In his seminal book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins outlines one of the concepts he found when studying companies that transitioned from good to great called Level 5 leadership. He states, “Level 5 leaders display a powerful humility and indomitable will. They’re incredibly ambitious, but their ambition is first and foremost for the cause, for the organization and its purpose, not themselves. While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. Every good-to-great transition in our research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.” In a nutshell, this is Marty Loy.
It was the spring of 1990 when I received the call that would change the trajectory of my life forever.
“Brett, you have a phone call,” said my Mom.
“Who is it,” I replied?
“Marty Loy,” she responded.
“Marty who” I thought?
The Marty Loy I barely knew would have no reason to call me. I’d met him two times that I remembered and neither of them were that memorable. The first was as a highly touted HS recruit when I met him in 1984 at the UW-Madison Wrestling year end banquet and ensuing party afterwards. I was a snot nosed potential incoming freshman and he was an outgoing senior finishing up his academic and athletic career as a Badger. The second was four years later in 1988 as a last second replacement to assist one of our superstar wrestlers, 4X All-American Jeff Jordan, who’d invited me to do a wrestling clinic with him at Merrill High School. Marty just happened to be their Head Wrestling Coach.
“Hello, this is Brett,” I answered.
“Hi Brett, this is Marty Loy. I’m the Head Wrestling Coach at UW-Stevens Point and I’m calling to see if you’d be interested in being my assistant? I don’t know what you’re up to now, but I think you’d be a really good fit for our program.”
Why in the world is Marty Loy calling me about coaching? He didn’t know it but I said I’d never coach and had no interest in the profession. I’d known this since I was 12 years young after watching ‘The Strangest Secret’ by Earl Nightingale. One day in 1977 while in 6th grade, my teacher told us we were going to watch a video for school instead of our normal lesson. I was beyond thrilled because watching a video meant there would be no homework.
At the beginning of the video, in his deep baritone voice, Earl says, “I want to tell you the most interesting story in the world. Why a person becomes the person he becomes. Why a little boy or a little girl grows up to be the kind of person he or she becomes.” Within those first fifteen seconds, I was hooked because I knew somehow, someway I was going to be fabulously successful and I wanted to know what I’d need to learn to accomplish it. He went on to talk about the startling and disheartening statistics of how most people by the time they’re 65 are broke busted and disgusted. He defined success as ‘the progressive realization of a worthy ideal’, yet by this simple definition only 5% of the population achieves it. As he continued to share the story of the common path of life that most people take to illustrate why they fail, he then provides the answer. “you become what you think about most of the time.”
When I heard this, my first thought was, “I’m going to become a girl?” At 12 years old, I had literally just turned the corner of hitting puberty and this new and magical species called girls was all I thought about. Realizing that this was probably not going to be the case, I then decided then and there that I wanted to accomplish the following three goals in my life.
To own my own business
To make a ridiculous amount of money
To positively affect millions of people as a result
Being a wrestling coach was definitely not going be the path to accomplishing those three goals.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in the spring of 1989 I set out to start accomplishing my goals set twelve years earlier. While going through the employment fairs that are available to collegiate grads, I had several really strong opportunities with some great companies, but none felt right since ultimately, I wouldn’t be owning my own business. One day, after coming home from work, my girlfriend at the time shared with me an ad she had seen in the help wanted section of the newspaper. It said, $40K guaranteed your first year, be your own boss…and the rest didn’t much matter to me. Here it was, the opportunity I was looking for.
Off to the races to accomplishing my #2 and #3 goals, I not only became my own boss, I got paid straight commission. Never having a job that I didn’t get paid dollars for trading hours, I ignorantly planned my life around the ‘guaranteed’ $40K and even broke it down into bi-weekly payments to support my lifestyle. Needless to say, as a result of spending the ‘if-come’ while surviving on the ‘in-come’, it took only four months of little to no ‘income’ to financially collapse. I failed spectacularly in being my own boss and the avalanche of stress this created took with it my relationship, home, and most importantly; belief in myself.
Once a seemingly limitless rising star, I came crashing back down to earth, packed my car with what was left of my belongings and pride and moved back from whence I came to my childhood home in Mansfield, OH. It was then and there that I received Marty's call.
Though he did a helluva job selling me on the program, his vision for where it was going, and in addition to a small annual salary of $10,000 they would cover my Graduate School tuition. I told him, “thanks but no thanks.”
Number one, I wasn’t going to be a wrestling coach. Number two, it was in Stevens Point, WI. He also didn’t know that as a Badger redshirt freshman, I’d gone to a pre-season tournament in Stevens Point six years earlier and had a terrible experience due to racial prejudice. As a result, it was one of those places I swore, ‘I’d never go back too.’
“What was that about?” my Mom asked, curious as to what the call was about.
“Nothing” I replied. “This Marty guy who I’ve met a couple times called to see if I’d be interested in coaching at UW-Stevens Point. I told him no.”
“Why?” she questioned.
“Because I don’t want to coach,” I said. “They don’t make any money and I want to own my own business.”
And then came the sucker punch right to the gut that took my breath away.
She said, “I get all your dreams Brett, but right now; you’re living at home, you’re failing at ‘owning your own business’, and that would be $10,000 more than you're making today.”
After struggling to catch my breath again, I came to my senses and realized she was absolutely right. I called Marty back, decided to take him up on the offer, and set sail for Stevens Point, WI in August of 1990. It was then and remains today one of the most pivotal events of my life. Over the next three years I learned so much from him it’s hard to quantify.
From Marty, I learned how to be a man of integrity, honor, commitment and joy. I learned by his example what it is to be a husband, father, and pillar of the community. I learned what it really takes to build a ‘something’ from ‘nothing’. I learned how to teach and effectively transfer knowledge to others regardless the medium. I learned how to communicate simply, respectfully and authentically to everyone from the janitor of a school to the President of the United States. And ultimately, I learned how to lead.
I had no idea what a Level 5 leader was before reading Jim Collin’s book many years later but as soon as I read it, the first person that came to mind was Marty Loy. He takes that concept and applies it to everything he does. His family, community, parenting, friendship, relationships, you name it. Like a true Level 5 leader, as a result of ‘who’ he is, the results he’s accomplished are otherworldly. His aww shucks demeanor yet intense internal drive has led him to be extraordinary by any measurement as a coach, professional and most importantly human being.
As a coach from 1989 – 1997, in only a nine-year career he accomplished the following:
National Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame Inductee
UW-Stevens Point Hall Athletic of Fame Inductee
8 – UW-Stevens Point Athletic Hall of Fame Individual Wrestling Inductees
128-57-1 Dual Meet record
6X WSUC Conference Coach of the Year
5X WSUC Conference Team Champions
34 WSUC Individual Conference Champions
7 NCAA DIII Top-10 Team Finishes
3X NCAA DIII Coach of the Year Finalist
27 Individual NCAA DIII All-Americans
3 Individual NCAA DIII National Champions
As a professional, he’s now the Dean of the UW-Stevens Point College of Professional Studies. As a human being, along with his beautiful wife Becky, they’ve raised four ridiculously successful children and impact the world through not only their family and who they are, but in memory of their daughter Sara Margaret, their 30+ year non-profit organization called Camp HOPE.
To this day, I still don’t know what he saw in me to roll the dice and give me the opportunity to coach with him but I’m so thankful he did. ‘I’ said I’d never coach. ‘God’ knew otherwise. None of this happens without his phone call 30 years ago. I’ve got nothing but love, respect and gratitude for you Marty.
Eternal thanks for the call! Believe…