I Want to Be Kirk Cousins. How Do You Like That?

Kirk Cousins has never won a Super Bowl, has never been on the cover of GQ (the joke is that he gets his clothes off the rack), and besides the one viral sound byte of “you like that?”, is relatively unknown in the public eye. But somehow, he has made more money in his career than anyone could have imagined, now at more than $332 million after signing a $180 million deal last month with the Atlanta Falcons. 

Cousins has only won a single playoff game in his entire career. Last season, after a promising start, he missed the second half rehabbing his wounded achilles.  So, the Vikings, in essence, went down with him. 

I still want to be Kirk Cousins. 

Some call his play spectacularly mediocre. Some could say he’s been the victim of a lack of a good supporting cast. But one thing you can’t say about 35-year-old Kirk Cousins is that he’s lucky. He’s now practically even in on-field earnings with the G.O.A.T, Tom Brady. You know him, the guy who won SEVEN more championships. Heck, I’ve won as many as Cousins has. But with his calculated financial success and ability to suit up for multiple teams for millions of dollars, any business or entrepreneur would be wise to learn from him. 

Here are some key lessons we can learn from his successful but under-the-radar career and life:

Stay in your lane.

Kirk Cousins is not flashy and doesn’t appear on talk shows or social media.  What he does is his job, goes home and lives a simple life with his wife Julie and his two sons. He didn’t marry an Instagram influencer, a movie star, or a singer worth over a billion dollars. What he did was build a successful marriage with an elementary school teacher. They don’t have a home in L.A., N.Y., Miami, or Palm Springs. True to type, he lives quietly in Minnesota and Michigan near Saugatuck on a strip of land on Oval Beach, for which he quietly paid $2 million. Trust me. No one in Michigan knows he spends his summers here. 

He’s regularly viewed as one of the most boring people in football. In a recent series on Netflix called “Quarterbacks,” Cousins was one of the three profiled. It became apparent very quickly that he would not offer outrageous quotes or refer to himself in the third person. 

 “Maybe that’s it. I’m boring and when I do something that isn’t as boring, it becomes something funny,” Cousins said on the program. Netflix then offered a Tweet from a Minnesota radio host who joked about his clothes coming from Kohls. 

Kirk Cousins’ lane is simple. Work on what you’re best at (play football) and avoid the distractions that take down so many professional athletes. We all should be as dull. 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Know your value

How often have you discounted your rates or business products to attract new clients or customers? How has that worked out for you? 

Anyone successful in business is more than aware of their worth and value. It’s either the confidence to share your expertise at an hourly rate that you believe equates with your knowledge or fully understanding how much you can sell your products or services for. It’s all part of being confident in your own abilities and not discounting them. 

Kirk Cousins doesn’t play for a discount.  Yet, let me repeat – he’s won ONE playoff game in his career and spent half of last season in a physical therapy room.  He just got $180 MILLION from the Falcons, with $100 million of that guaranteed, no matter if he gets benched, cut, or goes down with an injury.  He knows his value and puts himself in a position to succeed.  Although many NFL historians would not put him in the top 50 NFL quarterbacks in league history – his statistics surprisingly prove otherwise. 

  • Four Pro Bowls
  • #5 among all active quarterbacks in statistics
  • #24 all-time with nearly 40,000 passing yards
  • #20 in career touchdowns

But championships and playoff wins have eluded him. Has anyone ever achieved more than Kirk Cousins with fewer team results? Every entrepreneur should aspire to get the return on an investment that the new $180 million man in Atlanta has achieved in his career. So long as you’re not his employer, I guess.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Leverage

Whether you’re a prospective employee or the owner of a company trying to gain new clients, the best negotiating strategy is always not to be afraid to use the leverage in business you’ve accumulated through your experience. Kirk Cousins has seized on these opportunities. 

The Falcons are desperate, having missed the playoffs for six years and having only won as many as seven games five times in those seasons. If you listen to the team’s leadership, they always said they were “a quarterback away” from league relevance.  

You have clients that may not necessarily want you but need you. You may also find job opportunities where someone is desperate for your skill set. Don’t be afraid to position yourself so you not only land the job or client you want, but in some cases, you can also prove to them they can’t live without you. That’s the conclusion the Atlanta football brain trust came to. After a year of watching starting quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke combined for a paltry 61.4 percent completion percentage  (the league average is nearly 66%) with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, a change had to happen.

Whether Atlanta overpaid for Cousins is beside the point. He was available and had a long resume of on-field performance that the Falcons NEEDED.  They took their shot. Cousins, on the other hand, can’t lose. 

Knowing what you’re good at, not undervaluing your unique skill set and using whatever leverage you have are good for your personal and business future. They may not turn you into a multi-million dollar leader, but they certainly position you for a future that you can better personally control.  

How do “you like that”?