Walter Payton’s Lessons For Handling Failure

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Jarrett and Brittney Payton, the children of Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton, share life lessons about work, parenting and being kind to others, all learned from their late father.

Jarrett Payton, right, and Brittney Payton, son and daughter, respectively, of former Chicago Bears great Walter Payton, stand on the field during the national anthem before an NFL football game between the Bears and Cleveland Browns in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009. The game was dedicated to Walter on the 10th anniversary of his death from liver disease. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Many years ago this author had the opportunity to work on a book titled Never Die Easy with Walter Payton. A running back and Super Bowl winner with the Chicago Bears, Walter is widely viewed as the greatest running back of all time. And you would find no shortage of fans of the game who view him as also the greatest football player ever to play the game. The NFL thought enough of him as a human being to name their Man of the Year Award after Walter Payton.

During the time we worked on the book together, Walter had been diagnosed with a rare liver disease and in the last weeks of his life, wanted to tell his story. On November 1, 1999, Payton died from the complications that arose from his illness. He was 45 years old.

The experience was life changing for this author because out of that book grew a relationship with his two children, Jarrett and Brittney. Both of these wonderful people are athletes in their own rights and both have established successful media careers, while continuing to honor their dad’s legacy through their work with the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation.

In the podcast, Brittney and Jarrett reminisce about their father and growing up as a Payton. They reveal how they are still drawing lessons from Walter about balancing work and family life, something their father had to deal with as a football player and businessman. “And to be a grown up now and a father, a business owner and all these other things, your time is limited, and you have to be able to manage your time,” reflected Jarrett.

Now Walter’s kids are passing along his example to their children. “My parents never pushed anything on us,” recalled Brittney. “My lesson from dad was always to go out there and compete at your best and give it your all. Sometimes in life, that might not be good enough, but that’s okay, too. You’re still winning. That’s what I teach my kid.”

Listeners to the podcast will enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of Walter’s greatness on and off the field, including

2:30   The importance of being present.

11:30  How to put his “never die easy” code of conduct to work in your career.

15:30  How Walter Payton taught his children to handle failure.

18:00  Walter’s encouraging words to Brittney following a track and field meet loss.

21:00  How to deal with the pressure of high expectations.

21:00  Jarrett’s historic introduction of his father to the 1993 Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If you knew and loved (or even if you rooted against) Walter Payton as a player, you’ll enjoy seeing a side of him only his own children can offer. And if you’ve never watched a down of football in your life, you’ll still enjoy some wonderful storytelling about a complex man, father and competitor at this Payton family reunion.

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Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.