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,