The life lesson that changed me

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Brian Kight

When I was nine years old, I learned a life lesson I'll never forget.

I attended my first multi-day football camp outside Los Angeles, about two hours from my house. My mom and step-dad dropped me off, and I stayed in dorms the entire week.

I had a blast. The football was fun. The coaching was excellent. I got to meet and hang out with some of my NFL heroes like Ronnie Lott and Howie Long. The experience of structured freedom during the week was new and exciting. I matured through that experience.

The camp culminated in a series of scrimmages that all the parents returned to watch, followed by an awards ceremony. Camp coaches gave out awards by age group for MVP, Most Improved, Hustle, and others. I thought I performed well during the week, but I didn't win any awards. I wasn't surprised or disappointed by that. Hundreds of kids attended this camp. There were a lot of great players.

When I got in the car with my mom and step-dad to go home, before we were out of the parking lot, he asked me, "Did you have fun?"

"So much fun! Can I go again next year?" I asked.

"If you want, yes." He said. "But so you know, if you ever go to another camp that gives a Hustle Award and you don't win it, you will have to find another ride home because I won't take you. I can't believe you let another kid out-hustle you. There's never an excuse for that. So if you come again, you better make sure you win the Hustle Award."

I remember sitting in the back seat thinking, "He means that. He'd leave me here in this parking lot." Sitting here today, 31 years later, I still believe it.

Those words hit me hard. They didn't hurt my feelings. He was right. His clarity woke me up. I worked hard, but I hadn't made hustle a priority. To this day, I think about how much that moment in the car has shaped how I think, work, compete, and put forth effort.

I went back the following year. And yes, I won the Hustle Award. I won it every year I attended that camp, three years in a row. Hustle became my priority and I became a better player, teammate, and person because of it.

I don't remember the actual awards, and I don't have them anymore. Hustle was its own reward for me. Winning the award was only my ticket for a ride home.

Answer the call. Do the work.

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