Are You Going the Wrong Way?

Are You Going the Wrong Way

If you’re going to win, you have to be able to identify when it’s time to change directions. No matter how hard you’re working and how fast you’re going, if you’re going the wrong way then you’ll never reach your destination.

Jim Marshall was a teammate of mine on the Minnesota Vikings and a fantastic player. During a game in 1964, he picked up a fumble and ran 66 yards to the end zone. There was just one problem—he ran toward the wrong end zone. Instead of scoring a touchdown for our team, he scored a safety for the other team. The legendary Wrong Way Run will never be forgotten!

One of the most important lessons in my life has been to learn how to see the signs. The signs are reality. In sports, it is pretty easy to know if you’re doing the right thing—you just look at the scoreboard. If you’re not scoring any points then it’s time to rethink your strategy and try a different approach.

But even in sports, you can learn to see the signs beforehand. During my time with the Vikings, our coach Bud Grant was the master of observing small details about players and correctly diagnosing whether they would be able to help the team or if they would end up costing us. I vividly remember the ways he looked for the signs, and the times when he was teaching me some of his tricks. By proactively identifying problems, he was able to keep our team in contention year after year.

That skill translates well—and is very important—in business. There’s not a big scoreboard showing you exactly how you’re doing, and many businesses struggle to tell when something isn’t working. We’ve all witnessed big companies that thought they knew what they were doing, and kept pouring good money after bad into failed ideas and projects. The simple fact is that in business you have to try lots of different things, and most of them won’t work. But if you’re paying close attention and watching for the signs, you can see when things aren’t working and change direction, so that you don’t keep on going the wrong direction.

Failures are a fact of business life, but knowing when to stop, when to shut something down, when to pivot and do something different is what separates successful businesses from the rest. Think of the most successful business you can. I guarantee they have made mistakes, but they were smart enough to stop and change direction rather than keep going down the wrong path and dragging the whole company down, too.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my business career. But just because an idea fails doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. It means I tried something and it didn’t work—and next I’ll try something else bigger and better.

Never let a setback stop you from moving forward. And don’t keep going the wrong way just out of sheer inertia. Stay vigilant about everything you’re doing, and stay focused on your goal. Make sure you’re moving in the right direction, not just moving.

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This article was originally published by AMAC SBS

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as,, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.