Ryan Leaf: Real Men Ask for Help

If you′ve ever made a bad decision or a bunch of them, fallen flat on your face, been helped back up, dusted yourself off, learned an important life lesson, and then tried to share that lesson with others, you′ll appreciate Ryan Leaf′s speaking appearance recently before in–coming MSU-Northern students. From national football celebrity to ″perhaps the biggest bust in NFL history″, Ryan Leaf′s rise was meteoric and his fall spectacular. As he shared what he had learned the hard way, he also repeatedly said that he wished he would have followed this advice himself. In essence, he was saying, ″Let my hindsight be your foresight.″
What exactly was that life lesson Ryan learned the hard way? In his own words, ″When you need help with something in life, when you need guidance, ask for it. Don′t be afraid to lean on your family and your friends for support and help. I always perceived that as weakness when I was younger, and I associated weakness with failure. So I never let anyone help me with any issues I′ve ever had. In fact, I pushed people away in my years as a quarterback. Now, I want people to know that reaching out, asking for help is something everyone should do. ″
In our society, boys tend to be socialized to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. The unwritten script for many boys and men reads: Real men are strong, handle things themselves, and don′t ask for help. Print that script in capitalized, bold letters for many top athletes. Ryan Leaf learned the hard way that this is a script for a tragedy, not a triumph. Why? Because life happens! Life is never problem-free and failure–free.
Sooner or later, life deals out situations none of us can completely control. We will inevitably encounter problems bigger than ourselves, bigger that any one of us, in fact, bigger than all of us put together. Sooner or later, we will stumble and fall. Sooner or later, we will fail. Ryan Leaf now acknowledges, ″I had never really failed before I got to the NFL, and I thought that life would be the same...For the first time in my life, I started losing on the field, and everything changed. I didn′t deal with it like I should have. I never asked for help. I never confided in anyone.″
The key question is never whether we will fail, but when we will fail. Since failure is an inevitable and even normal part of being human, whether male or female, child or grownup, the issue is not – Will I fail? – but – What will I do when I fail? How will I respond? When I fall, will I get back up again? Will I keep falling, keep making the same mistakes over and over again? How will I get back up and move on again in a new direction? What will I need to learn? What will I need to change? The simple truth is that everyone fails. Truly successful people have just learned to fail successfully, that is, they have succeeded in learning from their failures.
Ryan Leaf is a stronger man today than he ever was before his failures, because he is learning from his failures. One learning? ASK FOR HELP! One could even go so far as to say that Ryan Leaf is more of a ″real man″ today than he ever was by trying to rely on himself alone. Real maturity lies in recognizing when help is needed and having the courage to ask for it. Ryan Leaf is now learning that all of life is a team sport.
Ryan, thanks for coming to Havre! Thanks for sharing what you learned the hard way. Here′s hoping your hindsight becomes our foresight.
Havre Public Schools and the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line are committed to promoting safe and healthy lifestyles to become long-lived, responsible citizens. For more information on this or related topics, call 265-6206.