Age is Just a Number

I was recently having a discussion with a few people who varied in age from late 20’s to late 70’s. A lady in her late 70’s was discussing a group that she is a part of which consists of over 100 older, retired people that meet and do various activities together. Within the group, she has met some new friends and found some people she truly enjoys. She also mentioned that the group has a large number that spend all their time engaged in gossip, rumors, and complaints. They refuse to sit by certain individuals in the group, make nasty comments to others, and will go to great lengths to “one-up” the person talking. As the conversation continued, the lady said that many groups that she has been a part of in her later years were very similar. Which ultimately brought me to the question, does an older age equate to being more “grown-up”?

When people talk about the the younger generation they are often labeled as immature, rude, entitled, or lazy. I’ve wrote about this before, but many of the kids I meet and get to interact with on a daily basis are some of the hardest-working, most respectful people I come into contact with. On top of that, the idea that entitlement only exists within the younger generation is complete nonsense. Many adults who have experience in a position or have accomplished anything big or small often have a sense of entitlement that you don’t even need to hear about, you can just feel. It’s not to say that there aren’t kids who are rude, mean, or entitled- there are. The point, however, is that just because adults have a few years of experiences in their lives doesn’t make them numb to “childish” behavior.

Age doesn’t equate to maturity nor does it make an individual immune to entitlement- many times it’s actually the opposite- it blinds us to habits such as petty gossip, mindless complaints, and blatant disrespect to other people. We start to consciously or subconsciously believe that because we’ve accomplished a certain amount of things, we are more entitled to certain privileges. As humans, we are constantly evolving. Each day brings opportunity for positive growth and heightened self-awareness. Unfortunately, each day also brings opportunity to ego and mindless behavior. In order to grow we must understand that age is nothing more than a number that informs us of how many days we’ve been around. It is our character, however, that will tell us what we’ve brought to those days.

“Success” & “Inner-Peace”

Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Roman Emperor, once said, “Ambition means tying your well-being to what other people say or do. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.”

As humans, our egos drive us to want to be validated through the recognition of others. We want to be relevant in the eyes of other humans; we crave importance. However, the more we strive to impress other individuals or act in hopes of being recognized, the less peace we find in our lives. We will always come up short. Inner-peace comes from living to the standards we create for ourselves.

John Wooden, former UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach once said, “Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

I’ve had conversations with many before and some view this as a “cop-out” type of quote, but I highly disagree. You can get lucky and win a game, you can sabotage someone else and get a promotion, just as you can fail and do everything right. The only way to truly assess ourselves is through the standards we set and how we hold up to those standards day in and day out. Easier said than done, but strive for your best each day and let the spotlight shine wherever it may. You’ll be at peace with whatever happens.

“Trust the Process”

Almost everyone is using the phrase, “Trust the Process” in some magnitude. I have, do, and will likely continue to use the phrase. A friendly reminder, however, is that trusting the process is important, but defining what the process consists of and committing to it is more important. A process is nothing without focused, consistent commitment for any endeavor we are striving to obtain excellence in. Define, commit, and trust!

A Trip to the Post Office

I was shipping some copies of my book at a local post office yesterday. The lady who helped me was someone I recognized from frequent visits to this office, but have never had any conversation with outside of a greeting and good-bye. In all honesty, she has never struck me as the most welcoming person, but is certainly knowledgable and helpful each time I visit, which I always genuinely appreciate. I’ve never really thought much of our interactions until she asked me out of the blue, “Are you a born-again?” I replied with a smile and simply said, “No”. She continued, “You’re always extremely polite and very kind when you come in here; I thought you had to be a born-again or maybe in the military or something.” I replied back saying, “I appreciate you saying that, but neither apply to me.” We talked for a brief moment before I went on my way and as always, I thanked her for her continued help and wished her a great day.

As I walked out, I couldn’t help but recall the many times where I’ve visited that post office and hear rude, demeaning complaints to the people behind the service counter. Many times it is over lost packages, high shipping costs or something else that has nothing to do with the people whom the complaints are being directed toward. Other times, people walk in and walk out without saying a single word to the person behind the desk. I’m guessing those type of interactions probably have become normal for their staff, so when someone consistently offers a simple form of appreciation or recognition, I can imagine that it stands out. Is it so rare, however, that someone doesn’t think that you can be a regular person who genuinely appreciates the service you’ve provided? If that’s the case, I have to admit that’s sad.

I do my best to be kind, considerate, and appreciative to people who serve me regardless if it’s their job or not. I just strongly believe it’s the right thing to do; I’m thankful for my parents and a couple of low-paying, low-recognition jobs for that lesson. Like all of us, I’m imperfect at times, or as that moment proved, am unaware of many of my interactions (good or bad). That moment also showed me that we all can be better. There’s value in our standard daily interactions. Take ten seconds to show a genuine, sincere form of appreciation to people who help you out. It might be the grocery clerk, the waitress, the customer service representative, or the president of your company. Everyone on this planet wants to be acknowledged and recognized and it doesn’t take much for all of us to act accordingly. We never know when something we say, do, or an interaction we have can make an impact on somebody else’s day, week, month, or life!

Opening Our Minds

With all of the political arguments, debates, & protests of late, I wanted to write a short note that is void of opinion or judgement, but one that can hopefully remind us to think outside of ourselves.

We all have our own opinions which typically come from the experiences in which we’ve had & the meaning we’ve attached to them. Different people have different experiences, therefore will have differing opinions. We don’t always have to agree with one another, but what we should strive to do, however, is understand each other. Understanding comes first from listening, and second from empathy. We make progress as people when we become aware of our preconceived notions and see the world from the lens of someone other than ourselves.

So as the debates continue & the arguments become more intense, I’d urge each of you reading this to take a step back to listen, see, and feel a different perspective. We won’t always agree with each other & that’s completely okay, but when we seek to understand each other, we undoubtedly will make our world a better place.

Reflections from an Unforgettable Journey

After four years coaching the class of 2018 WI Shooters AAU basketball team, our journey as a group came to an end last weekend. A flurry of emotions came through me as I addressed the group as a whole for the last time. Special kids, special parents, and a lot of memories that will never be replaced. In the days that followed, I have reflected a great deal on all the things we were able to experience. The road wasn’t always smooth, but even through the rocky points, I can say with certainty that we all grew. We became better individually as well as collectively. From a personal standpoint, I learned a great deal about the developmental process, coaching, players, parents, and about myself as an individual. Naturally, I wrote some of it down and have decided to share it here. I hope you can find something that resonates with you in my reflections.

Not everyone is going to buy into what you’re doing as a leader; keep sharing your message and loving people anyway. As a coach, I had parents who disapproved of what I did and the decisions I made within our team- sometimes they made it personal, sometimes they just strongly disagreed with philosophy, but I always did my best to never let it affect how I shared my message and how I loved and coached their kid. It wasn’t always easy, but I always tried to stay true to myself and give people the love and respect they deserved regardless if someone disagreed or agreed with what I was doing.

Surround yourself with great people. We hear it all the time- but it’s absolutely true. I was incredibly fortunate to have directors, fellow coaches, and friends whom I could trust. Having a strong support system can keep belief when there is doubt and hold people together in times of uncertainty. Being surrounded by great people also makes us stronger- we benefit by having their strengths and abilities to add to or supplement what we’re already doing! Whether it’s an idea, a nod of approval, or something they’re seeing that we’re not, being surrounded by great people will always elevate us as individuals in any endeavor in our lives.

Confidence fluctuates. That makes us human. There were times I went into a game with a bad feeling, there were other times I was just really nervous about a particular game. I used to get the same feelings as a player. THIS IS NORMAL. I used to think that there was something wrong with me if I didn’t feel confident all the time. Social media always tells us that, “Preparation leads to confidence.” So I’ve always taken that as “if I feel nervous, I’m obviously not prepared”, but I’ve learned that’s not the truth. We are all human beings and we all naturally go through ebbs and flows with how confident we feel in the moment. Sometimes we are going to be nervous and uptight no matter how much we prepare or how hard we’ve worked. I can remember my first ever speaking engagement to 200 corporate executives who flew in for a conference from across the country. I prepared for months. I gave the speech to a wall over well over 100 times. When the day came to give the speech- I was as nervous as you could possibly imagine. I played out everything that could go wrong, my palms were sweaty, heart was racing, and my arms were shaking grabbing the microphone- what did I do to combat this? Absolutely nothing. I just went on stage and started the speech and by the time I was two minutes in- the nerves were gone and I felt a wave of extreme confidence. No matter how much you prepare, your confidence will fluctuate- that’s completely normal. The solution isn’t to lie to yourself or fight that emotion- the solution is do nothing. Just keep going. Stay in the game. Those nerves will be gone before you know it!

Building great relationships gives you room to make mistakes as a leader. I messed up a lot as a coach and I probably will mess up more times in the future. Like players and officials, coaches are imperfect too. You hope that you make all the right decisions and press all the right buttons- but the truth is often times you don’t. When you have built relationships and when your players know you care and love them unconditionally, it comes back to you as a coach. When you’re off as a coach or when you don’t have your best performance, your players will still trust you and do their best for you, which is one of the strongest testaments to a coach. It all starts with the relationships you foster with your players. When you treat your players with love and respect and care for them as people, not just players, they know, and trust me- they will do just about anything in return to show that they love you right back- even on your worst days.

Mastering self-awareness. How well do we know ourselves? What are the driving forces behind our actions? In order to improve at anything in our lives, it’s important to unbiasedly observe and be completely transparent with ourselves. The more we are aware of our own tendencies, actions, and motivations (good & bad), the more likely we are to respond intentionally and conscientiously to an event or circumstance.

Emotional Intelligence. How well do we understand the people around us? As a coach, parent, teacher, manager, or anyone in a leadership position, self-awareness coupled with emotional intelligence is crucial. Different situations and different people call for different tactics. For me, I always try to have a handle on my players when they walk into practice. Are they upbeat and talkative? What does their body language look like? Are they going to need a “kick in the butt” type of a message or a little extra love and support that day? When we are in touch with and can relate to those in which we lead, we are more likely to deliver beneficial instruction and feedback.

Be patiently impatient. I heard this the other day listening to a podcast and really liked it. It’s another way of saying “trust the process”, but it means that while we trust that the end result will work out the way it’s supposed to- each and every day we are still immersing ourselves in the actions it takes to reach our desired destination. I’m a big believer that things play out the way they are supposed to- but too many times it’s taken as “just be patient and everything will work out”- that’s only true to a point. While we’re waiting and being patient, we better be controlling the things we can or we will just be waiting on a dream or a goal that will never come to fruition.

Enjoy the ride. Such a cliche’ statement, but couldn’t be more true. I feel badly for parents who are constantly caught up in social media, comparing their kid to other kids, questioning every decision a coach makes, or feeling the need to lecture their kid after EVERY game on what he or she did wrong. Not only does it make the parents’ life miserable and stressful, it adds a ton of external pressure to their kid. As hard as it may be, let kids have joy in playing the game and competing. If they really love it- they’ll put extra work into it. When they really have a problem (not just being a little upset after a bad game)- they will come to you. Until then, support your kid, find joy in watching them play, and cheer for their teammates’ success just as much as your own kid. Enjoy the ride, because it will be over before you know it.

Thank you for reading!

Thoughts to Ponder

I read to think, reflect, and learn. Many times after doing some reading, I will write down reflections or thoughts that I got from reading or that I’ve had throughout a day. I decided to share a few this morning in hopes that it will spark reflection or thought within you as well:

-Who is in your circle? Who are people that you can meet with or talk to on a regular basis with knowledge & whom you also trust to give you open, candid feedback? Sometimes we as individuals can be blinded by our own processes & egos. Do we have people in our lives whom we trust to give open, honest feedback? Do we tap into them as resources?

-It’s not to say that we have have to implement every suggestion we receive, but surrounding ourselves with people who inspire introspection is positive for self-growth.

-What are barriers to honest conversation?

Ego: Taking things as a personal attack, as opposed to a constructive critique to help us improve.

Status/Rank: Being “too low on the hierarchy” to offer a new thought or idea.

Fear: Fear of being shot down or looked at as stupid/ incompetent.

-Do we as leaders create environments that allow people, regardless of rank, status, or role to ask questions & offer ideas? Can we put away our ego while receiving feedback?

-Lead from the inside-out. Tap into your own power & passion first, then let the light shine through those in which you have the privilege to lead. Your example is more powerful than your words.

-Competition is a privilege. We shouldn’t take the opportunity for granted. Whatever level of competition it is, we should always embrace the opportunity to compete.

-Find joy in competing. There’s always opportunity to learn more about yourself, others, and in general, about life, through competition.

Our Personal Phone Battery

Think about your daily life as the battery of a cell phone.

Ideally, when we plug our phone in overnight, we will wake up to it being 100% charged. For us as people, each night, we hopefully get enough quality rest to reset our body to 100% or at least close to 100% the next morning. On some occasions, maybe we don’t get a full charge, which causes us to start the day at less than 100%. It’s important to “grind” and work, but it’s also important to re-charge our batteries as well. When we consistently start our days at a percentage much less than 100, we limit how effective we can be with our daily activities.

Reflection Question: Are you getting a full charge on most evenings?

Continuing along with the same analogy, throughout the day, when we use our phone, the battery’s charge goes down based on how much we use it. A question I like to ask myself is how much of my personal battery am I using each day? On a standard day, I want my head to hit the pillow each night knowing that I need a re-charge. That I’ve exhausted my energy, or my battery, towards activity that made my day as productive and as great as it possibly could have been. I don’t, however, want my battery to die in a day because I ran around aimlessly and took poor care of myself through negative habits- that’s an important distinction to be made.

Reflection Question: Are you using your full battery life on most days? What activities are using up your battery? Are they activities that enhance your life/ make you better or make you happy?

Another though to consider are ways we can maintain our battery life throughout the day. It might be things such as eating right, exercising, or reading something that gives us extra motivation or a thought to ponder. Sometimes, it might mean that we take 3-5 minutes to stop all activity and concentrate on our breathing. Whatever it is, it’s important that we not only strive to use our entire battery life productively, but also to engage in activity that prolongs our battery in a day and over an extended period of time.

Reflection Question: What are some simple ways that you can prolong your battery life in a day?

Overall, I believe that each day we should strive to exhaust our battery through activities that make us better or make us happy. Throughout the day, it’s important to remain conscious of engaging in activity that increases the efficiency and effectiveness of our battery to hold a stronger charge. Then, lastly, when it’s time to hit our head on the pillow at night to re-charge, we get as close as we can to 100% the next morning!

Leading by Principle

Danny Ainge, the President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, was asked about what makes Brad Stevens successful as a coach:

“It’s not like he has some secret formula,” Ainge said. “He’s a really hard worker, he’s a really smart guy, and he has great integrity. He has great communication skills and has a calming influence in a tense world. I’ve grown to appreciate that demeanor. He holds players accountable in a calm and consistent fashion. He looks at the positives–the things players can do and doesn’t focus, dwell and whine about the things players can’t do. He tries to put them in a position where they can succeed.”

Pretty simple, right?

Come in and do the work each day.

Tell the truth- be honest with people.

Consistently hold the people on your team to high standards in a respectful manner.

Seek the good, find the good.

Focus on solutions- as opposed to mindless complaints.

None of the things listed above aren’t things you and I don’t know about. As a leader, however, you must ask yourself if you live by your guiding principles each and every day? Are you consistent regardless of what a day brings? Do your actions align with the expectations you have set out for everyone else?

As Ainge pointed out, there aren’t any gimmicks or tricks to Stevens’ approach. Players love playing for Brad Stevens, and at the time I’m writing this article, the Boston Celtics are tied for first place in the NBA Eastern Conference. In my time learning about Coach Stevens, the consistency of his daily principles such as self-discipline, authenticity, high standards, and optimism regardless of circumstances has made the newfound Celtics success anything but an accident!

The Art of Leading

Would you agree that it’s important to possess humility as a leader? Would you also agree that it’s equally important to possess confidence?

Most of us probably would.

I think we’d also agree that it’s important to inspire while still making important corrections, to assist and guide in decision-making while creating an empowering environment, to possess enthusiasm without being overwhelming, to act courageously without being reckless, to have long-term vision in conjunction with day to day processes. The list could go on and on.

The point?

Leadership is an art as opposed to a science. I’m writing this because if you’re like me, sometimes you catch yourself searching for an exact answer, sometimes you’re searching for the “one-size fits all” solution to coaching, parenting, and leading. There isn’t one. Leadership doesn’t have an exact shape or form, it is a constant adaptability to the teams and people in which you lead. It’s the art of knowing and understanding what each situation calls for while remaining true to your core principles.

Sometimes you have to take a step back and listen, other times you have to trust in what you know and believe in.

Sometimes you have to be critical, correct, and push the individuals in which you lead, other times you will have to put your arm around them and show them you love them.

At times you must continue to be a model of the actions you want to see, other times a conversation, meeting, or discussion may have to take place.

The bottom line is this: every good leader likely values principles such as confidence, humility, empowerment, accountability, love, respect, critique, discipline, and modeling. The best leaders, however, have a deep understanding of how each principle intermixes with another. And the beauty of it all is that there isn’t a formula for it, only an art.