Chris Carlisle, a former Super Bowl Champion Performance Coach, has dedicated much of his life empowering others both on and off the field. Chris has become a sought-after motivational speaker since retirement, blending experiences from his professional and personal lives into every one of his speeches. In his new book, Move or Die: Creating a Game-Plan from Stuck to Significance, he walks readers through the steps to achieving the life they've always imagined for themselves.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
What inspired you to sit down and write Move or Die?
I’ve been “writing” this book in one way or another for most of my life. The gathering of life experiences became my story inventory. For eleven years I was a teacher and coach at the high school level. I then transitioned into being a full-time coach for the next twenty-four years.
As a teacher/coach I came into contact with every personality and life story that you can imagine. I started keeping notes on the people that I came in contact with. I watched as they grew and changed and excelled or failed. I began to see trends in how some fell short of their potential while others exceeded theirs, while others moved from successful to becoming significant.
I would be asked to speak locally and after my talks, I would be asked, “Do you have a book?” I didn’t because I never had the time to focus on the process of writing, editing, and marketing a book.
After stepping away from the coaching profession I found that I was still being asked to speak to corporations, and civic groups and to work with individuals. So, I felt that it was a great time to write a book.
How did you decide on Move or Die: Creating a Game-Plan from Stuck to Significance as your title?
Move or Die had always been something that I had in mind as a book. As a coach my training philosophy was “MOVE”, this is how I built teams to be successful. When we look at any sport, movement is a primary tool that is needed. Those who move efficiently do better than those who don’t. In real life, it is the same.
The book I set out to write was a book on training athletes. Before I started though, I did research into my concept of training and that was movement. I found an article that spoke of a study done at Texas A&M that looked at how long movement has been part of our lives. They found that the need to move has been with us since our prehistoric ancestors moved onto the plains and steppes following the herds of wild animals.
It became ingrained in our DNA. When we look at our history books there is story upon story about our species moving.
Going back to the prehistoric peoples, if they didn’t move, they perished. The migrations of humans in the age of exploration were not only about gold but about expanding a country's borders. Those countries that didn’t “move” soon were overthrown.
In life today we have a little problem. Geographically there aren’t many “new” places to move to. We have been as far East and West as we can go. We’ve been to the North Pole and the South Pole. We climbed the highest mountain and descended to the deepest point in the ocean. We have been to the moon and we now look at distant planets.
Where do “we” go now. We’re not dying off, in fact in some ways we are thriving, how? Because people are still moving. Maybe not physically or geographically, but we are moving professionally. This movement quenches the ancient need to move.
Even as we are about to pass away, we need to move, this is called “terminal restlessness”. I learned this term from a hospice nurse as my father was in his last days. Pops kept trying to get out of bed, when he did get up the nurses would lead him back to his bed and ask him, “where are you going?” Pops would say, “I don’t know but I had to move.”
So, professionally we either keep moving toward our dreams or we get stuck. We will stagnate in that job. And then we will die … professionally. And 50 years later they will bury us. Move or Die sums up the essence of our need to continue to move forward. The book will be a guide for those who have become stuck and will be a game plan for those who are on their way to accomplishing their dreams.
What is one overarching message you want readers to take away from your book?
Life is too important to not live your optimal life. What did you want to be when you were eight years old? This was before you understood the cost of dreaming such a dream. Are you living that dream? If so, are you done dreaming? If you aren’t, why not? Did you get stuck along the way? Did you get caught up working to accomplish someone else’s dream? When do you get your dream fulfilled?
When I was eight years old, I told my buddy, Nate Low, that I would win a Super Bowl. Forty years later I did. Then I looked around and figured out that coaching was only a vehicle for what I truly was supposed to do. That was to help others to accomplish their dreams and goals.
So, I left coaching and began working on my next path, my true passion, facilitating others that had never been spoken to like I did when I worked with my athletes, helping them accomplish their dreams. On the way to live their optimal life.
You've spent the majority of your life inspiring others, but what is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Never allow anyone to tell you how far you can go.
I was born with a birth defect in both of my legs. The doctors told my mother and father that I would not be able to ever run like the other children. My mother said, “We’ll see about that.”
After falling over and over and over as a child, because of my handicap, I knocked out my newly grown front teeth. Teeth are on their own schedule, I found out. We’re not like sharks that just replace the old ones with new ones. So, for my formative speaking years, I had no front teeth. I developed a speech impediment and then a stutter. The speech therapist told my mothers, “He’ll never be a public speaker.” My mom’s response was, “We’ll see about that.” Today, I speak to large groups, businesses, teams, and leaders of corporations.
In 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave me a 40% chance of survival. I broke the news to my parents. My mom said, “We’ll see about that.” In a year, I was in remission and five years later I was cancer-free, more than twenty years later I’m still moving forward.
Professionally, I started as a high school football coach at a small school in Nebraska. I ended up being a Super Bowl-winning Performance coach. I was told several times on the way that I would never make it at the next level. I always told them, “We’ll see about that.”
So, yeah, never let anyone tell you how far you can go.
To be effective, motivational speaking requires various characteristics, including authenticity, emotion, and physical movement. Was it difficult for you to translate your message into writing form?
I’ve always had a knack for telling stories. And I have always written. But to put make these stories come to life on paper was really tough. As a speaker, I am very physical. A podium is just a place that holds my water. I will stalk and run and crawl on a stage to make a story come to life. On paper, it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
The toughest thing was writing about one subject and going through the stages of a chapter. When I used to write for pleasure, it was simple. I would head off on a tangent. When I got tired of writing about that subject or concept, I would just start another page.
When writing a book, it took great discipline to stay on story. To make sure things lined up and at the end, there was an ah-ha moment when the reader understood my point and could use it in their life. I was very fortunate to have an amazing editor, Katie Rios, working with me as I wrote. She has the patience of 10,000 people and the ability to untangle my shortcomings in writing.
Eventually, the edits became fewer and fewer as she molded me into a better, still not great, writer than I was when I started. In the end, the book came out as I had it planned in my head. It just took a lot of work to knock off the rough edges!
You’ve achieved success in many forms. What does literary success mean to you?
Because of my competitive nature, I want this to be the best book in its genre. But in reality, I hope that people use the stories and teachable moments found in the book to help themselves get to where they have always dreamt they would be.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that we can look forward to at this time?
I have two that I am working on.
The first is a sports training book on how to prepare for American football. Being a coach for 35 years has allowed me to learn several ways to improve an athlete and give a team a chance to be successful. This will be my next venture.
Secondly, I have started to outline a book on leadership and building a successful culture within your organization. It is still in a rough format so it will be a while before this comes out.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I have just started my website which will allow me to continue to share the fruit of my experiences as a coach and the people that I have come into contact with. There are blogs, newsletters, videos, and other ways of keeping up with the concept of moving forward in your life. This is also a vehicle where people can schedule me to speak to their groups, and teams or even to work with individuals in one-on-one sessions.
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