The Ingredients For Greatness, By Jerome Bettis

I’m a sucker for speeches. I like to hear people in their own words. Some of the best are Hall of Fame induction speeches. For instance, I remember Michael Jordan’s speech in Springfield, MA (he still had a huge, competitive chip on his shoulder). And, this year for the NFL, like millions of others, I was moved by the words and grace of inductee Junior Seau’s daughter. If you haven’t read her speech, please do — the NFL wouldn’t allow her to accept her father’s induction on stage, so she published it in The New York Times instead.

With a few minutes to spare this evening, I wanted to see what “The Bus” had to say. I always liked Jerome Bettis, but I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I clearly remember he was a dominant and colorful player. His speech (see below) was one of my favorites of all-time, and it only has 366 views on YouTube (at the time I’m writing this). He goes through his entire family, set of coaches from high school, through college, and into the pros, and talks about the fluidity of his life from football, family, and friends, and back again, over and over. (N.B. He called out his mom, specifically thanking her for going to every single one of his professional NFL games — when I looked it up, it’s well over 200 games she showed up, in person. Incredible.)

I wanted to post this because loved the ending of Bettis’ speech. I don’t need to interpret it further, so I listened and scribed down what he said, so you can read it (and if you’d like to listen, it’s at the 32-min mark on the video):

Greatness is not a sports term — it’s a life term. I believe there are four things that get you to greatness. One, you gotta have the ability to sacrifice. A lot of times that means sacrificing the relationships that mean the most to you. The second thing is pain. You’re gonna have to go through some type of pain in your life — either physical or mental — and you’ve got to find a way to endure. The third one is failure. You’ve got to have the ability to understand that you’re going to fail, but it’s how you recover that makes you a better person. And the last, the fourth one, is love, because if you love it, then, it’s not a job — it’s a passion. And if you love it, you’re willing to sacrifice for it, you’re willing to go through all types of pain for it, and you are willing to go through that failure and understand that ‘I will be successful.’ If you go through those four things and understand [them],…then success is in your path. Greatness is available to you.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2017 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus