Leadership Lessons | Rudy Ruettiger | 318

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Dan Kuschell - Episode 18

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger is an Emmy award-winning motivational speaker and author who has inspired millions of people around the world. Rudy is famous for achieving his dream of playing college football at the University of Notre Dame, despite the number of obstacles in his way — inspiring the 1993 film, Rudy.

Since then, Rudy has gone on to share his inspirational message to corporations, universities, and sports teams with his speaking engagements and recent documentary, Rudy Ruettiger: The Walk On. He is also the host of the podcast, Rise Above With Rudy, and the Co-founder of the Rudy Foundation, an organization that offers scholarships in education, sports, and the performing arts.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • How Rudy Ruettiger overcame adversity to achieve his dream of playing football for The University of Notre Dame
  • Rudy shares the main lesson to take away from his inspiring story: focus on your purpose
  • The importance of adapting in the face of your challenges and learning from your failures
  • Why you should concentrate on the pursuit of your goals versus the results
  • Rudy discusses the value of sticking to the basics — whether you’re growing a business or practicing sports
  • Rudy’s advice for developing the muscle of persistence
  • What you can do today to get started on the path to success

In this episode…

What is the secret to achieving your goals — even when they seem out of reach? For college football champion Rudy Ruettiger, it was all about focusing on his purpose, adapting to challenges, and mastering the art of perseverance.

When he was working toward his dream of playing football for The University of Notre Dame, Rudy faced a number of obstacles. However, while others would have simply given up, Rudy stuck to his path — and ultimately achieved huge success. Not only did Rudy live his dream of joining the Fighting Irish football team, but his effort and persistence became the inspiration behind an award-winning film and a recent documentary. Now, Rudy is on a mission motivating others to never give up on the pursuit of success.

In this exciting episode of Growth to Freedom, Dan Kuschell is joined by Rudy Ruettiger, an Emmy award-winning motivational speaker and the inspiration behind the 1993 film, Rudy. Tune in as Rudy shares his wisdom about persevering in the face of adversity, learning from your failures, and overcoming every obstacle to achieve your goals. Rudy also reveals the steps you can take today to get started on the path to success. You don’t want to miss this!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

Thanks for listening to this episode of growthtofreedom.com.

Are you struggling to get a steady flow of new clients every day? Or maybe hit a plateau or hit a wall in growing your business? Well, let’s help you solve this problem today. Let’s review your business and have a conversation. You can do that for free today at breakthroughstrategycall.com. That’s breakthroughstrategycall.com.

In addition, if you’re looking for a simple way to implement some of what we’ve been talking about in today’s episode, I want to encourage you to get our free small business toolkit. You can get that at activate.breakthrough3x.com. That’s activate.breakthrough3x.com.

If you’d like access to the special resources and all the show notes for this special episode, make sure to visit growthtofreedom.com.

Episode Transcript

Dan Kuschell 0:03

Welcome to growthtofreedom.com, the show that brings you inspiration, transformation and leadership. We are helping you connect the dots, see the blind spots, and get unstuck. So you can go out and generate more leads, more sales, more profits. More importantly, so you can go out and have a bigger reach, a bigger impact, and make a bigger contribution. I want to welcome Rudy Ruettiger, to our training tonight. And I feel very, very honored that Rudy is going to be joining us guys, a good friend of mine, his name is Nick Nanton. Nick is a person who produces documentaries, and does a lot of stuff with helping thought leaders results, leaders get more results. Nick Nanton actually did a documentary for Rudy about his journey about his story. And I know many of you know of Rudy, he’s inspired millions and millions and millions of people, not just in football. And, you know, it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Absolutely. I’ve probably seen it about 15 times. I watched it with Kyler again this past weekend. And, man, I just am so grateful that Nick said, hey, yeah, I would love to get you connected to Rudy. And I asked Rudy to come on tonight guys, to just share with you and your families. You know, some of the insights that he’s learned. A little back history before I kind of just asked Rudy some questions, maybe give you if you guys have a question, you want to pop it in the chat window, pop it in the chat window, we’ve got a handful of minutes, maybe about 10 or 15 minutes for Rudy to join us. So I want to be respectful of that time. But for those of you who might not know Rudy story, real quickly, he was somebody who, you know, played high school football he grew up in in an area that was the steel mills of the country. Right? And blue collar family, he was I believe, the oldest of I want to say 13 or 14 kids, right? So from the time he was born, probably even he would say to now we had to scrap for everything. Right? When you’re in a family with 13 or 14 kids, brothers and sisters, you know, you’re you’re fighting over clothes, you’re fighting over food, all these sorts of things. And some of you that have brothers and sisters know what about imagine 13 or 14 kids you do that with? He was a really good High School athlete, and he had a dream. And he was somebody who nobody really believed in him other than I believe it was one of his really good friends who just nudged him and said, You know, I believe in you and you can do it and went through some tragedy. I don’t want to steal too far into the story. But he went away to work in the steel mill for a couple years. He went into the military to serve our incredible country and came back and he had a friend who had a terrible accident and I believe passed away as a result of that accident. He said, You know, I don’t want to live with regrets and literally quit and said, I’m going to find a way to get to Notre Dame to my dream, I’m going to live my dream. But he didn’t have the grades I believe he graduated with he was the second worst grades in his entire High School, senior class second worst, which means you’re probably not getting a Notre Dame into Notre Dame for that reason. So he said, I’m still gonna find a way he goes to Indiana. He enrolls at Holy Cross, which is a community college across the street, essentially. And he applies the Notre Dame I believe it was close to 50 times, that he applied and he got turned down he got rejected. And guess what he did? He quit. No, he didn’t quit. He kept going. He kept going. He got I don’t know like about you, but I can share with you about me. I think if I got rejected 50 times that way. I’d be like man, enough is enough. But he kept believing in himself. He kept believing in his dream that he’s going to go not just to Notre Dame, but he was going to play and even walked into the coach’s office and said coach Ara Parseghian. I’m going to come and play here at Notre Dame. He’s five foot six. In the movie, one of my favorite lines, “You’re five, six, nothing, five foot nothing, 100 and nothing.” But inside he was a winner, a champion and a whole lot more. And he believed in his dream long and the short of it is he ended up getting the grades. In the documentary if you watch it, one of the greatest lessons you’ll learn in life is about forging and building great relationships. He’s a relationship builder. He’s a long term relationship builder. He got into Notre Dame. That was his first step. The second step was to walk on and Notre Dame and make First the practice squad, which he did. He ultimately gotten a game in his after two years of being at Notre Dame getting his ass whooped. Every day on the scout team for two straight years, not even sniffing the field. He was passed over to play and what would be his final game of his final season. And he essentially cashed it in was ready to walk away. And he reconsidered, he came back, Coach Devine said, Hey, we’re gonna play. And he got a chance to stand on the sideline, he ran out of the total, he led his team out of the tunnel, if you can imagine this top 10s of 1000s. I don’t know what it was at the time at Notre Dame, but 40, 50, 60 maybe 100,000 cheering fans, and he’s his team captain said, Rudy, you lead us out of the tunnel. And he led his team out of the tunnel. But he was on the sideline. And imagine, imagine this guys, two years of busting your tail trying to live your dream. He gets in in the last handful of plays on a kickoff. I believe there was a another play. And then on the last play of the game, he gets a sack and then gets carried off the field at the time, it was the only player in Notre Dame history, I believe to be carried off the Notre Dame football field. This is a guy who believed in himself when nobody else did. He’s someone who is the epitome of persistence. He’s the epitome of you know, being the underdog and finding a way to win. And I feel just through the I’m so grateful that you’re taking the time with our young men tonight to share some insights to share some strategies and wisdom. And so man, thank you for joining us, Rudy. How are you? Oh, you’re on mute, by the way. Still on mute.

Rudy Ruettiger 7:09

Is that better?

Dan Kuschell 7:10

Yes, sir.

Rudy Ruettiger 7:12

I’m on my cell phone. So awesome.

Dan Kuschell 7:15

Thank you for being with us Rudy.

Rudy Ruettiger 7:17

Well, it’s a great story you told, but some of it’s true. Some of it’s not. Okay. I only applied three times. And I had to do a lot of work before I understood what I had to do to get there. But here’s the real lesson for our youth today, and we have to focus on this. We should not focus on winning at this point in their life. Winning is is couldn’t be a real, real turn to build their character. We should teach him about the fundamentals of, of why they’re there. And the purpose and their purpose of how they have to really unite as as as collaborating with their teammates, understanding your teammates, understanding the fundamental understanding the game and they’re just not they’re scored touchdowns. They’re not there to just be the toughest kid. They’re there to develop physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. And those are the ingredients of success, by the way. And there would be some kids who already matured. But don’t compare yourself to that. That’s the poison. Don’t compare. But always develop yourself in a way that where you learn more about why you’re there, What’s your purpose. You’re not there to win trophies or medals. You’re there to develop yourself as a young man, to know that life is hard. Life is not easy. And sports is probably the greatest thing you can get into to learn all about this because everything doesn’t go your way all the time in sports. So you have to learn to adapt. And those are the lessons we should be teaching right now. And that’s what’s awesome about youth sports, if we focus on first thing you should do is learn how to clean your own room. When they get a let’s get your bed made. Let’s Let’s straighten up your room. If you’re having a problem, which is good. Let’s learn how to ask for help. Get off social media, you don’t need social media, you don’t need, you know, all the stuff that the kids are on today. Learn to communicate with each other. That’s the best way. And that’s what teams do. You become a teammate you trust. See, trust is a big thing. And you have to learn to trust each other, only a way not to trust each other. If you’re around each other and work with each other and Some kids, like I said, you know, come in the way they should at first, but they will mature into what they should be. So be patient with that. It’s a big balance. I think it’s a big balance in school and big balance for coaches. For them to win I think they’re in the wrong game. You went in life, not on the field, the fields, the teacher, the teacher, the fields, a platform to teach them about life. And that’s what it comes down to. Basic and when you win, that’s a beautiful thing, too. It’s fun to win. But you can’t learn much from winning, you learn more from losing. But when you when you really appreciate it. And yet the gratitude to all those things you learn. This is what life is about. This is what your coaches went through this is they’ve been through that to teaching you that they know the importance of sports. So fundamentals are very important. Very important, what do I mean by fundamental, learn what you should be doing, in order to be a good football player or whatever sport you’re in, learn that, and the basics of just being good kids, and if you’re in a locker room, and you get your you pick up your locker room, you pick up whatever you need, if you got problems with school, you go ask for help. Don’t Don’t, don’t just count the responsibility for that. It’s very important. So that’s, that’s what it’s worth.

It's fun to win. But you can't learn much from winning, you learn more from losing.- Rudy Ruettiger Click To Tweet

Dan Kuschell 11:40

Rudy speaking of, you know, fundamentals and asking for help. You know, I don’t know if you can remember back when you were like in the heat of, you know, the, you know, pursuit of Notre Dame, but like, what would you say to our kids like that might be, they might be like you in many ways, they might be undersized, they don’t have the maybe they haven’t developed yet. And they see all these kids bigger. And you kind of talk a little bit about comparing numbers, if you can remember back, like, What kept you going and

Rudy Ruettiger 12:15

A coach, a great coach that kept you going a great coach that mentored you, and allowed you to be patient with yourself. He coached you and empowered you. You never told you what you’re doing wrong. He said, This is what we can do better. And that is a good coach.

Dan Kuschell 12:38

And speaking of a good coach, you know, knowing what you know, today. I’m curious. And it may be nothing but like what would you have done different knowing what you do today about your pursuit on your journey playing at Notre Dame?

Rudy Ruettiger 12:55


Dan Kuschell 12:57

Why Why?

Rudy Ruettiger 12:59

You deal with the car, you got it. The cards that are dealt to you got to deal with that. And you don’t live in the past. You can’t go back in the past. You got to go, what you learned in the past? What do you have to do in the moment to prepare for the future? Don’t eat, you can’t change what’s over. But you can change what’s happening. That’s what’s important.

You can't change what's over, but you can change what's happening. That’s what’s important. - Rudy Ruettiger Click To Tweet

Dan Kuschell 13:22

I know I know for me, Rudy. One time in my businesses. I someone asked me like, how is it you’ve had all these failures? And you’ve kept going? I said, Why was dumb enough to believe it could work?

Rudy Ruettiger 13:34

Well, that’s naive faith, you gotta have it. Some people over analyze over market and they get paralyzed, then then they have that fear factor. And that’s why it’s best not to know if I would have known about Hollywood or Notre Dame, I would never tried it. You know, never. It’s too complicated to. It’s best not to know sometimes, just plow through it.

Dan Kuschell 14:04

Yeah, I think I heard a talk you had done where you talked about, you know, some people attached to, like the result, way too much versus just the pursuit.

Rudy Ruettiger 14:15

Yeah, the pursuit is the learning. Part of it, you know, even when you make the tackle, I mean, it wasn’t such a big deal. It was, wow. To get in that game. The preparation I had to do just to get there in the ready and how much how ready I was for that moment. That was the key.

Dan Kuschell 14:40

And, you know, I can’t help but wonder like is I mean, I mean, it’s, it’s a storybook your life, you know, right. Can you remember a time like where you were at your lowest,

Rudy Ruettiger 14:55

Well you’re human. You’re a human being and you You’re going get to your lowest points, or three, you need good people around you, good mentors, good coaches push you through that. You can’t do it alone.

Dan Kuschell 15:11

What would you say? What would you say to somebody because you know, a lot of the young kids, you know, I had a hard time with this, truthfully for probably a couple decades of my first couple decades of business of being open to ask for help, right to reach out and say, Hey, I could use some help.

Rudy Ruettiger 15:26

Well, you probably have that in school. You asked a question. You were stupid. Yep. And you that was there, get rid of that? I had to get rid of that. Asking for help means you’re smart. You know, so I, I feel you know, I got my dog. I don’t know why he’s gone crazy. Get ready to move here. And we got stuff all over the place. Where is Jack? Jack? What are you doing? Oh, he’s barking at the TV. Gotcha. So anyhow, it’s a fascinating, complicated. No matter if you’re teaching kids or adults, it’s a challenge to challenge because everyone has different layers of personalities. And a coach has to learn how to deal with each and every one of that, especially with the millennials today, they share the more entitled that’s because they get information much faster, much quicker than we did. They learn faster. And they know a little more than than what we know right now. And a lot, I wouldn’t say because you can get information much quicker. When we grew up, we had to go to the library and go through the crazy library takes hours. Yes, we know. Yeah. Now it’s like, boom, you got info if I know something else, you know, ask Sherry, she looked at me, that’s what you’re that’s the reality of it. But you guys still stick to the basics. When you I entered Notre Dame football. They went right to the basics, you couldn’t believe it. That’s what they call every day, the basic getting understands, watching, watching a football or move on the football, all the little basics at quarterback going to pros, it’s even more basics they hit Yeah. That’s why they look so good. Because they practice the basics. And we don’t do that in new sports. I don’t understand that. We want to get there too fast. No, no, no. Be patient. Slow is good. And preparation is good. And development is good. So when they know that, then they understand that. Yeah, there’s some kids that grow faster like to say and can mature faster. That doesn’t mean or develop. Not at all, just means the other kids aren’t.

Dan Kuschell 18:10

You know, like a couple of your qualities I observe Rudy again from afar, you know, you know, seeing your documentary, seeing the movie, seeing some of the talks you’ve given over time at different conferences. You know, you have this innate ability to be persistent. When everything is kind of to the normal mind or person saying no, you have this resilience about you have this consistency about you. Like what could you say to these young men about developing that muscle of persistence? Wow.

Rudy Ruettiger 18:44

It’s a belief factor. Hmm. That’s, that’s the muscle. If you don’t believe you got to believe and see the guys develop who you are. You have to believe in who you are. That’s the key, then that comes into play that persistence. Because only you know who you are. People judge you and look at you differently. How do you look at yourself? That’s, that’s the whole magic of it. And it’s how you look at yourself. It’s developed that muscle.

Dan Kuschell 19:21

So man, I hope that you’re you’re really picking up what Rudy is sharing with you, you know, how you see yourself is ultimately going to determine a lot of your destiny, you got to have belief in yourself. You’ve got to develop the muscles of persistence, consistency, the basic the basic fundamentals.

Rudy Ruettiger 19:38

Well, the confidence a man confidence, getting develop the belief, the confidence, and your self image. All that comes natural.

Dan Kuschell 19:49

I’m curious if you can think back to when you were, you know, 17, 18 years old. You played your last game a high school football You kind of went in here, you know, in the I’ll just define it as the limbo period where you weren’t there. You went to the military. How did you see yourself then? And was there something that switched that?

Rudy Ruettiger 20:14

Yeah, because I remember, most people live in regret. I don’t want to live in regret. And when you think like that, you’re never too old. And now what comes into play is, maybe I’m not as fast, but I can contribute. Maybe I’m not as big but I can contribute. Maybe I’m not the guy they’re looking for, but I can contribute, contribute. That was the key, I can contribute to their success.

Maybe I'm not as fast, but I can contribute. Maybe I'm not as big, but I can contribute. Maybe I'm not the guy they're looking for, but I can contribute. Contribute: that was the key. - Rudy Ruettiger Click To Tweet

Dan Kuschell 20:43

That’s amazing. Man. I hope you’re paying close attention. This is something you’re going to hear for the rest of your life is that when you show up and contribute and add value in the world? Well, you can get anything you want. There’s another lesson I have picked up. Observing, you know, a lot of the things you’ve shared, it’s relationship building. Yeah. speak to that a little bit.

Rudy Ruettiger 21:05

Yeah, the relationship is people. If you don’t build a relationship, people won’t give you that second chance. The reason why I made it at Notre Dame, because I went into the admissions office says saying why I said, What more can I do? You earn the respect. And when we you earn the respect, knowing that you’re going to help them to them helping you. It’s how much you care, it’s how much they care. It’s, it’s that thing. And that relationship is very important. When they care about you. They help you.

Dan Kuschell 21:50

And as I think I understand that you were on campus so often with this mindset of contribution, that in many of the administrators thought you just went to Notre Dame without what.

Rudy Ruettiger 22:03

You’re there. It’s what you see is what you believe. I mean, you’re there they Oh, you gotta be you have to be a student. You don’t need to tell them different. But you were there building relationship? And no, by the way, those were the guys chanting Rudy, were the students, the football team.

Dan Kuschell 22:23

Yep. Man, I hope you’re paying attention to that contribution. Right. What more can I do? How can I help you? Right?

Rudy Ruettiger 22:33

Yeah, I mean, we that’s a process again, it’s all about the process you learn you know, some of us can get there faster. They had that talent that skill that ability. But does doesn’t mean you’re not going to get there. It’s not how you start, it’s how you end up. I ended up with a Notre Dame degree, Notre Dame ring, Notre Dame football, and ended up in Hollywood. Ended up you know, probably one of the best movies ever sports movies ever made for a message. I say that because I’m a little biased. I hear I hear it all the time how it goes outside of football, the movie, Rudy. Yeah, that’s, that’s why I say that. It reaches people that it has nothing to do with football, or Notre Dame has to do with day human journey of life.

It's not how you start, it’s how you end up. I ended up with a Notre Dame degree, Notre Dame ring, Notre Dame football. I ended up in Hollywood. - Rudy Ruettiger Click To Tweet

Dan Kuschell 23:34

And speaking of that, Rudy, I know I promised, you know through next 10 to 15 minutes, so I know we’re getting there. Yeah, that finish what’s what’s something I should have asked you that I didn’t.

Rudy Ruettiger 23:46

Glad you didn’t ask me. But I’m glad you asked your questions you did? How’s that? That’s perfect. What?

Dan Kuschell 23:53

What would you hope would be, you know, 1 to 3 action steps these young men would take as they move forward in

Rudy Ruettiger 23:59

their room, and right now go home, get your room straight now. That’s one, have that first success in the morning. And you’ll be surprised how you get good affirmation. And by the way, you’re probably doing it already. But just do it better. Just do things better, that’s all and it gets better. So you know it treat your sisters brothers, right. focus on the things that are positive, whatever they may be friends, who are positive. Don’t be around friends who are naysayers. Those are the things that will get you to where you need to go. I will say this, you will fail. But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad child means you learn and don’t make that second mistake. If you do, learn again and keep moving. Just don’t sit there and make it keep making it same. mistake over and over again. Learn from it.

Dan Kuschell 25:04

That’s awesome. If people want to know more about what you’re up to some of the projects you’ve got going on Rudy where

Rudy Ruettiger 25:09

they could go to our, they should go to Rise Above with Rudy, our podcast, we’ve got some great leaders, I mean from, from Sprint, the CEO of sprint, took the company from bankruptcy to number one to a young lady who coached gymnastics at UCLA, who never coached gymnastics and won 10 championships, because she created a mindset. And that’s what’s good. All the leaders we speak to, we just spoke to a doctor who went to medical school was and he had bird disease, and they gave him his last rites. But you know, he found his own cure for his disease. Cuz then he went out, got his MBA on top of that. So those stories are incredible. We have a former pilot that fought, God, he was a fighter pilot, went to the Naval Academy was in Afghanistan, I mean, was all the big wars over there. And they wouldn’t take him as a pilot for United. Because, but he fought his way through and finally got that job. But no matter what you have to accomplish, you still have to pursue that word passion. And he convinced him this is what he wanted. so important to hear these types of stories, because we all they all go through it. Just because you get in one area doesn’t mean you’re going to get what you want. You still have to fight for it.

Dan Kuschell 26:52

Absolutely. So man, if you want to check out Rudy’s podcast, you can go to

Rudy Ruettiger 26:58

Rise Above with Rudy. Spotify, iHeart Radio, YouTube, you can you know, you love I love to I love listening to the guys we interview because they’ve been through it.

Dan Kuschell 27:16

That’s, that’s amazing. So guys, check out Rise Above with Rudy, check out the podcast check out all the great, great work he’s doing Rudy. Man, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for taking the

Rudy Ruettiger 27:27

Tell them to watch the documentary too. You could see a difference. Me now, me then I changed I you know, I went out and started exercising after I saw that documentary.

Dan Kuschell 27:44

So check out the documentary. We’ll have the links in the notes guys so you can get access to the to the documentary. Rudy, thanks for being with us, guys. Is that awesome guys? Or what? How about a quick chat for Rudy? Ready? 123.

Dan Kuschell 28:05

Rudy. Rudy.

Rudy Ruettiger 28:11

Talk to you guys soon.

Dan Kuschell 28:12

Thanks for listening to this episode of growthtofreedom.com. Are you struggling to get a steady flow of new clients every day, or maybe hit a plateau or hit a wall and growing your business? Let’s help you solve this problem today. Let’s review your business and have a conversation. We do that for free today at breakthroughstrategycall.com. That’s breakthroughstrategycall.com. In addition, if you’re looking for a simple way to implement some of what we’ve been talking about in today’s episode, I want to encourage you to get our free small business toolkit. You get that at activate.breakthrough3x.com, that’s activate.breakthrough 3x.com. If you’d like access to the special resources and all the show notes for this special episode, make sure to visit growthtofreedom.com.


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