10 Lessons in Leadership from Stuart Scott

Thanks Stuart Scott!

Thanks for all the ways you enriched our lives. You taught us lessons we can only hope to apply half as well as you over the next few decades. You walked with us. You inspired us. You died Sunday and we all still find ourselves in a collective shock.

I could tell endless stories about Stuart Scott. But the one that stands out in my mind, takes me back nearly 15 years to his speech at the UNC Chapel Hill graduation of 2001. That year NBA player and now UNC Alum Vince Carter flew in for the ceremony to graduate¬†and just happened to sit right by some of my good friends and family. In many ways, Carter stole the show but Scott won over the crowd’s hearts.

His wit, sarcasm, humor, and character inspired me. He challenged grads, parents, family, friends, and the administration in many areas. But notably to value difference and family. (See the full text of Stuart Scott’s UNC commencement speech here).

10 Lessons in Leadership from Stuart Scott - BradBridges.net

As I think back to years of watching Stuart Scott on ESPN, hearing him at one of UNC’s more memorable graduations, watching his speech last summer at the ESPYS about cancer and life, and now watching the obituaries about him today, I can’t help but reflect on some of what he stood for and my gratitude for what he did in his short life.

1) Keep living

Scott seemed to never stop even when diagnosed with cancer…even when in the final stages of his cancer battle.

When my wife received her cancer diagnosis I cried like a baby. I questioned. I got angry at the doctor, at life, and at myself. Moving forward in the face of tragedy or potential tragedy scares most of us. Don’t stop. Keep living.

2) Take care of yourself physically

Brutal news of any sort can drain your energy emotionally and physically. During these times you will always need energy to make it. You will need a full tank of gas.

But even if you don’t face painful news anytime soon, take care of yourself physically. I remember someone saying that Scott exercised relentlessly during his bout with cancer. If he could do it, any of us can.

3) Give hope to others

In July of 2014, Stuart Scott stood in front of a national audience and spoke these words, “When you die it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”

He walked onto stage weak, weighing much less than before, and uncertain of his future. Yet he gave us all hope and inspiration for how to live. Do you do this? Do you give others hope when you face adversity?

4) Resist the urge to whine

He easily could have whined and asked everyone to feel sorry for him. He could have complained but I struggled to find anywhere where he complained about his circumstances.

Now, I’m sure he did at some point. But be the kind of person people struggle to find complaints from. They’ll appreciate you for it.

5) Ask for help like Stuart Scott

That night that he received an award and spoke about cancer, Scott asked his daughter to come give him a hug. You will rarely (if ever) have all the energy and ability to accomplish everything.

Do you struggle to ask others for help? Maybe you feel guilty. Perhaps you battle arrogance and thinking you have it all together. Don’t be either. Trust others and ask them for help. If you never show vulnerability, others can never show strength.

6) Put on your game face

I don’t believe you should show a fake self. But occasionally you may need to do what’s needed and set your feelings aside for a few minutes. When Stuart gave that speech in the face of insurmountable physical odds, I could only imagine the effort it took for him to get up there.

Sometimes you have to do what’s right even when you don’t feel like it or wish you could stay on the sidelines.

7) Dare to be different

As I mentioned earlier, Scott’s commencement speech at UNC in 2001 included a challenge to accept difference in others and also to be different. You don’t have to stray from your core beliefs, but you can value the people you meet and the contributions they make to our world. One of the first signs of maturity in a person is their ability to see worth in those around them.

Scott brought new phrases to ESPN like Booyah. Some people hated him. Most loved him. No matter what, he never stopped loving life and living as himself (even when different).

8) Be a Professional

I’ll always remember Scott’s incredible suits and knack for fashion. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that trendy and definitely not a fashion connoisseur.

Scott always dressed sharp, spoke with brilliance, treated certain occasions with dignity, and rose to the occasion even with a career that put him in front of the camera while battling cancer. He likely chose to stand up and do his job. I seriously doubt anyone had to pressure him to do so.

9) Invest in Your Family

The moment his daughter walked onto the stage last summer, I did a double take as I watched the encouraging example of a man who loved his family. He loved his daughters more than the world.

How often do you intentionally invest in your family? What memories have you created with/for your family in the last month?

I cannot imagine not spending time with my wife and kids. Anytime I go over a day or two without them, I struggle to put into words how much I miss them. But even when you spend time with family, what type of time do you spend? Talk to your family. Do fun things. Listen well. Show you care.

10) Exude Passion

UNC Chapel Hill’s website had this headline tonight “Passion Defined Scott.” As a grad of UNC, Stuart Scott exuded passion for his alma mater and everything else he did (but especially his family, his work, his college, and his sports). Go Heels!

Would the people you know best characterize you as someone with passion? Do they look to you as someone who motivates them? Get passionate. Get in the game. Get excited about life. Get busy living.

I still think about my wife’s struggle with cancer about once a week (oftentimes more). It’s nothing short of miraculous that she lived through it, that we recently celebrated 10 years of marriage, and that we recently welcomed our 3rd child into the world. When I think about her cancer, I gain even more motivation to live and to live well. (Part of living well includes learning to apologize or own up to mistakes when I let others down. Living well does not mean perfection.)

Living well does not mean perfection. Click To Tweet

When you see Scott’s quote about the how, why, and manner in which we live, assess your life in new ways and resolve to better steward the years you have.

I choose to be intentional about the way I live.
I choose to focus more on why I do and say what I do.
I choose to evaluate how I live and the impact my life has on others.
I choose to thank Stuart Scott for the motivation and the example.
I choose to more responsibly manage the opportunities I’m given.

I choose to flip the pillow over and enjoy the cold side.

I choose to evaluate how I live and the impact my life has on others. Click To Tweet

Booyah! – Stuart Scott