Are you asking: What’s the Best That Could Happen?

My first season as a head football coach, our team had gone undefeated leading up to the final game of the season. We had a heck of a team with two great running backs, a stout defense, and a quarterback who completely understood our offense.

Somehow the scene was set up out of a teen-movie. Our final game of the season was our only night game under the lights on a turf-field. The team we were going up against was also undefeated. To say the kids were excited would be an enormous understatement…they were jacked up!

And then, a day before the game, my starting quarterback was diagnosed with mono. He could not practice or play. That was it. We were doomed.

I had a few players who took snaps at quarterback, but none of them could throw the ball that well, and I had failed as a coach to prepare for this to happen. I talked with my assistant coaches and we decided to start our backup QB (a younger player)…his job would be to hand off the ball to our star running backs. We also decided our backup QB for the game would be our middle linebacker (he had previously played offensive line) and ask him to learn some of the plays the night before and day of the game.

The game started and we immediately had problems on offense. We ran a play the wrong way. Their defensive line stopped our running backs in the backfield. We had a small chance of winning this game (or even scoring a point) in my mind. You could see it in our player’s faces…this was a different level of team that we were playing.

At this point we had a decision to make: Keep trying what wasn’t working…or make a change and see what would happen.

If we kept the QB the same, maybe we could break a long run and score. Our defense was playing well so maybe they could score on a turnover. After the first quarter I called my coaches together.

“What about changing up the QB? We need to make a change…” I said.

My assistant coach replied, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

I thought to myself…a lot could go wrong if we do this, we might end up losing by 30 points if things started falling apart.

And then he said, “I mean, what’s the best that could happen? It’s not like we have many other options…it’s keep doing what we are doing…or change it up!”

What’s the Best That Could Happen?

We spend a lot of time worrying about what’s the “worst” that could happen. We do this in our in our jobs, in our life, and in our relationships.

This isn’t a “glass half full, or half empty” type of issue. This is more like our default self-preservation settings. We do not like making decisions that have a possibility of risk. Even if the reward for making that decision could outweigh the risk.

That game we put in our middle linebacker as our quarterback. We won 23-0. He scored all three of the touchdowns…and man I couldn’t believe how amazing he performed (which in turn impacted our entire team).

Looking back on that decision, it was one of those times that I asked, “What the best that could happen?”, instead of thinking about the risk and what could go wrong.

In the past couple of years, I’ve begun to ask that question with many of my decisions. And this may sound cheesy, but it works.

When you’re optimistic without any understanding of risk…then you sound crazy. But when you share a positive outlook on a situation, while acknowledging what could go wrong…it shows that you understand what is at stake, and choose to believe.

I took the time when I turned 30 to look at the goals I had for myself, and wrote down all the amazing things that have happened in my life so far. I plan on doing that every year (and maybe every month) to remind me of the good things, and why it is important to believe the best can happen.

I’d challenge you to start reframing opportunities and situations with this mindset, and see what happens:

  • Are we asking what’s the best that could happen with each student?
  • Are we asking what’s the best that could happen with our team or teachers?
  • Are we asking what choices we can make to grow and build…even if it comes with some risk involved?

Don’t get me wrong. There are days when I’m negative, and wonder if anything is going to work out the way I hoped and planned it would…

But the next day always brings new possibilities. I have to remember that most of the good things in my life did not go according to plan. They happened because I was open to trying something new, something different, and focusing on the best that could happen.

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  • Dale says:

    Thanks AJ. Great advice for teachers in general who are often averse to change and risk-taking because they think test results, parental expectations, school expectations are too high stakes.

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