Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Power of Sharing

I have really great kids. I don't mean like I think they are going to be the next President, or the first woman on Mars or anything. We've just been blessed with good, solid, kids. I know many parents think that their kids are great, but I also know there are many parents that fall into the trap of complaining about their kids, particularly when talking to their spouse, or other parents. It's easy to fall into that trap. I have certainly done that from time to time, but it's something I'm working on.

All that being said, there are still times I'm really frustrated with how they are behaving, and it's easy for me to have this feeling of, "why can't my kids do _____", or maybe more accurately, "why can't I get my kids to ______", or maybe even MORE accurately, "IF, I'm a good parent, why can't I get my kids to_____".

One of the big areas for this is with the concept of sharing. My wife and I share just about everything with our kids. I'm not always super excited about it, and maybe it isn't the right approach, but we try and share with them as much as we can. They use our shower (independently), they eat food off our plates, they drink my protein shakes, they get my spot on the couch, and they use my computer to watch Daniel Tiger, sometimes when I'd like to be using it for work.

They don't get these things because we give them whatever they want. We willingly share with them when we can, and we tell them no when it's necessary, but the point is, we try to set an example of sharing.

But when it comes to sharing with each other (we have a young son and a daughter) sometimes it feels like we haven't set a very good example. At times, Hope will share with Harper, and in the next breath, Harper will refuse to share with Hope. Or, for no understandable reason, Harper will stand up and block the television, so that Hope can't see it. I actually understand not sharing the remote, there are significant implications to that action. But refusing to allow the other person to see the screen at all, not sharing the basic experience of watching television, is difficult for me to understand.

And yet, other times, they share perfectly and I feel like the Best Dad Ever (and I have a cup to prove that to be true).

There are two things I want to encourage you on in regards to the concept of sharing:

1) It seems that sharing (for adults) is not all that difficult when it comes to things. We are willing to give up our seat, share a stick of gum, offer to split the last slice of pizza, or lend someone a dollar to buy a drink at work. For our friends, we are generally willing to share our time or our truck to go and help someone move, make them a meal when they are in a time of need, or babysit their kids for a date night. But it seems that we are not always very willing to share things that are less tangible. Things like our ideas, dreams, plans, fears, and faith. We tend to keep these things to ourselves, even with those we are extremely close to. For me, the reasons mainly include a fear of rejection and judgement. How will they respond? What will they think of my idea? What will they think of me?

Maybe you have different reasons. Maybe you are a better man than me and you don't have this problem.

2) Sharing is powerful, because once we get passed those fears, great things can happen when we share. Rather than judgement, we have the potential to receive affirmation and encouragement. Maybe it's a great idea. Maybe someone needs to hear about your plans. Maybe someone needs to hear about your faith. Maybe someone needs to hear your fears .They may be experiencing the same thing, and they (and you) need to know that we aren't alone in this. And maybe, as happened with me in the last couple of days, we share our ideas, and the person that we share with offers a totally new perspective, making connections we hadn't even considered. Suddenly our idea has grown, and we have a support system, that can help us see things from a different perspective, and perhaps even take our idea from a thought into tangible action.

When we share what's going on inside, we can give and get encouragement that doesn't exist when we keep things to ourselves. And you never know where each new conversation might lead.

Don't let fear get in the way of sharing the things that are important to you and your journey.

Much Love,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Audience of One

I remember a coached that I once worked for asked our players, as a motivational tool, to imagine that the person that they respected the most, was the only one at the game that night. So many of our players imagined their grandfather, or a parent who wasn't able to come to games often, or maybe even a sibling who had passed, and who had never seen them play.

It was a pretty powerful question, in my opinion. I don't know if we played any harder, or if our players did anything particularly special, but I think it was really neat to have our players think about that, and to visualize playing for something outside of the norm. Rather than focusing on everything around us, the "normal" stimuli that often affect our performance and our perception of our performance (for example, the fans, our coach, the officials, and the opposition), we can focus on an Audience of One, and that audience can be someone meaningful, who we can truly pour out for, and we can legitimately care about how they see us play or perform.

I remember doing this when I was coaching. My parents didn't make it to many games, mainly because we lived hours apart, and we rarely played near them. But on the occasions that they did make it to a game, I found myself wanting to be the "most coach" I could be, I wanted to be at my best. I would always ask what they thought about the game, and though I was never direct about it, what I really wanted to know is what they thought about my coaching, if they thought I did a good job.

As much as I value my parent's opinion about the job I'm doing, or if they are proud of the work I'm doing, ultimately, their judgement of my work isn't the most important.

As much as our players may have wanted to please and earn the favor of their grandparents, or parents, or sibling in our imaginary exercise of pretending that their chosen #1 fan was in the stands, ultimately, people shouldn't be who we care MOST about as we carry out our duties.

Please understand, that I'm not ignoring the importance of pleasing others when we work, or the fact that we may need to care about what others think in our given situations. It does matter, what our boss thinks, or what our coach thinks, in that those people can be major decision makers in how our career goes, or what type of review we receive, or how playing time is dolled out.

But, I believe that if we truly set our focus on living, working, and performing as if there were an Audience of One, and that was The One, that our perspective would shift away from trying to gain favor, or look a certain way, or playing to avoid judgement or embarrassment. Instead, our work, play, and interactions, whether they be in front of a large group or a one on one situation, become an act of worship, and a display of thanks, for what has already been done. Jesus takes away the pressure of performance, judgement, and condemnation, that we feel so often in public appearances and in interacting with others.

It's not an easy mindset to adopt, that's for sure. Because as much as we'd like to say that we can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, it's much easier (for me anyways) to feel the presence of a room full of people, or my boss, or the person that I'm sitting across from.

It's easy to get into the trap of feeling like you are on stage, like you are performing in some manner, when you are in front of others. I wonder how our presentations, meetings, and general interactions might change if we shifted our mindset away from this feeling of performing.

Rather than feeling an obligation to perform, we have an opportunity to display the gifts that have been granted us, and to honor the one who has given them.

Just an Audience of One.

Much Love,

Monday, December 26, 2016

Bad Things Grow In The Dark

Misunderstanding and assumption can be the cause of serious pain in our relationships. When we don't know "why" someone did something, we begin to fill in the gaps with our own assumptions and we usually play out the worse case scenario in our minds.

When there are gaps or weaknesses in the chain of communication, and people are unsure about where they stand or what the expectations are, at best we fall short of the desired outcome. At worst, relationships can be fractured and unintended dots can be connected that may be difficult to undo.

We are always going to (at least initially) approach things from our own perspective. We live in a reality based on our current circumstances and our personal set of beliefs and values. This is normal, and I think, perfectly okay. It allows us to view things through our own lens and helps us to make decisions based on the things that we believe in and value.

The challenge comes when we don't share our perspective with those we are (or should be) communicating with, or when we don't seek or receive the perspective of the person across the table. I don't know that the most important thing is to be understood or to understand, that may not always be possible. I do, however, think that it is possible to hear and to be heard.

Without this, we are in the dark. And when we are in the dark with our understanding or even just a basic knowledge of a given situation and where we stand in that situation, we start to craft our own understanding. And we usually don't do a very good job of hitting on reality.

So what happens is that our mind starts to wander and wonder. As we seek for an explanation or clarification, we start to draw conclusions, which are usually based on our fears, insecurities, or judgments (of either ourselves or of others).

And the more that we don't get our answers (because we generally won't find them on our own) the more those judgments and insecurities can grow. And if this festers too long, it can really fracture a relationship. As we sit in this darkness, these negatives continue to grow.

My encouragement to you (and me) is twofold:

1) When you are in a position of power or authority, or when you are in "control" of a situation of communication, make a concerted effort to be clear and just in your interactions. As a leader, boss, or coach, work to not leave too much gray area in terms of where you stand, what the expectations are, or what role you need that person to fill. This is as true on teams as it is in one on one relationships.

2) When you are "in the dark" don't start connecting the dots of fear, insecurity, and judgement in your own head. It generally won't lead to any place other than more darkness. Outside of the other person explicitly telling you why they did something, you probably aren't going to figure it out. (Even if they do tell you why, that may not be the real reason any way. There isn't enough time here to explain that, but just know that people aren't always who they say they are, so trying to get them to tell you why isn't always a good use of our energy either). Make the effort on your end, to be heard and to hear from them. Seek clarification on the situation, or on where they stand. If you can't get that, then make a determination about what you can do to be most successful in that moment, and keep moving forward (or it may mean that you have to stand still or move sideways). Just don't stay in the dark.

Much Love,

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The World Doesn't Want Your Excuses

You can have your results or you can have your excuses. You cannot have both.

I've been training with a high school player who has found and verbalized a number of excuses at every workout that we've had. During our first session, we had to train outside. The truth is, playing basketball outside is not always ideal, particularly when you are working on your shot. The concrete is slicker than the gym floor, the wind might affect your shot, and the sun might be shining at an angle that affects what you are trying to do. Those are all real things and they could even be considered obstacles.

During our second workout, the player complained that he was having a hard time shooting because he had sweat in his eyes. To which I responded, "then wipe it out".

Today when he first walked in, he let me know that he hasn't been feeling well, so maybe we could take it easy today.

Acknowledging the existence of obstacles is one thing, but blaming them for your lack of success, or acknowledging them for the purpose of providing yourself a built in "reason" for your failure is something else entirely. The first, I think, is helpful. The second is extremely detrimental to our growth and success personally and professionally.

I believe that trying to ignore/dismiss the excuses or obstacles that pop into our mind is counterproductive. Sometimes we need to acknowledge their existence so we can then determine how to succeed in spite of them, or decide what the next best action is.

For example, if the sun is shining on a certain spot on the court, I don't know that it is best to just stand there and stare into the sun while you try and shoot, pretending like that obstacle isn't real. The weakness isn't acknowledging the obstacle, the weakness lies in blaming the obstacle for your inability to succeed, or failing to do something about it.

Just move to a different spot and keep shooting.

One of the biggest problems with giving power to all of these excuses is that they inhibit our ability to learn, to be coached, to be creative, and to find solutions. We set up mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual roadblocks for ourselves, and then wonder why we can't achieve those things that we are working towards. Well, we don't really wonder why, we have a long list why, and when we don't reach our desired end, we are well prepared to point back to all of the reasons we've established along the way.

After we acknowledge an obstacle or hear the excuse that has popped into our head, we then need to decide what we are going to do about it. It may be that we acknowledge it and then choose to ignore it. Maybe it means that we put on a jacket (It's cold (whiny voice)). Maybe it means we have to try harder, get up earlier, or change our approach. But the mindset, in my opinion, should focus not on why we CAN'T do something, but what is it that we CAN do given the circumstances.

When the time comes that we are unable to answer that question, then we should probably quit. If we can't look at an obstacle or an excuse, and make a decision about a next best action in the current situation, then we must either stop complaining and live with the situation as is or quit altogether.

For the most part, I don't condone or encourage quitting. I actually believe that there is (almost) always an answer that we can choose as a next best action. However, if we are going to be so wrapped up in all the things we can't do in a given situation, or all of the things that are inhibiting us from being successful, without committing to solutions, then what's the point of continuing in that endeavor?

And what I have found, is that there is rarely an ideal. Your boss is going to be too demanding, or not demanding enough. You aren't going to get enough involvement from your students' parents, or you are going to get more involvement than you want. You don't have enough time, money, or expertise to get to that "place" that you hope to get to (yet). You aren't yet qualified for the job you want, or you are too qualified for the job you have. There aren't enough resources, the expectations are too high, the expectations are too low, it's too hot or too cold, your clients don't pay on time, your employees aren't as passionate as you are, and the list goes on and on and on.

There is a truckload of excuses and obstacles that we could hide behind every day, no matter what it is that we do in our lives. The question is, so what? What are we going to do about them? What's next?

During my first job interview after graduating college, I was interviewing for a teaching job that required me to travel just over an hour each way to and from work. I remember the principal, who happened to be a former coach of mine, telling me this: He said, "You need to understand that nobody is going to care about your commute. Nobody is going to want to hear about why you are late, or what is going on with your family, or the fact that you can't do this or can't do that. Parents, teachers and administrators are going to expect you to figure out how to do your job."

It was a little harsh at the time, and maybe it still is. I've certainly worked for plenty of people who did care and give credence to my personal situations. But I think his point is valid. The truth is, at the end of the day, you and I have a job to do. Whether that is in our homes, on the playing field, or in our profession. We have things to get done, people to take care of,  and people to become. Our excuses don't help those things, and on some level or at some point, people aren't going to want to hear our excuses. And you and I shouldn't want to hear our excuses either.

The obstacles aren't going away. Find a way.

Much Love,

Thursday, December 22, 2016

As If

When I first started coaching I heard this well-known quote:

"Dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have"

I've always had this (mostly) focused discontent professionally, where I am searching for an opportunity to do more, or have greater influence, or grow. This doesn't mean that I'm unhappy where I am, but I'm usually seeking ways to grow professionally and personally, and that means that I'm often trying to prepare for something else, even if I don't know when or what that might be.

This was particularly true when I first started working. I was coaching at a small independent school, in the middle of nowhere, and commuting 30 minutes each way to do so. It was a nice job, and I met some great people there, but I didn't want to end my career there. It was the job I had, but not the job that I wanted (forever).

So while most everyone around me coached in gym shoes and a polo shirt, particularly other assistant coaches, I wore a suit. It didn't fit well, probably because I bought it as a buy 1 get 3 free deal at Jos. A. Bank. and picked the wrong suit size, and because I'm built like a toothpick. But I wore a suit nonetheless. I was dressing for the job that I wanted.

During this time, however, my mindset shifted from what I was wearing to who I was being.

I started to realize that dressing for the job that I wanted didn't have to mean my oversized and poorly tailored suits. "Dressing" for the job meant that I was going to work hard to act AS IF I had the traits that I one day hoped to have.

From Mark Batterson's book, If: "William James, the first educator to offer a course in psychology, said, 'If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.' He also said, 'Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.'"

An experiment was done in a San Francisco school district that further drives home the power of acting "As If":

Three teachers were pulled into a meeting with administrators and told that they were the best teachers the school had, and that they were tasked with teaching ninety high-IQ students. They were allowed to move at the students' pace, and wanted to see how much they could learn in a year.

At the end of the year, the students had achieved 20-30 percent more than the rest of the district.

The principal then called the teachers in and said, "I have a confession to make, you did not have ninety high-IQ students. They were "normal" students, randomly selected.

The teachers, at this point, felt really good about what they had accomplished with this group of students. Truly, they must be the best in the district! Or so they thought...briefly.

Next, the principal said, "Also, you were not the best teachers we have. Your names were the first three out of a hat."

If they were average students, taught by average teachers, how did they outscore the district by 20-30 percent??

I encourage you to dress for the job you want, and to act AS IF.

**The story and idea from this post comes from Mark Batterson's book, If.**
Much Love,

The Losado Ratio

Marcial Losado is an organizational psychologist that has developed this idea (known as the Losado Ratio) that we need at least 2.9 positive feedbacks for every negative feedback in order to create a positive feedback loop. Losado's studies have found that we need a negative feedback loop in order to survive, as it helps correct our path when we get off course, and without these corrections, we will make the same mistakes over and over again.

However, if we want to do more than survive, if we want to THRIVE, we need a 3/1 positivity ratio. This holds true for businesses, families, classrooms, and relationships.

We have control over this ratio in a couple of different ways. There is a study that suggests that about 80% of our 50-70 thousand daily thoughts are negative. So one thing that we can do is to make a concerted effort to fill ourselves up with positives, so that we can battle the inherent negatives that exist inside of us. I've written before about the power of positive affirmations, either written or spoken, that we can use to reframe our thinking. And truly, they can be very powerful. They certainly have been in my life.

The other thing that we can do, is to refocus our efforts on increasing our positivity ratio in our interactions at work, at home, and in our relationships. It doesn't mean we are soft on our kids that we don't hold our employees to a high standard, or correct them when they are doing wrong. It does mean that we spend more of our energy praising what is right than searching for what is wrong.

There are always exceptions, and times when no amount of positive will turn someone's performance or behavior around.

However, I think we hide behind the easy "certainties" of these exceptions far too often and don't give the weight of positive reinforcement the power and consideration that it deserves.

I know I fail at this often with my daughter. I find myself treating my 7 year old like she is 27, like she should just "know" better, because she has been walking and talking for a little over 5 years, she should know exactly how to behave, and she should display respect and exhibit self-control, because 7 years is clearly enough time for her to have learned those things. So I'm too often critical and demanding, rather than telling her that she is funny, or smart, or reminding her that I enjoy her company. Many times, my positivity ratio is off.

It's easy to do that with my students as well. There are about 25 of them, so most of the time, it's very easy to catch them doing something "wrong". There are 25 5th graders in the room, there is a 100% chance that at least one of them is doing something they shouldn't be at any given time, and it's very easy for me to find that one, rather than searching for positives.

It doesn't mean you are soft, it means you care. It doesn't make you weak, it makes you wise.

Look for the positives. 3:1

**The inspiration and story from this post comes from Mark Batterson's book, If.**

Much Love,

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It Is Well With My Soul

Horatio Spafford was a wealthy Chicago Businessman who had plans to attend an evangelistic campaign in England. He sent his wife and daughters ahead of him, and during their trip, the ship that they were on sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. His wife survived, but his four daughters died. After hearing the news, Spafford got on a ship himself, and headed towards the spot where his daughters had died.

When he arrived at the spot where they passed, he wrote the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul".

One of the more notable verses goes like this:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I used to struggle with this idea, and I think I probably still do to some extent, but I'm starting to understand the concept a little more.

The idea, to me, is not that everything is okay. Spafford lost the majority of his family, and all of his daughters in a tragic accident.

The idea is not that he was acknowledging understanding or acceptance of the situation, or recognizing what God was doing in that moment.

I've not been in a moment as harrowing as this. When I think about losing my wife, my kids, or my parents, I well up with tears, so I don't know how I will respond when/if I have to face that. I don't know that I'll have the strength to write a song that will persist and inspire decades later as Spafford did.

I have, however, been in a scenario where I felt lost, attacked, wounded, and defeated on the outside. It was as my dad often says, "A he-- of a thing". But the strangest and most amazing thing happened. My wife hurt for me, my dad was angry for me, my friend Josh came to help carry the burden for me, but it was Well With My Soul.

I'm truly tearing up as I write this, thinking about the moment, and it's not due to the struggle, it's due to the feeling that I had, deep in my soul, that is really difficult to explain.

A peace that surpassed all understanding. I didn't have anger, I didn't have a heavy burden, and I didn't have an overwhelming sorrow, though I really should have, given the circumstances.

But it was well with my soul.

And I used to think that it meant that we were able to praise at all times, be joyful at all times, understand all things, or trust at all times. I know there are some scriptural arguments for these ideas as well, but this is not what strikes me most about Spafford's lyrics or my personal time of challenge.

I think Spafford was highlighting the fact that when things are going well (peace like a river) and when tragedy strikes in waves (sorrows like sea billows roll), that because of our relationship with Jesus, because the debt has been paid, because of what HE has said about us (as opposed to what others may say), that we can say with confidence, that on the INSIDE, It Is Well With My Soul.

We have been spoken for. Despite everything that is going on in the world, if He is abiding in us...It Is Well With My Soul.

It's a beautiful thing, to be able to fall back on that truth. Sometimes we forget, and sometimes we need to be reminded, but our soul has been spoken for, by the One Who Loves You The Most.

**The details of Horatio Spafford's story came from a great book I'm reading titled, If, by Mark Batterson**

Much Love,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Crockpot Your Life

When I hit the age that my mom allowed me to use the microwave on my own, it was a period of great freedom and opportunity. I no longer had to wait on someone else to cook my food for me, and I could enjoy all of the Totino's Pizza Rolls and Bagel Bites that my heart could desire. Basically, anything that was in the freezer was fair game. All I had to do was zap it in the microwave and wait for 45 seconds, or maybe a minute and a half if it was a deluxe meal, and I would be able to enjoy anything from steak and potatoes to flatbread sandwiches. There was really no limit to what the microwave could provide for me in a very short period of time.

When I was a kid, I would tolerate just anything that came out of the microwave. I think I was happy to be able to cook food on my own, and I also was willing to eat just about anything. But as I got a little older, and microwaved the same frozen foods that I had once enjoyed as a kid, I realized that my standards must have been incredibly low as a kid.

There are a number of problems that I've found with cooking in the microwave:

1) Either the food gets way overcooked and when they come out, they are so hot that I can't eat them right away. Or, I undercook them, and when I get back to my desk at work to enjoy my lunch, there are little cold patches throughout my meal. It's difficult to get the food just right. 

2) When you reheat something like steak or other meat in the microwave, it generally just gets tougher. So the microwave has done the job of warming up your food, but you may need a hacksaw in order to cut it up so you can eat it, at which point you'll have to chew on it for the rest of the day. When you rush the process, things don't usually turn out like they should. 

3) Foods that you can cook in the microwave have a very low ceiling in terms of how good they can taste. Other than something that you have already cooked, that you are just warming up, or a cup of coffee that needs to be warmed, most foods that are designed for the microwave are not (despite the picture on the box) designed to be delicious culinary creations. There is limited potential there. 

It's really challenging, for me at least, not to want to microwave my life. Everything seems light years away when it isn't right in front of me. When I'm excited about something that is a week or two away, it seems like it's months. When I make plans for my future that I know won't come to fruition for a year or more, I often think I'd rather just not carry through with the plans, rather than wait the unbearable length of a year. I'm glad that I've fought this impatience more often than not, but I also know I've probably missed some opportunities along the way as I've refused to wait the required time for good things to develop.

When we try and microwave our opportunities, goals, relationships, and plans, usually, things don't go well. At best, things aren't allowed to develop to their fullest potential, at worst, we put ourselves and others in precarious situations when we try and speed up a process that takes time to develop. Good relationships take time to develop, people take time to learn the requisite skills and to gain the experience needed to be successful, and generally, there are no get rich quick schemes. (Mostly) things that happen quickly have limited potential, or we get some short term feel goods with little long term benefit.

You can't skip the struggle.

I encourage you to take a crock pot mentality with you life, your relationships, and your plans. Good things usually take time to marinate and fully develop. Make some mistakes, learn from them, and try again. Allow yourself the time and freedom to breathe, develop, and grow into your dreams. Everything won't happen all at once, and the truth is, that's a good thing. You probably aren't ready (yet) for everything that you think you are, and neither am I. It isn't easy, but it's worth it.

Don't skip the struggle.

Much Love,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Let 'Em Know You're There

I was listening to Brad Stevens on an interview recently, and he said this about one of his players:

"When Marcus is here, you know he's here. You know he's in the room, you know he's in the game, you know he's in the drill...He's got a presence about him"

I have spent a large portion of my life believing that humility was the most important trait one could have. I don't know that I could have always articulated that, but I think so much of what I did centered around the idea that pride and self-promotion were to be avoided, and humility was to be developed in all circumstances.

In addition to my focus on humility, I was very easily embarrassed and did not like too much attention placed on me at any time. These two characteristics permeated everything that I did. They affected how I interacted with others, how I engaged in class, how I saw myself, and how I performed in sports.

On most occasions, I would say that my focus was entering and exiting a room WITHOUT anyone knowing I was there. Aside from the fact that I'm 6'4'', I probably accomplished that goal more often than not. I'm not sure why I was shy, or why I felt like being a presence was the opposite of being humble, but I think I probably missed some opportunities because of it. Primarily, the opportunity to grow in given situations, and the opportunity to fully contribute to the things I was involved in.

So I really like this idea of: "Let 'em know you're there"

I'm not going to be a yelling, screaming, in your face motivational speaker any time soon, nor do I ever envision myself being the loudest guy in the room. But I am working on doing a better job not trying to blend in, in every situation I enter into. It's a work in progress, and against my nature, but I think it's worth the effort.

There's a saying/belief that states that showing up is half the battle, and I don't disagree. But I think after we master that, we have to expect a little more of ourselves. After awhile, just showing up isn't going to cut it. And I know a lot of people that live their entire lives, both personally and professionally, and all they ever do is show up.

For the enlightened crowd that reads this blog, I believe that our teams, organizations, and communities need us to give what we have to give. In other words, we have been given valuable gifts and ideas, and we need to share those valuable gifts and ideas with others. It's not enough just to show up. We need to let them know we are here.

When I was playing middle school basketball I played for a guy who was way too intense to be coaching middle school basketball. And he called me in one day when I was in the 7th grade and he said, "Hendley, you have been doing a great job of not doing anything stupid (he was really good at motivational speeches)...Now, I want you to focus on doing something positive when you get into the game"

He's right. If we want to focus on just showing up, and not doing anything stupid (which sometimes is a very good idea), at some point I think we need to set the bar a little bit higher. We've been selected for the team, hired for the job, joined the family, or volunteered for the committee for a reason, and most likely, it wasn't to fill an empty seat.

My encouragement is that you not hide behind your values, and be anything less than you fullest, best, most authentic self. God designed you the way that he did for a reason. Whether you recognize it or not, you have valuable gifts and ideas to share. It's time to start focus on doing something positive when you get into the game.

It's not enough just to show up. We need to let 'em know we are here.

Much Love,

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Power of a Pause

I've done a lot of foolish things in my relatively short life. A significant amount of stupidity has poured out of me. And while there is certainly a fair share of stupid actions I have taken, I think I've caused the most pain, to myself and others, with my words or responses during particularly challenging or stressful times.

I've written before about the time that I offered awful advice and showed zero compassion to one of my players as I tried to force her into a leadership role that she wasn't prepared for and had no desire to fill.

Other times, I've said things to my kids out of frustration that I wished I could take back immediately, and can only pray that their memories are not yet strong enough to store my words away for later.

On one occasion, when I was younger, I wrote a heartful apology letter to my dad, apologizing to him for being a complete knucklehead, and then on the same day, after losing to him in a game of chess, I acted like a complete knucklehead.

I've argued with my wife about things that added absolutely zero value to our relationship or our journey, and really hurt her in the process. In retrospect, it seems like I just wanted to argue and be right, about something completely inconsequential. I don't know why, and it makes me sound like a jerk, (and I was) but that's basically what I did.

One time I argued with a teacher in high school about something, and when I proved my point, I actually said something to the effect of, "I just wanted to prove you wrong".

(As an aside, I just realized that I am currently writing what amounts to the absolute opposite of Instagram and Facebook. Most people take pictures of all of the lattes they are consuming, the dream vacations they are taking, and the edited photos of their family showing how happy they are. Basically, the highlights of their lives. I'm doing the complete opposite. Here's a picture of all the times I was at my worst. Maybe it will catch on...)

When I was in high school, I played on the varsity basketball team for four years. The first two years, I basically served as a practice dummy and a cheerleader. I spent the majority of time during practice on defense getting beaten up by all of the bigger, faster, stronger players, and then during games, I did a lot of clapping and high fiving and water fetching.

My junior year I was a fairly significant contributor, so by my senior year, I felt like I had invested a lot in the program. During my senior year, I literally played every position on the court, including point guard, which I liked doing, but it wasn't a particular area of strength for me. This meant I had the ball in my hands a lot, and it also meant that I turned the ball over a lot. One game I had four or five turnovers before most of the fans had even found their seats, and my coach (understandably) wasn't particularly excited about that. "Bryan!! That's four turnovers!!!" He held up four fingers just in case I didn't hear the number from across the court, which wasn't actually a problem, because he yelled it loud enough for the kids sitting at the very top of the arena who weren't even paying attention to the game to hear, but I guess he wanted to be sure I got the message.

The combination of me already being frustrated by the turnovers on my own, and the fact that I felt like I'd earned a little leeway at this point in my career, and the anger that he projected on me in front of everyone caused me to respond in a way that I'm still embarrassed by. One word came out, quickly. And I don't know if he could hear me or just read my lips, but I do know that I came out of the game immediately.


Not the best response, clearly.

By the time I made it to the bench, and he asked me if I had anything to say to him, my wisdom and restraint had both increased exponentially, and I told him No, I did not have anything at all to say to him. That long jog from the other side of the court had been a (very small) saving grace for me.

We all have anger, stress, confusion, pressure, embarrassment, and many other emotions that we are forced to deal with throughout the day. All of my examples came from these places and I would say most of them were the results of a quick response, forced out by the boiling over of these emotions. And none of them represented the type of person that I am, the type of person I want to be, or how I desire to treat people.

I'm reading a book by Peter Bregman titled, 4 Seconds,  which talks about how little time it takes to replace bad habits with new, more productive ones. The thing that really stands out to me, is the power of the pause. The idea of stopping and taking a breath before proceeding in these moments of stress and challenge. I don't particularly mean closing your eyes, breathing deeply and tapping into your inner Zen, though there isn't anything wrong with that if that's your thing. But a good, solid breath, and just a simple - PAUSE - can work wonders.

Take a second to reframe your thinking, to recognize that you are dealing with another human being, that you don't have to WIN this given situation, or remind yourself of the values and ideas that you truly want to project and convey in this very moment. And then, when you speak or respond, you can be fully in control of your response and make a better connection with the person/people you are interacting with.

At the very least, you will have a greater chance of leaving the situation without regretting how you responded or how you treated the other person.

I bet if you think about it, you probably have some stories like mine. In most of these moments, had I just paused before responding, I could have avoided much of the pain and anger I've stirred up in others.

The pause is a powerful thing. I encourage you to give yourself a second to stop, refocus, and remind yourself of your desired message before you respond.

Much Love,

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Know Your Role

On Twitter, in coaches' speeches, and online articles directed at players and coaches, there is all kind of talk about what players need to do to be great players.

Concepts like:

Know your role
Accept your role for now but not forever
Be a leader
Do your job
Be about something bigger than yourself

These are all good concepts, for sure, but I wonder sometimes if we've read one too many tweets that tell us how much our players should be doing these things, without taking the time to determine what that means to us as coaches or how that applies to our specific programs.

I heard a coach say to his player the other day: "I know you want to play more minutes. Right now, what you need to focus on is, 'how can I be my best every day in practice'. If you focus on that your minutes will come, and truly, if you are playing the same minutes January or February that you are now, we won't be the team that we need to be"

I thought that was a great approach. It wasn't some mind game to convince the player to be compliant, or a sales pitch to get them to believe that they were sacrificing for the greater good (some players aren't yet mature enough to grasp that concept). It was honest, encouraging, and offered an example of what the player could do on a daily basis to address the individual's challenge/frustration within the constructs of the program.

But I think we miss the mark more often than not with the quotes and platitudes that we throw out to our players (and maybe our employees). The things that sound good, and most likely ARE good, are of little or no value if they can't be explained, taught, or modeled in a way that allows those under our charge to actually understand how (and sometimes why) to carry these things out. Actually, I believe these things can be detrimental to player and program if they aren't handled with more clarity and encouragement. And it isn't the same for everyone. Being a leader looks different for your most vocal player as compared to an introvert. "Do your job" sounds great when it's Bill Belichick and professional football players, but we are going to have to be very explicit and encouraging with that demand when dealing with middle school and high school players, especially when we are asking them to do a job that they (or their parents) may not see the value in.

We can't ask our players to "know their role", when we haven't been explicit in the explanation of what that role is. And further, I think players at most age levels (maybe even professionally) don't just need explanation, they need encouragement along the way. The first step may be identifying and explaining the role, but again, it's a big ask to then expect a 16 year old (and I think even a 46 year old) to completely sell out to a role that isn't the one they had envisioned for themselves and that others may be telling them they are above.

After we are clear in what we mean when we say some of these common coaching quips, I believe we must follow up with both action steps players can take on a daily basis and find ways to encourage players as they take these action steps.

And just a challenge to coaches, particularly assistants. If we are going to ask our players to thrive in their current roles, I think we have to be willing to do the same. Often times (and I've been there) we spend a lot of time complaining about having to teach while we coach, the challenges that are placed on us by admin, or we think about how much more we know than our head coach or what we might do differently if we were in charge. Probably most of those things are valid considerations, but they certainly hinder our ability to fully sell out to our role, while also working towards outgrowing our role, which is exactly what we are asking of our players.

Much Love,

Monday, December 5, 2016

Listening to Yourself vs. Talking to Yourself

I used to think that positive affirmations and belief statements and talking to yourself were for people who rode on unicorns and slid down rainbows. Part of me thought it might be really neat to slide down a rainbow, but part of me also thought that those people were pretty weird.

Furthermore, the people that usually end up in a padded room somewhere who eat soft foods for the rest of their lives are the kinds of people that talk to themselves (and think that they can slide down rainbows), right?

Not so fast my friends. I'm learning the power of talking to myself over listening to myself, and I'm telling you, I haven't ridden on any unicorns yet, but this stuff is working.

For some reason, we are okay listening to the lies that live inside of us, rather than abiding in the truth. The truth of who God says we are, the truth of what we are capable of becoming, and the encouragement of who we can be if we will commit to it.

Many, many times, when I find myself in challenging or uncertain situations, whether that has been in sports, work, or life in general, that inner voice starts to speak to me. This is where the listening comes in:

"you can't do that"
"what are you doing"
"remember what happened last time"
"why would they choose you"
"there is a lot riding on this"
"if you mess this up..."

I hope it's not just me, because if so, I may indeed end up in a padded room one day, but this happens frequently. Call it what you want, self doubt, lack of confidence, "reality", but there is a voice that pops up that is discouraging, questioning, and full of lies. Sometimes it hides being the mask of being reasonable, of being safe, of being responsible, of reality. It reminds of us our failures, and tells us what we CAN'T do, points out our shortcomings, and forces us to focus on the results first and foremost.

And we have to fight this. We have to weaken the voice we are listening to and strengthen and increase the positivity and truths that we speak to ourselves. But one thing we must do first, I believe, is to quit beating ourselves. We have to quit lying to ourselves, find the truths that exist and start to abide in those things.

I remember when I was in high school, and my junior year rolled around, and the time came for the scholarship discussions to begin amongst the athletes. One day we were all standing around and one of my friends said something like, "Hendley's going DI". And someone else responded, "More like D7".

To be clear, there is no D7. He was just making the point that I wasn't going to get a scholarship and that I was going to play at the lowest level possible. I wanted to fight the guy. I'm sure I had some kind of smart remark that showed how incredulous I was that he would suggest something  like that.

However, the truth is, that I didn't believe I was going to get a Division I scholarship because I didn't believe I was a Division I player. I didn't believe in myself, but I wanted to get mad when someone else didn't believe in me. I listened to myself all the time, talk about how others were better than me, or I couldn't do this and I couldn't do that, and it absolutely affected my ability to be successful as a high school and college athlete.

Recently, I've created a list of beliefs, recorded them, and put them to some instrumental music, and I keep it on my phone. Call the crazy police if you want, but it's legit. I had my doubts, and it felt a little weird. But I've decided that if you want to be different, you have to be different.

This exercise has down two things for me:
1) The voice that I hear now (most of the time) is a positive one. And, not only that, but it's actually MY voice. So it's great to write down what you believe, but it's another level to hear yourself speak positive reinforcement, to yourself.
2) It's allowed me to abide more in truth and encouragement than negativity and judgment, even though much of that negativity is of my own doing. So I'm abiding more in truth of who I am and who I am committed to becoming, than the lies that we like to tell ourselves. I'm putting good stuff in more often, so good stuff can come out more often.

And, I think it's working.

Think about the lies that you tell yourself. You may not even know anymore. The danger is, that if you lie to yourself enough, then you start to believe them.

And we can never become who we have been designed to be if we are constantly listening to and believing in the lies, rather than building ourselves up with the truth.

Abide in truth. Think about what is TRUE, and what you really NEED to hear. Don't be afraid to talk to yourself. Despite what you may have previously believed, It's good for you.

Much Love,

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's Easy When It's Easy

I teach a student who has ADHD that has caused his educational experience to be quite challenging. Exacerbating that challenge is the fact that he has been told that his ADHD has caused his educational experience to be quite challenging. He's been told, both explicitly and implicitly that his ADHD means that he can't focus, he doesn't have control over his actions, and that there are certain things he can't do.

In addition to his ADHD, he has a toothache, his support services teacher is mean, he has glasses, his back hurts, he needs more help than he is getting, and also, he doesn't need any help. I'm not making this up. I've heard all of these excuses and more as to why hs is or isn't doing certain things.

I actually really like him, and I'm excited about who I think he can grow to become if he will stop making so many excuses.

Oh! He also found a way to use the word bullcrap in class on two separate occasions last week (5th grade). As in,
"What?! This is bullcrap" or
"I don't know how to do any of this. Can I call my mom? Why not? This is bullcrap!"

So last week was particularly interesting.

As he launched into his ADHD defense, I finally asked him:

So What?

He wasn't really sure what to say. So I asked him again.

So What?

What are you going to do? Quit? You have ADHD, you wear glasses, your tooth hurts, you don't like some of your teachers, math is challenging for you, reading is challenging for you.

What are you going to do?

I know I can get there in a hurry myself. I can get to the point where I am telling myself all sorts of excuses about why I can't do something, why I haven't reached a goal, or pointed out all of the obstacles in my path.
And I may not like to hear it, but a really important question to ask in those times is:

What are you going to do about it?

What I've decided to do about IT, is to make a conscious effort every day to speak the truth to myself, rather than listen to all of the lies that the voice inside of my likes to sell me on. Lies like:

"Good try, but THIS is where you really belong"
"You might able to do X, but you will never be able to be Y"
"You don't have the ______ to be able to do ________"
"Of course that happened. You are a ____________"
"You can't do ________ because of your__________"

You've heard them. You may have your own that you hear more often, but you've heard them.

What's bullcrap is that we are willing to live life listening to the lies rather than abiding in the truth.

And in speaking to a team today, we discussed the idea of playing a game with perfect circumstances. We didn't forget any of our gear at home, our jersey is fitting just right, we are starting, our coach isn't "yelling" at us, all of our teammates are encouraging us, our parents are in the stands (or not, depending on your perfect scenario), and as we warm up everything is going in. The other crowd isn't heckling us, the referees make NO bad calls and even when they do, they go in our favor. We don't feel fatigued, and our defensive and offenseive game plan works perfectly.

The question asked was how easy would it be to be successful in that situation. Of course, it would be easy.
And while that example is a clearly an exaggeration, there are certainly games that go more smoothly than others for us, where we feel less stress and face less obstacles. There are stretches in our lives where we don't get unexpected bills, or bad news, or extra challenges at work, and where our kids are behaving like the perfect angels we have raised them to be.

And during those times, it's easy. It's easy to be upbeat, successful and to do right things, when it's easy. There's no real honor there to me. I mean, good for us for doing things right when it's easy, but it's kind of like the participation trophy that everyone is complaining about recently. Let's not pat ourselves on the back too hard for doing things right when it's easy. (almost) EVERYONE can be successful given ideal circumstances.

The truth is, it's not easy very often. That doesn't mean life stinks, it is just reality. There are challenges, and pretty consistently, life is tough. So if we are only prepared to be successful and to do well during the easy times, then during the (many) tough times, we are going to find ourselves flailing our arms about talking about how we can't do anything because of our ADHD, our toothache, our glasses, our bank account, our age, our education, our lack of talent, or any other number of excuses we want to bring up during the challenging times.

It's easy when it's easy. But it's rarely easy.

I think one of the keys to facing the inevitable challenges, is not to pretend they aren't there, but rather, acknowledge their presence, and then determine, "what now?" Recognize the challenge that has been presented. Tough class, hard schedule, job loss, financial crises, unexpected change, etc. and understand that for the time being, this is where you must operate. You can quit, struggle and complain your way through it, or....

In these moments I want to encourage us to: Recognize but don't Retreat.

Recognize your challenge, but don't run from it (because you can't, really). And don't be consumed by what you CAN'T do right now.

Tomorow I'll post on how we can speak truth to ourselves, rather than be crippled by listening to the lies.

Much Love,

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let's Do Life Together

I was sitting at my good friend Josh's rehearsal dinner listening to friends and family give toasts to Josh and his future bride. The setting was amazing. A friend of his family had a huge, beautiful piece of farmland with a house that Southern Living would be jealous of. Outside on the lawn, we were eating a delicious southern meal, served family style, while a member of the catering crew made fresh peanut brittle in a huge copper pot. It was a great setting.

Family members and friends took turns offering up encouragement and telling funny stories. One story, in particular, stood out for me that night. Uncle (he called himself Uncle if I'm recalling correctly) stood up and offered up a traditional prayer for the couple. One of the themes he kept repeating was the idea that Josh and Vanessa were going to "do life together" and that we were all going to "do life together" with them.

I don't know if I'm late to the party, maybe it's been going on for longer than I realize, but it seems like in the last couple of years I've heard that term alot. "Do Life Together" It seems like people like to say it a lot, it certainly sounds good.

"Why don't you come down and visit, let's do life together"
"Oh, that was so much fun, I really enjoy getting together, doing life"

It seems to me like many times that I hear the term it's related to hanging out together or spending time together. Which is great, but I think there is definitely more to it.

After the rehearsal dinner, there was a plan that everyone would go over to the barn, where the wedding was to take place, and set up a few tables and chairs, to help get ready for the wedding. It's too long of a story to tell, but Josh, because he is awesome, talked someone into building a barn, from the ground up, for his wedding. There was a little concern about it being done on time during the building process, and we knew that it might not have all the finishing touches, but it seemed like, for the most part, the barn was done.

When we arrived to put up a few tables and chairs, the barn was nowhere near ready. There was red sawdust covering the floor, soaking up the mud that had been tracked in by all of the workers, who were still running electrical wires and completing odd jobs around the building.

A large group of people showed up (including Uncle) to "do life together" and help put up chairs and tables. Mostly, it seemed, people planned on unstacking some chairs, maybe dancing a little, listening to some music, laughing, tossing their hair around, posting some pictures on Instagram #doinglifewithjosh, and then heading home. Well, when everyone looked around and saw what actually needed to be done, slowly but surely the crowd thinned out.

What remained was a very small group of people. We waited for the workers to finish what they were doing, and from about 10:00 pm until 4:00 am, we swept, set up the dance floor, put the stage together for the band, moved building supplies and tools out of the way, and tried to make the barn look like a place for a wedding. We returned the next morning at about 7:30, and worked right up until the wedding started, setting up tables and chairs, hanging curtains, putting out place settings and centerpieces, and making decisions about wedding things that we had no business making decisions on. During this time, Vanessa was completely unaware of what was going on, and Josh was mostly curled up in the fetal position worried that his wedding was going to be a total disaster.

But this, in my opinion, is the definition of "do life together". It's crawling under a stage on a sawdusty floor trying to put something together that you don't know anything about. It's thinking that maybe you'll just sleep in the barn, so you can get up early and get back to work for your friend. It's working without complaining into all hours of the night because you care about someone. It's being there when someone needs you the most.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to toot my horn. And those other people showed up with the intent on helping, but it's probably best that most of them left, because we didn't really know what we were doing, and too many voices and opinions would have made it difficult to get as much done. I'm not implying that they didn't care as much as the people who stayed to help.

The point is, that while life can and does get captured by Instagram, with people smiling and dancing, dressed in their fancy clothes and having a great time, that's not all there is.

Doing Life means getting dirty with people, and staying up late to the point of hallucination to help them. It means losing your job for no apparent reason and having people around to help you through that time. It means getting no sleep because both kids have lost their minds, and you and your wife figure out a way to work through it together. It means searching for solutions to living the life that you desire, amidst all of the challenges life has to offer.

This, to me, is doing life together. It's a beautiful thing, to have people around you willing to go through this stuff with you. And it is extremely rewarding (and essential if you truly care about people) to extend yourself to go through the trials and challenges with your friends and family. Do Life Together

Much Love,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I Used to Think...But Now I Know

I Used To Believe That I Had To Change My Player’s Lives. Now I Know That I Am Just Here To Plant and Nurture Seeds.

When I first started coaching, I had plans to be the next John Wooden. I read a bunch of John Wooden books, learned a bunch of John Wooden quotes, and tried to memorize the pyramid of success, but realized there was too much on there for me to remember, so I just stuck with things like, “be quick, but don’t hurry” and waited for everyone to think I was a coaching genius. But more than the basketball side of things, I decided that I wanted to be like John Wooden in the sense that my players would return, 40 years later, and sit around me at halftime of a nationally televised game on CBS, and tell stories about how I had changed their lives.

There were just a few minor details that I overlooked at the time that conflicted with this future I had created in my mind. First of all, I was working at a small independent school in middle Georgia. Most of our players weren’t going to go on in play in the NBA or college. Many of our players were not even going to go on and finish their high school careers. Also, it had been a few years since CBS had covered our school, so that was going to be a difficult thing to overcome. On top of that, I was the second assistant, which meant that my opinion mattered just slightly above that of our 8th grade waterboy.

But all of those minor details would work themselves out. I didn’t need to waste my time on foolish concerns. I had bigger things to worry about. Like showing my players how much I cared about them no matter what it took. And convincing them that they had never played for a coach like me, and that I was going to form a bond with them that would last forever. And later in life, they would write to me, and let me know that they had named their first son after me, or tell me how much I had changed their life, or ask me to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day.

This mindset continued for a number of years as I found my way as a coach. I continued to work on improving in the areas of player development, in game strategy, and offensive and defensive tactics, but the mindset of being a life changing coach continued to stay with me. It was off and on. It wasn’t like I was constantly going around and scaring all of our players with my intense desire to make them think I was great, but that was certainly bubbling beneath the surface. It was something I had to learn to temper, and to some extent, it is something that I have to still be cognizant of today, though I’m getting better.

In his book, Scary Close, Donald Miller talks about this idea of wanting to be a hero, to save the day, to win people over. To some degree, this is where I found myself (upon reflection) when I first started coaching. I was going to be a BIG DEAL in the lives of our players, and I was going to see to it that it happened. I was going to be the hero.

Needless to say, I’m a bit embarrassed to reflect back on my mindset as a coach during my early years. It wasn’t all the time, but it affected the way I approached the profession, and it affected my ability to fully enjoy what I was doing, which affected my attitude when I came home to my family each day, which was a net negative for everyone. The point is that while this opportunity and responsibility that we have as coaches is a big deal, we have to be careful not to become so engrossed in trying to “make a difference” that we can’t get out of our own way and actually make a difference.

After I realized that I wasn’t going to “fix” anyone, I became much better with my interactions with my players. Now I know that nobody is going to end a workout with me, tell me that it was the greatest experience they have ever had in their basketball lives, and then promise to name their first born after me. I’m more of a seed planter, and plant pruner. As the players that we coach go about their careers, playing for different coaches, listening to their teachers, their pastors, their parents, and other mentors, they are all going to receive that information at different rates. Some of them will understand and value the lessons the minute that they are taught, and others may not grasp the point until years down the road. So along the way, these students and players are having seeds planted, and also having bad habits and negativity pruned, not just by you, but by all of their teachers and coaches.

As coaches, we like to champion the value of role players in our program. Well, I’ve come to believe, that most of the time, we are role players in the lives of our players. We are just another vehicle there to nurture a lesson that has been previously taught, state a nugget of wisdom in a different way that may resonate with a player, or introduce a new concept, that another coach, teacher, or parent may help see to fruition on down the line. Certainly, there may be times that we are able to really change the tides for an individual, but let’s not forget how many people have also invested in that young man or young women along the way as well, that may have contributed to that tipping point. I think it’s important that we are careful not to begin to believe that we are the sole contributors to life changing lessons for our players.

Along those same lines, it’s easy to get frustrated when we feel like we aren’t making the impact we would like to be making with our players. Maybe they aren’t receiving or adopting our lessons like we hope they would. Just remember, it really is a process, and we really are role players in their development. If you really believe in the values you are teaching, I encourage you to keep teaching them. Don’t teach them for affirmation or acceptance from your players. Teach them because they are right, and because you believe that your players need to hear them. You never know when the lessons will hit home. Keep filling your role.

Much Love,

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Me, Jesus, and the CIA

This is not the beginning of a good joke, I'm not the clever...

I have a few friends who work in the FBI and Secret Service, and while I certainly don't know exactly what they do, I've been told enough to know that there are so many things going on behind the scenes that American citizens are unaware of.

There are so many secret plans and hidden agendas, many of them mapped out and designed to serve and protect us, even though we have no idea when they are occurring, why they are being done the way they are, and how they are being executed.

The dots that they are connecting, dealing with international terrorism, homeland security, and protecting our country are not even on our radar. They have information, based on surveillance and intelligence, that we can't even begin to understand. On top of that, they often deal with misinformation, as the same groups from other countries try to feed us false information, in an effort to divert our focus on the things that are most important.

Part of that makes me a little nervous, to know that there are many things happening that I am not aware of, some of them very serious. And part of that makes me comforted, knowing that there are people out there with the tools and information at their disposal that can help guide and direct our country, and keep us safe.

I'm thankful for these people, and the risks they take to keep us safe, and at the same time, recognize that there is some inherent danger related to the fact that human beings have that much power and information at their disposal. Hopefully, there enough people working together on these things, that no one person has too much responsibility in these areas because it is too much for one person to bear.

This, to me, is how Jesus works. He's like a much better, more powerful CIA. He has all this information at his disposal. He has spies, and counter-intelligence agents, and wiretaps, and undercover agents working all throughout our lives. We don't know they are there, and we don't know why they are there, but he does. He is connecting dots for us that we cannot possibly comprehend. He is closing doors and opening them, all for the purpose of moving us along in our purpose. Sometimes the methods may be confusing, nerve racking, or frustrating. We can't understand the what, why, and how of everything, because everything can't be revealed to us, because we can't handle it. it's too much for us.

In the same way that the government is designed so that one person doesn't have too much power or too much information because they can't handle it, I think we ae not meant to go this thing alone. Because of the nature of the stops and starts, and the non-linear path of our journeys, because of the fact that we can lose track if we try and connect the dots on our own, I think Jesus intended us to do this life WITH someone.

We need other people with us to help us dig through all of the information and to help us filter through the misinformation that we are fed as well. We need people to help carry us (or tote us) through the challenging times, when we can't see how the dots are connecting, or the really dark times, when we can't see any dots at all.

I'm not sure that I believe that Jesus has mapped out a specifc plan for my life and that no matter what happens, he will get me to that exact spot. I'm not sue I don't believe it either, I'm just not sure.

But I am certain that he is sovereign and I am certain that he is on my side. I know that he is working for me and not against me. And while I may be confused and uncertain at times about his methods, I have no need to question the posture of his heart. I would not be capable of seeing the whole plan in front of me, all at once, and I am thankful that he knows that, and reveals it to me when I am ready.

So, me, Jesus, and a CIA agent walk into a bar....

Much Love,

Friday, November 18, 2016

Don't Do That Thing

I coached a player a number of years ago who always had some new injury or sickness that she was battling. It felt like once a week that she would come into practice and explain to us her latest challenge. It was rarely something normal, like the flu. Most of the time, it involved three or four steps for her to arrive at her pain. Here is an example, only slightly exaggerated:

Me: Alex, what's going on?

I don't know Coach, whenever I sniff really hard and look to the right with my left eye, I get this throbbing pain in my throat.

Me: Gee Alex, I'm not sure what that could be.

Yeah, it really hurts.

Me: So, it only happens when you sniff really hard?

Yeah, while looking to the right with my left eye.

Me: Okay, I think I would try really hard not to sniff, while looking to the right with your left eye.

Okay, It's going to be tough, but I'll try.

And this happened often with her, or at least it seemed that way.

I get the same thing as I teach elementary students.

Um, Mr. Hendley, I'm not sure what's going on, but when I bend my finger back like this (kid takes his finger and stretches it into unhealthy angles and positions) it really hurts

Me: Gosh I'm really sorry. I think maybe you should try not to bend your finger back like that.

Student: Okay, I'll try.

You may think I'm joking with these examples, but I can assure you, I'm not. And as foolish and obvious as these examples may sound, I think we have some of these same challenges in our lives as well. I read this the other day in Mark Batterson's Book, Wild Goose Chase.

"Our problem is not so much that we don't know what we should do. We know perfectly well, but we just don't want to do it"

I think there are many times in our lives that we know the answer as to what we should do, and maybe even more times when we know the answer to what we should NOT do, and yet, we choose not to listen to what we know.

Like Dwight Schrute said, "Before I do anything, I ask myself, would an idiot do that? And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing."

It's certainly not ALWAYS that easy to decipher, but many times, I believe that it is as simple as not doing that thing.

If your finger hurts when you do that, don't do that.
Regardless of what society says, or you think the Bible says, if spanking incessantly is not working for you and your child, don't do that.
If a particular decision that you are making is consistently leading to a negative outcome...I'm not sure, but maybe you should not do that thing.

I think I sit and ponder sometimes, just long enough to rationalize a bad decision or to connect enough dots to make something sound better than it really is. When in reality, if I would just quickly consider past outcomes, I would have a pretty good idea of whether I should continue or not.

Maybe this is giving power to another individual, who doesn't deserve it.
Maybe for you it is how you are interacting with your spouse, and what that generally leads to.
Maybe it's how you approach your coach, or your players, and what you usually get back in return.

If there is something you are dealing with where you are consistently getting a negative or unpleasant outcome, I would encourage you to think about what role you are playing in that scenario. And if there is something that you are consistently doing, that is leading to your consistently frustrating results...maybe you should consider approaching that thing differently.

Much Love,

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Few Who Choose

 Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu went into the ministry at a young age, and as she finished her training, she decided that her heart was set on building an orphanage. So she approached her superiors and told them that she had three pennies and a dream to build an orphanage.
Her superiors told her that she couldn't build an orphanage with just three pennies. In fact, they said, you can't do anything with three pennies. Agnes smiled, and said, "You are right, but with God and three pennies I can do anything". Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu went on to be one of the greatest beacons of love and service that the world has ever known. We know her today as Mother Theresa.

Whenever I hear stories about people who have come from nothing to achieve greatness, I often explain it away, or justify their success.

"Yeah, but she was blessed by God" , "Yeah, but she was Mother Teresa", "Yeah, but she had THREE pennies" (just kidding)

But that's how it feels sometimes. I will pick apart everything and downplay their story because I think they have some supernatural gift that has led them to their greatness, as if they have been chosen to be successful.

I have this mentor that says:

"Greatness is not for the chosen few, it is for the few who choose"

I think that's pretty neat, and I've also come to believe that it's pretty true.

The people who are great, or who are doing great things, are not there because they have been selected. They are there because they have been willing to make simple decisions (thought not always easy) over and over again that many people aren't willing to make.

(Just to be clear, there isn't really a "there" to get to. It's all a moving target)

Mother Teresa wasn't just great, because she was Mother Teresa. She didn't start as Mother Teresa. In fact, she started with just three pennies and a passion to serve. And she made decisions, daily, that aligned with her pursuit and helped grow the gifts inside of her. One decision built on another, which led to another, which built on another, which led Agnes from "God and three pennies" to becoming Mother Teresa.

Many times, it seems like we take a look at our three pennies, and decide that it's not enough. That we can't do anything significant with what we have. Or, we listen to other people pick apart our blessings, and tell us what we can and can't do with what we have.

Greatness doesn't mean we have to be famous, or remembered by the history books, or play in the NBA. It could mean that we are the best mom or dad we can be, or that we are exceptional in our chosen field, or that we are working to fully maximize our gifts and talents. Maybe it means that we are choosing to pursue growth, and challenges, and we are willing to work to become our best.

For all of us, there are gifts to be nurtured, growth to pursue, and lions to chase. There are reasons, from time to time, why we may not do those things, why we may not choose. But mostly, I think they are excuses. Maybe we are afraid, maybe we are doubtful, maybe we are uncertain. Regardless of those obstacles, I think the truth is emerging for me, that we do have a choice, if we are willing to make it.

Much Love,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Don't Be A Baby, Or Should You?

The school where I teach has a really neat program called the Ocean Lab. The program allows our students to learn about and explore ocean animals, erosion, weather, and other interesting science topics. 

Last week we took them to the beach to measure wind direction, speed, tides, and temperature. While the leader of the Ocean Lab was engaging our students, I took a minute to look around and take in the scene around me. 

Just down from the boardwalk where we were standing, was a family and their baby. I don't know exactly how old the baby was, but probably somewhere around one year. The two parents were sitting and talking, and while they were giving the baby some attention, they weren't 100% focused on the baby. 

They baby was laying on his stomach on a towel, and trying over and over and over again to lift his head up and keep it up. It was interesting to watch. The parents weren't cheering him on, or helping lift him up halfway, he was just absolutely struggling with lifting his head up. He would get it up a little, and then fall back down, then get it up a little and fall back down. Sometimes, the rest of his body would move, but not his head, and you could tell he was REALLY struggling on those attempts. But he would rest a second, and then start again. 

In a short while, his strength and understanding will be built up, after many, many reps of effort and "failure" and he will be able to lift his head up on his own. 


After that he will have to learn how to crawl so he can move about in his home. There will be many times when he can't go far because he gets tired, or off balance, or because his arms and legs haven't yet figured out how to work together. So he will have to stop, and start, and take a break, and try again. 

After he can crawl, he eventually tries to stand, and then one day walk. Again, his legs will have to build up strength, he will have to learn to balance, and he will experience many falls, and bumps. It must be very frustrating for a child that young to stop and start so many times. To make progress one day and then struggle the next to stand up at all. 

And babies, they have to learn EVERYTHING. And important stuff, like lifting your head up, and walking, and eating. And they mess up a lot along the way. They fall down a lot, the spill stuff, they get hurt, but they NEVER QUIT. 

Imagine if a baby got so frustrated with not being able to walk that they just quit trying, because it was hard, and because they didn't see success right away. Imagine if they were content to just lay on their stomach, or their back, and never worked to lift their head up to see the world around them. 

I wonder when we learn to quit. Because we were all babies at some point, and we had some powerful resilience at that age. With a little bit of help, but a serious amount of determination, we went from a red faced, crying, pooping baby, to someone who could walk, talk, run, eat, and speak for themselves. It is crazy sometimes for me and my wife when we look at our kids, and marvel at how far they have come from birth until now. It is hard to imagine that they were once small enough to hold in one hand, and that they were able to go from a floating little jelly bean to where they are now. 

And then, in some instances, we stop trying to tackle  the seemingly insurmountable odds. We start quitting when things got hard. We start to be satisfied with laying on the ground and just watching everything around us, rather than being actively involved. When we failed a couple of times, we quit getting back up. We get more frustrated with the starts and stops, and began stopping on the stops. We quit celebrating our small victories with the same vigor and excitement that we celebrate our first steps. We start listening to ourselves, instead of the positive encouragement that we should be SPEAKING to ourselves.

Not always, mind you, and not everyone, but that unshakable determination lessens. Maybe there is some practical reason. Maybe there is something about responsibility, and more is at risk, and we have a greater understanding, or the stakes are higher. 


But maybe we need to be more like a baby. Maybe we need to quit focusing on all the stops and focus on the starts. Maybe we need to lift our head up, again and again and again, and when we get tired, take a rest, and then start trying again. I don't know when the quitting begins, or where it comes from. But I do think there are plenty of times in our adult lives that we need to be more like a baby, if we want to do the things that matter most to us.

Much Love,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

People Are Not Who They Say They Are

A few years ago, while going through a frustrating situation with my boss, I sought out my dad for some advice. After speaking with him for a little while, he dropped this gem on me: "You know, usually, people are not who they say they are"

One of my biggest frustrations at the time was that coaches, including my boss, would quote John Wooden in public, and talk about how much they valued character on Twitter, and then go and do the exact opposite as they interacted with their players and led their programs. My boss at the time would talk about doing things differently on the court, thinking outside the box, and coming up with solutions, but would always revert back to the things she had always done whenever the pressure hit.

The point that I took away from my dad, was that people aren't who they say they are, people are who they are. Their words and who they HOPE to be doesn't define them, but rather, what they actually DO consistently tells the world who they really are. People may be able to fool us at the beginning, and sometimes, even for a long period of time. But ultimately, all of the quotes and misdirections (intentional or not) will be revealed by the actions of the individual on a consistent basis.

Scripture says, "...By their fruit you will recognize them..." What are they producing matters more than what they are exclaiming.

I'd also like to offer another perspective on this. I agree, that people are usually not who they say they are. In short, THEIR WORDS ARE GREATER THAN THEIR ACTIONS.

And if this is the case, then I believe this applies to us as well, but not always in the same ways as mentioned above. Many times, we have to be sure that our actions align with our words, and make certain that we are not merely talking about who we want to be, but actually being who it is we want to be.

There is another side of the coin, that can be just as damaging, maybe even more so. There are many times, where I believe we find ourselves saying things about us that are untrue, where our ACTIONS ARE GREATER THAN OUR WORDS.

I'm actually a firm believer in this in principle, meaning, I think we should DO more than we SAY, and that we don't necessarily need to talk about the good that we are doing.

However, this becomes a problem when we are living, impacting, and serving in one way, and all the while TELLING OURSELVES something entirely different. It's one thing to lie to the world and ourselves and say that we are great when in fact we are not. But it can be equally as damaging to lie to the world and ourselves and say that we are nothing, or that we are less than, or that we are not adding value, when in fact we are.

For many people, we are not who we say we are, because we are constantly telling ourselves that we aren't smart enough, or strong enough, or good enough, or a good mom, or friend, or coach, or ENOUGH. All the while, the people around us are better because of your presence. They are thankful to have you in their lives, complimenting the work that you do, and better off because of you.

For one reason or another, so often we brush that aside and continue to tell ourselves one thing, while our actions and the fruit that we are bearing say something entirely different. For some reason, some people, feel the need to put themselves down, and somehow supress their gifts and greatness, for fear of success, perceived pride, or an inability to accept that they are doing good things.

I don't believe that if you quote John Wooden and then go about your day as a lazy, uninvested, and low character coach, that you will eventually develop into John Wooden, simply because you read a book and posted something on Twitter.

However, I do believe that the things that we say repeatedly to ourselves can shape us. And despite the good fruit that you may be producing, if you continue to tell yourself that you are something less than you are, you may wake up one day and find that it is true. It is dangerously possible to talk ourselves into believing these falsehoods. Suddenly, you aren't the teacher that you are capable of being because you have told yourself that you are no good. After beating yourself up every day for not being a good enough mom, you start to feel like you aren't a good enough mom, and this reflects in your interactions with your children.

My encouragement is, don't lie to yourself. Ask some people that you know and trust to give you an honest answer on what it is that makes you uniquely you. Ask them to tell you what they think your gifts are, and what you bring to the table that is good for this world. And THEN, listen to them, believe them, and don't brush it off.

Many times we are not who we say we are, we are much, much more.

Much Love,

Sunday, October 30, 2016

How's Your Engine Running

I heard this song recently on my Pandora Station:

The line that stands out is, "how's your engine running", and it sparked some thought in me that I'd like to share. Whenever my brother and I used to come home from college, or even after we were married and returned home after being away for awhile, my dad would often meet us in the driveway and ask, "how's your car running". We felt like maybe that was dad's way of starting up a conversation, and having something reliable to go to as we eased back into the comfort of regular conversation and interaction.

When I heard that line, "how's your engine running", because of that image of my dad asking that question so frequently, and because of my current journey, it really stood out to me. It made me wonder: as friends, Christians, husbands, fathers, if we should be asking that question of each other more.

"How's Your Engine Running?"

One of the things I think I've known for a while, but that I'm really coming into now, is that we can't go on this journey alone. There is too much for us to question, too much room for self doubt, and we are too imperfect to get it all right. Because of that, I think we need people in our lives who are willing to ask us, "How's your engine running?"

In other words, what is going on inside, what is challenging you right now, what are your pursuing, how are you growing?

For those people that we say we love and care about, we need to be invested enough to ask them the same.

Here's why I think this is really important:
The reality is, that we have all gotten very good at putting our heads down and moving through life. When work stinks, or the kids are driving us crazy, or we know that we have questions about life but aren't even really sure what they are, when we want more from life but we are embarrassed to admit it or unsure what that means, when all those things are happening, we are usually able to put on a happy face and keep on trucking. All the while, we have these things stirring inside of us that we are trying to figure out. We have doubts that we need to overcome, we have things we are curious about, we need some encouragement, we need to be around friends.

Despite the waxed exterior, and the spotless interior, "How's the engine really running?"

I used to think it was complaining to talk about "petty" issues that I was dealing with. But now I know that it is okay to be honest about what we are going through. It doesn't make us complainers to point out things we are questioning, or frustrations we are facing. It just makes us honest. How we DEAL with those issues may determine or display our character, but the acknowledgement of challenge doesn't make us weak.

I hope you have someone in your life who cares enough about you to ask you how your engine is running. And I would encourage you, either way, to love someone enough to do the same for them.

How Is Your Engine Running?

Much Love,

Nick Saban vs. Joel Embiid

There was an article that recently came out on on Philadelphia 76'ers player Joel Embiid, focusing on The Process. In case you don't follow the NBA, Embid was a first round draft pick in 2014, and is just now playing his first meaningful NBA game.

 The 76'ers, over the last three years have adopted the mantra of "The Process". During this time, they have been losing on a regular basis, as they work to rebuild their team and load up with young talent, hoping that temporary pain will lead to some lasting success. Over the last three years, the team has 47 wins compared to 199 losses. During this time, they have had numerous first round draft picks get injured, fired a coach, and alienated fans, some of whom have complained about "The Process" as all the misfortune has piled up.

Joel Embiid has become the face of The Process for the 76'ers. He left his family in Cameroon as a teenager to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. When he got to the U.S., he played at a prep school with teammates that constantly made fun of him, both for where he was from and at his lack of basketball skill. Despite his lack of experience and raw talent, he was drafted in the first round by Philadelphia, and then injured his foot early in the pre-season. Embiid has since been through an arduous and unsuccessful rehab stint, battled loneliness as he was separated from teammates and family, suffered a second significant injury, considered quitting, and persevered through a second rehab stint as he tried to find his way back onto the floor.

Embiid has second-guessed himself, considered going back to playing volleyball, or simply returning home to be with his family, giving up on the sport altogether. He has been up and down and down and out and frustrated and optimistic during this process he's in the midst of. He is finally playing meaningful NBA games, but there is a lingering concern about his health, and an uncertainty about what the next day, or even the next play may bring. Will all of his work have been worth it? Will The Process pay off?

The Process sounds great when Nick Saban talks about it. "We take it one play at a time, stick to the process, and live with the results" (common coach speak). When the coach who is touting the process is doing so through confetti showers on national television and has two handfuls of championship rings, it is easy for the viewer to get fired up about following such a mantra in their own lives. Those results are easy to live with. But what happens when the results don't come as swiftly or as significantly as we had hoped they would?

In reality, The Process usually looks much more like Joel Embiid than it does Nick Saban. Not with the losses necessarily, but with the challenges, with the public failures, with the starts and stops, with the questioning of the point of it all. We get knocked down, and we get up, and we get knocked down again. We have to sit and watch others succeed, while we go through growing pains. We doubt what we are doing and why we are doing it, and we think long and hard about giving up, doing something else, or settling into something less than what we are really capable of.

The point is not to look at Joel Embiid and all of his "failures" and setbacks. The point is to look at Joel Embiid and think about what type of man he is becoming in all of this. At the end of the article, it talks about how free he is playing now, like he has nothing to lose. The coaches and front office staff point to a number of examples where he is the last player to leave during public events, signing autographs and interacting with fans. The process has changed him, for the better.

This is what The Process really is, in my eyes. And if we want to get to where we want to get, if we want to fan our gifts into flame, if we want to move towards who we have been designed to be, rather than settling into average, then WE MUST ENDURE. It's something that we have to go through, sometimes, in order to become who we hope to become. The Bible doesn't say, "a gently flowing stream sharpens iron" or "a fluffy soft cloud sharpens iron". No, "Iron sharpens Iron". It's not meant to be a discouragement, but an acknowledgment that sometimes we have to do tough things in order to reach big dreams.

It's not easy, but it will be worth it.

Much Love,