Tips From The Top: One On One With Lincoln Kennedy

I spoke to former NFL star Lincoln Kennedy about his journey and best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and what you have learned from your journey to date. First things first, though, what is something about you that your fans don’t know?

Lincoln: Most people don’t know I’m a serial entrepreneur. I own a cigar company and opened an Angry Crab Shack in Happy Valley, AZ. I am truly passionate about small business ownership and seeing how these businesses can make a positive impact in the community.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?

Lincoln: I got into the restaurant business by surrounding myself with individuals who knew the industry. I watched so many successful people work to achieve success as restaurateurs and learned from their actions and decisions. I was able to really absorb a lot of the systems and process it takes to run a business effectively and ask questions along the way. My mother used to always say “never stop learning.” Of course, there were failures in life. But I know, anything worth having is always worth working hard for.

Adam: In your experience, other than natural talent, what are the defining qualities of a superstar athlete?

Lincoln: I  wouldn’t call myself a superstar, but I think it’s important to know how to motivate people, bring out the best qualities in them, and teach them how to operate as a team successfully. Once every member of a team has their eyes set on a common goal, it’s easier to reach success. A superstar athlete knows you can lead better once you’ve learned to follow. The best athletes are leaders who understand they don’t and cannot know everything. This goes for any career – I rely on my staff and managers at Angry Crab Shack to lend their knowledge and to take on a leadership role when necessary.

Adam: What players and coaches have you learned the most from? What did you learn from them?

Lincoln: Over the years, I have learned from countless people – coaches, players, and just truly good and honest people. I think everyone comes into your life for a reason, like my high school coach, John Shacklet. He is the sole reason I started playing football in the first place. I might still be living in the inner-city if it wasn’t for him. My college coach, Kieth Gilbertson, taught me to use any tools I had to get the job done. This really helped be develop as a player, entrepreneur, and even as a person. Players like Kieth Rowen, Joe Bugel, and Bill Callahan have also had an incredible amount of influence on my personal and professional life.

Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have played with and what do you believe are the defining qualities of a great leader?

Lincoln: Over the years of playing football, I played with and against some of the greatest leaders. Athletes like Steve Wisnewski, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, Micheal Haynes (WR), Rod Woodson, Eric Allen and Tim Brown are incredible leaders and each one of them leads in a different way. The commonality among each one is that they keep their word and follow through. Leadership can happen in different ways – you can lead vocally or by your actions—but regardless, stay true to yourself and do what you said you would do.

Adam: What are the best lessons you have learned through your career in sports that are applicable to those of us who will never earn a living playing pro ball?

Lincoln: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned while playing sports is that you have to work as a team. It’s so much harder to achieve the end goal if you are trying to do everything alone. You learn so much about yourself and about others when you work together to accomplish the same goal. To succeed on the field, you have to communicate with every team member; owning a business is no different. At Angry Crab Shack, things will go array if every member isn’t on the same page and working together –communication is the secret ingredient to success.

Adam: What is the most surprising thing about life in professional sports? What is something that would shock fans?

Lincoln: I don’t think there really isn’t anything incredibly shocking about life as a professional athlete. I think it’s important people understand money can’t, and won’t, solve all of your problems. The fame and fortune that come with being a professional athlete is like any other form of entertainment, it doesn’t last forever.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Lincoln: The best advice I had was “never stop learning, because you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Lincoln: Stick with the Golden Rule, people should be respectful and kind to others. It costs nothing to be a good person and this results in spreading more positive energy.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Lincoln: I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids and my family – I’m nothing without them and I’m happiest when I’m with them. I’m also a big cigar enthusiast, so I spend a lot of my free time running that business along with my Angry Crab Shack franchise location. Small business ownership is tough work, but it also gives you the freedom and flexibility we all crave.

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