During the Super Bowl, Tom Brady was getting crushed on Twitter. People everywhere commented on him being overrated and questioned his legacy in NFL history. After the game, many of those same people coined him as the greatest quarterback to ever play. The same thing happens all the time in coaching, business, leadership, and many other facets of our life.
One moment they’ll love you, another moment they won’t. Sometimes they’ll praise you, other times they’ll criticize you.
Critics, complaints, and negativity can be found everywhere. The best aren’t guided by their critics or consumed by outside negativity. Instead, they focus on putting forth their best each day and trust the process to play out as it should. They’re too busy creating their future and honing their craft to be inflated by praise or deflated by the criticism of others.
A man by the name of Roger Bannister is said to be the first person to ever eclipse the 4:00 minute mile mark. Before Bannister broke the mark, many believed that the feat was physically impossible. Competitors in the mile run had put up a psychological block on what they believed was truly possible; a sub-four minute mile was something that no one would ever do. After Bannister set the new record in 1954, his time was quickly beat by another runner. The record continued to lower and today a sub-four minute mile is considered a good time, but top runners routinely complete the mile run in under four minutes.
Chances are you have put similar barriers in your life. We all do; we put up walls that stop us from being the absolute best we can possibly be or accomplishing something that we’ve always wanted. We spend so much time searching for and finding every reason and excuse as to why we can’t do something. We tell ourselves something is too hard or we aren’t “gifted enough” or how we don’t have the resources necessary. All of this leads us to self-imposed walls that block us from what we are capable of. Get of your own way. Stop finding every excuse and reason as to why you can’t and start creating reasons you can.
There have been a few times after speaking engagements where a person will come up to me and say, “You’re so naturally talented, I could never do that.” Or I’ll hear “you have such a talent.” Other times I’ve heard, “I was never a good writer, I could never write a book.” I’m grateful and honored for those words because I know people’s intention is to be kind and complimentary so I simply respond with, “Thank you”, but I will tell you this- I’m no where near a “natural” speaker or writer.
Every speech I ever did in high school I read directly off a Powerpoint or a notecard- I didn’t care if that meant I would get a “B” on the presentation, I hated speaking in front of my peers. The first ever corporate speaking engagement I did I was minutes away from backing out of it. I had an email drafted to tell them that they should find someone else. The first 100 times I practiced that presentation- it was terrible. I stumbled over words, couldn’t connect thoughts, and would stop mid-presentation and get angry with it. When writing my first book, I likely wrote enough content to publish ten books. I have since probably wrote another five while writing my second book.
What often looks like talent, natural ability, or a gift to many was likely preceded by fear, doubt, and insecurity. It was preceded by many late nights and early mornings. I’m not here to tell you talent isn’t real to an extent, it is. Some people do possess attributes that give them more opportunity or potential to excel in certain lines of work, professions, or activities. Talent and natural ability only get you so far, however, before hard work, sacrifice, and persistence begin to truly take over and carry you toward your biggest aspirations!
“Don’t try to be interesting, be interested.” -Rich Sheubrooks
I think this is such a strong, powerful phrase to think about. How many times in the middle of a conversation are we immediately thinking about what we are going to say next? Are we listening so that we can form a response or are we listening to learn about the other person- to truly be engaged with what they are saying? There are people who have the ability to deeply connect with other individuals- make them feel important and special- many of them are some of the best leaders, parents, coaches, and teachers I know.
Ask someone about who they are today or what they have going on, and when you do it, don’t wait for your turn to respond- just listen- be INTERESTED, don’t try to be INTERESTING!
Each day is an opportunity for continued growth. I try to reflect on where I am at and where I would like to go in some capacity on a daily basis. In some way, shape, or form, I find myself coming back to a few things. In all honesty, I wrote this for myself, but thought I would share with you in case there was something that you find value in.
#1: Find Inner-Strength
Trust there is a plan for your life and there is always opportunity for perspective. Believe that you are capable and powerful beyond measure. It doesn’t matter where you find inner-strength, but everyone needs faith and we all have it within us. Take time to tap into your inner-strength by listening to your thoughts and connecting with the thought patterns that you want to grow and cultivate into your life. Reinforce them daily.
#2: Do the Work
Wake up each morning willing to invest the time to do the work. Nothing worthwhile comes without doing.
A lot of people wish, pray, and hope but don’t do the work. They rely on only on a vision without ever doing the things necessary to achieve or overcome. Others rely solely on committing to the labor each day, but don’t take the time to tap into their inner-self. The key is do both.
Encourage, care for, or give a small piece of yourself to someone else without expecting anything in return. If people would like to serve you in return, accept it, but never expect it. Serve others and allow others to serve you.
I came up with the title of my book, Leave Better Than Found, one afternoon when I was thinking about valuable lessons I learned in my childhood. One distinct lesson I remembered was to always pick up after myself; to leave the place better than I found it. I was recently listening to a podcast with Jay Bilas, an ESPN basketball analyst. Bilas was discussing his basketball camp that he runs each year for high school players. The message he relayed to them before the camp was to make sure to clean up after yourself- to not leave a mess for the custodians to clean up at the day’s end. If there is an empty bottle on the ground, don’t walk past it- pick it up and throw it in the trash. At the end of the camp, he addressed the players again, and he used the same message but in broader terms: never make a mess for someone else to clean up, leave every place you go better than when you found it. It’s a simple motto, but a profound one, which is why it’s the title of my book. Leave people and places better than when you found them. Don’t make a mess that someone else has to clean up!
My mom sent me a text message about a month ago that kind of hit me when some of the recent, unfortunate events were taking place in our country.
She said something along the lines of, “What if we all just lived by the rules we learned in Kindergarten?”
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Stick together, work together.
The principles are really simple, but as we continue to get older I think they are slowly forgotten. It’s not about Democrat, Republican, black or white. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in anger, hate, and seeing the world from only your lens. Doing so isn’t helping you or anyone else around you. It’s creating division and driving our incredible country further and further apart. I don’t think we have to agree on every issue, but I do know this: love, respect, and empathy is the only way to come together. Maybe I’m crazy, I don’t know, but I do believe it’s possible for people with all different backgrounds and viewpoints to unite in a respectful manner to make the world a better place- and we may have learned about how to do it way early than we ever imagined.
I had the opportunity to give a talk on a couple of different topics last evening in a small, intimate venue. The first topic centered around my book and the messages within it. The second was centered around the culture of youth sports. Parents asked GREAT questions and brought up great points. I came away thinking that we absolutely need to have more open discussions about these topics that involve the athletes, parents, and coaches. The more understanding there is, the better it is for everyone involved.
One of the ideas that I really tried to get across was letting go of the win at all costs mentality. I think some people initially took it as that we should hand out participation trophies, pat every kid on the back, and give everyone equal playing time- which I am not promoting. What I am promoting is that we give the games back to the kids. That we stop taking away their excitement, passion, and love for sport by turning it into a quest for scholarships and championships that validate the adults involved. There is absolutely accountability from coaches and parents toward the kids, but equally, there is patience, empathy, and understanding that they are still kids. They’re maturing just like all of us were at one point. We encourage them to give maximum effort, be great teammates, and have a great attitude- to pursue their best each day. More often times than not when these standards are upheld, the results are what they should be, and they take care of themselves.
The last point I want to make and one that I talked with a fellow coach about after the presentation is this- development comes at all different ages. The coach I talked with told me that things didn’t really click with him until he was a sophomore in high school- he went on to play collegiate athletics. Things didn’t click with me until I got cut from an AAU team when I was in 8th grade. It wasn’t because I was yelled at every day to work harder or because my parents signed me up for eight hours of structured activity each day after that. The shift happened because the people around me never forced me to do anything. I was allowed to experience and carve my own path. They were patient, encouraged, and supported. Coaches and parents can help guide passion- but no one can instill it into another person. Passion is innate. When we create environments where athletes understand accountability, but they also feel a sense of freedom, it brings out the best in everyone. They then have the opportunity to learn all the valuable lessons that sport teaches, perform at their highest level, and have a ton of fun doing it!
In every single one of us is the ability to love, serve, and care for others. Simple things such as lending an ear or a hand to someone in need, sharing gratitude with others, or donating time to help people less fortunate or privileged are simple acts that don’t require any skill or money. A while back I was reading and ran across the 12th and final step of Alcoholics Anonymous; I found it to be extremely powerful. The last step in their program is to become a mentor. Why? Because in order to be completely cured of the disease; in order to become the best version of yourself, you have to help someone else become the best version of their self. When we genuinely love, serve, and care for others, we not only make them better, but in the process we make ourselves better, and ultimately the world a better place. We may not change the world in its entirety, but we each have the ability to change our own world, and positively impact the lives of those in it. Have an impactful day today!