In 1 Sentence, Kansas City Chiefs Tight End–and Taylor Swift Boyfriend–Travis Kelce Taught a Huge Lesson About ResilienceHe almost missed playing in the NFL at all.

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Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been on a Super Bowl-winning team three times, including last year and this year. He is, of course, also widely known for his romantic relationship with Taylor Swift. But in 2010, his NFL career nearly ended before it began when he was dismissed from his college team, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, for smoking marijuana.

Kelce brought himself back from that setback with some mental self-talk that helped him get back on track and stay there. There’s a lesson there for any entrepreneur who’s faced obstacles in their business, and for every business leader.

The trouble began when a 20-year-old Kelce traveled with the Bearcats to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Days before the game, he headed out to Bourbon Street. “I was down there partying, drinking, smoking, trying to enjoy life, and doing things that I wasn’t supposed to be doing,” he said in a 2018 ESPN documentary recently posted to YouTube. The documentary covers the relationship between Kelce and his older brother Jason, who plays center for the Philadelphia Eagles, and may or may not be retiring.

When Kelce found himself faced with an NCAA drug test his heart sank, he said in the documentary. Though he played in the Sugar Bowl, later on head coach Butch Jones called Kelce into his office. “‘Son, you’re off the team. I’m taking your scholarship,'” Kelce recalled the coach telling him. Jones told Kelce he would never play on the team again.

Telling the story, Kelce broke down in tears. “This is exactly how I reacted,” he said.

Kelce didn’t argue. With a positive drug test, there wasn’t much point denying what he’d done. Jason was angry at his younger brother back then, he said in the documentary. They’d been on the same team in high school, but in Jason’s senior year, Travis got kicked off for failing French. Now it was Jason’s senior year again, this time in college. Again, they were on the same team, and again they couldn’t play together because Travis had screwed up.

Travis gets it together.

As for Travis, he gave himself a severe talking-to. “Either you’re going to get it together, you’re going to figure it out, or you can get stuck back in Cleveland, trying to tell the story of who you could have been,” he said.

Either you figure it out, or you get stuck trying to tell the story of who you could have been.

I’m willing to bet you’ve met lots of people who love to talk about how they could have achieved great success–if only some impediment hadn’t gotten in their way. Travis Kelce looked into his future and saw that he would be one of those people someday if he didn’t find a way to overcome the obstacle in front of him.

How did he overcome it? With a combination of emotional intelligence and luck. The emotional intelligence part of this is that he didn’t blame someone else or his own misfortune for his downfall. He had made the mistake that got him kicked off the team, and he knew he would have to prove himself worthy of a second chance. The lucky part is that Jason began lobbying the coaches to give Travis that chance. Jason also invited Travis to move into the house he was sharing with some other players. And while later descriptions of that house don’t make it sound like an entirely hygenic environment, it did prove to be a place where Travis could get his act together and figure things out.

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Thanks to Jason’s efforts, Jones told Travis during spring semester he could have another chance to be a Bearcat in the fall, but he would have to prove how serious he was first. “He told me I had to maintain a 3.0 [grade point average], I had to not miss a single class, which at that time in my life was unheard of, and I had to find a way to pay for school.”

Kelce becomes a tight end.

Kelce managed to do all those things, and in the fall, the Bearcats invited him back, but no longer as a quarterback. Instead, he was to play tight end, and could try to earn a scholarship at that position. Kelce didn’t care at that point what position he played, he just wanted back on the team. He became a tight end, and he’s been one ever since. He’s now considered the geatest tight end currently in the NFL.

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Thanks to his Super Bowl wins, good looks, charisma, and association with Swift, he’s also a major star, fielding Hollywood offers and endorsement deals in the millions. In short, he’s on top of the world. And he could have missed it all if he hadn’t gotten that second chance back in college, and done the hard work to prove he deserved it.

There’s a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or tip. Often, they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Want to learn more? Here’s some information about the texts and a special invitation to a two-month free trial.) Many are successful entrepreneurs or business leaders–because they know better than to let temporary setbacks, or their own mistakes, knock them off course. When things go wrong, either you get it together and figure it out, or you get stuck telling the story of who you could have been. Which will you choose?

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