Lou Holtz was named head football coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1977. In seven seasons leading the Razorbacks, Holtz compiled a record of 60-21-2, making him one of the most successful coaches in the team’s history. One of his most exciting moments at Arkansas came at the end of his very first season, when his Razorbacks matched up against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
With a victory over Arkansas, Barry Switzer’s Sooners would be in position to win the national championship that year. If they pulled it off, this would be the Sooners’ third national championship in four seasons, and folks in Oklahoma probably felt pretty good about their chances after some major events in Fayetteville leading up to the game.
First, Coach Holtz suspended both of his starting running backs and his top receiver for disciplinary reasons just days before the Orange Bowl. Then, his All-American guard suffered a season-ending injury in one of his last practices before the game. Not many outside of Arkansas were giving the Razorbacks much of a chance before the loss of all these key players, much less after. But despite all the adversity, the Razorbacks shocked the country by defeating the Sooners 31-6.
Holtz is even better known for his wildly successful run at the helm of Notre Dame, where he finished with an overall record of 100-30-2. The Fighting Irish football program was uncharacteristically struggling when he took over in 1986, but under his guidance, the program was almost always in the hunt for the national championship at year’s end.
Although Holtz enjoyed more than his share of success during his long coaching career, he suffered through plenty of adversity as well. Most recently, in 1999, Holtz came out of retirement to take over a struggling program at South Carolina only to go 0-11 in his first season with the Gamecocks. He also made an ill-conceived jump to the NFL in 1976, where his professional coaching career lasted a tumultuous ten months.
Coach Holtz once famously said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond.” I understand the point he was making at the time, but if given the chance, I think Coach Holtz would clarify this statement by assigning significant value to the idea of planning.
In fact, reading one of his other famous quotes makes me almost certain of that. On the value of planning, Holtz said, “You always have to prepare for the obstacles that are going to come. Consequently, when they do come, it doesn’t affect you mentally near as much as when you’re unprepared for them.”
We can reconcile these two quotes by considering that being prepared will drastically improve our ability to respond to adversity in life, and our response to adversity is many times more important than the adversity itself.
One of the responsibilities Coach Holtz gave top priority when leading a football team was ensuring every player on his squad was prepared for any and all adversity they might face. One of my top professional goals in life is helping as many people as possible prepare for three major adversities that will hit almost all of us at some point. Thankfully, our response to each of these three major life events can be drastically improved through planning.
First, all of us must plan for the day when we might be unable to manage our own financial and healthcare matters without help. To do that, everyone young and old should have thorough financial and healthcare power of attorney documents. Executing power of attorney documents does not give away your ability to manage your own affairs; it simply puts one or more people of your own choice into position so that they can legally help you manage those affairs if needed.
Second, statistics say that most of us will one day require long-term care services like home caregivers, assisted living, or nursing home care. Without planning, long-term care expenses can wipe out a person’s life savings. With planning, we can face the potential need for long-term care with confidence.
Third, none of us will live forever. Planning for death is a necessary part of life. A lack of planning often sends families into probate court shortly after the death of a family member, and the probate process is extremely costly and time consuming. With a little planning, no family should have to face the time and expense of probate.
Some find planning for these life events to be a little disturbing, but facing these life events without a plan can be devastating. You’re not alone. Seek help. Ask questions. Be prepared.