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When Mighty Men Fall - How a Lack of Self-Control Can Derail Success

Updated on December 1, 2016

Superstars - Warts and All

In November 2016, Former NFL superstar Darren Sharper was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual assault. After a 14-year career with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and New Orlean Saints, Sharper was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and was selected to the 2000 All-Decade Team as Safety. On January 17, 2014 Sharper was arrested in Los Angeles. This is a more recent reminder that a lack of personal self-control can destroy even the most successful lives or at least taint them in our minds. Those adversely affected by engaging in less than seemly conduct include Ancient Israel King David, former American President Bill Clinton, baseball greats Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, top NBA stars like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and golf great Tiger Woods. Yet, even as these superstars failed to live up to our greatest expectations, most of them seemed to recover their name in time. Perhaps, Sharper can also recover.

This hub briefly discusses how self-control derailed the careers of some notable superstars and then turns to what the common man can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

King David Prepared Materials to Build God's Temple

King David

King David was referred to as "a man after God's own heart"; he defeated the giant warrior Goliath with a sling and a smooth stone; and united the Kingdom of Israel. Yet, he perhaps best known for his indiscretion with a peasant woman Bathsheba. His own lack of self-control nearly destroyed his image forever. Still, he stands as Ancient Israel's greatest monarch and collected materials for a grand temple in Jerusalem.

President Bill Clinton

His father passed away before he was born. His mother had to take a job away from him in New Orleans in order to support the family back in Arkansas. He had no pedigree that he should rise to such a prominent place in American history. By the time he was 20 he was clerking for a powerful Senator in Washington and became the youngest state governor in the union at age 33. Bill Clinton's improbable rise to President of the United States was a rags to riches story that exemplified the American dream. Yet, sadly, what will he be known for? At least for the next few generations he will be most known for a colassal lack of self-control - the inability to say no to a young intern. No doubt, the level of his popularity notwithstanding, he left the Oval Office in disgrace. Even so, today the former president is accomplishing some significant things through his Clinton Global Initiative.

Jordan: Scored Three More Championships

Michael Jordan

Dubbed the best basketball player ever, Michael Jordan was a high flyer who led his team to three NBA championships. Then, suddenly, to the surprise of many he announced his retirement. So dominent was he, jaws dropped and many wondered what could take Jordan away from basketball when he was clearly still at the top of his game. Whispers and rumors began to fill sports bars everywhere. It seems like Woods and Clinton, Jordan was derailed by a lack of self-control. In his case, it is not his libido that did him in, but his love for the gambling table. Still, after a temporary hiatus as a minor league baseball player with the Chicago White Sox, Jordan returned to his first love and led the Chicago Bulls to three more trips to the winner's circle.

John Daly: Ready to Fire Straight

John Daly

John Daly tripped onto the professional golf scene when as an alternate he won the PGA open (considered the fourth major championship played each year in August). He backed up that surprise result by winning the grand daddy of them all, the British Open. A free swinger Daly experienced many a personal train wreck. However, in a week that saw Tiger Woods' image decline; the slimmed down former bad boy of golf looks ready to resurrect his own.

Tiger Can Learn to Smile Again

Tiger Woods

If ever one was born a phenom or prodigy, Tiger Woods was marked to rise to stardom from the day he left the birth canal. Gifted with unrelenting focus and fascination, the child born Eldridge Woods could drive a golf ball 100 yards at the age of five. He was the first golfer ever to win three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur Championships followed by three consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships. Before the age of 34, he stood third all-time in PGA Tour wins and second in Major Championships. Perhaps, no one has dominated his sport like Tiger Woods did during his prime.

Yet, what will he be known for? He who had it all could not be satisfied and an unbelievable lack of self-control darkened his image in the eyes of so many. Not that we should be surprised. He is a healthy male who like many others has an overactive appetite for more. Still it is sad that one who had so much control over his golf game had so little control over himself.

But, all was not lost with such impetuous acts. He is young and like many other fallen heroes he can recover. Of course, it is up to him. It may be the toughest fight he will face. The pressure of a major championship on the line is a walk in the park in comparison to taming the true tiger within. It will take all he has and in the end will be the true measure of the champion we call Tiger Woods.

As of December 2016, Tiger Woods began his comeback as a player. He also served as an assistant coach of the USA 2016 Ryder's Cup Team and seemed to command new respect from the coaches and players on the team.

Charlie Huscle Pete Rose Star Still to Rise

Pete Rose

The major league baseball player known as Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose continues to suffer for his own lack of self-control. The man who seemed the most disciplined of all and ended his career with a major league record for total career base hits, Rose became addicted to gambling to the point that he placed bets on his own games. His lack of self-control tainted an otherwise stellar career and to this day he has been denied access into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Kobe Bryant: Contrite and Teachable, Lifted His Team to New Heights

Kobe Bryant

Heir apparent to the Jordan legacy, Kobe Bryant helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA championships. Still, his libido got the best of him which landed him in a Colorado courtroom fighting date rape charges. While he was acquitted of all charges, Bryant confessed to having the extramarital and it was a clear distraction to his otherwise brilliant career. Since then Kobe has matured greatly and last year he led his new set of Laker teammates to the championship promised land.

Keys to a Life of Self-Control

Human history is filled with dirty laundry strewn all over the timeline. While certainly disappointing, the lack of self-control displayed by Tiger Woods and the others listed above is a human condition that dates back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. So what can a person do to keep themselves in check?

Be Authentic

The first thing a person can do to learn self-control is to be authentic about who they are. To be authentic means to be real about strengths and weaknesses; to be completely honest and never think too highly of yourself. It also means surrounding yourself with genuine friends with whom you can share your whole heart. For a celebrity this can be very difficult because even the smallest gossip worthy morsel can land his or her mug on the front page of a tabloid. Even so, every person needs an outlet with whom they can share their inner struggles and help them live up to their highest standards.

Be Accountable

Accountability is a bad word these days, but being authentic means being open to honest feedback. If you have a problem with your inner appetites, allow your close friends to keep you in check. A true friend will never allow you to do something that is not worthy of your best. Giving another person permission to challenge aberrant behaviors will help you avoid a publicity nightmare.

Think Through the Possible Consequences before Acting

Most problems with self-control occur because the person has not thought through the long-term consequences of a given action. Our current do-it-if -it feels-good society has become prone towards instant self-gratification. Of all people Tiger Woods has become more than his golf career. He has a huge foundation through which he impacts thousands of young people who want to be just like him. He must learn to say no to his appetites. He has a responsibility to be a role model for the young people he mentors. He must think through the ramifications of his actions before he engages in them.

Get Up and Start Anew

Finally, one, two, three, four or more breakdowns does not spell the end. You can change if you want to. You redefine your standards and live up to them. You will probably need help, but you can win over your appetites and return to a life of integrity and self-control. The past is gone. Today is a new day. Stephen Covey discovered a space between stimulus and response. It is the opportunity to choose that response. Tiger Woods can change his behavior and it is up to him. You can change your behavior. It is up to you.

What does a human being have inside of them to help them altar their behavior?

To Change Behavior Tap into the Four Uniquely Human Abilities

In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlines four uniquely human gifts that each person can employ to make changes in personal behaviors. Those gifts are:


Self-awareness is the ability to observe our own personal behavior.


Conscience is the capacity to evaluate our own personal behavior.


Imagination is the capacity to think through past actions and design new behaviors.

Independent Will

Independent will is the ability to put a new behavior into action.

With these four gifts every human being can observe their own behavior through self-awareness; employ their conscience to decide whether that behavior was appropriate or not; utilize their imagination to devise a new way of acting; and exercise their independent will to carry out the new plan.

A Bonus Gift for Those Who Have a Genuine Faith in God

For those who genuinely believe and trust in him, God has given another special gift to help with their behavior. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives believers a deeper capacity to set aside lesser important endeavors for more important ones. Unfortunately, few of those who say they believe in God ever tap into this fifth special gift. Those who do lead genuinely content and joyful lives.


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