Gus Johnson Has Priorities. I Hope I Will Too.

At first I was surprised by some news in the broadcasting world today: Gus Johnson is removing himself from the top play-by-play spot for Fox Sports’ soccer coverage.

Wow. That was unexpected.

Then I got to the 6th paragraph, and it absolutely floored me. Johnson’s last conversation with his cancer-stricken mother took place on the phone, as he was in Lisbon to call the Champions League Final.

“I asked her if she wanted me to come home and she said, ‘No. You are a Johnson man and your job is to work.’ I finished the game, got back home, and she was pretty much unconsciousness at that point because she had Stage Four ovarian cancer. I never got the chance to talk to her again because the cancer was eating her up. I think I’m still in the process of healing. My mother was the most important person in my life.”


I’m going to need a couple paragraphs, so hang tight for a second.

Okay, I think I’m ready.

Johnson’s story breaks my heart. And it terrifies me. I pray I am blessed enough to have even a fraction of the professional success that Gus Johnson (who has announced March Madness, Knicks basketball, championship boxing, Champions League, NFL and college bowl games) has had.

But I pray even more that I have the right kind of success: one that allows me to put my personal life (some people know this as a life) first. Thus the terror: if Johnson’s story of not talking to his mother before she died ever happened to me with my mother/father/sisters/brother/spouse, and I was stuck out of town because of work… my soul would free-fall.

Some people may choose to read the Sports Illustrated story cynically: Fox Sports read the negative feedback to soccer announcer Johnson, wanted to make a change and offered Johnson the out of a resignation instead of a demotion.

I choose to read Johnson’s story at face value: this is a man who prioritizing the right things. Some parts of life are more important than announcing a World Cup Final. Johnson has achieved wonderful successes in his professional career, but those successes are not all that matters.

I am reading a terrific new book from Arianna Huffington called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Look past the new-agey, self-help title. She writes some great advice, especially for me, someone just about to start his career.

The gist:

“Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers…. Our current definition of success is literally killing us. We need a new way forward.”

Doesn’t sound too crazy, right? Don’t let success in your work solely determine your happiness. Create a new measure. Thrive. It sounds like Gus Johnson is re-organizing his life in the right way. It is never too late to start.