Row the Boat | Jon Gordon

Summary of: Row the Boat: A True Story with Principles and Lessons to Transform Your Culture
By: Jon Gordon


Prepare for an inspiring journey as we dive into the summary of “Row the Boat: A True Story with Principles and Lessons to Transform Your Culture” by Jon Gordon. The book explores the life and career of University of Minnesota head coach Philip John “P.J.” Fleck, Jr., who beat the odds and rose to prominence, despite being deemed too short, too slow, and too inexperienced to thrive in football. We’ll learn about Fleck’s truly astonishing story, his row-the-boat (RTB) philosophy, and his approach to overcoming adversity, maintaining optimism, and transforming college football programs both on and off the field.

The Power of Character and Determination

University of Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck’s journey from adversity to success is detailed in a book co-authored by Jon Gordon. Fleck’s tragic personal loss led him to adopt a lifestyle that emphasizes hope, purpose, and selflessness. The book offers an insightful guide on how to lead a fulfilling life, become an effective leader, create an outstanding culture, and tap into the “unmeasurable force” of talent. Fleck’s transformational leadership skills helped him turn around two college football programs on and off the field, while promoting intangibles such as courage, enthusiasm, tenacity, and creativity.

Against the Odds

Despite being deemed too small and slow for Division 1 college football, Fleck’s determination paid off when Northern Illinois University offered him a scholarship. He excelled on the team, becoming an All-League player and academic All-American while earning his bachelor’s degree. Fleck’s story is a testament to the power of hard work and perseverance.

The Rise of a “Freaking Warrior”

In this true story, a determined athlete named Fleck joined the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent. After collapsing in exhaustion against rookie quarterback Brandon Doman during the team’s mini-camp, he spent a year on the practice squad before eventually becoming a starting receiver. However, his season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury. Despite this setback, his coach saw potential in him as a coach and offered him a graduate assistant position at Ohio State, which he took. Fleck acknowledges the influence of his coaches and shows his gratitude by wearing a tie on the sidelines like they do.

Overcoming Grief with a Nursery Rhyme

After the heartbreaking loss of his son, Colton James Fleck, on February 9, 2011, Fleck felt shattered. Determined to keep his son’s name alive and inspire others, Fleck found solace in the nursery rhyme “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” This simple tune became Fleck’s theme as he committed himself to persevering and continuing to move forward. By sharing his journey and using the power of this childhood classic, Fleck has inspired countless others to keep rowing their own boats through life’s hardships.

Rowing Towards Success

In the book, “Row the Boat”, author Fleck shares his experiences as a coach and emphasizes on the philosophy of not letting adversities dictate one’s attitude and behavior. Instead, he encourages people to row together towards shared goals with energy, creativity, and joy. According to Fleck, focusing on the present is crucial because the past is unchangeable and future unpredictable. The book promotes the idea of having a positive mindset, taking small steps towards success, and continuously rowing towards progress.

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