Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Ultimate Preparation

Could you imagine knowing that you are being videotaped at work every single day? Knowing that every time you perform any action at work, you are being watched? That is what I experienced as a player in the NFL. Each time I put on a uniform, I was either being videotaped or watched at a football drill, practice or game. Players were constantly graded. The grading scale was simple: you got either a plus or a minus. Did you make the play or not? That’s it. The coaches reviewed the videos and then went over it with you in front of your teammates. They saw it all - the good, the bad and the ugly. Many times you dreaded going to those meetings after a bad day because, let’s face it, no one likes looking at their mistakes (especially when they are shown to you on a big screen) in front of their teammates.

Being Jewish, the Almighty has done us a big favor by establishing a certain time of year when we take spiritual inventory of ourselves. If we do this the right way, it should be painful, like watching a video of all of our actions. However this process allows us the opportunity to fix ourselves and become better. Isn’t that what we want, after all?

You wait for this time of year. You repeat to yourself over and over, “This will be the year.” You use this time to re-examine where you are and where you would like to be. To explore so you will truly know what changes you need to make. Are you aware of who you really are and who you really want to be? Are you open to changing to realign your behavior and your values? Although we know it’s certainly easier not to change, but we also know that tremendous growth comes with making change and meeting challenges. This year we can finally get out of the old and into the new, to make those meaningful changes and to finally have what we want. How can it be, though? It’s so hard to change since, after all, its taken quite some time to get this way.

That is what is so great about the upcoming Jewish month of Elul. It is the month that gives us a wake-up call. It’s preparation time, to start the process of preparing ourselves for the changes. To soul search and ask questions such as, where did I fail and where was I successful? We all have this ability; the ability to be the accountant of our own life and take the time to reflect on the previous year. As a former NFL lineman, I used to sit in the “cold plunge” (ice-cold water tank) to prepare myself for the upcoming game. Football is all about preparation and the last thing you wanted was to feel your legs weighed down on game day as you ran out of the tunnel because you didn’t prepare your body properly. My teammates and I would often say the word preparation during this process. It is an intense visual: a bunch of lineman in the cold plunge saying preparation? We all wanted to get out of the gate fast and do it right to start the game. My former football Coach, Jimmy Johnson, expected his players to be 5-10 minutes early for team meetings. He would often scold players if they showed up on time by saying, “How can you be ready for a team meeting without a few minutes of extra time to get mentally ready?” Trust me, you didn’t want to have that conversation! Right now is the time to get a head start, to get into the cold plunge, show up early and to insure a year filled with unbounded success, peace and joy in all you do.

About the author Alan Shlomo Veingrad
Alan Shlomo Veingrad had a seven-year career as an offensive lineman in the NFL, first with the Green Bay Packers and then the Dallas Cowboys, with whom he won Super Bowl XXVII. He has been the subject of features on NBC, NPR, JM in the AM, and the Jewish Channel; and in the NY Times, NY Post, Dallas Morning News, and the Miami Herald. In a one-of-a-kind presentation, Alan shares with audiences around the world the story of how he became aware after retiring from professional football that his lifestyle was more style than life. It left a void in him that ultimately led to his becoming an Orthodox Jew.

For more information about hearing his uniquely entertaining and valuable perspective, please visit