I've been here at the Kellog School at Northwestern in Chicago now for five days and I have yet to leave the building! We have been absorbed in the classroom, and growing up in Southern California the lack of Vitamin D is taking a toll on me. The classes, dorms, meals and the gym are all located in one building. We do have a beautiful lake view but that, I feel, is just taunting me.
Over the last several days, we have been immersed in a variety of interesting classes that covered negotiations skills, marketing approaches, leadership lessons, innovation and brainstorming, and even got in a bit on the importance of philanthropy.
But the highlights for me came from our negotiations sessions with Professor Victoria Medvec, who is a brilliant and dynamic speaker. As a heavy hitter in the negotiation industry, she provided countless insights. One player was so smitten with her that, while under the spell of her dynamic public speaking ability, he even proposed to her during class!
The funny thing is we have no shortage of opportunities to practice our negotiating skills at some level. We subconsciously negotiate everyday — although as Americans, we don't haggle over prices the way they do in some other countries, but we still negotiate with friends over where to have lunch and we try our hardest to convince family members to take the vacation we would most enjoy. Professor Medvec tried to make the negotiation tactics relevant by showing us how the universal principles were not just for business but also could make a difference when making an offer on a house or in shopping around for a car.
As football players, we also had some experiences to share with how sports agents negotiate our contracts. Although I won't share all the principles involved (in case I have to negotiate with you), one interesting tidbit that may help someone in case they are looking to rent a place for a wedding reception — go ahead and mention that it will be for a family gathering or something else because once you mention that it is for a wedding, the price will immediately jump since the vendor will know that your emotions will get in the way of driving a hard bargain.
What I have found that we do a lot in business school is play Monday morning quarterback. We have been dissecting business plans in the same way that NFL games are dissected. Whether it is individual player performances or the overall game plan, it's up for discussion. In business, as in sports you have to learn what went right and more importantly what went wrong. Going through this process is of course a very valuable learning opportunity, but it is always easy to second guess decisions after the fact with the benefit of knowing the outcome. If I had the ability to press pause and then rewind, I could make myself into a really efficient football player who always sees what's coming. Unfortunately, that's not the real world, but that's what makes sports, and business, interesting. In both sports and business, what seems to look easy and obvious really isn't.
On a side note, the food here has been amazing! I understand that being a 300-pounder, I am not too discriminatory when it comes to food, but we have not exactly been eating the traditional dorm food. The mealtimes have really been a great opportunity to sit down with everyone and continue our discussions in an informal setting. Whether we have vociferous discussions about who is the favorite to win the NFC South (hardly a matter up for discussion!), speak our minds about the newest Nike uniforms, go over various "innovative" (or hopeless — it's hard to tell sometimes) business startup ideas, or argue over whether Facebook deserves a high IPO, it is always interesting.
It's important to know how to deal with high pressure situations to make good on all the hard work that you have invested by the time you get into a game situation. Those of us who play in the NFL enjoy competition. It brings out the best in all of us. I give everything I have every down of every NFL game that I play. When I am in the business world, I will have confidence knowing that I can perform in high pressure situations. Combining this business education with our competitive background will make a lot of my classmates here interesting people to watch in the future.
But now it's the fourth quarter and our foray into business education is nearing the end. Stay tuned as I will give you the wrap up of the NFL Kellogg Business School on Friday.