Krenzel's Reviews > The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life

The Winners Manual by Jim Tressel
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's review
Jul 17, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2008

As an Ohio State graduate and huge football fan, I remember being stunned when Coach Jim Tressel was hired as our football coach in 2001. Like a lot of Ohio State fans, I was wondering, who is this guy? Up until being hired at Ohio State, Coach Tressel was hidden in obscurity in Youngstown, quietly winning four national titles there while Ohio State football endured the turmoil of the Cooper years. Seven years after being hired, Coach Tressel is not obscure anymore. To haters, he will always be blamed for the Maurice Clarett saga and Troy Smith’s $500 handshake, but for those of us close to the program, we see the three national title game appearances, the four conference championships, the record number of NFL picks, and the scores of all-academic players topping the Big 10 each year. We see the way Coach Tressel cares about his players, how he acts the same whether we win or lose, how he leads a team of 100 kids from diverse backgrounds to act as a team with respect for themselves and others, and it is natural to wonder how he does it. What makes him such a great leader? In "The Winners Manual," Coach Tressel gives insight into the leadership tools he uses to develop and inspire the Ohio State football team – leadership tools anyone can use to better themselves or others in their lives.

The main tool Coach Tressel describes in his book is the "Block O of Life," a step-by-step plan the football team uses to develop as individuals and which we also can use in our own lives. The Block O of Life carefully separates our purpose, or who we are, from our goals, or what we do. Coach Tressel emphasizes that we are not defined by our goals; if we fail at our goals, that doesn’t affect our purpose, who we are, or whether we are "winners." In that spirit, the Block O of Life includes a section on purpose (personal/family, spiritual/moral, and caring/giving considerations) in addition to a section on more conventional goals (health/fitness, our team, and academics/career). The specific Block O of Life goal sheet (which can be downloaded at ) is a tool to use to think about not just our short-term aspirations and what we do but to really think about our purpose and who we are – i.e., a tool to help us in our "journey to success." In defining that elusive term, "success," Coach Tressel borrows from former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's definition, that success means peace of mind and knowing we did the best we could, but he also expands upon Wooden’s definition to include the group: "Success is the inner satisfaction and peace of mind that come from knowing I did the best I was capable of doing for the group." The true measure of success, then, is not defined by what someone else thinks of us but rather what we think of ourselves and the contribution we make to others – a powerful definition of how we should define ourselves and our lives.

In addition to "The Plan," or the "Block O of Life," Coach Tressel lays out his "Big Ten Fundamentals" we can use to become "winners." These include attitude, discipline, excellence, faith and belief, work, handling adversity and success, love, responsibility, team, and hope. While these may seem trite on the surface, Coach Tressel gives specifics and provides his own meaning for each fundamental, including inspiring quotations and life stories. For example, for the fundamental on attitude, Coach Tressel expands upon the Voltaire quotation, "Paradise is where I am." While many football coaches – and many of us in real life – are always thinking about the next job, or the next rung on the ladder, the truth is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. If we are constantly thinking about how we should have something better, always seeking the perfect life instead of being content with what we actually have, we don’t have the right attitude. Although this is easy to say, it is not easy to live out in real life, but Coach Tressel has in his own life, staying in Division 1-AA when he had the chance to move on to greener pastures: "I tell people all the time that if I were to have coached at Youngstown State for forty years, I would have been as happy as can be. I didn’t have one foot out the door when I was there. I didn’t think somebody else had it better. I was in paradise. If you’re in paradise where you are – not wishing you were someplace else – that’s the right attitude." According to others, Coach Tressel may not have been a winner since he was coaching at a lowly school like Youngstown State, but he was happy where he was at and defined success on his own terms: with the right attitude, he had peace of mind about the contribution he was making to others, and therefore he was a winner.

Using the Block O of Life and Big Ten Fundamentals, Coach Tressel gives insight into leadership skills he has taught the Ohio State players and skills that each of us can apply in our own lives to become "winners." Generally, I have to admit, I hate self-help books, and I only gave "The Winners Manual" a chance because of my deep admiration and respect for Coach Tressel, not only in the wins he has delivered to Ohio State but also the classy fashion in which those wins have been achieved. If I had read this book ten years ago, when I was skeptical and cynical about things like "leadership," it would have been easy to dismiss, but through my life experiences I have seen the impact not only good leaders, but also bad leaders, can have on others. For each of us, in our everyday lives, we make an impact on others. Good leaders are hard to find, but Coach Tressel is one of them, and for those of us, from managers to teachers to coaches, who want to feel good about ourselves and the contribution we make to others to ultimately achieve that elusive goal of having peace of mind, there is a lot to learn from "The Winners Manual. Thanks Coach Tressel, and GO BUCKS!!!
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message 1: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Thanks for sharing Mr. Krenzel. I believe this book is destined for greatness. Tom

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