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You are Not that Big - The Good of a Reality Check

In my brief time in the NFL, I met a lot of exceptional people and some exceptional leaders. People that were the best at what they do. It was the late 80's and I was with the Buffalo Bills and there was this great Italian restaurant Ilio Dipaolo’s just down from where some of us lived. Ilio was a professional wrestler and is in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. After wrestling, he opened his restaurant in Buffalo. Ilio had black and white pictures memorabilia of himself and others from his wrestling days all around the restaurant.

Dipaolos’s would welcome the Bill’s players to go to the back room to eat and the staff would bring huge portions of amazing food. Ilio was just a nice guy, especially because the guys that I was with were huge; 6’5” 325 lbs, 6’7” 350 etc. and they had amazing appetites. Players would come and go as they please and it became part of our routine.

One night we were gathered around eating and Ilio walked in with a big smile on his face to say in his thick accent, “Guys, I got a special treat for you tonight!”, and walked away. Everyone sort of nodded and turned attention back to the food.

A few minutes later we heard big pounding of footsteps down the hall to enter our room. It pounded toward us and soon this massive figure dips his head through the door, steps in, and raises his head. Not much would stop this room from eating but you could hear a pin drop. Standing before us was Andre the Giant.

If you don’t know much about Andre the Giant, he was 7’4” tall, 550 lbs. He dwarfed my fellow Bills. It was amazing to see. I shook his hand and grabbed only three fingers. He sat down with us and it looked like an adult at a kid’s tea party. The chair was too small and the silverware looked miniature in his hand. I thought to myself that he could easily swallow a grapefruit whole. His head was 4 times the size of mine.

He ate with us and I finally had the courage to ask him some questions. I asked if he ever considered playing football. In my mind I thought that if he played nose guard he would take up two gaps and it would be like playing 9 against 11 and his team would win the Super Bowl.

Andre chuckled, and then in a French accent said “I would have to take a pay cut” then broke into a laugh that shook our chairs and the room. I guess he was doing pretty well wrestling and The Princess Bride came out soon after.

The experience negatively affected some of the guy’s confidence. They were always the biggest and “baddest” in the room. Never had they been “dwarfed” and it was awkward to see this realization develop on my friend’s faces. When I think back on it a few guys took a while to get their full confidence back. They eventually did as the Bills went on to 4 Super Bowl appearances.

The truth is, no matter how big, or bad, or smart, or witty, there is always someone out there better. It is always good to get a reality check. Same is true in business. An ego can be distracting and a good dose of reality can be just the right medicine for improvement.

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