In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

In the Huddle: Are You Still Learning?

FranTarkentonFacebookPost3-050914I played in the National Football League for 18 years. I played in 246 regular season games with 239 starts, plus 11 more playoff games, including 3 Super Bowls. There aren’t many, before or since, who have played more. But here’s the thing: after all that time, all that experience, I was still learning and getting smarter and finding ways to get better up until my very last game.

Today, I’ve been in the business world for more than 50 years. I’ve started and built more than 20 companies, from fast food to advertising to technology, from the old school to the new school. Through all that, and with all that I’ve learned, I am still learning and getting smarter and getting better every day.

That’s what it takes to be successful. You can’t stop learning, whether you’re a quarterback or an entrepreneur. There is always something new to try and an area to improve. It never stops.

But to be able to do that, you have to be honest with yourself, recognize your limitations, and have the humility to ask for help. I don’t think that I’ve ever had an original idea—all our learning comes from other people. So I learn by going to other people and asking them questions. I want to learn what they know, and then find ways to apply their ideas to the challenges that I’m facing.

Asking someone for help and advice is not a weakness. It’s not weak to admit that you can’t do it alone. It’s a sign that you understand yourself. We all have things we don’t know, and things we need help with—the question is whether you can admit that to yourself and to others, to people who can help you overcome that weakness. Denying it just means that you’ll never improve; when you admit you need help, you’re on the path to turning a weakness into a strength.

I read a fantastic interview last week that touched on these ideas. Amy Pressman is the president and co-founder of Medallia, providing customer service technology. She was asked about her company’s culture. Here’s how she responded:

“People present themselves with resumes of unbroken success. But none of us are perfect. Unfortunately, when we hit roadblocks and need help, many of us don’t feel like we can ask for it. So we’re essentially curtailing the pace at which we can learn, because it’s much harder to learn in the shadows without asking for help than to just come out and say, ‘I am really struggling with this. Please help me. What can I do?’

“Ultimately, the one sustainable competitive advantage that a company can have is a culture that enables its people and the entire organization to learn faster. Fast learning has to come from a place of people feeling safe to talk about what’s working and not working, of recognizing that their job is not to appear perfect but to get better.”

That’s powerful. A business can have every advantage, but if its people aren’t learning, aren’t admitting their weaknesses and looking for ways to improve, then ultimately they will fall behind. No matter what you do, how big you are, how successful you’ve been, the number one thing has to be continual learning and improvement.

The process never ends—and that’s the fun of it! I love learning something new and trying new ideas. I want to see what works, what doesn’t, and constantly refine what we’re doing to get better and better.

I encourage you to think about where you need help. What don’t you know? Find people and resources that can help you, and learn. Learn, and get better. You’ll be glad you did.

By GoSmallBiz

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“…..all our learning comes from other people”…. Fran Tarkenton

I heard someone else say one time “Wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men learn from others”
Fran is an honest and wiser man.

Johnny T. USMC

Business is similar to a scrambler in the backfield. No on did it better. Some say ya done it with grace, some with fear. I think Faith and direction and HELP was the true “Formula”.


And thank you Mr. Tarkenton for all those years you helped Minnesota clobber the Lions. Forty years later, they still haven’t learned how to win. I enjoy your articles and your fight for Conservatism.


A “place where people feel safe to talk about what’s working and not working” does not describe the corporate America where I once worked, a culture of keeping heads down so it doesn’t get shot. Might partially explain why so many are unemployed at this point in history…the work went overseas or just faded into obsolescence. I was lucky to have worked in a time to escape before pensions became history.


Fran, I agree, love AMAC, however, still hurting in NY about the Vikings. Hope they can win at least once in my lifetime. Bleeding purple. There really are so many Viking fans here in NY and across the country just waiting for that time! Know for certain the league/former President got involved in 2009 v. Saints and again last year v. Eagles. Perhaps even some other years too. That is distressing and unfair. Go Vikings.

Mark Rybeck

Fran Tarkenton, 2nd greatest NFL quarterback of all time, only behind Tom Brady


Thank you Fran for some great memories! I have to say it was your amazing efforts at Minnesota that got me interested in professional football.