Ray Lewis and John Harbaugh

Yes, while there is certainly value in going to school or receiving formal training, there are also all sorts of lessons that can be learned from all sorts of different sources. I’ve previously written about what freelancers can learn from politicians, from comedians and even from fictional characters.

Today, we turn to the world of professional sports to see what freelance writers, designers, photographers and freelance entrepreneurs can learn from Ray Lewis of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

Be Passionate About What You Do

Ray Lewis absolutely loves football. To him, it’s so much more than a job; it’s a way of life. It might look like he has an “angry” look on his face for much of each games, but that’s not anger you see; it’s passion. He, along with players like Brett Favre, openly display a lot of emotion while on the field. They’re incredibly enthusiastic about what they do and it shows. Not surprisingly, he’s highly respected by his peers too. According to Wikipedia, “a poll of NFL coaches selected Lewis as the most dominant player in the NFL before the 2003 season by being mentioned on ten ballots while no other player was mentioned more than twice.”

Most of us will never be professional athletes, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get just as pumped up about what we choose to do for a living. I love the power of words and that’s how I came to be a freelance writer. Approach each day with that same kind of enthusiasm and passion, and you’ll find that the rewards become that much more rewarding.

Inspire Those Around You

If you’ve ever watched the pre-game warmup before the Baltimore Ravens take the field, you’ll see that Ray Lewis is a natural born leader. He’s right there in the middle, working to pump up his teammates and elevating them to the same high level of intensity that he has. It’s not enough to be good at what you do. It’s not enough to love what you do. You need to make other people better too.

This is a consistent theme among many team sports. Michael Jordan, for example, elevated the games of players like Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. And life is a team sport. Your team might be your family or your company, but it’s important that you work together to improve one another. Inspire them and they will inspire you too. In the context of freelancing, while we may be “competing” for the same clients, the larger freelancing and small business community can certainly work to assist and inspire us all.

Give Back to Your Community

Ray Lewis is an inspiration on the field, but he’s an inspiration off the field too. He’s been very active with charity throughout his professional career, starting the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation that helps to provide assistance to disadvantaged youth. We may not have the seven-figure salary that Lewis enjoys, but that doesn’t mean we can’t donate to charity. Your donation can be monetary, but it can also be a donation of time or resources.

The Rest of the Season

In the October 14 game against the Dallas Cowboys, Ray Lewis suffered a season-ending injury to his triceps. Some people are saying that this could be a career-ending injury, given that this is already his 17th NFL season (all with the Baltimore Ravens). It’ll be sad if that’s true, but Lewis can look back his career with a great deal of pride. The hope is we can do the same when it’s time for us to retire too.