One of the most effective approaches to cultural transformation is helping a team identify their non-negotiable beliefs that guide people’s behaviors and actions. This is where Ben Utecht focuses his strategies in guiding leaders in cultivating better environments, be it in a business or sports setting. In this episode, the former NFL football player and championship culture expert talks about his organizational culture creed. Ben explains how he helps create highly productive teams that put their core values and beliefs into effective action. He also opens up about the influence of his family and sports career in becoming a culture-centered individual who takes integrity and trust seriously.
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Leading A Cultural Transformation With Ben Utecht
We have the one and only Ben Utecht. Ben is also a speaker, but you might know Ben because he was an NFL football player. He played for several football teams, including my beloved Indianapolis Colts. Ben now works with companies and associations and talks about the championship culture. He’s an entrepreneur in two different companies, and he wrote a book called Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away, which was a story of his concussion scenario.
He also has an unbelievable Christmas Music show in Minneapolis, Minnesota that if you get up there around Christmas, you need to go see it. I checked it out on the web and it’s pretty awesome, and he works with Culture Transformation based on the Dungy model. We are going to learn from one of the leading speakers in the nation on Culture Transformation, Mr. Ben Utecht after he describes first what he does.
I’ve always been very passionate about people, teams, and the culture they create, whether in sports, music or speaking. Everything I’ve ever pursued has been directed towards people building relationships and finding purpose and meaning.
Glenn, what’s up, man? Thanks for having me.
It’s so good. I’m excited. I’ve been looking forward to this interview for a while. As all of our gapper, now, we’re here to do good. We’re here to help people and organizations get from where they are to where they want to go. I always love to open my show with a very simple question. Number one, what is your definition of attitude? Number two, who was your very first attitude coach?
That’s a great question to start with. First of all, thank you so much for having me on, and congratulations on all your success. I love your platform. I love your leadership. Thank you for what you’re giving back to the community. Also, congrats on being an amazing high school football coach. That’s pretty amazing. You’ve won some championships too. I worked with a renowned clinical psychologist here in Minneapolis and we spent a lot of time talking about attitude what I love, what he taught me, is that he believes, through the lens of social psychology, that attitude is a behavior.
That attitude is more than an idea. It’s reflective of how you behave daily. I appreciate that, and it’s in alignment with what you teach. I’m going to be that guy and I’m going to say that “It was my dad.” I grew up in a pastor’s home. My dad was a Methodist pastor for over 45 years. It is the catalyst for my passion for people and speaking. I got to see one guy every single week walk into a sanctuary with an attitude toward using the power of words to transform people. That’s what set my heart of blaze for, being able to do the same thing. That’s where I’m going to go right off the back.
We’re in our third season. We’ve done over 100 interviews with highly successful people and many pro football players, and not surprisingly, more than 60% of them go, “My old man’s the one that was my very first attitude coach.” What was it like? You did talk about it. It’s neat to think about sitting back as a child and watching the mentor or the hero of your life speak on an altar and share the word of Christ. That had to be pretty amazing. Was it ever tough for you to have a pastor as a father? Were you ever made fun of for having a pastor as a father? Maybe what was the best attitude lesson that you learned from your dad in that whole mix?
I probably might have gotten made fun of a little bit until I outgrew everybody and that ended everything at that point. It was amazing. I took ownership of that, Glenn. I loved my dad’s job and I loved growing up in a family that understood the power of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I was provided tools and life skills at a very young age because my dad was not only a pastor but he was a counselor. My mom had a Counseling degree. We did a lot of communicating in my house. That was very unique and communication was one of the greatest lessons from my parents.
As in having a conversation in the workplace about a strategic plan, but real genuine conversations about growing more deeply in the relationships, the interpersonal relationships we have with each other. I would say within that ecosystem, “Growing up, the biggest lesson I learned from my dad was power and apology.” I was very blessed to have parents who did a good job of asking my sister and me what they could improve as parents. There were a handful of times when my sister and I would express ourselves.
Some of the requests or the natural life, tensions that exist in a family and conflict, and having my parents apologize to their children and experiencing the power that exists within that process of them saying, “We didn’t realize that our behaviors were making you feel this way, and because of that we apologize and we want to do better. As your parents to train and lead you.” That was pretty radical. It set the standard for me because, as a dad of four daughters, I do a lot of apologizing.
We’re seven minutes into chasing. That’s awesome. I don’t think that’s ever been said. We’ve had a lot of counselors, we’ve had a lot of family types that I’ve interviewed and I immediately went to parents now are almost too apologetic to their kids. As I see it, I’m saying, “They apologize without asking the question first.” What you said was, “It’s that question.” Real powerful tool. I have to ask this what’s your sister’s name and what’s the best attitude lesson she ever gave you?
My sister, Ashley. That’s a good question. It’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that question. If I’m reacting as I grew from being a young man into a man and understanding how important my sister was and is in my life, to this day I would say that one of the biggest skills I had to improve on early on in our relationship was dying to myself. It decreases the importance of humility, which I didn’t have a lot of growing up and the importance of listening. That’s connected to that humility attitude because if we’re leading with an attitude of selfishness, then we are going to like the sound of our voice a lot more than the sound of others.
As I grew my relationship with my sister, who’s a very intelligent, sharp woman, the importance of pausing and giving her the intention she needed and deserved, listening better is what helped me to see her for who God created her to be. That has been huge a huge catalyst to a better relationship with her.
Were you her baby brother or was she your little sister?
She was my little sister. All right. I’m sure you took good care of it. I tried. It was, like I said, a great home to grow up in and we have a very close family.
Let’s get into this thing called culture that you’ve seemed to be dedicating your life, your passion, and sharing this thing called culture. Certainly, culture could be classified as somewhat of an attitude. How do you define culture?
I define culture as “What you believe, why you believe it, and how you behave about it.” What you believe, why you believe it, and how you behave about it.
When you go in and talk with a prospective client or company, is that where you start with them those three questions?
It is because we’ve gotten into a check-the-box mentality of mission, vision, and value statement, and I wanted to approach culture through the lens of the depth that it deserves. As I’ve done my research and have been mentored by some pretty incredible people in the HR platforms and the psychology platforms, one of the interesting things you learn is that we know where values are stored in the brain.
What’s interesting is that the only reason values stay there is that they’re held in place by beliefs. Beliefs are the foundation of the values that we have. Usually, if you say that you value an attitude of integrity or an attitude of courage, the next question is, why? The answer is I believe that integrity is, or I believe that courage is, or I believe. Usually, we say the word believe when we’re putting that stake in the ground on something as a human being, it’s the most foundational part of what we can say to take ownership of something.
Coming into a company and helping them identify their non-negotiable beliefs that guide the behaviors and actions of their people is what I call the organizational culture creed. I come in and I help companies develop their creed and create the systems around that in which to practice those non-negotiable beliefs to get the behaviors out of their team that they desire.
That is awesome and valuable, no doubt, for every company that’s out there. We can take this boat two ways. When you look at the people you work with or the people you speak to individuals, what do you see as the biggest issue or problem individually with people? What are the biggest issues or problems as you walk into a company and you try to create that creed? Is it all the same? I’m sure it can vary a little bit, but are you like, this again? What are people doing wrong?
It’s changing generationally, and so we’re seeing a lot of unique problems, strengths, and growth areas. The 360-degree approach to the human condition is always alive and it’s always moving. I would say, “In the current workplace, one of the areas of concern is proactivity.” It’s getting people that are excited and have an attitude to come to work every day and work hard. To also understand the value that exists within the physical connection.
Now that we’re living in a virtual world, even though that physical connection provides an incredible impact on an organization’s success. I would say, organizationally, one of the things that we see is consistency is trust issues. A lot of times, it’s because the senior leadership of an organization doesn’t do a thorough job of explaining the why.
It’s the Simon Sinek why. It’s the story behind the decision. When your team members don’t understand the why, it makes it hard for them to trust your decisions. Even making small little changes to the communication process by which you bring your team members around the decisions that you’re making at the C-Suite level can make a world of difference around how your employee base trusts you as leaders.If your team members don’t understand the why, it makes them harder to trust your decisions. Making small changes to your communication process can make a world of difference on how they trust you. Click To Tweet
I always say, “Trust isn’t earned in a day, it’s earned day by day,” and that gets into the communication that you’re talking about. It all ties into that creed, that you try to uncover and clean up. That’s got to feel good to go in, be able to diagnose, polish something up and then come out with another creed. You’ve been doing this for a lot of people. I’d love to know you don’t have to name names of companies or anything, but give us an example of when you walked into a company and you’re like, “It was a mess. I’ll never forget this creed that we came up with that was freaking awesome.” Do you have one of those? Do you remember the best creed that you came up with a client?
I’ve been blessed to be working with a pretty radical private equity group here in the Minneapolis area called True North Equity Partners. They currently own around 30 companies and are growing rapidly. They have a very powerful platform for taking a purpose-driven servant leadership approach. What they wanted to do was take this foundational belief system that they had to turn into a material product. It was a great opportunity to come in and to take what they’ve designed by default.
They’ve brought in great leaders and those great leaders have been doing a good job of hiring and bringing in and leading younger talent, but they haven’t been able to capture it, make it material and an objective product. We had a chance to come in and we’ve done the True North Culture Creed. We’ve also followed up and done two of their main companies with Sunbelt Business Advisors, which is a national franchise, and then also Honour Capital, which is a very unique purpose-driven capital finance company.
For each of these companies, we’ve identified a very customized approach to their non-negotiables and what we do in alignment with the definition I gave you for culture. It is not only do you define what those non-negotiables are, but now you take that typical value statement. You throw gasoline on it, you put adrenaline on it and it turns into what becomes an operating system or a manual that you can use in training that goes deeply into the what, why, and how of each non-negotiable.
If you’re going to be a company that wants to build a culture on a non-negotiable belief like integrity, then not only are we going to define what integrity is through the lens of that company. Now we’re going to go deep into why the psychology of integrity removes all gray areas and then head into the most important, where the secret sauce is. That’s the how. “How do you develop integrity in yourself and your team members.” That’s what the Creed encapsulates, and we’ve rolled this out there along with bringing in my technology platform that has a behavioral assessment that helps these organizations hire the right people and develop those people in benchmark culture. It’s exciting.
The area of recruiting and retention is certainly profitable. It’s probably the biggest challenge in business currently. How do you help one of our gapers that goes, “I’ve listed some of my non-negotiables,” and then they go, “I want to negotiate.”
That’s going to be an ongoing ever presentation that exists within any business or any sports team and the reason why is because we’re people, humans, flawed, broken, full of joy, and there are so many unique qualities to us that we always have to be prepared for any organization and team, that’s going to exist. If we can come in and help people by trading a guide system or a rail system, and this is so true, and I know you know a lot about franchising, but the reason why a franchise is successful is because of the ability to replicate a franchise operating system.
My approach to culture is in alignment with that. “How do we create the culture operating system.” It’s like the EOS system. How do we do that with culture and you build out the systems which hold you accountable to practice those non-negotiable leaves in the right way? It’s never going to be perfect. You’re always going to have issues, but at least it gives you a foundation and an accountability system to do something about it.
Ben is somebody you want to get in touch with if you’re a business owner, if you’re an entrepreneur or a team leader. If you’re a football coach and your culture is in hell, get with Ben. Where did we find you?
BenUtechtSpeaks.com is my website and I’m very accessible on LinkedIn. I’d like to use that platform to speak directly to business leaders.
We’re hooked up on LinkedIn. If I remember, we both hit each other up, which was serious. Good. We’re on LinkedIn every day. That’s non-negotiable for me to post every single one on LinkedIn. Let’s talk a little bit about the book and what it was like writing that book. What was the name of the book again?
It was Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away, which is a very ominous title. I know I had a bit of a hard time with it when we were writing. They wanted something captivating. My concussion story was on national television as the Cincinnati Bengals were on HBO Hard Knocks. The world got to see my final concussion, which was challenging, to be honest with you. It was a difficult time. I was at the best of my physical abilities and was excited to be playing for, hopefully, another handful of years. Unfortunately, concussions made that difficult.
It was also at a time when it was a pivotal moment in creating an advocacy platform to be an ambassador for the brain health of players as I was pursued to tell my story, that ultimately is what prompted me to move forward with that. It took a lot of vulnerability and was received well. At that time, the tension that exists within the NFL and players and brain injury was at an all-time high. It was like walking on eggshells for a little bit. It’s been a great platform for me to do what I can as a spokesperson for brain health and try to help to find the cures for brain disease. Overall, I’m glad that I shared that story.
The cure for concussions would be not slamming your head into other men at 40 miles an hour. For sure.
That’s not what I advocate for. I love the game of football. My message was pro brain, pro game. It was the balance that exists within being completely educated so that you can make the best decisions that you can for your children and yourself. Also, do whatever you can to create the right benefit structure for players giving their lives to this game and injuring the thing that makes them who they are that ultimately is the platform I decided to stand on.
What would you say was the attitude lesson you got from writing that book? As you were going through it, what was the attitude lesson?
I would say vulnerability equals connectivity. When I would get letters in the mail or when people would come up to me after a speaking engagement and they would tell me how their book has helped them in their journey with traumatic brain injury. I’ll get letters in the mail with football cards from parents who have had children that have struggled with the after-effects and consequences.
How learning about my story was something that helped them get through some of their values, that stuff is always what makes it worth it. I never wrote the book to be a best seller or to make a lot of money. As you typically don’t, you’re like one of the few, but the reality is that you write a book to create a platform that positively impacts people’s lives. That’s ultimately why I did that.
I saw that you were four years at the University of Minnesota and I’m wondering, did you ever meet Jay Robinson, the wrestling coach?
I did. I’ll tell you what that program, National Champions, I went to. I was there when Brock Lesnar was the heavyweight champion of the Minnesota Gophers and went on to have this unbelievable WWE career. When the football team is looking over at this monster with 645-pound plates on each side of the bar and the bar is bending, you know that you’ve got a pretty serious wrestling program.
My son wrestled, D1, and Jay Robinson called our house and talked to him and I was like, “That’s Jay Robinson.” What a legend. I was curious if you ever got to meet him or if there was an attitude lesson that came out of that program. Did you hang around any wrestlers? Did you ever hear him speak or were you doing the football thing?
We were pretty compartmentalized, but I knew some of the wrestlers and the number of words we could use to describe the wrestling attitude. Glenn, there is no other attitude like it. I don’t know, indomitable will. One of the non-negotiables we created for a fascinating construction company. Out in Spokane Inland group.
They have this amazing non-negotiable belief called indomitable will and that is what popped into my mind because we would start our football practices and we would see these wrestlers leave the indoor athletic facility hearing 45-pound plates over their heads running off campus, and we would go through our 3-hour practice and as we were walking in, they would be running back with these 45-pound plates. It’s insane. The work ethic and the will it takes to be a wrestler, especially a wrestler, in the University of Minnesota program.
We interviewed a guy called the Wrestling Mindset. I can’t remember his name. Was it Gene Zannetti? Maybe. Check that podcast out. You’ll like it. He works with kids on the wrestling mindset, so it’s pretty interesting. In terms of guys, you played with at Minnesota. I would love to know who had the most influence on your attitude was there a story of a guy that you played with at Minnesota where you went? That guy has a great attitude, or I learned something from them. What was the greatest lesson you learned from one of your teammates during those four years and who was it?
There was a left tackle who was our starting left-tackle monster of a man from Forest Lake, Minnesota. We built, we produced these massive German Norwegian, Scandinavian offensive linemen up here, as I’m sure, but Adam was one of those guys and I remember I started as a freshman tied end.
I was so wet behind the ears and I’ll never forget the first game having this tower of men look over to me and say, “You got this, okay, and I’m going to help you with the calls.” I don’t think much about that until you ask the question. What a great attitude of being a helper, being willing to be humble enough to help the young kid. Especially in the middle of a game, which is a great last.
As you and I know, most people may not come in as a freshman into Big ten football with a playbook, this thick audibles and option routes, and all that. You don’t know what you’re doing in the first game. You’re going to be lucky if it’s a pass or a run.
I came in as a wide receiver and quickly got moved over to the tight end as I put on weights. It was a new position for me. I stood up my whole career and now I’m having to hit guys in the mouth that are 50, 60, or 70 pounds heavier than I am. He provided a breath of fresh air and allowed me to hit the ground running.
Who was your college coach? Did you have the same college coach or did you get the rotating coach tree going? I did. His name was Glen Mason.
What was the attitude lesson he gave you or taught you?
One of them was don’t blink, which I thought was which was cool. “Don’t blink and if you want respect, take it.”
You were talking about your father being the first attitude coach. One question I always love to go back in because I believe that the history of attitude and what creates our attitudes inside of us rests in the generation before our parents. I’m curious if you were fortunate enough to know your grandparents and if there were 1 or 2 grandparents that you did know well, what was the attitude lesson those grandparents?
My grandfather Bob Utecht was a unique individual. He was the ringside announcer for the Minnesota North Stars and played a role in fundraising for the 1980 US Olympic team that won the gold medal. He started a local newspaper called Let’s Play Hockey, which has become a strong regional hockey newspaper to this day. That phrase, “Let’s Play Hockey is still shouted at the beginning of every Minnesota wild game.”
That’s from your grandpa?
That’s from my grandpa. He let’s play hockey means me as his grandson. My grandfather worked hard to pursue his passion and hockey was one of those passions. He was willing to give up whatever it took to get there. Within let’s play hockey are three things. Let’s community. He was a huge community ambassador. Do what you love and then hockey is doing the thing that you love. That was something so unique about being grown up around someone like that who was an entertainer, a community ambassador, and did everything from lobbying to supporting community theaters. He was an all-around renaissance guy and that’s akin to who I am as well.
I told you, it never fails that the grandparents always got the best story when it’s all said and done. You went to a lot of hockey games, I’m guessing, as a kid. Did you ever put on the skates and play?
I was a goalie. I did. I was a 6-foot-6 drink of water, a huge 5-hole, and they took advantage of it.
It’s the skill that hockey players nowadays the skill that they possess is unbelievable to me. I don’t know how they do what they do with the puck and all that. How are the North Stars doing this year?
The North Stars are now in Dallas, but the Minnesota Wild are. They’re doing good. Our state sport is hockey. Anytime you go to a game, it’s completely sold out. It’s the same with the goal for the hockey team. It’s a pretty special place to watch that sport.
We talked a little bit about this thing called the Dungy model, which is what is filtered through or based on what you’re doing with companies. Can you give us a little Dungy model 101? What is it, and what does that mean? What does it mean to you? What was coach Dungy’s best attitude lesson for you?
Coach Dungy taught me that culture is the human condition at work. That changed everything because typically, sports can be a fear-based platform. We’re going to build you up and break you down, and there’s no HR in football. The words and ways how coaches go about trying to get your best performance are many times toxic and great but that does exist. I thought it was interesting. In some of our first team meetings, Dungy expressed this incredible purpose to build a family.
Yes, the acronym for family and football is “Forget About Me, I love you.” That’s something I learned from PJ Fleck the Gopher coach herein, at the University of Minnesota. Think about that, what is a cool attitude toward family? Forget about me. I love you. This idea is that selflessness leads to deeper levels of commitment. If that’s true, now we got to go through that what, why, and how. “What is selflessness and why does selflessness matter and how do we develop that in our people and ourselves?”
All of that is what came out of this from an incredible Tony Dungy perspective, which was that culture is not a mistake. It’s not this default thing that we’re going to allow to develop on its own and not manage. We’re going to design our culture and then we’re going to do something about it to develop this. We did. We had a number of systems that took place inside the locker room, on the field, and off the field that were designed to not develop our fundamentals and techniques on the game but also our fundamentals and techniques of our human condition. Ultimately, he believed that “If you build better men, you get better football players.”A culture is not a mistake. It is not a default thing that develops on its own. The people design and develop the culture. Click To Tweet
Let’s go. That’s what we should do in business. We have such an amazing opportunity to positively impact people’s lives, why not choose to take that approach? I know that fear still drives revenue, but it’s not sustainable. It doesn’t drive respect, and it doesn’t drive, all the other wonderful life principles that you can be successful and improve people at the same time. That’s a legacy that you want to stand behind.
That gets into do we want to be transactional or transformational.
Which Joe Wright, were you there with Joe or No?
I don’t think so.
Joe’s in the University of Attitude with us too, and he’s a former colt player, interestingly enough. What else do I want to ask you? Okay. What we do is I do this little exercise at the end of our podcast called Knowledge Through the Decades, and we’d walk you through your life. Are you 40 yet?
We’ll go through 40. I always like to ask you about the attitude lesson you learned at each ten-year increment of your life. I know you probably don’t remember being born, but when we ask people about the attitude lesson of birth, and lord knows you’ve had four kids, my guess is when those babies came out, especially all being girls, there was an attitude lesson for you. I’d love to know what that attitude lesson was or that they, the attitude lesson you feel that is created through birth.
The first thing I thought of as I saw my oldest daughter, Laura come into the world as it took me back to my faith perspective and this idea of if you’re a Christian and can relate to this idea where, how do you give up your only son for the world? I shared with you I grew up in the church and so this is something that I was thinking about at that moment. She was so precious and her cry was perfect, and all of these things as a dad, and then I couldn’t help but think, “How in the world could I ever give her up?” It deepened my faith and my ability to believe in what I cannot see. That was a pretty awesome experience.
That’s a definite attitude booster, Ben. There’s no doubt about that. That’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing that. Now we’re going to go in and have a little fun because you’re ten years old. I’m guessing you probably played a little football when you were 10, maybe a little hockey, when you were 10, or maybe you were the bully when you were 10. What was your attitude? Do you remember being 10? What was the attitude lesson there for you?
What grade was that at?
That’s going to put you in about 3rd or 4th grade.
I was high and free-spirited, wanted everybody to like me, and was willing to do whatever it took to get that. During a reading class in fourth grade, Lakeside Elementary, a small little town in Minnesota Chicago Lakes. “I got dared to crawl around the room and break everybody’s pencil.” While everybody was off reading, I went around and opened up all their little pencil kits, and I broke everybody’s pencil. I got into some serious trouble.
How did you get caught? Somebody rented you out, did you get flipped on?
I got flipped on, probably by the kid that asked me to do it, and that was an important attitude lesson of having integrity and doing the right thing when no one was watching.
Integrity is what you did. I’m guessing your dad probably wasn’t a spanker, but were you close?
They were a spanker. This right, this rock. That happened.
I love it. Broke every pencil in the room. That’s good. We didn’t talk much about your high school career, but that’s okay. Twenty years old, you’re at the University of Minnesota and I’m guessing you’re a sophomore, maybe a junior. Do you remember being twenty? Do you remember turning twenty and whatever was going on in your life? What was the attitude lesson from whatever story may come from being 20?
If I’m going back from my perspective, it would probably be that entitlement is destructive. It’s destructive. Things were going so well and I was one of the top tight ends in the country, and I let a lot of that go to my head and it created quite a few bad habits for me in college that had consequences relationally and educationally. That made the output in other areas of my life average when they should have been elite and if I could go back and speak to that person, “I would speak against the attitude of entitlement and instead, the attitude of submissiveness, humility, hard work, and all those good qualities.”
You would’ve smacked that guy upside the head and say, “Get real, dude.” Were you drafted?
I was supposed to be, but I had a serious abdominal injury my senior year, which took me out of the draft. I got a medical red flag by all the teams because of the injury.
What was that injury?
Now got it is a bilateral sports hernia where I tore the abdominal muscles off the pubic bone. It was a pretty serious deal. Glenn, it was my miracle story to the NFL because two months before the draft, I spoke at an event on campus and I opened for Tony Dungy. I say, “Coach, if you care about us Gophers, if you love this university because he was a former Gopher, if you care about this university, you’re going to draft me in the upcoming draft.”
The 700 alumni there we’re all cheering. He gets up and says, “We drafted Dallas Clark last year. Great pro bowl, tight end. We’re not going to be looking for a tight end,” and then he paused and came back to the mic. He said, “If for some reason you slipped through the crack, for some reason you don’t get drafted, I promise I’ll be the first to call.”
It went in one ear and out the other. I go to the draft. I get red played by the teams. The draft date comes. I don’t get drafted. Every name gets called except for mine. Embarrassing. My career’s over. I’m still injured. I go to my agent’s office, the free agent market opens five seconds after the phone rings on his desk. I pick it up. Tony Dungy and Bill Polian.
They called and said, “We didn’t think you were going to follow through, but we know what your injury is and how to fix it. We want you to be a colt. We know how talented you are when you’re healthy. Don’t even think about playing the first year. Just get better. We’ll pay you as though you’re a starting rookie. Here’s a little signing bonus.”
The next year, Dallas Clark goes down with a concussion. Last game in the preseason. I started against Ray Lewis in the Baltimore Ravens and scored a touchdown on Deion Sanders in the third quarter. For the next three years, I get to start alongside Dallas Clark and some of the greatest players in history and win a Super Bowl. None of that happens. If it’s not for one man practicing a chosen culture, then that’s all Tony Dungy.
It doesn’t happen if you weren’t public speaking.
Think about that. That’s pretty cool.
What was that? You didn’t know you wanted to be a speaker. Did they say, “Ben, you’re the guy that’s going to talk before Tony?” How did that all go down?
I started speaking professionally in college. I started speaking and doing a lot of faith-based speaking as well with FCA and Athletes in Action. I was speaking at that time and that’s probably the reason why I got, and I was a captain that year that they were giving me that platform.
I probably saw you catch the touch.
I’m sure you did.
There’s no doubt. Now football, I don’t know, were you still playing at 30 or not, but do you remember turning 30? Do you remember your 30th birthday and what’s your attitude lesson from 30?
That was 29 or 30 was the retirement due to injury. That was crazy and a pretty intense time in my life. “My birthday is June 30th. It was my golden birthday.” My wife threw a pretty unbelievable party for me at the time. It was the New Gopher Stadium and we blocked out and had a bunch of people there. The attitude lesson there, if I could go back, is trust.
I was beginning this process of having to redefine myself and there was a lot of uncertainty. I wish I would’ve had more trust for the process and there’s so much, to be honest with you. I wish I was more intentional at that time and wisdom. I wish I had more wisdom at that time. I could probably keep going, but there were a lot of attitude opportunities for reflection during that big life transition.
Ben, people are reading this blog because they were that they are that person where you’re 30. Maybe it’s a personal reversal, a financial reversal, a professional reversal. They’re going, “I’m going to try this Glenn Bill Get Attitude show. Ben Utech may have something for me.” Chances are somebody is feeling the way you felt at 30. What’s your advice to them?
You look at your career ends, like you said, “What am I going to do? I’m lost.” Knowing what you know now. It’s what’s the 1, 2, 3 playbook for them? If somebody is sitting there going, “I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life now because this happened to me.” What would your advice be to get them to bridge the gap from where they are to where they want to go?
I’d say, for one, “The first thing that comes to my mind is to be in the right huddle.” Be in the right huddle. Surround yourself with people that genuinely care about you. Take some time to spend some time in discovery with those people, and make those people a part of your vocational platform, part of your relational and emotional platform, and your spiritual platform. That way you’re getting some unique perspectives around the foundational parts of your identity and start there.
Be careful of the shiny object. I’ve never had a high level of criticality or the ability to evaluate ideas with precision. I’m creative and as a creative, emotional, and relational person, I can be very distracted by a shiny object. I’ve chased a number of those shiny objects that took me down past where if I would’ve paused and if I would’ve gone back to my huddle and made some discovery, I could have said, “No, where I needed to say no.”
Anything else or do you want to leave it at two?
What may be the last one would be to have joy. Take a deep breath and look around. See everything from the beauty in your surroundings in life. When you look up at the stars, sky, trees, and this amazing place, you get to be alive with your family and friends. Often, we can worry so much more than we need to because if we just pause and look around and breathe, we tend to see a lot of good to celebrate. I’ve failed at doing that.
My daughters would tell you, “At different points in my life, it’s been something I’ve wanted to work on, to develop, and to give back to them.” There’s so much to be thankful for. If I don’t pause and think about that, “I can get very closed-minded and it never creates an enjoyable atmosphere when that happens.” Not in our house, at least.
Go to grandpa’s 1, 2, 3. Let’s play hockey.
Let’s play hockey. Let’s go.
You just turned 40, and you’re there. As you sit there as a 41-year-old, what’s the attitude lesson on 40 for you?
Fortitude, endurance. I’m coming to a point in my life now where the amount of clarity has never been stronger. I believe that my calling is now truly in front of me. Now it’s about taking ownership of running the race with everything I have, enduring and pushing through the tough obstacles to be successful, first for my faith, my family, and then for all those that I have a chance to come in contact with. I’ve always been a big dreamer. That’s why I use these types of words. I think that there’s so much opportunity to do incredible things for other people. We have to shift to go for it.
As we walk through your life, we have faith, integrity, entitlement is destructive, building trust, and finally have that fortitude and endurance. That’s the exercise we do. It’s always so fun to do that. Two last questions. Number one, what’s the attitude lesson those four girls teach you?
That’s a whole other episode, Glenn.
We can do part two later. That’s fine.
They have taught me that I need to have an attitude of a hero. I’m the first example of what a man is, of what a man is to them. I’m the first example of how a man treats a woman. I’m the first example of how a man works for their family. I’m the first example of how a man thinks through the decisions that he makes and the list goes on. It is about being their hero. It sets the bar high, but it should be high because they deserve it. That’s especially when my daughters are all coming into their teenage years, it’s time to be that guy, and even at 41, I got to continue growing up and getting better. That’s my commitment to them.
I got a 35-year-old daughter and that commitment will not waiver or minimize the older they get, especially if they give you grandbabies. That’s for sure. Ben, we always end our show by giving you the ability. To talk directly to our Gappers, to our readers. We have thousands of people throughout the world that read this show and we love people to give their message of hope.
Certainly, with your background, especially with your faith and compassion for others and your commitment to serving others. I have a feeling this hope message is going to be awesome. If you could finish this show and give a message of hope to the people that need it, that is reading to blog.
Sure. Thanks, Glenn. We have the only Super Bowl ring in the history of football to have a non-negotiable belief system engraved on the side of the ring and it’s the word faith and it had nothing to do with religion. It was built on a powerful acronym that said, “Freedom for all individuals to trust and hope in each other.” It’s powerful when you think about this happening in an NFL locker room. If Coach Dungy could take 53 of the most diverse people on the planet and empower them, inspire them to trust and hope in each other.
He’s put together the strongest team. I would encourage you to make some discoveries in your own lives. What are those non-negotiables that drive what you believe, why you believe it, and how do you want to behave and take ownership of those, but don’t leave it there? Start to think through how you can practice these because of the ripple effect of new practice. Powerful life principles like these are going to be insurmountable. It will have an incredible waterfall effect on everyone who comes in contact with you. Best of luck with that perspective.
There’s your next Super Bowl championship ring right up there. We are on Spotify. I’ve never heard that acronym for Faith, so that is so cool. Ladies and gentlemen, the great Ben Utech. Ben, thanks for giving us your time, your heart, and your soul, and we will see you all on the next episode.
- Ben Utecht
- Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away
- LinkedIn – Ben Utecht
- Gene Zannetti – Past Episode
- Joe Wright – Past Episode
- Spotify – Get Attitude Podcast
About Ben Utecht
It is rare to find a true Renaissance man anymore, but that’s just what you get with Ben Utecht. Ben has always chased his dreams, finding his way from a small river town in Minnesota to winning Super Bowl XLI as a tight end with the Indianapolis Colts. He has established himself as an elite Fortune 500 speaker with his speaking program Believe in Culture™, which highlights the topic of believing that culture alignment improves performance and has the power to create high-performing teams — aligned beliefs equal aligned behaviors.
His speaking program, Believe in Culture™, stems from lessons he learned in the locker room with Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy and in the huddle with Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. The program illuminates dynamic ways to succeed in business and life.
Ben Utecht has found success in many realms, sitting on the prestigious board of the American Brain Foundation, authoring Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away with Simon and Schuster, creating the music group REBORN with South African Multi-Platinum Artist André Venter and Canadian Grammy Nominated Artist Mark Masri, and becoming a Dove nominated professional singer. As an advocate for athlete brain health, Ben speaks on concussion during The MVP Program™. He has performed with some of the world’s best orchestras and conductors; such as the Cincinnati Pops under Maestro Erich Kunzel, and the New York Pops Maestro Steven Reineke.
Ben has also shared the stage with Grammy-winner Sandi Patty, performed for mega-producer and hit songwriter David Foster, and has toured many times with adult contemporary star pianist Jim Brickman. However, without question, Ben would tell you his greatest accomplishment is being a husband to his beautiful wife and a father to their four daughters.