I remember him as a player (for the Philadelphia Eagles), as a coach (for the Oakland Raiders), as a broadcaster (for CBS Sports), as a pitchman (for beverages) and, along with my two sons, as a video game entrepreneur (PlayStation’s Madden NFL Series). At any stage of success, he could have stepped back and called it quits, choosing to rest on his laurels. Instead, at every stage, he kept reinventing himself and doing more and more with his life.
Ironically, the story I saw on the news about Madden’s death was followed by a television commercial advertising Jimmy Dean Sausage. Here is yet another example of a man who pursued multiple careers successfully. He started out as a singer (“Big Bad John”), transitioned to a television show host (“The Jimmy Dean Show”) , went on to make movies (even starring in a “James Bond” Movie), and did all of this before starting a world famous sausage company, and even opening a few restaurants.
When people asked him why he started a meat company of all things, Dean often joked, “If you had ever seen me act, you would've realized that diversification was imperative!”
I suppose I have always been impressed by people like Madden and Dean who refused to be pigeon-holed with regard to their chosen pursuits. This is especially true in the day and age in which we live, wherein we are encouraged to pursue one profession to the exclusion of others.
In truth, people of extraordinary talent have always pursued multiple interests. This is why I have always loved reading the exploits of such people. Originally, the term “renaissance man” referred to such giants as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who successfully painted, sculpted, experimented, designed, engineered, dissected, wrote, taught, and the like.
In more modern times, we see such successful entrepreneurs as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson leaving behind the mere pursuit of money to conquer space travel and travel to Mars.
And long before any of these men existed, Solomon of old was a poet, a lyricist, a writer, a scientist, a merchant, a warrior, and a king. As such, he was the original Renaissance man.
Sad as it was, perhaps it is apropos that John Madden’s passing occurred three days before New Year’s Day. After all, if the coming of a new year is about anything, surely it is about the opportunity to start anew and afresh. I trust that the life you are currently pursuing is purposeful and fulfilling. But if not, what better time to make a change in your life’s direction?
A mentor of mine once told me that life is best lived in chapters. Chapters all have one thing in common. They begin and they end. If it is time for a new beginning in your life, why not turn the corner as well as the page on the calendar? Why not start some new journey? Why not undertake some new endeavor? Why not embrace some new adventure? As Will Rogers was fond of saying, “Go on and get out on that limb. Ain’t that where the fruit is?!”
Rogers was right. After all, what if John Madden had given up on football after his playing days were over? What if Jimmy Dean had stopped after his first big country hit? The world would likely be a poorer place in either case. I am thankful, therefore, that such gifted individuals as these chose to use the full expression of their talents and skills in order to enrich the lives of us all.
But more than just thankful; I am also convicted. In what way? I am convicted with regard to my own efforts in life. Have I truly utilized all of my God-given gifts, talents, and/or skills? If so, have I employed them in ways that have chiefly glorified Him? Beyond this, have I used them to help to enrich the lives of others? For most assuredly, if God gave them to me, then He did so for these very reasons.
Perhaps we would all do well to ask ourselves these and similar questions on the cusp of a brand new year. For if New Year’s Day represents anything, surely it is new chances and new opportunities with which to live and make a difference with our lives. Only then can any of us be said to have lived a truly full and meaningful life.