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Striving for excellence: The importance of commitment

July 30, 2021

Recently, I had the privilege to talk with 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year winner and NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald about some of his career highlights and his perspective on the role that commitment plays in striving for excellence. This conversation was part of a webinar series we hosted to help firm partners and financial professionals accelerate their business and excel in a changing landscape.

You might be asking yourself what professional football and the financial services industry have in common? On the surface, they might seem vastly different, but in our time with Larry, he shared some experiences and insights from his life that showed how certain fundamentals for success apply whether you are an athlete, giving back in your community or working in financial services.

A little more about our special guest

Larry Fitzgerald is a philanthropist, investor and an NFL free agent wide receiver who is committed to excellence on and off the field. He was the third-overall pick during the 2004 NFL Draft and went on to play for the Arizona Cardinals for 17 years.

As much as Larry loves playing football, his proudest accomplishments have happened off the field. In 2005, he founded The Larry Fitzgerald Foundation in honor of his mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2003. One of the Foundations’ initiatives is the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund which grants funds to promote reading and effective use of technology for K-12 youth. The other area of focus for his charitable work is breast cancer research and support. In the last year alone, the Foundation has made grants totaling more than $1 million dollars.

In addition to his professional football career, Larry discovered a passion for business early on and has accumulated an impressive portfolio of business ventures.

Commitment to excellence

During our discussion, themes around discipline, focus, continuous learning, and commitment came up again and again in Larry’s answers to my questions. In his 17 years with the NFL, Fitzgerald has had an unbelievable career and is one of only 10 wide receivers – and only active player – to make the NFL 100 All-Time Team. That level of skill and performance take incredible commitment.

One of the keys to his success was taking some advice to heart that his dad gave him early on in his life about setting goals. He credits breaking down long-term goals into shorter ones and making a commitment to check them off the list with helping him achieve his larger goals. And sometimes with this approach, he achieved excellence in ways he didn’t even anticipate, such as making the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

Larry fell in love with the process of setting and achieving those smaller goals every single day to move him toward his larger goals. Along the way, he realized that this approach could help anyone achieve great things in their professional and personal lives.

Like companies that have goals for their businesses, NFL players have goals for their careers and develop plans to accomplish them. When asked about his goals for the remainder of his football career and how he’ll reach them, Larry shared that one of the most valuable things he’s learned is that goals and plans often need to change over time. Whether it’s an injury on the field or a pandemic that unexpectedly comes up, the path to achieving our goals isn’t always a straight line. Many of us face obstacles we need to navigate in our lives that require us to adapt, be resilient, and perhaps most importantly, have a positive mindset to adjust to the circumstances and move forward.

He also talked about how the success he’s found on the football field has taught him some keys to winning that can be applied to other areas of his life from his business ventures to his philanthropic efforts. For Larry, having a strong work ethic, perseverance, and a commitment to continuous learning have been the foundation of his success. He believes that no matter what stage you are in your career, you must maintain curiosity, be a lifetime learner who is a student of the industry you’re in, learn from those around you – and from those with different perspectives – and then apply what you’ve learned to grow and be the best version of yourself possible.

Our commitment to partners and customers

Like Fitzgerald, Nationwide Financial has a strong commitment to excellence in everything we do. The past year has challenged us all as we navigated the pandemic, but because Nationwide is a strong and stable company, we were able to keep our promises, as we have for almost 100 years.

Throughout it all, we were resilient and developed creative approaches to the challenges in front of us that allowed us to continue delivering on our mission of protecting people, businesses and futures with extraordinary care.

We’re also dedicated to developing and deepening strategic relationships to solve challenges that impact you and your clients. The Financial Alliance for Racial Equity, or FARE, is just one example of how we’re actively building strategic partnerships to make a difference.

Last year, Nationwide joined forces with industry firm partners and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities to address the challenge of diversity in financial services and our communities. The mission of the FARE is to increase racial diversity, drive greater equity and foster inclusion within the financial services industry. Through FARE, members of the Alliance are working together to build sustainable economic wealth and increase financial wellness and equity in diverse communities to enable better financial outcomes.

And now that some aspects of our lives are returning to a new normal, we remain committed to partnering with firms and financial professionals by providing the products, service, tools and resources – such as The Advisor Advocate® blog for the latest updates and content – you need to help move your businesses forward.