The first time I read I Feel Great and You Will Too! by Pat Croce was shortly after it came out in 2000. I’ve since read it two or three more times, and I've made it required reading for my kids as well as my nieces and nephews.
The book is filled with tips, advice and suggestions on how to really get the most out of life. It also includes some very funny and inspiring stories from Croce, including how he turned a "no" from the Philadelphia Eagles into a sports medicine empire that fueled many of his entrepreneurial dreams.
I recently had the good fortune to meet with Croce to talk about his successful career.
At the end of all your emails, you sign off with “Take Action on Your Passion.” Where did that line originate, and why is it so important to you?
I’ve read many great books filled with quotes that inspired me. Some time ago, I decided to come up with a quote that reflected my journey. "Take Action on Your Passion" means that if you’re passionate about what you do, then it’s not work. Your mission in life can’t be just about the money. I love what I do and what I’ve done. Every day is fruitful, enjoyable. I tell everyone who asks me for advice that life isn't a spectator sport—they need to get their butts off the couch and get into the game of life.
You write and speak a lot about leadership. What are the qualities of a great leader?
The first rule of great leadership is substituting “we” for “me.” Great leaders know their people must be more important than themselves. The staff is first, and the customer is second. There's no room for narcissism on a winning team or in a successful company.
The second rule of great leadership is having a vision and confidently communicating it to the team. Great leaders will then evaluate or audit employee engagement to ensure they can successfully execute the plan.
The third rule of great leadership is to establish and maintain integrity at all times. You can’t buy integrity—you must earn it. In 2015, if you're leading a team in business, be prepared to ask for their opinions and get fully engaged with them. Walk the talk when it comes to communication—teach your team how they should treat you and everyone else who plays a role in what you do. Lead by example. Be on time, and be respectful to everyone you meet. Be the standard by which every other company is measured in your industry.
Are great leaders born or made?
All leaders can be made, but great leaders are born. The same is true with athletes. There's something in the DNA that separates the great ones from the good ones. If you're in a leadership position, find your business's future great leaders and mentor them. That said, don’t neglect the other people on your team, as they'll also play a role in your success.
What are the main reasons keeping people from realizing their dreams?
Two words: fear and insecurity. If you believe that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy, why wouldn’t you expect the best and not the worst? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ancestor to every action is a thought.” We cannot live our lives based on the thoughts of other people.
Blazing new trails isn't for the faint of heart—great leaders face their fears with confidence and a plan in their hand. Then they do something that most people don’t do—they burn the lifeboats. They execute their plan as if their life depended on a successful outcome. They take action on their passion.
Seeds of doubt will always permeate your mind if you let them, but what most people don’t realize is that their dreams can change. For years, I wanted to be a physical therapist for the Philadelphia Eagles—this was my dream throughout school. When the moment finally came, they said "no" twice. I was crushed, but I decided to open my own medical rehab business, and the rest is history.
On June 17, 1999, you had a horrific motorcycle accident and almost lost your left foot. After enduring such trauma, most people will let it negatively define the rest of their lives, but you didn’t. What did the accident do to your mind, body and spirit?
God challenges us in different ways. A month earlier, I was in the second round of the NBA playoffs with the Philadelphia 76ers and on top of the world. Thirty days later, I took the express elevator straight to hell. My accident required six surgeries by a great team of doctors and lots of love. I spent two weeks in the hospital with only one day of depression. I wasn't going to let the accident take away my hard work and success.
It’s easy to stay down once you get knocked down—millions of people learn to live a compromised life. That was never going to be me. I learned so much about life, goals, obstacles and gratitude from my accident. The person I am today is a result of everything that happened to me.
You’ve been a serial entrepreneur, co-owner of a sports franchise, an author and a motivational speaker. What’s the next chapter in Pat Croce’s book?
I'm always chasing my goals, but I’m also learning to live in the moment. In 2015, I'll develop a program called WISE: Wellness, Imagination, Serenity, Exploration and Execution. It’s a culmination of everything I’ve learned up to this point in my life. As you can imagine, I’m really excited about it.
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Photo: Getty Images, Courtesy of Pat Croce