HolWins 06-9-136      


An Autobiography


Lou Holtz

William Morrow, 2006, 318 pp.  ISBN 0-06-084080-3


Lou Holtz is the only coach to take football teams from six different colleges to bowl games.  He is perhaps best known for his eleven years at Notre Dame.  Holtz is known for succeeding through perseverance, discipline, and demanding excellence.  He is highly sought as a motivational speaker.  The book, as well as his speaking, is full of old-fashioned values and humor.  I have a personal connection with Lou: I look a little bit like him.



“I’ve said many times that how you respond to challenges in the second half determines what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.” (Introduction)


“I pray that the story of my life will provide rungs of opportunity for those who read or hear it, so that I may leave this earth having done for others what many others so graciously did for me.”  (Introduction)


“…when you die, your success comes to an end.  When you are significant, you continue to help others be successful long after you are gone.  Significance lasts many lifetimes.” (Introduction)


“We needed a raise to be poor.” “No one I ever knew used the words ‘disposable’ and ‘income’ in the same sentence.” (5)  “I was a happy, normal kid because I knew God and my family loved me.  That was all that mattered.” (6)


My WIN strategy for life:  “What’s important now?”  Whenever I face tough decisions, that’s the question I ask.  (7)


“Work hard and you earned certain perks.  Do nothing and you got nothing.  I learned that before I could write my name (and trust me, L-O-U wasn’t that tough).” (8)


His Dad did heroic service in WWII but never talked about it.  “Service was just something Dad’s generation did.  You didn’t brag about it, or even talk about it.  You did your job, and you came home.  Chest beating was for those who weren’t there.  This sparked my lasting distaste for excessive celebrations and ‘look at me’ exploits, whether by athletes, politicians, or business-people.” (11)


“I also became a football player myself, an eighty-pound wonder boy who made up for his lack of size by being slow and weak.” (13)  “I was nine years old playing against kids who shaved in the morning and had five o’clock shadows by kickoff.” (14)


“…the mental anguish you feel from letting down your coaches and teammates far exceeds any physical pain that might be inflicted….” (14)


“All I ever knew how to do was take what God had given me, utilize my strengths, and minimize my weaknesses.” (15)


“Doing the right thing was ingrained into my thinking by the nuns and by my family.”  “‘Running home and saying, ‘My teacher hit me, call the ACLU’ wasn’t an option.” (16)


“In that first year I realized that to be a good teacher you had to (1) know your subject inside and out, (2) be able to present what you know in a cohesive and interesting way so that your audience understands what you’re talking about, and (3) have enthusiasm for teaching.” (29)


“I still can’t understand people who fail not because they aren’t physically or mentally up to the task, but because they simply don’t put fort the effort to succeed.  If you aren’t going to be the best you can be, why try?” (31)


“Everyone’s life is a compilation of the people he meets, the things he does, and the decisions he makes.”  “Life provides all of us with a series of choices.  The choices we make determine how successful we are.”  “No one but you determines your success in life.  Making the right choices paves your way.” (39)


“You can’t let someone else determine your happiness.  Only you can be responsible for your feelings.” 


He almost missed his plane to report for duty in the army and he wisely observed: “An airplane is, indeed, easier to catch while it is on the ground than it is once it’s in the air.” (46)


“I was unyielding when it came to enforcing the team dress and appearance code.  If you meet a hundred people a day, a thousand people will make a judgment about you based on your appearance.”  “Appearances matter, so make yours a good one.” (48)


Regarding his girl friend: “Lou, you and Beth have a love-hate relationship: you love her, and she hates you.” (51)


“Persistence is, in my mind, the quality that is most critical to success and happiness.  Nothing takes the place of persistence.”  (57)


“I wasn’t going to give up on Beth until she ran me off with a stick, because I knew that the key to any successful relationship was persistence.” (57)  [They were married in 1961 and are still married.]


“Coach Burns like me and appreciated all the things I did for the program.  I knew this because he told me so as he was firing me.” (58)


“The most important decisions a man makes in his life are what kind of relationship he has with God, whom he marries, where he lives, what he does for a career, and what kind of example he sets for others.  Of those, the relationship with God is, by far, the most important.” (59)


“Coaching is the kind of profession where you buy your houses based solely on how fast you can resell them when you’re fired.” (60)


“If you want the best from others, you have to hire the best people, define what it is you want from them, and come to a common agreement on the terms and conditions of your relationship.” (61)


In choosing a profession, do something that you love and do well and that someone will pay you for.  Lou loves eating Snickers Bars and he’s great at it, but so far no one will pay him for it.  (66)


The most remarkable people he has known are Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame for 35 years and Woody Hayes, former Ohio State football coach.  (92)


“…authority comes with the job: respect was what I needed to earn, and you earn respect only by proving yourself as a leader.” (109)


“Unfortunately, self-examination can be tough.  I can’t count the numbers of people I’ve seen in business, football, and life in general who fail to see their own failings until it’s too late.” (112)


“You can tell a lot about a person’s character, not by the mistakes he has made, but by how he has handled those mistakes.  The person who takes responsibility for his errors and does what he can to fix the problems he’s created is someone you should respect.” (127)


“I think being called a ‘disciplinarian’ is a compliment.  I don’t know how anyone can be a successful parent, teacher, coach, manager, entrepreneur, husband, wife, or friend without understanding the role discipline plays in life, and without in some form or another being a good disciplinarian.  Far from shying away from it, I’ve worked hard to be the firmest and fairest disciplinarian possible….” (147)


“I never liked it (suspending players), and often thought about overlooking the violations and giving the players a break.  But that wouldn’t have been fair to them.  Discipline is a teaching tool.” (169)


“There were times when I figured I could shape my life based on my will, and God could come along for the ride.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  As the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the future.” (175)


“God never promised it would be easy.  He only promised love and blessings based on His plan, not ours.” (176)


“He was the kind of guy who could convince the Saudi’s to buy sand.” (182)


“If a team looks sloppy in the huddle, it will look sloppy during the play.  If players are unruly on the sidelines, they will be undisciplined on the field.” (191)


“It’s critical to have goals in life, and to work as hard as you can to achieve those goals, but in the end, the Lord works in mysterious ways.” (195)


“My job was to build men of character.” (210)


“What I learned as a coach was that it was better to have a slow player running in the right direction than a fast one running the wrong way.” (214)


“People constantly underestimate their abilities, and it is the responsibility of parents, coaches, and teachers to raise their self-image and expectations.” (215)


“I believe that if you aren’t prepared to keep your word, you shouldn’t give it.”  “Potentially losing a football gave was minor compared to losing credibility and respect.” (216) 


“Don’t ever wrestle with a pig.  You both get muddy, but the pig likes it.” (272)


“Throughout my life, I have striven to be the best I can be at whatever I have done.”  “That practice has earned me a reputation for being intense.” (273)


“There is a rule in life that you are either growing or dying.”  (287)


Everyone needs four things in life:

·      Something to do

·      Someone to love

·      Something to believe in

·      Something to look forward to (288-89)


“When you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging.” (292)


“There is no magic touch.  Hard work, discipline, and perseverance win more often than they lose.” (295)


“…success dies.  Significance—helping others to better their lives through word and deed—lasts forever.” (303)







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