Bo Pelini, the head football coach at the University of Nebraska, is a member of a very select group who coached a Super Bowl winning team and a BCS National Championship team. You could say he knows what it takes to be a champion.

At a recent Peak Advisor Alliance conference, Coach Pelini spoke to our clients and shared his key lessons on what it takes to be a champion in business and in life (see end of article to access a free audio download of Coach Pelini’s talk). Here are three of the Coach’s lessons that resonated with me.

Be process driven. Coach Pelini said, “What I’ve learned all the way back from when we won the Super Bowl with the 49ers and right on through to winning a National Championship at LSU to being around a lot of successful people, is to have a program that is process-driven.” Having grown up in Nebraska and followed the Huskers since the legendary days of coach Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, I can tell you Nebraska rarely got the best recruits. However, Nebraska had a process-driven system that was consistently implemented. This system turned good athletes into great champions. Coach Pelini has plugged right into that process, too.

As an advisor, having a process and system for every operation in your office is essential to maximizing your potential. It ensures that nothing slips through the cracks and frees up your time to focus on developing client solutions, deepening client relationships and generating new business.

Be consistently excellent. The coach really struck a nerve when he said, “I learned this a long time ago when somebody told me, ‘you are who you are when no one is watching.’” He followed that by saying, “Having success is really about consistency. That means you can’t go through your life like a switch turning things on and off. You are who you are every minute of the day and ultimately what you become and the success you’re going to have comes from all the seemingly insignificant decisions that you’re faced with each and every day.”

He went on to describe how players like Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders and the great coaches he’s been around truly understand that, “The guys who are consistent and who try to be the best they can be every minute of every day” are the ones who become champions.


As an advisor, are you as diligent in making sure the “under the hood” of your office is as excellent as the shiny exterior your clients see? Would you be comfortable seeing what happens behind the scenes published on the front page of your local newspaper? In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, he points out that Jobs was obsessive about making the inside of the computer as elegant as the outside design. Jobs said, “A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it…For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” Likewise, are you carrying the quality all the way through in your business and personal dealings?

Make your effort a talent. Whether the stock market goes up or down is beyond your control. Whether it rains or snows today is beyond your control. Likewise, the amount of innate talent you have in any particular area is beyond your control—but that shouldn’t stop you.

Coach Pelini tells his team, “Some guys can run faster than others, some guys can jump higher, some are physically stronger, some may be more intelligent. But, at the end of the day, the one thing that you can control, and which I really believe is a talent, is effort.  If you give great effort, that is a talent and you can exhibit it on a daily basis.”

As an advisor, are you giving the effort necessary to be a champion in the areas you can control? It’s easy to toss up your hands and blame an uncertain economy for a lack of new clients. And while you can’t control the economy, you can control how you react to it and how much effort you put into overcoming outside forces.

The most successful advisors put the greatest effort in the areas they can control and don’t fret about the uncontrollable. These “areas of effort” include: enhancing client relationships, hosting events, speaking at events, exceeding expectations, asking for referrals, sharpening sales skills, deepening planning knowledge, improving leadership qualities, getting exposed in the media, and improving health and personal relationships.  

Having one of the country’s top college football coaches speak at our event was a real treat as so much of what he said translates perfectly to what you need to do to be a real champion. Here are a few more quotes that are worth contemplating.

“I just had a conversation with some young freshmen the other day and told them that if you think you can be ‘half in’ off the football field and I’m going to trust you on the football field when you walk out in front of 90,000 people, you’re crazy,” he said. “You are who you are and you have to build trust. You have to show who you are every minute, because you can’t, all of a sudden, walk into a classroom and decide, ‘Hey, I’m going put my hat on backwards and go to sleep; I’m not going to take notes today; I’m not going to be the best I can be in the classroom;’ and then, all of a sudden, walk onto the football field and flick a switch. It doesn’t work that way.  It has to be ingrained into who you are.”

No matter where you are, no matter where you perceive yourself to be, there’s always that level you can get to that you haven’t reached yet. No matter what happened the day before, that’s over. All you can control is today. 

You can’t be one way one day when things are going good and all of a sudden the sky is falling the next day because you have a tough day. You’re the same person, the same organization the day before when you had some success. What we try to do is analyze it and say, ‘Okay, what do we need to fix, what do we have to do to move forward to get better on a daily basis?’ By doing this, you keep yourself from riding the rollercoaster of your emotions.  You keep them in check and keep everybody heading in a certain direction, which is always forward and up, always reaching for a level that you haven’t attained yet.

Ultimately, being a champion is a choice. Choose it today. Go Huskers!

To download Coach Pelini's talk, visit


Steve Sanduski, CFP®, is the Managing Partner of Peak Advisor Alliance, a financial advisor coaching and practice management resources organization. He is also a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of, Tested in the Trenches: A 9 Step Plan for Building and Sustaining a Million-Dollar Financial Services Practice. To learn more, visit, and





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