Another season in the National Football League is now underway, but it almost never happened. For months, players were locked out of their jobs, as owners and players failed to reach an agreement. This happened to me as a player, but even worse.

Imagine what this is like: you’re playing professional football—your dream for most of your life. You just started your second year in the NFL, everything is going really well for you, and then all of a sudden, right in the middle of the season, the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players breaks down and the season grinds to an immediate halt.

Your season is over, just like thatYou are locked out: you can’t even get into the locker room, weight room, or stadium. Your season is over, just like that. You are not even sure what the whole thing means, but you know this: there are no more games, no team, no job and no paychecks. But the worst part is that the owners bring in replacement players to fill their rosters, and all you can do is watch on TV as your own “team” plays every Sunday. This is what happened in the last strike.

This was not how my career was supposed to go. I didn’t even know what to do. Should I keep working out, expecting this to be over soon? Should I go try to find another job?

I felt terrible. I worked so hard to get into the NFL. I had built my life around this—why did this happen? All because the two sides couldn’t agree—because they were unwilling to compromise on their demands. In the end, they didn’t really get what they wanted anyway, but in fighting for it, they could have ended up with nothing, meaning no season.

This almost happened again this year, with even more at stake. The NFL now brings in more than nine billion dollars in revenues each year, and the whole season was jeopardized because the principals were not getting exactly what they wanted.

Sadly, this refusal to compromise, this rigid approach to insisting on our own terms, is not limited to the NFL. It almost took down our whole country in the recent debt-ceiling fiasco. And it is one of the most common reasons people pass up on invaluable opportunities for meaningful Jewish experiences.

“That synagogue is not my favorite,” “this rabbi seems too religious,” and “those classes make me uncomfortable” are just some of the reasons we just stay home, locking ourselves out of our Jewish communities—and, ultimately, out of our own Jewish lives. We set high expectations for the Judaism we want, which may even be appropriate, but when they are not met, we give up.

In the NFL, few games go according to plan. The passing game you were counting on gets thwarted by a great defense, or even by bad weather. A key player gets hurt, and someone has to take over a job they’re not suited for. When that happens, it’s time to embrace Plan B. Nobody likes to accept Plan B, but if that’s what it takes to win, there’s no time to fret over it. You make the adjustment and get right back out there.

Nobody likes to accept Plan B, but if that’s what it takes to win, there’s no time to fret over itIn Jewish life, Plan A’s can be hard to come by. But Judaism is too valuable to lose out on. Nine or ten billion dollars is nothing compared to what there is to gain from investing yourself in Jewish living and learning. You just have to be willing to give a little here, and compromise a little there. The truth is, that’s when the game really begins, and that’s when winners prove themselves.

This New Year, don’t let anything lock you out of the stadium. The payoff is just too great. Have a healthy, happy and sweet new year.