/ Essays

Work in Slow Motion

Years ago, a mentor told me a story about NFL quarterback Joe Montana. He wasn’t the fastest guy on the field and didn’t have the strongest arm, but he saw the field in slow motion. It was his unfair advantage.

This mentor explained this as I was struggling to pick up new skills and feeling overwhelmed by all the work on my plate. “Prioritize the important stuff,” he said. “And everything else will slow down.”

I’ve never forgotten that advice and think about it often. When you strip away the busy work, our careers aren’t nearly as complicated as we make them seem. The most successful people know how to do the work that pays the bills.

Here’s an old ESPN clip about Montana that sums up what it was like to play with him:

Montana was neither exceptionally fast nor tall nor did he have a bazooka for an arm. The man whom his high school quarterbacks coach said “was born to be a quarterback” won by wits and grace, style and reaction. It was if he saw the game in slow motion. Whether it was with Notre Dame or the 49ers, whether the game was played in an ice storm in Dallas or in the humidity of Miami, Montana was The Man in the fourth quarter.

“There have been, and will be, much better arms and legs and much better bodies on quarterbacks in the NFL,” said former 49er teammate Randy Cross, “but if you have to win a game or score a touchdown or win a championship, the only guy to get is Joe Montana.”

I love this anecdote. It’s exactly the kind of person I aspire to be in my career. It describes the kind of people I enjoy working with. And it’s the inspiration I want to share with others. Strip away all the trivial stuff and everything else will slow down.