Have you ever heard of Bum Phillips? He was the football coach who built the Houston Oilers into one of the top NFL teams in the late 1970s. Phillips was best known for his larger-than-life, no-nonsense character. He referred to himself as a “coach, cowboy, and Christian,” and customarily dressed in jeans, cowboy boots, a work shirt, and a white Stetson hat.
I first heard about Bum Phillips in 1980, after the Houston Oilers lost the American Football Conference championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second year in a row. When the Oilers returned home to Texas after their second loss to the Steelers, Phillips stood before a capacity crowd at the Astrodome and bellowed into the microphone, “One year ago, we knocked on the door. This year, we beat on the door. Next year, we’re going to kick the son of a (curse word) in!”
When I heard what Phillips had said to the crowd, my immediate thought was, “Wow, he’s my kind of coach.” He reminded me of the men I grew up with on the Williams side of the family — confident, tough, aggressive, bold, competitive, and combative.
Last week at the age of 90, Bum Phillips passed away. His real name was Oail Andrew Phillips. He was the son of a truck driver. He got his nickname, Bum, as a boy when his younger sister, Edrina, started calling him “bumble.” She was trying to say “brother,” but it didn’t come out right. The name was later shortened to “Bum.”
After I saw the headline that Phillips had passed away, I read a couple of articles about his life. It turns out that his popularity among his fans had more to do with his unique character than his career as a football coach. Although he never won a super bowl championship, he repeatedly won the affection of the fans. He was known for his one-liners, a few of which were:
• “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired.”
• “That boy could throw a football through a car wash and not get it wet.” (Referring to Warren Moon, a Houston Oilers quarterback.)
• “Respect all, fear none.”
If you think about the handful of people who have had the greatest influence on you over the course of your life, what one characteristic would you say they all had in common? You would have to say that, like Bum Phillips, they were all unique characters. They stood out because they were different than everyone else. They weren’t followers, they were leaders.
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know how much I despise the compulsory school system. It was designed over 100 years ago by government bureaucrats and industry leaders to equip the general population with the skills that were needed to work in factories, corporations, and government institutions.
Some of the skills that the school system was designed to “teach” students included:
• Sitting for long periods of time while performing repetitive, mundane tasks.
• Dutifully lining up like robots and marching to the next room each time the bell rang.
• Memorizing and regurgitating information.
• Following orders and fitting in with everyone else.
What happens to children when they are forced into an environment where, over a period of 12 to 20 years, they are herded into classrooms where they are required to conform to a pre-determined set of criteria? They are robbed of their creativity and uniqueness, and turned into drones who are conditioned to think in limited ways.
Some people say that the school system isn’t effective. They’re wrong. The school system is very effective at conditioning students to conform to a set of pre-determined behavioral beliefs and standards.
This “system” of conditioning and training students to work in factories, corporations, and government institutions worked fine until the late 1970s, when American companies were still manufacturing their products in the United States. After the 1980s, a large share of factory jobs was moved overseas. Now, more than 30 years later, the adults who came out of the school system are incapable of qualifying for or performing the jobs that are available — jobs that require them to tap into their own creativity and uniqueness.
How can these people undo decades of conditioning? They can’t.
I believe that one of my primary roles as a father is to identify and help develop the unique qualities and traits that each of my children were born with. One of the best gifts I can give them is a deep understanding of their own unique gifts — gifts that were given to them by God when they were created.
Do you know what unique gifts you were blessed with when you were created by God?
The only way you will ever reach your full potential is by developing an awareness and appreciation for the unique gifts that you were blessed with.
Can I share a little secret with you? There is one person who has the ability, knowledge, desire, and power to help you identify and develop your unique gifts. It’s the same person that helped me recognize and develop my gifts. Her name is Mary and she happens to be the mother of God and the mother of all mankind.
If you are willing to make a commitment to get to know her and pray her rosary every day, in addition to bringing you closer to her Son, she will also slowly reveal to you the unique gifts that were given to you when you were created by God.
Bum Phillips was able to influence others by using the unique gifts he was blessed with. You have that same ability, but first you have to identify and develop your own unique gifts. The mother of God will help you do that if you reach out to her in prayer every day.