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A Conversation with Pat Williams


Pat Williams is the senior vice president of the Orlando Magic. As one of Americas top motivational, inspirational, and humorous speakers, he has addressed thousands of executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies and national associations to universities andnon-profits. Pat is also the author of over fty books and hosts three weekly radio shows. In addition to these responsibilities, Pat is the proud father of nineteen children, including fourteen who were adopted from four different nations.

During Brent Crowes recent work on his book The Call, he sat down with Pat Williams; this conversation was apart of their time together.

Brent Crowe: When did it become evident to you that God was calling you to invest your life into the world of professional sports?

PAT WILLIAMS: Well, I think it's when I came to the Lord in I968. I had grown up in a sports environment. I played sports through high school and college and started a career in the Phillies organization as a player and then moved into the front office. I was spending eighteen hours a day involved in a game no more complicated than a ball and a bat and a glove, and trying to put people in the ballpark, and I remember wrestling with the big questions like, "Why am I doing this?" and "Is this really a worthwhile way to spend my life?" And it was right in that period, at the age of twenty-seven, that I was presented with the claims of Christ and I responded by committing my life to Him . . . it truly was life changing. Now what I do is ministry no question about it. My pulpit is different, but there's a sense of significance to my life.

Brent Crowe: Thus far, who would you say has been the most influential person in your life?

PAT WILLIAMS: One was Bill Veeck, the great baseball promoter and Hall of Fame executive. We met when I was twenty-two, for twenty-five years Bill Veeck was a mentor, influencer, encourager, and a door opener for me and had a profound effect on my life. And the other key person was Mr. R. E. Littlejohn, who was the owner of the Spartanburg baseball club while I was there. He was a businessman who really became a surrogate father to me and invested in my life by pouring himself into me. He just absolutely laid a foundation for my life that carries on to this day.

Brent Crowe: How have you stayed focused on what God has called you to do?

PAT WILLIAMS: As I study athletes and their success, the common thread with all of them is the ability to stay focused, which is the ability to block out distractions and hone in on that which is important. I've noticed with these athletes, they literally go through life with blinders on, zoning dead on that which is important, that which has to be dealt with right now. They don't get off on the rabbit trails. I think you've got to get intentional with your life and establish what's important to you. You've got to have your values enumerated. List those values out so you can constantly stay honed in on them. And I think the most important thing I've learned is to focus on your strengths. Coach Wooden, who also had a huge influence on my life, once said, "Make each day your masterpiece."

Brent Crowe: What is the single most influential piece of advice that someone ever gave you?

PAT WILLIAMS: I called Warren Wiersbe, who was my pastor at Moody Church when I lived in Chicago, one day at the start of my fourth year with the Bulls. Things were in turmoil. I had a wonderful run there, but suddenly there were some real issues and I was just struggling terribly, and I asked him to come over for lunch. We sat over lunch and I gave him a whole rundown of what was going on, and he looked at me and he said, "Don't waste your sufferings." That's what he said. And that's not that I wanted to hear. I mean, my thought was, Gosh! He's a pastor. I mean, where's the hug? Where is the box of tissue? Where's the Bible verse? Where's the cushy shoulder? But as I looked look back, that may be the single best piece of advice I've ever received . . . don't waste your suffering. He was saying that we all go through tough times, and in the middle of the storm, always be learning and growing because the storm is going to end. And on the other side of the storm, are you better, stronger, more capable, and more sympathetic?

Brent Crowe: On the following subjects, what nugget(s) of wisdom come to mind that you would want to pass on to this next generation desiring to serve God

on marriage?
PAT WILLIAMS: Pick the right mate and take your time. The most important question is, does he or she make me a better person and do I make him or her a better person?

on raising children?
PAT WILLIAMS: If you're going to create them, you have got to take an interest in their life. They need quantity time. There's no such thing as quality time. It should be a no-brainer that they need your time. They also need your attention, and you've got to establish the balance of love and discipline as soon as you can, because children must have both. They have to know that there's discipline in their life, but there must be constant unconditional love raining down on them.

on living healthy?
PAT WILLIAMS: If you don't feel good physically, then life is hard and you won't be able to function. Therefore, the most important things I can tell any young people are to eat the right foodfruits and vegetables are the key-and get a good workout every day.

Pat Williams is a long-standing friend and faculty member of Student Leadership University. For decades, Pat has invested his life into the next generation. As followers of SLU, we ask that you pray for Pat and his family as he invests his current suffering of cancer for the glory of God and the development of the next generation.

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