Few things are as disappointing as wasted potential. Perhaps you understand this because you have squandered opportunity and are feeling the effects. You may be dealing with a great amount of shame and regret. And some reading this post are on the road to squandering a great opportunity but they do not recognize the warning signs. Hopefully this post will help you.
ESPN recently profiled of Ryan Leaf on their E:60 program. If you are unfamiliar with Leaf, he was a Washington State quarterback who had more upside talent and a higher ceiling than Peyton Manning coming out of college. As the second pick in the 1998 NFL Draft (behind Manning), he signed with the Sand Diego Chargers for 5 years and $31 million, $11 million of which was guaranteed.
However, Ryan was out of the league in just four years and is considered the biggest bust in NFL history. Over his four-year career, he threw only 14 touchdowns with 36 interceptions compiling a record of 4-17 as a starter.
The following are 38 Sobering Facts For Those Who Have Squandered Great Opportunity: As I read this list it was striking how much this journey is similar to many pastors and business leaders who have become disqualified from their place of influence.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Become Cautionary Tales – The Pro Football Hall of Fame secures an artifact from every player who played in the NFL. All Ryan Leaf left behind was a draft card from the day the Chargers drafted him on April 18, 1998.
- It Does Not Happen Overnight When Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity. Often You Can See It Coming. – Leaf said, “I was an addict long before I picked up a drug. I was defensive. I was fearful. I was egotistical. I did everything that exhibited addict behavior before I took a drug.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Are Prideful And Lack Humility – Leaf’s mom Marcia said, “He wasn’t humble (as a child).” Leaf added, “There was a running joke (at Washington State), What’s the difference between God and Ryan Leaf? God doesn’t think He’s Ryan Leaf.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Often Obnoxious – When asked what he thought when people called him obnoxious, Leaf replied, “So what.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Refuse To Be Under Authority – “He was at times difficult to coach.” – WSU head coach Mike Riley
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Enjoy The Rewards Of Success More Than The Process Of Achieving Success – Leaf wanted to go to San Diego over Indianapolis because of “sunshine, babes, money. That’s the world I need to live in.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have Often Previously Squandered Great Opportunity – Leaf did not show up for the pre-draft interviews with the Colts. He wanted to make them angry so they would not draft him.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Often Entitled And Think Things Should Come Easy – “I was pretty arrogant in that preseason (rookie year). I kind of thought it was going to come easy to me.” – Leaf
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Lack Respect For Others – The veterans thought he was “a punk” in his rookie training camp.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Cannot Handle Adversity – “When things started to go downward, he didn’t know how to handle it.” – former teammate Rodney Harrison
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Deal Poorly With Failure – Leaf said, “I looked at failure as the end. If I failed at something it was over.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Blame Others For Their Failures – Leaf develop a personal grudge with San Diego Tribune Jay Posner who wrote a disparaging article about him.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Struggle With Anger – The only difference between anger and danger is a “d”. Leaf famously exploded with rage against Posner during a locker room interview.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Lead By Intimidation – Leaf’s goal was to deal with Posner through intimidation.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Forced To Constantly Apologize – After the Posner incident, Leaf read a prepared apology. The key word here is “forced.” There was a lack of sincerity.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have Poor Performance – Leaf’s performance on the field immediately declined and spiraled out of control.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Squander Their Influence – In his second season, Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard fined and suspended Leaf for conduct detrimental to the team.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Refuse To Accept Responsibility – Teammate Rodney Harrison said, “He wanted the money. He wanted the fame but he didn’t want the responsibility of being a quarterback in the National Football League.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Mutually-Beneficial Relationships – Rodney added, “Then he became a jerk.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Lose Their Jobs – “Nobody felt sorry for Ryan Leaf. Get rid of his #@*” – Harrison on his March 1st, 2001 release from the team.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Then Deal With Shame – Leaf acknowledged, “I am labeled ‘The biggest bust.’ The Shame. Shame was a huge deal for me for the longest time.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Become Increasingly Isolated – Leaf then went to Las Vegas to blend in and disappear. What Leaf needed was a loving community with accountability. He drifted towards isolation.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Look For Ways To Escape Their Pain – Leaf then turned to substance abuse to deal with the shame and failure of his career.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Their Financial Resources As Well – Feeding his addiction to pills caused Leaf to ran out of money.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Resort To Taking Advantage Of Those Around Them – After taking a job as a quarterback coach of a small Texas college, Leaf took advantage of the team’s players to get their pain killers.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Face Great Consequences For Their Actions – Leaf was eventually arrested for felony drug charges.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Repeat The Same Mistakes Over And Over Again – After going through rehab, Leaf was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During the post-surgery radiation, he became addicted again.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Hurt Those Closest To Them – “He called and said, ‘I’m going to jail mom.'” – Marcia Leaf
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Eventually Run Out Of Answers – “I wanted to die. There was no answer for me.” – Leaf
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Must Hit Rock Bottom – ‘I woke up on April 1st, 2012. My life started over that day.” – That was the day Leaf hit rock bottom in waking up on a prison floor.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Often Squander Their Most Valuable Commodity…Time –“It (prison) was an awful place because I lost so much important time of my life.” – Leaf
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Have The Opportunity To Learn The Value Of Others – Leaf said, “Every human being is just as important as every other human being. I couldn’t see that clearly because I thought I was more important than everyone else.” – Leaf
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Are Eventually Humbled – “He was humbled beyond any of my expectations.” – Marcia
- After Being Humbled, Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Have A Second Chance – After prison, Leaf began helping people struggling with addictions for $15 an hour. Leaf said, “I was making about $5 million a year and I was miserable. I was making $15 an hour and never been happier.” Leaf is turning his life around and is now making a positive impact into many hurting individuals.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Must Develop A Spirit Of Gratitude – Leaf said, “I’m very grateful I spent 32 months in prison. I don’t recommend it. But I’m very, very grateful.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Then Once Again Have Hope – Marcia said, “Our family is filled with so much hope.”
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Rebuild Their Relationships – Leaf called Harrison and apologized.
- Leaders Who Squander Great Opportunity Can Still Recover From Anything – “We can recover from anything.” – Leaf. Last month Leaf celebrated five months of sobriety. You cannot watch this feature without absolutely rooting for Leaf and hoping continued success for him.
Hopefully Leaf’s story can become a cautionary tale or hope for redemption. If you recognize yourself anywhere on this continuum, please make the necessary adjustments before you hit rock bottom.
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