NFL Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith has found success on the football field, in the business world and even on the dance floor. In his new book, "Game On," the former Dallas Cowboy star outlines the principles that helped him succeed, both on the field and off.
In "Game On," Smith, best known as the NFL's all-time leading rusher with the Cowboys and 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, provides readers with 10 steps to make their own dreams happen, including envisioning what you want, being courageous in the face of challenges and building "a championship team of supporters, role models and mentors."
Smith is now a successful real-estate developer and, with his wife, Pat, a well-known philanthropist in the Dallas area that witnessed his rise to football greatness first-hand.
He attributes his own success to a combination of determination, persistence, humility, courage and faith.
Perhaps nowhere in Smith's career were those traits more tested than when he joined Season 3 of ABC's dancing reality competition "Dancing With the Stars."
Partnered with pro dancer Cheryl Burke, Smith overcame a slow start to become a fan favorite and Season 3 champion, holding the show's coveted Mirror Ball trophy as high and proud as he did his three Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys.
"I was thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into?' " Smith says of the moments he struggled with Burke. "Cheryl was frustrated."
Smith says he came up with a new way for them to practice, found a few more hours in each day to practice and eventually won the trophy.
"Do not compare yourself [to anyone else]," he says. "Find out what God has placed in your ability."
Before I'd ever scored a touchdown for the University of Florida Gators or the Dallas Cowboys, I crossed the goal line untouched hundreds and hundreds of times. I did it as a small boy in the park across the street from my grandmother's house in Pensacola, Florida. My field of dreams was a little park called Malaga Square -- though back then I never knew those raggedy two acres even had a name. It was just a sparse patch of ground, but it gave a kid from the housing projects room to run.
And run I did.
My cousins usually played football with me there, but often I'd be the first on the field. While waiting for the others to show up, I'd throw the football into the air and let my imagination run as far as it would take me:
There's the kickoff. The football is in the air, and Emmitt Smith catches it at the five-yard line. He runs to the left sideline and makes it to the twenty, but here comes a tackler. He spins away, and now Emmitt Smith turns into Jim Brown bulling through another pair of tacklers. A cut to his right, and he's Tony Dorsett sprinting to the far sideline. He hurdles a defender, and now he's Walter Payton, weaving through the defense and sprinting toward the goal line. He's at the thirty, the twenty, the ten . . . Emmitt Smith scores a touchdown!
The record book says that in my NFL career, I ran for 164 touchdowns and 18,355 yards, surpassing Walter Payton's all-time leading rushing record of 16,726 yards. I'm here to tell you I ran for a lot more touchdowns and a lot more yards at old Malaga Square. As I sprinted down the field of my boyhood dreams, I'd transform into each of my football heroes one after the other, imitating each player's signature moves.
I could hear the roar of the crowd with every cut back, every spin, and every fresh burst of speed. My creative mind was racing even faster than my legs. I was a boy at play, but something far more important and lasting was taking place in that park.
A child was running after his dreams on the power of his imagination.
In a sense, I've never stopped running. And I've never stopped dreaming.
A Championship-Level Dreamer
I believe there are great things in store for my life and yours, too. Greatness is not reserved for VIPs. Happiness and fulfillment are not limited commodities. The question is, are you willing to do whatever it takes to become the person you need to be, to achieve the life you want to live?
If you are happy right where you are, that's fine. But if you feel that God has more in store for you, then I encourage you to step into your workout gear and read on. The first step in this process is to trust in your vision for that better life and dare to dream big. The Bible says in Numbers 12:6, "If there were prophets among you, I, the LORD, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams." (NLT)
Wiser men than I have commented over the centuries about the awesome power of our visions, our dreams, and the human imagination. Poets, philosophers, writers, great military and political leaders, and probably even a rap star or two have noted that our visions and dreams are the pathways and portals to a better life. That has certainly been true for me, and it can be true for you, too.
We are all born naked into this world, but each of us is fully clothed in potential. Every one of us possesses unique gifts that we must embrace and develop to the fullest. But we can't do that if we don't have a vision. We can't do that if we're afraid to dream. I'm not referring to idle daydreams or grandiose, self-centered imaginings. I'm talking about the way you visualize or picture the life you yearn for, the life that God is calling you to. Having vision means picturing in your mind what it will be like and how you will achieve it and build upon it. Dreaming means "rehearsing" what you see, playing it over and over in your mind until it becomes as real to you as your life right now.
The two go together. Vision gets the dreams started. Dreaming employs your God-given imagination to reinforce the vision. Both are part of something I believe is absolutely necessary to building the life of a champion, a winner, a person of high character who is consistently at the top of whatever game he or she is in.
I was a championship-level dreamer as a boy. When we were riding in our parents' car through the nicer neighborhoods of Pensacola, my sister and brothers and I would spot our favorite big homes and claim them: "That brick one's mine!" "The house with the big front porch is mine!"
Other times we'd sit on the curb in our own neighborhood and claim the nicest cars passing by. "Oh, that Mustang is mine!" "That Cadillac is mine!"
What can I say? We were just crazy kids. But even though we came from a low-income family, we dared to dream that anything was possible for us, anything was within our reach if we were willing to work for it and keep reaching for it.
Winning isn't something that just happens to you on the field when the whistle blows or the crowd roars. Winning is something that is built physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. The victories we achieve, then, are the result of the vision that fuels our commitment to making our dreams a reality.
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