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Are You Above The Line?  Seven Core Principles of DFI


"The performance of a person or a team rises or falls on behavior. Winning behavior is intentional, on purpose and skillful. It is always Above the Line. Above the Line behavior is conscious and thoughtful - a choice made in alignment with your larger vision or where you want to go." 




The defining characteristic of every champion is leadership.  Leadership is influence, based on the trust you earn. Every practice, every meeting, every-day life, DFI builds 'Above the Line' leaders - Skillful, Intentional, On-Purpose, Driven - who are equipped, instructed and engineered to give it all they've got.

In every DFI market, our staffs, players and coaches share our program throughout their communities, and it all begins with a 50-question Above the Line Leadership Quiz. This includes questions like 'Did you make your bed this morning?' … 'Do you do things without being asked or told?' … 'Do you initiate positive outcomes?' … We call these 'little victories' that begin each morning, the moment you awake. 


Little victories boost our confidence. Little victories play a major role in dealing with stress, or overcoming challenges. Little victories are significant building blocks of leadership. 

Why? Because leaders are learners. Leadership is a skill, and like all skills, it takes time and effort to develop your conscience, develop a winning mindset where you refuse to 'round it off.' 

Average leaders stick a quote on their refrigerator. Good leaders might have a plan. But exceptional leaders run a system. DFI provides every person and player in its influence an in-depth, life-changing system that will keep you, every single day, Above the Line in all that you act, think and do 

It all starts with Clarity of Purpose. 

Think hard. Ask yourself right now, "What, exactly, is it that I am after every day?" 

It’s always easier to be impulsive, on autopilot and resistant. But ‘Below the Line’ is dangerous, because it’s comfortable and convenient. It is the path of least resistance. Below the Line behavior is directed by impulse or the gravitational pull of old habits; you just react without thinking. Below the Line is your default response. It isn’t hard to find people who are caught up in Below the Line behavior. All you need to do is look for those whose first reaction is to blame (others), complain (about circumstances), and MAKE EXCUSES (yourself) or BCE.

DFI believes that the first steps toward a dynamic life are to ruthlessly eliminate blaming, complaining and excuses.


"A rapidly changing world deals ruthlessly with people who fail to adapt. If you don't like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less. Exceptional performance is the result of an uncommon level of focus and discipline in the pursuit of greatness. We are measured by our actions, not our intentions. Remember your actions are so loud we can't hear what you're saying." 



DFI believes in what's called 'Event PLUS Response EQUALS Outcome' - we don't control the events in life, and we don't directly control the outcomes. But we always have control over how we choose to respond.


Simply stated, Big Events and Big Outcomes require Big Responses. How you respond is what we call the "R Factor." 

There are six 'R Factor,' or response disciplines, taught in DFI:

  1. Press Pause - gives you time to think, gets you off autopilot, avoid doing something foolish or harmful, focus on acting with purpose … 

  2. Get Your Mind Right - What you focus on, how you talk to yourself, productive vs negative mindset, Irritated Mindset or Survival Mindset (both below the line) vs. Purpose mindset (above the line) … 

  3. Step Up - Understand the situation, understand what is required of you and respond above the line …

  4. Adjust & Adapt - Consider current path of your R-Factor habits. Where are they taking you? Where do you want to go? Adjust … 

  5. Make a Difference - take complete ownership of the experience you give others and your contribution to the team's culture … 

  6. Build Skill - Elite performers build skill above their talents. Talent is a gift, greatness is a choice. Under pressure, we do not rise to the occasion. We rise or fall to the level of our training. When contact is made, it is too late to train and build skill …

We must prepare and develop our R-Factor capacity before we experience challenging situations. Under pressure, the R-Factor habits that will be available to you are the ones you have purposefully built into your life. 

Embrace productive discomfort. Discomfort marks the place where the old way meets the new way. Push through the pain. If it doesn't challenge you, it will not change you.


The way you respond creates the culture. This means you must respond with intention, purpose and skill. Leaders create culture, culture drives behavior, and behavior produces results.


Our daily performance is a direct reflection of the culture WE OURSELVES CREATE. What do you watch? What do you listen to? What do you believe? Who do you text? What do you read? Everything we do either works for you, or against you. Our message to our team is clear: Our performance is a direct reflection of the culture we create. The foundation of our culture is our core beliefs - Faith, Family, Football. Our beliefs are the heart of our team. Culture is what leads when no one is watching. 

DFI believes in relentless effort, competitive excellence, constant focus, and the mindset of a winner - uncommon commitment to each other, and to do whatever work necessary to achieve our purpose. 

Building a culture is a three step process:

  1. Believe it.

  2. Sell it.

  3. Demand it. 


Whatever you permit in your life, you promote. If you permit it, you promote it. So challenge all your below the line behavior. Recognize and reinforce above the line behavior. In every situation, your job is to lead, and to clear the way for your conscience to speak. Always be the first one to do the right thing. If you don't make your bed, you probably have a full trash can in your bathroom. If you have a full trashcan, you probably have dirty laundry on the floor, and dishes in the sink … and so on, and so on. It stops when you stop. The first person you must lead is yourself. If you can't be trusted as a champion at home, how can you earn trust as a champion anywhere else in your life?


Make relentless effort part of your DNA and you will find yourself suddenly competing for everything, and suddenly, your life rapidly improving, and suddenly, making a difference everywhere you place your feet. 


"Our core message is very straightforward. Trust is earned through your behavior, not granted by your position. And it is earned through repeated behavior over time. It takes three things to build trust - character, competence, and connection." 



What motivates DFI players to give maximum effort and play with selfless commitment?  One key is called small-unit cohesion. The military calls it 'combat motivation.' What motivates soldiers to engage in combat? How do you train soldiers to fight and win? How do you train and equip soldiers to sustain combat motivation during periods of prolonged conflict? The strongest motivation for enduring combat, especially for U.S. soldiers, is the bond formed among members of a squad or platoon. This cohesion is the single most important sustaining and motivating force for combat soldiers. Simply put, soldiers fight because of the other members of their small unit.

"A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." 
-- U.S. Army Major Robert J. Reilly 

Trust is something that every team talks about and wants, but few truly get. Trust is belief in the reliability of a person. It is confidence that you can count on a person. In order to train and compete at an elite level, you must push each other hard. Very hard. But you can push only to the level of trust you have built. 

Strength in one of these areas cannot make up for weakness in another. 

  1. Character - is ethical trust. This can only be built through repeated experience of you doing what you say you will do. 

  2. Competence - is technical trust. This is built through repeated experience of you doing your job, and making team better. 

  3. Connection - is personal trust. This is built through repeated experience of caring, listening and fully engaging with the people on the team. 


It is important to remember that other people do not experience your intentions - they experience your behavior. If you expect others to trust you, they must experience your character and competence, and they must experience a personal connection with you. Repeatedly. Over time. Especially in difficult conditions. 

5: THE 10-80-10 PRINCIPLE

"Our society tends to overrate the importance of just talent. But not a single starter for either team in Super Bowl XLIX was rated a five-star recruit out of high school. DFI recognizes how much developing human potential is out there. Teams, families and communities are starved for powerful young men who make a difference." 



DFI runs on the 10-80-10 principle: The Top 10 percenters are the nucleus of an organization. They give all they've got, all of the time, and are the essence of self-discipline, self-respect and the relentless pursuit of improvement - the elite. The 80 percenters are the majority who go to work, do a good job, and are relatively reliable. They are trustworthy and dutiful, but don't have the drive and unbending will of Top 10 percent. The Bottom 10 percenters are uninterested or defiant, coasting through life, not caring about reaching potential or the honoring gifts they've been given. The Bottom 10 are often referred to as 'coach killers,' because they suck up all the time and attention, with little to no output or progress. 

The goal of a leader is to provide a center of gravity that exerts a pull - attraction and energy - that aligns the trajectory of everyone around him. In other words, your leadership gets every person, every player and every unit on the team going in the same direction. So this requires the right amount of leadership energy.  

Too much energy, too much pull = impairs developmental momentum and slows others down. Micromanagers are often too heavy-handed, or too harsh. The result is disconnect, discouragement and demotivation. 

Too little energy, too little pull = players spin off in all directions. Standards are unclear. Nobody is accountable. Players may say they like lenient, soft, friendly-all-the-time coaches - but they won't play hard for them. Nobody succeeds in an undisciplined culture. 


So how do you get the perfect alignment? First, communicate your purpose and your culture with exceptional clarity and relentless consistency. Second, make it clear to your leaders that it is their responsibility to build and maintain alignment and equip them with essential skills. Third, hold everyone accountable. If someone is out of alignment, deal with it quickly and decisively. 

We are constantly looking to improve our 80 percenters, and move them as quick as possible into the Top 10. Leaders spend most of their time on the 80 percenters around them. Top 10 percenters motivate themselves and bottom ten percenters are not worth wasting energy on. 


"We tell our players, 'Everybody has big dreams. And we want to help to help you fulfill them. But if your habits don't reflect your dreams and goals, you have to either change your habits or change your dreams.'" 






Our DFI coaches and teachers with NFL experience remind our players all the time of their stories and how they got there. The message is clear: "This could be you. All you need to do is work, train and live Above the Line. Be as fully committed to getting better as the guys whose pictures you are looking at." 

The more people you're around who take ownership of living Above the Line, the more loyal, committed and successful you'll be. We all need Positive Peer Pressure, which comes from being around others who are pushing you to get better. If you are going through the motions, staying in the same place, there's a good chance somebody is going right past you. 

You can't get caught up in what others think. Every great leader you've ever studied or met has demonstrated their own unique ability to think for themselves, and do the right thing accordingly. 

DFI encourages its players to think deeply, originally, and often, bravely. Leadership is a mindset first, and a skillset second. If you don't think like a leader, you won't act like one. The only time we mention championships is on the first day of training camp and orientation, and three months later when we have teams playing for one. 

Winning is a DFI lifestyle. And the first championship of the day is making your bed.


"DFI teaches every player, coach and organization to understand and observe the amount of work, commitment and sheer toughness it takes to be successful in an unforgiving world."


                          HEAD COACH


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