Jonathan Hall

It's Always the 4th Quarter

Jonathan Hall
It's Always the 4th Quarter

Combine two bad teams, a no-name quarterback, strike-induced replacement players, a half empty stadium...and you have the greatest 4th quarter comeback in NFL history.

In 1987 The Cardinals defeated the Buccaneers 31-28, despite being down by 28 points heading into the 4th quarter. This wild comeback made watching two awful teams more exciting. The Cardinals played remarkably terrible for 3 quarters of football but were still able to overcome all of their failures and win the game.

And in life, we too, have the chance to fight through adversity -- no matter how bad things are -- to salvage opportunities out of failure.

But this article isn't about overcoming obstacles or finding strength in failure.

What if there were only 3 quarters in the game? There would be no legendary comeback story. Rather, another team's worse was just better than the other team's worse. The comeback story only works because the game of football is designed to have 4 quarters of play.

We love to project the lessons and values learned in sports onto life -- most of which are genuinely applicable. However, one of the biggest distinctions between this situation and real life, is there's no guarantee that your 3 miserable quarters of pathetic play can be erased by an improbable 4th quarter comeback. The 4th quarter of your life is not some distant, casual notion that awaits your presence. It is here. In the present. It is now.

Today 151,000 people across the world will hit zeroes on their game clocks. And for a certain portion of them, the time expiration will come unannounced. They won’t be able to mount a comeback, make a defensive stand or even draw up one more big play. The clock will simply run out; game over.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We all know there's potentially a day when the normalcy of everyday life will be replaced with the full-time job of just trying to stay alive. Instead of strategizing our next play, working together to achieve a goal or simply enjoying the game, at any moment, we could be at zeroes on our own game clock. Everything is ephemeral. It's all fleeting. And even if everyone lived to be 99, on a cosmic time scale, there just aren’t that many days.

The question is, how do we get the most out of the game of life? In a real football game you can make a plan before it starts, call timeouts to make micro refinements and use halftime to make macro adjustments. To an extent, this is all true in real life.

Perhaps one of the biggest influences in developing strategy is knowing when to be aggressive and when to be reserved. Being conservative is generally a pretty decent approach to take. There's a built-in safety net associated with checking down instead of always going for the big play. But being conservative all the time, in every situation, can be counterproductive, inefficient and terribly dull. Sometimes you have to take the shot...the big one...downfield...aggressively attacking.

Most movement in your life is achieved by being aggressive with some of the most basic everyday decisions. 

Just take a second to zoom in on some general desires we have in our lives:

  • You want to lose weight but make the excuse there's not enough time, healthy eating is too expensive or it's just too difficult. Make the time, budget for it and get over fact that it's hard to do. 
  • You want to ask her out, but you're afraid of rejection, feel you aren't good enough or the time isn't right. Get over the fear, maybe you aren't what she wants -- at least find out and the time is right. 
  • You want to be an entrepreneur, but lack the social skills for networking, don't know how to market your product or service and are generally pretty lazy. Engage in conversations with random people in the grocery store, research the hell out of marketing (maybe even take classes on it) and take extreme action like disabling social media on your phone and cutting the cable to remove the distractions

There is a benefit to playing it safe. Our early ancestors were wise to avoid the open Savanna. The ones who did this survived and those who didn't were eaten by a lion. We have this built-in evolutionary inclination to avoid certain situations. The optimal choice of avoidance is a good one. We literally spend most of our time trying not to die. But, if eluding unpleasant friction is always the goal, flourishing becomes rather aloof; apathy is always rationalized in the name of cautious gloom. At some point, if roaming the open savanna is your only shot at survival, you go for it, despite the lurk of danger.  

"Remember, TOMORROW is promised to no ONE."- Walter Payton

It's always about now. The past is gone. The future will never arise. The only thing you are guaranteed is this present moment. For every life that was long and fulfilling, we can point to one that was tragically cut short. Getting the most out of life starts with the realization that we are all in the 4th quarter, on our last drive down the field with the game on line. The very next play could easily be your last...make it a big one.