top of page

Lighting In A Bottle

lightning in a bottle - An incredibly difficult, unlikely, and/or elusive achievement or period of success.

So you want to discover your full potential and change the world for the better through your gifts, talents, and abilities? All you have to do is catch lightning in a bottle. Far easier said than done, however, if you know what to look for you'll have a much better opportunity to hunt, catch it, then ride its electric wave for as long as it can be contained. Personally, I understand this extremely well as I've captured it twice in my lifespan to date. If catching lightning in a bottle is something you'd love to do but haven't done yet, over the next two blogs I'll share my experience of what it's like for you to benefit from in discovering your full potential

Round 1-University of Wisconsin Stevens Point 1990-1993: It was early spring in 1990 and I was a fallen star living at my parents house bartending at the Mansfield, OH Holiday Inn. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the spring of 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a successful wrestling career behind me, I was ready to conquer the world, kick ass, take names, and never look back. Wanting to own my own business since sixth grade in 1977, I went to job fairs halfheartedly and didn't find one I thought would provide me a step up and into entrepreneurship successfully. That was until my fiancé at the time found a job ad in the newspaper that read, "$40K guaranteed with the opportunity to be your own boss". There it was, my dream come true.

Responding to the ad immediately, I learned it was a straight commission sales job in which I sold a soft core collection system to businesses so they could recuperate lost revenue from bounced checks and unpaid credit balances. Not the sexiest job for sure, but one that I could see a path in learning how to be my own boss and control my income. Though I was a hard worker, hungry and knew what it took to be successful as a student-athlete; I had clue zero what it took to generate income outside of trading hours for dollars. Expecting to be successful immediately, I lived on my projected guaranteed $40K per year 'if'come rather than my actual 'in'come. It was only a matter of months until I couldn't afford my lifestyle anymore and got evicted, separated from my fiancé, and moved back home with my tail between my legs to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and reset my erstwhile dreams.

While languishing at the bottom of the proverbial barrel, I received a phone call from a fellow Badger wrestler by the name of Marty Loy asking me if I'd be interested in coaching and going to grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). For a more in depth version read my blog about Marty Loy. After initially saying no, I ended up choosing to take the opportunity and it became my first experience of capturing lightning in a bottle. Over the next three years as a team we accomplished the following:

  • 2X WSUC Conference Champs

  • 2X NCAA Division III Top 10 team place winners

  • 13 WSUC Conference Champions

  • 9 NCAA Division III All-Americans

  • 7 UWSP Hall of Fame members

To put this into perspective, prior to 1989, the UWSP wrestling program hadn't won a conference championship in over 30 years with their last win being in 1958. From its inception in 1952 as a collegiate sport for the University to 1989 it had only produced nine All-Americans in total (over a 37 year timespan) and finished seventh out of eight teams in the '89 conference tourney. The team was so bad we were every opponents favorite date on their calendar because they knew it was a guaranteed win. That was until 1989 when Marty Loy took on the unenviable and seemingly impossible job of taking a program from worst to first

After I left begrudgingly in 1993 to work at USA Wrestling, the magic continued under Marty and Head Assistant Coach Eric Burke's leadership through 1998 culminating in:

  • 3 additional Conference Championships (5 Total)

  • 5 additional NCAA DIII top 10 team place winners (7 Total)

  • 22 additional WSUC Conference Champions (35 Total)

  • 18 additional NCAA DIII All-Americans (27 Total)

  • 2 additional UWSP Hall of Fame members (9 Total)

The question begs, "what happened to go from worst to first seemingly overnight?" This is the essence of catching lightning in a bottle. For those wanting to emulate this phenomenon and experience it yourself, here are the distinctions that I learned to recognize, create, and sustain it for as long as possible.

  1. It always starts with the Leader - In John Maxwell's timeless classic, 'The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership', the very first law he shares is "The Law of the Lid". This means that the level of an organization, team, family, initiative, cause, or movement will never grow past the leadership ability of the leader. As the leader goes, so does everything following them. In addition, the type of leader they are will determine the length of time you'll capture lightning in a bottle. In Jim Collin's seminal book "Good to Great - Why some companies make the leap and others don't", he shared a critical characteristic of the companies that went from good to great (only 11 out of 1,435 studied) was that they all had a level 5 leader. In his words, "Level 5 leaders display a powerful mixture of personal 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." Marty Loy was a Level 5 leader. You will not be able to experience lightning in a bottle without this as your foundation.

  2. The sum is greater than the parts - In every instance of championship caliber teams and organizations, the collective group is stronger than any individual. Though strong personalities and high confidence in oneself are prerequisites to extraordinary achievement, lightning in a bottle is only captured when all egos are put aside for the benefit of the team as a whole. As a result, you get the very best of each individual's strengths while minimizing their weaknesses because someone else is there to fill the gaps. Rather than thinking about "me", your energy, action, and intention is based on "we". The synergy that's created from this group of like minded individuals all working in unison is long as you have a Level 5 leader who's able to reign in the egos, let the stallions run, yet have every person in the cause know it doesn't work without their contributions. When one person or a small group within the team becomes the center of attention, it destroys the chemistry that's needed to keep the lightning bottled up thus exponentially multiplying its power. Once this is broken, the lightning escapes and the success that comes with it disappears just as fast as it came.

  3. Work becomes play - To be the best at anything takes an extraordinary amount of work to accomplish something that only one person or team will achieve at a point in time. To work both harder and smarter than your opponent takes a fanatical obsession with excellence in which you stop counting hours because you so love what you're doing and the results it provides, you don't think of it as work. The 'work' becomes something you look forward to, sometimes with a childlike glee and exuberance, because you know it is a necessary component of the recipe for success. You don't have to be 'motivated' to do it because you are inspired by the very act of it. As a result, what seems hard to most, becomes playful to you. This shift in mindset and how you approach the effort needed to hone the skill and mastery of high achievement, becomes a game within the game that separates you from everyone else. You seek to win the game of mastering the work rather than winning a competition which turns it all into an insatiable quest in which there's no place you'd rather be nor anything else you'd rather do. This is the explosive power of catching lightning in a bottle.

  4. It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' - Whatever your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), it's not a matter of 'if' your going to achieve it but rather 'when' your going to achieve it. This belief permeates every aspect of the journey towards your goal. It impacts the setbacks that are inevitable along the way and reframes your experience of obstacles as 'on the way' rather than 'in the way'. It affects the relationships between each other so you don't have to leave in agreement, but agreeing to disagree is not only the better alternative but one that each participant knows is the path to enlightenment. It affects your ability to be fully you...vulnerable/powerful, happy/sad, ecstatic/depressed, right/wrong; and the complete spectrum of emotions without judgement while enjoying the camaraderie of those different souls who love you unconditionally. And most of all, this understanding allows you to see the perfection of God's greatest creation in realizing how dire our need for connection and unity really is in realizing we both need one another and can't do anything great alone.

  5. You're connected eternally - To catch lightning in a bottle, you're going to have to risk it all to have it all. If you seek it, miss it, but it touches you, it will burn all in its path to ashes. However, if you catch it, it will bond you together like nothing you've ever experienced before. I'm not talking about a one to one union that couples may have or even a strong family bond that some experience. This is an attachment that can never be broken, even when life takes the participants down different roads. This is due to the fire of hell you have to go through together to forge the valarium steel and the immense pressure it takes to create the brilliant diamond of accomplishment that then stands as a testament to what is possible. This is something that only those who have caught lightning in a bottle understand for better...and for worse. All won't necessarily be best friends due to the conflict that is necessary to create magnificence, however, all respect one another to a degree that is unparalleled in any other endeavor.

In my quest to live into my purpose of supporting humanity in discovering their full potential, I pray that all can experience the beauty of catching lightning in a bottle at least once in their lifetime. I trust that my words of experience will assist you in recognizing how important each characteristic is so you don't erroneously dismiss one of them thinking it will produce the same results without it. These principles work together and are non-negotiable. The opposite of these should be self-evident as to why potential lightning won't be captured in a bottle; fear, greed, ego, arrogance, apathy, righteousness, and selfishness to name a few. If you want to experience the greatest thrill ride on earth that can take you to levels never imagined, I pray that you now know what to look for in your hunt and catch lightning in a bottle!

I can't wait to share with you round 2! Believe...


Single post: Blog_Single_Post_Widget
bottom of page