This is a difficult topic for a ‘defensive oriented’ guy like me to write. My football playing/coaching experience is all on the defensive side of the ball. When I coached my daughters in basketball or soccer, I always placed emphasis on team and individual defense. Even my favorite professional players are from the defensive side – I have jerseys for Mel Blount (Steelers); Paul Coffey, Kris Letang and Dave Burrow (Penguins); and Bill Mazeroski (Pirates) who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame based on his glove, more so than his bat. I am a believer in the adage that defenses win championships.
However, life can’t be played from the defensive side of the ball. In defense, you react to what the opposing offensive player does. The better defensive players have developed instincts that help them anticipate what comes at them, but nonetheless they are not taking the first steps. No doubt, we all must play defense at times for any chance to be successful. Life requires us to react to sudden unexpected interruptions. However, in life we need to be moving forward on offense as opposed to defending the status quo. Progress and growth are the results of offense.
Playing offense requires a lot of thinking and plotting; proactively looking for opportunities. It requires being intentional. In an offensive mode you feel more empowered, more engaged, more in control. Being defensive minded means that you’re responding to threats. You are being instinctive. In a defensive mode you feel more stress.
Are you proactive or reactive? Are you improving a process or putting out a fire? Are you looking for new things/rewards or are you maintaining what you have? Are you creating new customers or focused on the competition? Are you playing to win or playing not to lose?
For over 25 years I have been aware of Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix with the Four Quadrants. Quite simply, living in Quadrant 2 (Important/Not Urgent) is living on offense. It is the quadrant of being proactive, planning and critical thinking. This is the quadrant for long term achievement. Whereas living in Quadrant 1 (Important/Urgent) is living on defense. It is the quadrant of firefighting and being reactive. To complete the analogy, Quadrant 3 (Urgent/Not Important) is playing someone else’s game and Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent/Not Important) is not even playing the game.
Ted Leonis, is an American businessman, investor, filmmaker, author, philanthropist, and former politician. He currently owns the Washington Capitals as well as the Washington Wizards; in 2010, he wrote the book, The Business of Happiness. In the early 1980’s, Ted had a brush with his own mortality and it made him rethink his priorities. In his words; “at the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant to live life on offense, but I decided that a good place to start was by giving myself a scorecard – a tool that I could use to make sure that I accomplish everything I want to with my life … over the years, I’ve encouraged many people, friends and strangers alike, to create their own lists, to chart out their own goals and dreams and to always live their lives on offense.”
While they were in middle school, all three of my daughters had the opportunity to play basketball during halftime of a Division 1 Women’s game at a nearby college. A memorable experience for each of them. This was a result of living life on offense, taking the steps and action needed to make it happen. It really wasn’t difficult to achieve, just took the right approach.
In football, the offensive side of the ball is about “alignment with innovation”. Consider the advent of the spread offense and this year’s run/pass option (RPO) plays. The defensive side of the ball takes it alignment from what the offense does as well as game situations (down and distance).
Playing offense in business is selling value, providing solutions to problems, being a resource to your customers. It is picking up the pace of the business and creating new value streams. It is innovation and alignment. Playing defense is selling on price and being focused on the competition. It is downsizing and cutting costs while in survival mode. To grow, companies must focus on playing offense and execute their plays.
In Christ, we need to be on offense in our spiritual walk. An offensive faith stance is moving God’s word from your head to your heart by dwelling on it throughout the day, praying perpetually (in the car, house, free time), and thanking God continually for all you have. A defensive faith stance is waking and going through the motions, praying when troubles hit, acknowledging God only when something really great happens in your life. Like it or not, the world will put you on defense some days. The goal is to try to hold the world to just 3 downs and to force it to punt on 4th down.
I believe this world needs more of us to live our life on offense and do it more often. Too many will just be obedient and do what is asked of them. The world needs more people who are willing to lead, to take risks, to align with innovation and live in Quadrant 2. There are real problems out there – environmental, health issues, racism, sexism, impoverished youth – and we can help if we take a more active, more proactive role. This means carving out time to think, to plan, to organize our lives in a unique way.
The championship in life, unlike sports, depends on a strong offense. Your offensive playbook is more than adequate. God has written down everything He wants you to know and do in Scripture. He recruited you to play your particular position at this particular time in human history. Understand that the game is already won, Jesus took care of that. Use your God-given talents and make a difference.