Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Be Kind: They Might Be Your Boss One Day

This is part two of a series of "I'll write these until I can't think of anymore good stories" posts.

Be Kind: They Might Be Your Boss One Day

I meet with this guy once a month to chat, catch up, listen to his life stories, and ask him questions about things that have been on my mind. He's actually not just a guy, he's like an everyday hero. He's one of those men who has been quietly going about the business of loving his family deeply, serving his church and community, and learning more and more about God each day for most of his adult life. He was my little league baseball coach for most of my time in little league, he was a deacon in the church I grew up in, and I spent a ton of time at his house growing up, as his son and I were best friends.

When we moved back into town, I reached out to him and asked if we could start meeting and talking. I don't really know if he knew what that meant, but I think he felt a little bit obliged to say yes, so, we've been meeting.

He has a really cool story in his life, that involves him going to prison for somewhere between 12-18 months. I won't go into all the details, but essentially he did something, got caught, had a chance to lie his way into a lighter sentence, refused, and then went to prison. During one of our talks I asked him what he learned during his time in the joint, and he said one of the things was that he decided to be as positive as he could about things. So he approached everything with an upbeat attitude (which I would imagine is not easy to do in prison). When he was in prison, he had a job that he was assigned. I'm not sure exactly what the job was, but I can't imagine it was anything incredibly inspiring. But he decided that he was really going to approach his job like it was important, and work hard at it. But this is not a story about working hard...

The guards or prison workers who oversaw the inmates while they worked, were not the nicest of guys. Even the nice ones, according to my friend, talked down to the inmates and treated them as less thans. But my friend was determined to be kind and positive in his interactions. Finally, he met one guard in particular that was actually nice to him too. Not fake nice, but genuinely kind. So they made a connection, I guess as much as you can between inmate and prison worker, based on a common kindness in how they treated one another.

Now, during his stay, my friend stayed in constant contact with his former employer, as he hoped to have a job when he got out. They were encouraging about the prospect, and he felt like he had something pretty well lined up for himself. Well, about the time he is supposed to get out, his company is bought out. Of course, now he is concerned about having a job. He has some promising conversations with the new owners, but there is no guarantee that it will work out, so this is a time of real uncertainty for him and his family, not to mention that he has been in prison for a year. When he finally gets out, and goes to work, at the new company, who is one of the first faces he sees? The guy who oversaw his job at the prison! This guy was now one of his superiors at this "new" job that was still a bit tenuous. Apparently he decided to get out of the ever enjoyable position of overseeing prison work, and this was the place that he landed. It's almost unbelievable. They shared a laugh about their connection, and I think this guy was willing to vouch for him as needed, based on his attitude and the kindness he had displayed during a time that it would have been very easy to be rude and grumpy.

Be kind, because they might be your boss one day.

Much Love,

Be Kind: What If It's Their Birthday?

I'm working on a "Be Kind" series, not because I think I should be telling anyone how to be kind, but because I think being kind is important and I thought I might offer up some examples or scenarios that you could consider when interacting with other people, particularly people that you may not be close with. 

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm not telling you this so that you will send lots of cards and checks written out to me for large sums of money to PO Box 20184 St. Simons Island, GA 31522, it is actually relevant to the story. My wife always does a great job of making me feel like my birthday is a special day. Every year on my birthday, without fail, she hangs streamers in our bedroom doorway, so that when I get up, I have to walk through the streamers. She also blows up balloons and leaves them laying around, sometimes all over the house. She always plans some type of surprise with the kids to really get them excited about my birthday. It's usually something small, like this year they made a pie, and I usually know what it is, but the kids think they have this great secret, and they are so excited to be doing something for me on my birthday, because my wife makes them feel like it is important. My daughter told me she loved me more times yesterday than the rest of the year combined, and hearing a two year old say "happy birthday daddy" with a big grin on his face may be one of the coolest things ever. So, in my house, my birthday is made to be a special day. 

But I don't wear a shirt that says, "It's my birthday and I'll cry if I want to" or "Happy Birthday To Me" or anything like that. You know those people who wear a crown all day or walk around with a kazoo humming the birthday song, so everyone in the world will know it is their birthday. So, people don't really know it's my  birthday unless they know me. And I think, outside of the self promoting birthdayers of the world, most people are like that. 

Yesterday at work, I had a student who has been having a hard time in class not yelling out exactly what he is thinking or feeling, at the exact moment that he is thinking and feeling it. So I asked him to step in the hall so that we could talk privately. Before I could get out there, the teacher who taught this student last year happened to walk by and she said, "I know you aren't giving Dr. Hendley a hard time on his birthday. If there is anything that he deserves it is to have a great day on his birthday. I hope you aren't doing any thing to ruin that". That wasn't the direction I was going to go with the conversation, but I thought it was neat that she felt that way. I like her, and we are nice to one another and help each other at work, but we aren't friends. She heard it was my birthday because they put it on the morning announcements at school, and she felt like I deserved a good day on my birthday. 

 I think everyone deserves a good day on their birthday. Not everyone gets that, but I think everyone deserves it. One way we can be kind is to think about strangers we are interacting with and wonder, "What if it is their birthday" You wouldn't want to be the jerk that they remember the rest of the day who treated them poorly. For me, when I leave the house in the morning after the streamers, balloons, and I love you's, it's easy for me to feel like everyone should know it's my birthday because my family made such a big deal about it. So when someone does something like cut me off on the road, the first response might be, "hey, it's my birthday, c'mon" (I don't ever actually do that you know). So some people may be having a great day, or may have big plans later, and you don't want to be any part of letting the air out of that balloon, so be kind. Other people don't have a wife, or mom, or cute little kids who are bending over backward to make them feel special. There are people who get up and go to school or work and return home without much attention at all. Maybe they even have people in their families who forget all about their birthday or don't care. But I know this, they care. On the inside, they are playing the kazoo while wearing their "Birthday Girl" shirts, and their crowns. And those people deserve a great day on their birthday too.

Most of our interactions with people during the day are short and meaningless. It doesn't take much effort at all to be kind during this brief exchanges. So be kind. It could be their birthday.

Much Love,

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Over Deliver

There is a saying that says you should under promise and over deliver. I think it is mostly applied to business, and my interpretation has always been that it would be applied something like this in a conversation:

Client: Can you come over and wash my car?
Owner: Yes, we charge $25 for a basic wash.
Client: Okay, how long will it take?
Owner: Usually between 45 minutes and an hour.
Client: Okay, let's do it.

Owner: comes over, washes the car, details the tires, and waxes the vehicle to showroom quality.
Client: Wow! I never expected you to detail the tires and wax the vehicle to showroom quality. This is amazing.

I have no idea why I chose a mobile car wash business as my example, but the idea is that you give people one set of expectations, and then blow their minds with the value that you actually provide.

I'd like to drop the "under promise" portion of this saying for our purposes. You don't need to promise, and you certainly don't need to UNDER promise, but I would encourage you to be an over deliverer (the computer says this isn't a word, but I'm running with it).

Here is an example: Yesterday I called my dad and asked if I could borrow his truck to take some house trash to the dump that had been our yard since we moved in. We had old window shades, wood scraps, pallets, an old fertilizer spreader and stuff like that. I anticipated just leaving my car with him, and loading up the stuff myself and then returning his truck. He didn't say anything except sure (he didn't make me any promises) and came over with his truck. When he got there, he got out his gloves, and helped me load all of the things into his truck, and then we drove to the dump and he helped me unload at the dump. When we got home, he said, why don't we take a load of yard trash while we are here. We ended up loading up two truck beds full of limbs and leaves that my dad helped rake and load, and then unloaded those at the dump as well. My dad is 66 years old, and while in good shape, doing two hours of strenuous yard work in the heat isn't generally how he spends his Saturdays. He exceeded every expectation that I had when I asked to borrow his truck.

If you are a player, think about opportunities to over deliver within your team. The coach has expectations for all players in certain situations (in sprints, bench behavior, how you interact with the coach, how you treat teammates) that are kind of baseline expectations. In other words, there is a general expectation for everyone in these and other situations. You can exceed those with your behavior and actions in these moments. But you coach also has expectations specifically for you. Whether intentional or not, your coach has likely formed an opinion of you, based on your past behaviors and performances mixed with his/her own biases and perspective. Think about ways that you can over deliver on your team, with your teammates and your coach. You can do this by treating people really really well, giving an exceptional effort in drills or sprints, or being an outstanding communicator.

We can also do this as coaches, employees, husbands, fathers, mothers and wives. In most circumstances, there are some general expectations that people have about how they will be treated, or how something will be done. And when we get into situations where people know us, or have some sort of perception of us based on past experience, there are personal expectations placed on us that we have a chance to over deliver on whenever we interact with them. Treat people really well, serve joyfully beyond what they expect, and commit to being your best in all that you do.

Give it a try. I think you'll be surprised by what it does for you and those you serve.

Much Love,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Process

Everyone always talks about "The Process". I know it didn't start with Nick Saban, the football coach at Alabama, but I feel like when he started talking about it (while winning National Championships year in and year out) that the idea really exploded and now it is something I hear all the time.

Trust the Process
It's not about winning it's about the process
We are just focused on the process each and every day
If we focus on the process, then everything else will take care of itself

I'm sure you've heard all of the quotes. No disrespect to Saban (partly because I do NOT want to be on the receiving end of one of his butt chewings, and I'm sure he's reading my blog) but it seems easy to trust the process you've created when you have a closet full of National Champion rings to validate your process.

The question I'm asking myself right now is, "How do I trust the process when I don't know where it is leading?"

And I think that is both the frustrating thing, and the most valuable thing about "The Process". You get the most out of it, by sticking with it, staying true to your habits and areas of consistency, and focusing on what you are doing rather than wishing you were somewhere else. The difficult thing, however, is when you don't know where that process will lead, and when it doesn't look as if it is leading anywhere in particular.

This is not easy. There is no national championship at the end to allow me to assess my process or redirect as needed. Sometimes we are on a path, and we know where we would like to end up, but we aren't sure where the long and winding road will lead.

I don't know if this is encouraging or not, but the answer that I have arrived at, at least for now, is this:

It's not easy, but it's worth it, if you are willing to make the investment.

I'm in "the process" now. I'm working with a coach/mentor/encourager, and I'm 2 months in and I'm a better person already. I don't know where it is leading, but I know RIGHT NOW, I'm getting better. And I know that wherever I want to go (and I would guess the same is true for wherever you want to go) I'm going to need to grow and improve. I don't believe I can put myself and my family in a better position, without getting better (a better version of me, my best self). Even though there is nothing more than an outline of my future, my right now, is very clear. I know what I'm working ON, if I don't know EXACTLY what I'm moving toward. I know WHO I want to be, even if I don't know the WHERE or the WHAT just yet. I believe the WHERE and the WHAT can change unexpectedly, but the WHO will stay with me. My dad used to say, "Inch by inch, life's a cinch, yard by yard, life is hard".

The alternative to this challenge, is to stay right where we are. Follow the script, which someone else has written, remain frustrated, or continue to be something less than you are designed to be.

I'll choose the process, with all its' uncertainty and challenge.

Trust the process. One inch at a time. One day you will look up and be grateful that you did.

Much Love,

More Man in the Mirror

In the last post, I offered the thought up about taking a look at your life, and the challenge of carving that out in a different way than "everybody else" or the idea of realizing that you want something different and having the courage to do something about it.

In this post, I'd like to take a different angle on the "Man in the Mirror" idea. Remember the last stanza goes like this:

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass

I've posted about this before, in "Whose Life Is It Anyway", but it was on my mind so I wanted to revisit the thought. There are so many of us, who, either during a few critical times in our lives, or throughout our lives, have attempted to "fool the whole world" just to "get pats on the back as we pass". What I mean is, how we made decisions in high school (popularity) how we made decisions in or about college (conformity) the type of career we pursued, etc. Many of us made decisions during these times that were safe, or appeasing to parents or "they" (like, what will "they" think), rather than scratching that itch that we felt deep within our soul, or answering that whisper that asked us, "what about this OTHER way, what about THIS path". I hope you've had some of those moments, as I have. I think it means there is a passion there, a curiosity, something to pursue. And chances are, you have those moments from time to time now too. If you are younger, you have those moments in dealing with your friends, or choices about college, or sports, where you think to yourself, "Is this what I really want to do" and many times you do it anyway, because it is what you are SUPPOSED to do. Or you think, "I would really like to do...." But you don't, because the timing isn't right, or none of your friends are doing it, or what would your parents/friends/society think. So we (or at least me) suppress those passions, those curiosities, and we go on with life. Don't rock the boat, right? Get those proverbial "pats on the back" so we don't draw too much attention and so we can take the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance isn't very fun or rewarding. It's very safe, for sure, but also very cookie cutter and bland. I don't believe we were designed by our Creator to be cookie cutter and bland. We were designed in His image, and I'm no Biblical scholar, but I don't believe Jesus Christ was a real boring guy who was just trying to fit in, punch the time clock, go along with society to fit in, and grind his way to a pension at retirement. 

Finally, I just finished a great book by Donald Miller called Scary Close. And pulled this quote from it. 
The quote is attributed to Bonnie Ware in his book.

"If we go to our graves with our feelings still in us, we will die with regrets"

Or, as the poem says, 

The final reward will be heartache and tears. 

There is no joy in living a life for someone else. I encourage you to spend some time discovering who YOU are and who you want to be and then get started living a life that reflects that. 

Much Love,

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Man in the Mirror

There is a poem titled, "The Man in the Glass" by Peter Dale Wimbrow, Sr. You can read the whole thing here

But the last stanza says:

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass

I actually read this while I was reading a book called, "Season of Life". If you haven't read that one, I would encourage you to check it out, particularly if you are a dad, coach, athlete, but I think there is value there for just about everyone. But I've been thinking about this alot lately, how so many people are working jobs they don't like, or leading lives they don't want to lead, or they've pursued things or done things, or married people, or purchased things just because they feel like they should have, or because they didn't have a choice. And then, we look in the mirror at some point, and say, "who is this guy" or "what am I doing", or "is this what I really want". The point is, we need to be true to ourselves, not what everyone else wants. If we bend and morph into what the "right" path is or the "safe" path is, what happens when we get along down that path, and take a check in the mirror, and we don't recognize what we see. What then?

I asked myself this recently, mostly, "is this what I really want" And the answer was no. And "this" to be clear, is not all that bad. I've got a wonderful family, a good job, live in a nice place. That question doesn't come from a place of being ungrateful. It comes from a place, I think, of healthy discontent. Wanting something different doesn't mean you don't value what you have. And just because you don't want to live the current life you are leading, doesn't mean that you want to get rid of EVERYTHING.

I think there is a little bit of value for me, in asking that question, but not a lot. It doesn't take much courage to say, "I would like to pursue a different career" or "I want to have more financial freedom so I can spend time with my wife". Those aren't courageous statements, I don't think. They are thoughts, verbalized, and we all have those, and we all cry out sometimes, and we all say things and have ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. (I wonder sometimes, if there was ever a thing, in history, that was a dime a dozen).

For me, the challenge is, what are you going to do about it? Because for me, if I do nothing, it's like a double whammy (double whammy, I'm pretty confident, is a real thing. Check out an old game show called, Press Your Luck). The double whammy is this. I'm already frustrated by the fact of living like everyone else. For example, go to college, get married, stable job, kids, no time, work yourself to the bone, wait for retirement, reconnect with your wife, enjoy your kids once they are grown, travel when you get older. So if I express that frustration AND don't do anything with it (what most people do), I get the double whammy.

So I have to do SOMETHING.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Enthusiasm: Expressing Your Passion

I've been having some conversations with coaching friends of mine recently about the idea of enthusiasm. The conversations have ranged from some believing that enthusiasm is an overused and misunderstood term for teams and players, questioning the value of enthusiasm, wondering how to teach/instill it, and an uncertainty about how to define it. I don't have all the answers, but our conversations stirred up some thoughts and I wanted to share them with. Hopefully they provide some value to you.

As a basketball coach, the bench that you sit on is always directly in front of the opposing team during warm ups. So depending on what level you are coaching, there might be 15-45 minutes where you have an opportunity to observe the other team prior to the beginning of the game. There are a handful of times that I've been involved with where I look at the opposing team, and then down at our team, and feel like we were about to get out classed, based simply on comparing the level of energy and enthusiasm coming from our end of the floor and the opposing team's level of energy and enthusiasm. There have been other times where I felt like the other team didn't even want to be in the gym compared to the energy that our kids were warming up with, and I felt like we were about to run them right out of the gym. Most of the time, the intuition was correct, on both sides of the coin.

My point is, that I do believe that enthusiasm is a very valuable piece to the success of a team. However, I think the collective "we" has developed a definition that paints an incorrect picture. So when people hear the word enthusiasm they think of something very specific. Usually, this means clapping and cheering and loud noises, etc. I DO believe that these are ways to express enthusiasm, but not the only way by any means, and not the way that we should be defining it.

Rather than using Enthusiasm (as we know it) my focus is on this: Expressing Your Passion
Maybe that's my definition. Enthusiasm: A visible or tangible expression of one's passion.

I've got a number of examples of stories that I could share, but here I will just list a few. My belief is that everyone is capable of expressing their passion, they may just need some help defining what that is. And this is passion in context, not necessarily their "life's passion". For example, I currently teach 5th grade. I don't know that I'm your typical teacher, in that I didn't want to be a teacher when I grew up, I don't live and breathe the profession, and there are more people who are passionate about curriculum and methodology than I am. However, my passion is creating a positive environment for students and giving them a great school experience, by loving and caring for them as their teacher. So that is how I express my passion as a teacher.

For athletes, this can look very different for everyone:

Monmouth's Bench: These guys are expressing the passion they have for basketball and their team by creating and displaying elaborate and humorous bench celebrations. This isn't for every player, or for every coach, and I know some people may have strong feelings about what they are doing, but I think it's great that these guys have found their way, and that their coach has allowed them to express their passion.

Serious/Intense Guy: There are certain players, who never smile, never clap, never get really high or low, that you will never find jumping up and down yelling and screaming. They are very intense and focused at all times. These players show up every day and just go to work. They are seriously invested in their craft. Their passion is the game, their craft, developing their skill set, being great. And they express this passion through their intense focus and will to be their best. For everyone who is saying, "oh yeah, that is me, I'm super focused, like Kobe, I want to be the best ever, that's why I don't show traditional enthusiasm", just know, that there are very few of these plaeyrs, in my opinion. If you are claiming to be this player, be honest with yourself, it needs to be a true expression of who you are, not because you haven't figured out a way to express your passion. These are usually pretty elite players.

Encourager: Some people are passionate for their teammates and the success of and connection to others.
So they express their enthusiasm through high fives, slapping on the rear end, encouraging words, cheering, etc. There is a cool video on how often Steve Nash used high fives to "connect" to his teammates during games.

Clapping, Stopping, Cheers, Volleyball/Softball: I used to love going to volleyball games, and I'm headed today to watch one of my former players play softball. The reason I enjoy these games, beyond watching my players, is that generally there is a very high level of enthusiasm on these teams. Volleyball teams have so many cheers after points, after aces, before they play, sometimes I wonder when they practice, because they have so many cheers. But I think it's really cool, and I always enjoy feeling the energy when they huddle up and do their cheers. And softball is similar, the cheers just usually occur during live play, as the players in the dugout cheer on their team that is on the field or the player that is batting. But, I know a volleyball coach who hates that, and doesn't allow his team to do it. Personally, I don't really want to go watch them play, because that is one of the aspects of high school volleyball that I really enjoy, but it just doesn't work for him, and that's okay. And that's part of the point of my definition: Express YOUR Passion. This isn't for everyone. There are players I've had and teams I've been on who were great at this, their passion was being full of energy, celebrating their experience in the moment, and they expressed this in a very outward fashion. If this is you, go for it. If this is not for you, then don't.

These are just a few examples. The encouragement is this: Don't fake it before you make it, "Try Before You Buy". If you try and fake it because you feel like you should or someone has made you then it will most likely come out just like that, as fake, and you won't ever get comfortable with something that isn't true to who you are. (If you are a coach, I encourage you to allow your kids to Try Before They Buy, rather than just telling them how to be enthusiastic). But, if you take the mindset of Try Before You Buy, then I think you can find something that works for you. Just try one of these ways, and see what matches with your roots, your core, the posture of YOUR heart. Try one. And if that doesn't work, try another one. It will still likely feel awkward for a bit, particularly when you try things that aren't aligned with who you are. But if you take this mindest of trying things out, until you find Yours, I believe you will feel better about the process not being "fake", and when you hit yours, you will feel good about what YOU have discovered. THEN, you can sell out to it, or "BUY" it, and take ownership of it.

Much Love,