Peyton Manning & Planning Your Future

Last week, Peyton Manning’s career ended with the Indianapolis Colts after four NFL MVPs, eleven Pro Bowls,  seven division championships, two AFC championships and a Super Bowl victory.  That’s on top of being the most prolific passer in Colts history.

Manning’s season ending neck injury last year, the salary cap, his age and an upcoming bonus created the perfect storm for this MVP to be released. Of course, the chance to draft Andrew Luck (said to be a future Peyton Manning from Stanford) as the future QB was no small factor either.

I saw a few lessons from Manning’s experience for organizations and one big one for each of us as we plan our careers:


  1. Organization first. Organizations face tough decisions every day in deciding who will lead them in the next five to ten years – who they hire, who they promote, who is on the succession plan. The Colts put what they thought was best long-term for the organization above their personal feelings and what was most popular. You can disagree with what they did, but you have to acknowledge that they put the organization’s success above everything and it had to be a very difficult decision to make.
  2. Face reality. It had to be painful to accept the reality of their situation, but they did. The Colts had their “eyes wide open” and looked at and accepted the facts – even if they didn’t like the answer.
  3. Retire the jersey. The Colts and Manning handled the announcement with grace and dignity as they spoke through tears that this was the inevitable answer. There were likely some tough private conversations, but they publicly put the franchise and organization first. The retired jersey was a parting sign of respect.
  4. Learn from the low points. When Peyton was out last year with a major neck injury, the Colts slipped to 2-14 after being a playoff team with Manning. This low point started a major change in their strategy after considering his recovery, his age and the future. While some were saying Manning should win the MVP again for showing what the team was like without him, the Colts realized they needed to start rebuilding and fast.

And, as you are planning your career, I think there is one big lesson:

  1. Organizations can’t love you back. I’m a believer in loyalty and commitment, as that gives careers and work meaning. But, I see many who start to treat their organization as an additional family member or spouse ~ believing that they will be repaid for their loyalty or putting everything else second after career. If the only four-time NFL MVP was released, then we all are reminded not to assume that one organization can be our everything. OK, none of us are NFL quarterbacks, but the lesson still applies. Have a back-up plan, stay connected to others outside your organization, have your own plan and don’t assume that your organization will love you back.

As Manning said in his press conference, “We all know that nothing lasts forever. Times change, circumstances change and that’s the reality of playing in the NFL.” Insert “business” for NFL and have a plan that works for you – not just your organization.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and can be followed on Twitter @pattibjohnson or follow her organization, PeopleResults, @people_results.