If you follow the NFL (National Football League) at all, the hype around Peyton Manning nearing and then breaking the career record for touchdown passes has been everywhere. For all the flash and grandeur of the record, Manning is anything but. When he could strut and brag, and would have been able to do so without the record, he does not. And only half-way through this season, his breaking Brett Favre’s record of 508 career touchdown passes will be a distant number by the time playoffs come to pass.
But the secret to Peyton Manning’s success isn’t something far-fetched or out of your reach. Could you break the career touchdown pass record? Maybe not. But reaching and breaking records holds fundamentals whether you are a stay-at-home-parent, an accountant, or a pastor.
Peyton Manning breaks records with three keys: he focuses on fundamentals, plays in the moment, and keeps the big picture in mind.
KEY 1: Focus on the fundamentals
Long-term, sustainable success in any field requires an understanding and reliance on the fundamentals. You may have the best product idea out there, and might even manage to get it manufactured, but if your business fundamentals are off, the idea will flitter out as a flash in the pan. Building on the fundamentals sets a firm foundation so that the sand beneath you isn’t shifting with every passing wind.
The fundamentals for your area may be different than those from another area. But do not get stuck in the trap of thinking that your area/field/idea is so unique that the standard fundamentals do not apply. Learn them, apply them for a period of time, and only then can you truly assess whether they apply to the situation at hand. Chances are solid that they do apply.
KEY 2: Play in the moment
Manning needed neck surgery. And then the NFL had a player’s strike, leaving him without the doctors who quite literally knew his body better than anyone in the world. His career was in question because his recovery was in question. What limitations might come from that? Would he be able to see the field in the same way, react in the same way, throw in the same way? Would he come back stiff? Could he come back at all? And yet, in the swirl of the questions, he continued to focus on what he could control. All he could do what he needed to do and had to leave the outcomes to be whatever they would be.
KEY 3: Keep the big picture in mind
Manning focuses small on the fundamentals, specifically in the moment, but he never loses sight of the big picture. On small scale, you will never hear an interview with him where he does not also recognize the support and play of his teammates. As this current record loomed closer, his teammates who were interviewed by the media consistently said it was not the topic in the locker room. Did they know it was coming? Yes. Did they joke about doing the keep-away bit that they did? Yes. But it was not the team’s focus. Yes, they were supportive of their quarterback. Yes, they wanted to be in on that fun. But as Manning would profess, the key to getting that particular record was to win games. And winning games was about a whole lot more than throwing the football.
Moving back a few years, not long after the NFL strike, Manning was released from the Indianapolis Colts, the team that had been his for his entire career to that point. They didn’t know if Manning could be the future of the Colts. They wanted to rebuild, they were nervous about his recovery, and in thinking he only had maybe a couple of years left, they made a business decision for the future of their team. Though Manning expressed disappointment, he also kept in mind the bigger picture: he was still having fun at football and he believed he could still play high quality football.
He could have focused on the disappointment. He could have launched an anti-Colts campaign. He could have moved to the commentator’s chair on any network, or even stepped into an offensive coordinator’s role on nearly any team in the league. He had options. But the one option he still believed in was the one he pursued. And as a result, he is now one of the most prolific passers in Denver Broncos history, and that only counting his few years in that organization.
Now, go break some records
The breaking of the record can be a glorious moment. Getting there can be anything but. The grind of applying fundamentals, disciplining your mind to focus on the moment while also focusing on the big picture can be tiring. But day after day rolling into year after year, those disciplines will pay off in ways you could not imagine.