For almost three decades I’ve told audiences all over the world that Lincoln is the quintessential high achiever. One important lesson we can learn from him is the importance of possessing deep knowledge.

That’s the reason I call Lincoln a geek.

Let me explain. The word “geek” means someone who is immersed in a particular subject to an extreme that is beyond normal. We speak of “sports geeks” or “social media geeks” or “political geeks.” The word implies deep knowledge.

That describes Lincoln beautifully. As a lawyer, Lincoln acquired deep knowledge of a specialized field of law: patent law and copyright law. In Illinois, Lincoln was regarded as the lawyer to get if you went to court over a patent infringement.

As a politician, Lincoln acquired a deep knowledge of voting behavior. If Lincoln were alive today, he would be a TV guest on election nights because of his firm grasp of voting patterns, turnout, and trends.

On election night 1860, Lincoln, along with several companions spent the evening in the office of the Illinois & Western Telegraph Company in Springfield, Illinois. A journalist described the returns that were coming in as “Greek to me…but Mr. Lincoln seemed to understand their bearing on the general result in the State and commented upon every return by way of comparison with previous elections. He understood at a glance whether it was a loss or gain to his party.”

Here is the way one authoritative biography–Nicolay and Hay–describes Lincoln’s geek-like ability: “He was completely at home among election figures. All his political life he had scanned tables of returns with as much care and accuracy as he analyzed and scrutinized maxims of government and platforms of parties. Now, as formerly, he was familiar with all the turning points in contested counties and ‘close’ districts, and knew by heart the value of each and every local loss or gain, and its relation to the grand result.” Obviously, not just a small-town lawyer at work here.

There’s a fundamental truth for all of us in this account. It’s an achievement factor: If you intend to become a high achiever in any field, you need to possess deep knowledge of at least one thing. Bear in mind that deep knowledge and communication skill need not be mutually exclusive. Put another way, it’s important to be able to tell what you know, but it is equally important to know what you tell.


Lincoln avoided religious labels and creeds, and many of his critics accused him of being anti- religious. But perceptive observers recognized that Lincoln transcended strict religious dogma. They could sense it in his magnanimity, his integrity, and his compassion.

It was there for all to hear in the words of his Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all–words grounded in the great Biblical love chapter of I Corinthians chapter 13. Words, incidentally, that Spielberg chose to end his movie with, and John Williams set to music.

As evidence of Lincoln’s enduring spiritual appeal, recently I performed as Lincoln at a Methodist church, delivered the morning sermon on lessons learned from Lincoln at a Unitarian church, and I am scheduled to speak at Atlanta’s Marcus Jewish Community Center on March 21 (10 AM).
This past January, Robert Brehl, a columnist for The Catholic Register wrote:
“This New Year opened with a distinctly presidential flavor. First, I saw the two hit movies about U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt… Second, I received two fascinating books: The Jefferson Bible by Thomas Jefferson and The Words Lincoln Lived By from Lincoln historian Gene Griessman. Griessman’s book is a stirring collection of Lincoln quotes (with Griessman adding context along the way) that can be read all at once, in piecemeal or even back to front. It is laced with spiritual guidance that makes one ponder and reflect on life; from courage and honesty, to time management and focus, to forgiveness and compassion….”
(Used by permission: Robert Brehl, The Catholic Register


“This may come to you as a surprise, but I think Lincoln was one of the worst presidents. He may have avoided the Civil War and saved 320,000 lives. Let me explain. History reflects that slavery had gone out in Europe and many slave owners in the U.S. had set their slaves free. Instead of taken the southern states rights away in Congress and listening to northern politicians, why didn’t Lincoln take some money and offer to buy the slaves from their owners(would have been worth a try) to save 320,000 lives and not have a war. I had a great great great grandfather who had 14 children 7 boys was old enough to join the confederacy in 1861, they did not have any slaves but fought because they had their rights taken away. 5 were killed, the oldest was 33 (my great great grandfather) had a family at home. I am 86 years old served my country in WWII and love this country and the freedom we have. The greatest president I have lived under was Ronald Reagan.   Thanks. —Dillon Wallace   Shreveport, La”.

Editor’s comment:   President Lincoln actually did what you suggested.  He made an impassioned plea for compensated emancipation as a means of ending the war in his message to Congress in 1862.  He concluded his appeal with some of the most eloquent words he ever uttered.  “Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation….We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.

Lincoln’s appeal was rejected out of hand by abolitionists and slave holders alike.

Amazon Review of Lincoln and Obama
5 stars:  Couldn’t put it down!,   “I couldn’t put this book down when it first arrived. Mr. Griessman’s (sic) writing style makes for an easy, interesting, and thought provoking read. I highly recommend it, but I know the haters will not consider giving it a second glance. One person told me, “How the hell can you compare the two?” What a shame. Read it and see.”  Amy Kate, February 2013

Editor’s note.  Please submit your comments to Amazon.  An expanded edition has just been published with a color graphic and an index plus new material about the recent election.

Comments From Feedback Forms At Lincoln Presentations
“Compelling! Thanks for making me “feel important.”  Diane Clark   HR Director

“All of this has been the best presentation I’ve been to and kept my full attention the whole time.”   Anonymous

“The short stories in between main points gave me a good reference point for each principle. They reinforced my understanding.  Fantastic!”  Anonymous

“Lessons from Lincoln was spellbinding.  Thank you.  So very appreciative of hearing you speak.  I was an 8th grade US history teacher.”   Anonymous

“Great impersonation.  Very insightful.  Made me think about my current situation and encouraged me to strive for more success in my life.” Anonymous

“Great when the speaker came out as Lincoln.  Great tips on communicating with others.  Awesome speaker.  Kelly Wilkins, Vice President, Finance and Administration  HCMC