Get Out Of The Way

In working with many athletes over the years, I often hear them say the phrases “I just need to get out of my own way,” or “I can’t get out of my own way.” In this moment, they are acknowledging the reality that their current choice of thoughts is preventing them from performing at the level that they know they can perform. They are essentially getting in the way of unleashing their potential, and it all begins in their mind.

Pessimism Street Sign

I often use the following axiom with the athletes I coach:

Every Action Begins With A Thought

When you stand over a golf shot, you are thinking about where you want to hit the ball. When you are on the mound, you are thinking about pitching the baseball into the catcher’s target. When you are at the free throw line, you are thinking about bending your knees and following through on the shot. At least, this is what you should be thinking about in order to put your mind in a position to have success.

It all begins in the mind, and the words you choose to feed yourself affect your performance. If you are thinking negative thoughts or words that are fearful, you significantly minimize your chance to be successful. You are in essence “getting in the way” of unleashing your talent! If, however, you focus on positive thoughts and words that lead you to belief and trust, you put yourself in the best position to perform at your best.

It sometimes takes a careful evaluation and rewiring of our vocabulary and the words we use in order to develop the best words and, ultimately, thoughts to focus on. For example, I have had some athletes meet with me the day before a game or competition and say the following: “Tomorrow, I just want to worry about hitting my shots.“ Now, I understand what they are saying, but in that moment, they are using the negative word of worry.

Instead, the best approach is to use the right words and rewire your thoughts about the game. A better phrase in this instance is: “Tomorrow, I want to focus on being athletic and playing with energy and effort.” This phrase changes the key word to focus and centers around process-oriented things that you can control vs. outcome-oriented things that can be influenced but not controlled.

frustrated young business man

These sports performance concepts also apply to other areas of life. Consider the following questions:

  • As a business leader, do I sometimes let negative thoughts or doubt affect my actions?
  • Do I hinder myself from truly maximizing my potential and achieving my goals based on a limited view of my talent and strengths?
  • Do I let doubt affect my ability to trust the people I lead and influence with more responsibility?
  • Do I try to control outcomes instead of focusing on process-oriented things that I can control and influence?
  • What negative words do I need to throw out of my head and replace with positive ones that can put me in a position to have success and the correct focus?
  • Do I begin each day with a possibility and growth mindset, or do I limit the trajectory of my day and week due to a pessimistic and stagnant point of view?

They key is not to get out of the way, but to show up and be present with a mindset that is determined, not debilitating. You must realize that your thoughts affect your actions. The reality is that you do have a choice regarding your thoughts, which can have a positive effect on your performance in sports, business, and life. Moreover, your choice to speak from a positive mindset and vocabulary will in turn help others maximize their potential and opportunities as well. Choose today to live from a place of possibility and growth!

 

This blog post was adapted from my upcoming sports performance workbook, Be Present: Showing Up When It Matters Most, which will be available this summer.

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What Happens When You Focus on Goliath

The real life story of David vs. Goliath in the Bible has been told many times! In fact, it is often used as a metaphor for sports, business, and life when a team or company faces a giant and takes him down. Coaches and leaders frequently use a “David vs. Goliath” reference to motivate the team or organization to conquer the odds, win the impossible championship, or suddenly emerge as a new entrant into a mature market.

Small and giant businessmen

While we are inspired by David and his faith, it is easy to get discouraged and disillusioned by the “giants” in our own lives. I have seen this as an athlete and coach when players or a team worries more about the size of their opponent than their own talents, opportunities, and resources. I have often seen it in the faces of people who are not just battling some opponent on the field but a fierce and unforgiving giant in their lives. When we focus and worry about the Goliaths in our lives, we forget and forsake the keys to persevering in those moments. Specifically, here are some pitfalls that occur when you focus on the giant:

  • You magnify the size of the giant – If we are facing a giant in our lives, it is already big by the definition of the word giant. We don’t need to increase the size of our giant by constantly thinking and worrying about it. As I tell the athletes that I coach: What you choose to focus on magnifies in size. If you choose to focus on the giant, he will get bigger. If you choose to focus on your goal and target and the process to get there, your goal will get bigger, clearer, and more possible.
  • You do unnatural things and forget what you do best – When you are facing a giant, you tend to do things that you have never done before. I once saw this with one of the basketball teams that I coached. We were facing some giants – literally – on the court, and we began to shoot long quick shots and try to play one-on-five basketball, which was not our natural tendency as a team. We got away from what made us successful all because we were facing a giant – or a whole team of giants! It is easy to go solo when the giant appears, because we fear that we have to face it alone. Just like David, we must remember the things that got us here and rely on those things to get us through this moment. David refused the armor that was offered to him, because he knew that it was his skills as a shepherd and his faith that were going to sustain him in facing Goliath.
  • You worry about the other team’s strengths – When you focus on the giant in front of you, you tend to worry about all of the qualities and strengths of the giant before you. You become defeated before you even take the “field,” because the giant seems menacing and insurmountable. Making a detailed list of all of the strengths of your giant and articulating all of the reasons why you will never get through it are not helpful habits.
  • You don’t trust yourself or your teammates – As a leader, trust is essential to competing in sports, completing a successful project or product launch in business, and/or building and growing a great family. Giants can step in and overshadow your ability to trust what you know to be true about yourself and others affecting your ability to perform well in important moments. Fear and trust cannot coexist, and one usually dominates the other based on which one we feed. In order to be fearless, we need to fear less and trust more.
  • You don’t play to your strengths – Giants try to kill, steal, and destroy the things that make you successful and impactful with your life. By nature, a giant is destructive, not subtle. A giant has one mission and that is to tear apart things and people. When you are facing a giant in any arena of life, you have to play to your strengths, not the giant’s strengths. For me, it always begins with my faith and the people I have in my life to remind me of this. My faith in Jesus is my strength and the foundation of my life. Jesus is the one person I can count on whenever I am facing a giant in my life, and I have already faced several in my life so far that He has helped me conquer. Realizing that He is my strength and leveraging systems and processes and character traits that ground me in this truth are the way I play to my strengths.
  • You allow probability thinking to overshadow possibility thinking – The probability of you conquering a giant is not always good unless you are a giant yourself. The mere mention of a giant means that the person, thing, or problem that you are facing is bigger probability-wise than you. If you focus on the math, it doesn’t compute to success, a win, or a breakthrough moment. The probability of success in this moment far surpasses the possibility of surviving it. Yet, it is possibility thinking that defines truly resilient people. In all of the research and work we have done in helping and coaching leaders and elite athletes to maximize their potential and accomplish their goals, we have found that resilient people get into possibility thinking really quickly when they face a problem of gigantic proportions. They are realistic about the giant, but they don’t remain rattled by it. They move on past the problem in front of them and seek and discover what’s possible in solving this very formidable problem. And, sometimes, it is not even about conquering the giant but more about how they can grow from the experience.

Problems, foes, adversaries, strongholds, and giants are all a part of life. You will see them and ultimately face them sometime in your life. Whether you have faced a giant in your past or are currently facing one in this present moment, I want to encourage you to learn from the story of David. He did not focus on Goliath and avoided the pitfalls mentioned above. By focusing on his faith, his strengths, and the size of God and His power, he conquered his Goliath, and you can too. Choose today to focus on the things that will help you prevail against your giant!

Related to the topic of this blog post, I wanted to make you aware of a book by my friend Louie Giglio entitled Goliath Must Fall. Louie has been a spiritual mentor to me since my days in college, and he is an incredible Pastor and communicator who has inspired many people including college students all over the world. In his new book, he authentically shares his testimony of facing a season that seemed insurmountable and what he learned about how you can truly conquer the giants of Goliath proportion in your life. While you can find a link in our Resources area on my web site to buy the book, I am also giving away 3 free copies of his book. Enter Our Giveaway before the deadline of Monday, May 22nd for a chance to win one of these free copies.

 

The Source of Your Identity with Kyle Van Hoozer – Podcast: S01E006

Today’s podcast is a follow-up to last week’s episode where I talked about 3 X-Factors to success in sports, business, and life and introduced you to 2 math equations that can help or hinder your performance based on which one you follow. I explore these equations more in this episode and discuss how connecting your identity directly to your performance or title can severely hinder your ability to perform at your best, especially when you have a bad performance or when that title, sport, or opportunity changes or is taken away.

You will also hear from a very special person that I have known all of his life – my son Kyle Van Hoozer. Kyle shared a message on Youth Sunday at Second Baptist Church that I think will resonate with you that relates to this topic of identity and how pride can get in the way of discovering the real source of strength in your life. You can listen to the audio of his message on the podcast or watch the video on this blog post.

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3 X-Factors For Success In Sports, Business, and Life

In today’s podcast, I share 3 X-Factors that you can use to have success and impact in sports, business, and life. I have taught these principles in my “Mastering the Mental Game of Golf” workshop and have used them in coaching thousands of athletes across all sports as well as coaching entrepreneurs and business leaders. These principles can be applied to any area of life and can help you become more resilient, maximize your potential, and accomplish your goals.

Episode Outline:

  • 4 Dimensions of Peak Performance:
    • Technical
    • Mental
    • Nutritional
    • Physical
  • Use creative tension to be resilient and push through resistance to accomplish your goals.
  • “Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.” Dean Karnazes, ultra-marathoner
  • Many people operate from this math equation that can hinder your performance:
    • Identity = Performance + Opinion of Others
  • They should be operating from this equation which can boost your performance:
    • Performance = Potential/Talent – Distraction
  • 3 X-Factors For Success in Sports, Business, and Life:
    • Focus
    • I Will Mindset
    • Recovery Time©
  • “What you choose to focus on magnifies in size.” – Mike Van Hoozer
  • Key Questions About Focus:
    • What thoughts are you thinking about?
    • Do you carry bad plays or bad performances in the past with you into the present moment
    • Are you using negative words without even realizing the effect it is having on your performance?
    • Do you focus on the obstacle and the challenge or the target and the goal
  • Volition – Your will or desire to do something; determination
  • “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” – Nido Qubein
  • 9 Additional Tips For Consistently Achieving Excellence In Every Area of Life:
    • Know Why You Do What You Do
    • Practice With a Purpose
    • Use a Consistent Pre-Shot Routine Utilizing SFT
    • Use Activating/Trigger Phrases in Your Pre-Shot Routine
    • Focus on the Target (vs. Avoiding the Hazard)
    • Play Shot to Shot – Perform in the Moment©
    • Focus 12 seconds at a Time
    • Be Outcome-Driven and Process-Focused
    • Play the Round and Let the Round Play Out

Additional Resources:

  • Catherine Kruppa – Peak Performance Colleague and licensed dietitian, nutritionist, and wellness coach
  • Ben Fairchild – Peak Sports Performance Colleague and trainer for elite high school, college, and professional athletes
  • Jim Guillory – Peak Performance Colleague and muscle activation technique (MAT) specialist

 

Don’t Allow Perception To Dictate Your Reality

We sometimes perceive things that are not really true. This occurs when we attach additional meaning to something that is said or done that is not based on fact. There are some examples where perception can be a good thing like offering a word of encouragement to someone that we perceive is feeling down or avoiding a dangerous situation because we perceive it might cause us harm. Yet, there are times when perception leads us to assume the wrong things about someone’s motives or actions and keep us from thinking the best about a person or situation.

I can do it card

We have to be careful to separate perception from reality and think critically every time we experience a perception, discerning whether it is true and real or not. I see the ill effects of perceptions in my work with elite athletes where they let their perceptions guide actions and even worse, dictate their outcomes. This happens when they allow a wrong or misinformed perception to develop into a misguided perspective leading to an unfortunate reality.

I remember I was working with a high school golfer who was debriefing a recent round with me. This very good golfer told me that he hit a shot off the tee into the woods and then tried to aggressively get out of the woods with his next shot only to have it hit the trees leading to a double bogey on the hole. He then proceeded to tell me that his round was over and was all downhill from there. When I asked him what hole this occurred on, he informed me that it was the 2nd hole.

In this moment, he allowed a real situation – not scoring his best on a hole – to become a perception that his round was over and that he would never catch up to the other players in the round, therefore leading to more bad shots and holes. His misguided perception led to a misinformed perspective which spiraled down into an unfortunate round of golf, which could have been avoided by questioning his initial perception in the moment.

we are what we believe sign

I have also seen this occur in other areas of life including work, home, and communities. We often receive what we perceive as “truth” instead of dealing in facts and reality. When we allow a bad perception to become a truth or reality in our lives, it limits us from maximizing our potential and achieving our goals. We box ourselves into a false mindset which leads to tentative or passive behaviors that result in outcomes that are less than optimal and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Breaking the cycle of a bad perception or perspective is essential to having a growth mindset and becoming who you were meant to be. But, how do you do that? Here are several things that you can do to create breakthrough moments and avoid allowing a misguided mindset to dictate your reality:

  • Question the Perception – Any time you have a perception about a person or a situation, question it first by asking: Is my perception about this really true? Discern fact from fiction or your perceived meaning that you may be adding to the situation. While the gift of discernment can be a very good thing almost like Spiderman’s “Spidy Sense,” I think it is always good to analyze the facts and question whether they are real or not and what conclusion they lead you to.
  • Discern the Truth – Once you have questioned the perception, it is important to discover and discern the truth about a given situation or person. Are your teammates really mad at you and consider you a failure about not coming through in the clutch, or are they just upset that the team did not win knowing you gave your best? Maybe, your kids and co-workers are really listening to every bit of wisdom you are sharing with them! One of the best ways to discern the truth is beginning with a mindset that believes the best about people. This starting point allows you to more accurately seek the truth in every situation and avoid misleading assumptions.
  • Break the Cycle – Break the cycle of buying in to bad perceptions by replacing the perception with statements of truth about you, your strengths, your past accomplishments, and the opportunities that are in front of you.
  • Develop a Growth Mindset – Replace your problematic mindset with a possibility mindset. Think in terms of what’s possible, not your perception about what is not. Developing a growth mindset is a process and depends on your determination to unlearn bad habits and negative thoughts, and replace them with new thoughts that lead to growth and grit.

Don’t allow perceptions to limit your possibilities. Unleash your potential in all areas of your life, and create a reality that you can be proud of and that makes a positive difference within your sphere of influence!

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Be The Change

I am going to make a difference today!  You can too!  And I’m not talking about some pie in the sky “Change the World” mantra that most people forsake out of frustration, because it is impossible for somebody to change the behaviors of six-plus billion people that live in this world.  You can’t change the world, but you can change your world – your sphere of influence.

Be The Change Picture

What if each of us asked this question every day:

How can I make a difference?

So many people just go through the motions tackling the tasks of the day without ever wondering how they can make a difference.  Sometimes, they consider a question like, “Am I making a difference?” but the question, and its potentially disappointing answer, quickly disappear as the urgency of the day engulfs their potential for productive self-reflection.

The truth is that you can make a positive difference and impact within your sphere of influence regardless of your title, position, or role. It’s a choice that requires a different mindset.  It is not hard, but you have to proactively consider 3 things:

  • Your Talent– You have been uniquely created with gifts and talents that were meant to be shared with people in your story. Do you know and recognize the gifts, talents, and strengths that you have been given, and are you embracing and leveraging them to make a positive difference every day?
  • Your Time – We all have the same number of hours in a day.  High capacity people are able to maintain focus of their top priorities and maximize their impact.  You can be effective and maximize your moments if you choose to. Who are the people that you need to invest in, and what are the things that you must do based on your roles and priorities in every area of your life?
  • Your Sphere of Influence – Every person who is in your story is there for a reason.  They are beckoning for your influence and impact in their lives. You must understand their needs and goals in order to help and serve them in the right way. Also, as a leader, you must be able to discern their motivators – what are they passionate about – and their activators – what will move them to action – in order to influence and impact them in the right way. Who is in your sphere of influence that could benefit from your positive impact in their life? Likewise, who is in your sphere of influence that can help you learn and grow?

Making a difference is not a one-time thing; it is a one-life moment! At the end of your life, will they say:

You made a difference!

Kobe Doing Work

Around midnight, he was still in the gym.  For an hour and a half after the game, he took shot after shot after shot.  This was not some student trying to practice harder on his home court to maybe make the varsity squad.  This was someone who a month prior had won the MVP award of the NBA All-Star game and will go down as one of the best players of all time.  This was Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Doing Work

Who does that kind of thing?  I realize that he missed a shot late in the game earlier in the night that could have helped the Lakers win, but no one stays late in the opponent’s arena after a loss on the road and continues to practice.  At best, the ones who care usually get on the flight to the next arena and act on what they could have done differently to achieve a different outcome.  Others just go on to the next game never learning and growing in the process.

I have always admired Kobe Bryant’s work ethic, his will to win, and the 5 NBA championships that have resulted from his fierceness.  But, this event made me think even harder about how we can apply this kind of dedication, preparation, and perseverance in our own lives in any role that we play.  Consider the following questions and how they might apply to your life:

  • Do you give up too early when things get hard? – When things become difficult in a relationship or on a project at work, do you check out, give up, and walk out? Or do you show resilience and grit to persevere through the difficult moments?
  • Do you want the ball in your hands when the game is on the line? – As a parent, are you investing in the lives of your children and preparing them for the next stage of life?  As a leader, are you using your platform and sphere of influence to mentor others?  As an athlete, are you embracing pressure and focusing on the opportunity to perform at your best?
  • Do you give up on your teammates? – Do you write off people when they let you down, or do you extend grace and mercy knowing that you are not perfect either? Do you look for opportunities to make people better?
  • Do you go the extra mile to become the very best? – Are you doing everything you can to become the best you can become?
  • Do you have a commitment to lifelong learning and growth? – No matter how talented or successful you are, are you constantly striving to grow, learn, and get better even when you feel you have “mastered” your craft?
  • Do you focus on the little things? – Are there times in your life when you go through the motions, or do you place a priority on doing the little things that matter on a consistent basis?

I believe that true champions wholeheartedly commit to preparation, effort, and hard work. They “sweat the details” of the things that they need to do to maximize their potential and achieve their goals in sports, business, and life. John Wooden, one of the greatest coaches to ever live, said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

In other words, it has little to do with others and has everything to do with you!  Commit to doing the work necessary to achieve the results you want!

Living A Life of Humility

A theme can bring energy and passion to your annual goals.  A theme also provides a summary that encapsulates everything that you are going to do and be about in a particular year or for your whole life. A few years ago, I used the theme of “Be Humble and Hungry” as my theme for the year. I also often text this to the people I coach in sports, business, and life.

As a competitor, it is often a fine line to walk between being humble versus being self-confident bordering on arrogance. Your competitiveness and drive give you your edge to succeed, but you don’t want that to tip to arrogance and pride where falls and paths to destruction often occur. As a leader, you need to command the respect of your people and that is often seen as competence and mastery, but you don’t want to come across as a “know-it-all” and someone who is not open to ideas and input from others.

Humility Sign

Humility and vulnerability are words not often associated with the best competitors; yet, they are essential components of the character of champions. Specifically, there are 3 aspects of humility that champions embrace on their leadership journey and allow them to separate from the rest of the field:

  • The Definition of Humility – C. S. Lewis defined it this way: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”  In all my endeavors, I want to engage and fully utilize my God-given strengths, talents, and passions to maximize the opportunities within my sphere of influence.  I believe that is what fulfilling your purpose is all about.  As you consider your strengths, talents, gifts, passions, opportunities, and sphere of influence, I encourage and challenge you to fully embrace them in a way that makes a positive impact on others vs solely promoting yourself.
  • The Spirit of Humility – Humility also demands a spirit and attitude of gratefulness.  It means to accept opportunities with enthusiasm and be appreciative of all that God brings your way.  There are many things that have happened in my life that can only be explained through the power and presence of God in my life.  My faith provides the main foundation for my life and is the cornerstone for everything that I do.  I thank God for this moment called my life, and I want to make it count.  Having a spirit of gratefulness allows you to enjoy the journey. When you are grateful for what you have, you are more generous to offer what people need.
  • The Product of Humility – Finally, humility promotes and produces a pursuit of excellence in all that we do.  If you are appreciative of the moments in your life, you will do all that you can to excel and do your best knowing that not everyone receives an opportunity to do what you are uniquely gifted to do. You will lead more effectively serving the needs of others in the process. You will pursue your goals more passionately knowing that the outcome is worth the journey, and you will do it in a way that leads to impact in the lives of the people you lead and influence. In essence, the more humble and appreciative you are, the better you will embrace your role and carry out your responsibilities! That’s the way that I feel about my work and my life.

Humility is not cowering low; it is charging forth with the right attitude and actions toward a mountaintop of opportunities and moments to make a positive difference and accomplish meaningful work! Living a life of humility is all about serving the needs of the people who are in your story with the unique talents and opportunities that are in your journey.

If you want to develop more as a leader who humbly serves the needs of others, connects with people, develops other leaders, and makes a positive impact within their sphere of influence, check out our Invisible Hand of Leadership© Program.

 

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Yesterday Ended Last Night

John Maxwell tells a story about having a sign on his desk that reads: “Yesterday Ended Last Night.” He further explained that this sign reminded him to keep a proper perspective about the past and to engage in the brand new day that God had given him.

Person Facing a Sunrise

Yet, for some people, it is hard to let go of yesterday in order to embrace today. We can be tempted to hold on to the past – especially the great moments – or to be tortured by our failures and setbacks and think that these bad moments define our future. Here are some ways that I see people holding on to yesterday:

  • Lamenting the Past – Some people lament the past and hold on to regrets over what they should have said or done. A bad play, a bad game, or a bad day lead to a snowball of emotions that keep us anchored to a moment we can never change. While we are physically in the present moment, we stay chained to the past mentally and emotionally.
  • Living in the Past – Other people live in the past glory of great moments and continue to relive them over and over again. Maybe, you have a friend who continues to talk about the time he won the Little League championship game, made the game winning shot, or received the promotion at the best company he ever worked for and forsakes the future. These types of people can never get past this moment to realize the opportunity of today.
  • Limited by the Past – Some people are limited by their past. They feel that their past mistakes, setbacks, or performances have created a perceived ceiling on what they can accomplish both today and in the future. I see this with people in sports, business, and life who put limits on their potential based on how they performed in the past.

When we think about yesterday, we must learn from the past. A proper perspective can help us break through improper perceptions that are formed based on yesterday. Bad moments can haunt us and keep us from realizing the potential of today. We have to remember that just like the sign says, “Yesterday ended last night!” There is nothing we can do to change it. Whether it ended well or not so well, we must understand that today is the only day that we have to make our lives count for what matters most. And as John Wooden, the Hall of Fame UCLA basketball coach and mentor of men, said, “Make each day your masterpiece!” Engage in today and all that God wants you to experience!

7 Lessons I Learned From Playing Sports

I began playing sports at an early age. It began with soccer and distance running and then expanded into football, baseball, and basketball. I even played tennis for awhile. In high school and college, I focused primarily on cross country running and basketball, and I still compete in marathons today. I have always loved being an athlete, and I have always been appreciative of the lessons I learned from playing sports. These lessons have served me well in all aspects of my life including business and being involved in my community.

Basketball on floor of empty basketball court

I am a firm believer that sports serve as a great analogy for life. Here are 7 lessons that I learned from playing sports:

  1. To Become Better vs Bitter – Throughout my games, tournaments, and competitions, I had both major successes and disappointing setbacks. There were times when things did not go my way or in our team’s favor and also moments of frustration with outside forces like the competition or referees. Throughout all of those moments of highs and lows, the one thing that has been reinforced over time in my heart and mind is to not allow past events to make me bitter. I see so many people who allow bitterness to spring up like a root in the flower bed of their lives, and it eventually grows into a damaging disruptive force preventing them from becoming the best that they can be. They become anchored to the past and continue on a downward spiral and blame others for their losses and disappointments having an adverse effect on other people in the process. The Bible warns about this in Hebrews 12:15 to not let a “root of bitterness grow up to trouble you, corrupting many” in the process. Instead of bitterness, we must process the disappointment, learn what we can from it, and move on to grow and become better from the experience. It always comes back to what you can do to positively impact your sphere of influence. Focus on what you can control and become better, not bitter.
  2. To Play Every Possession Until The Final Horn – I have written about this in other blog entries, but this principle was instilled in me at an early age as I was usually the one who guarded the best player on the other basketball team. I did not focus on the size, speed, or any other characteristic of the person I was guarding or team we were playing. I only focused on myself and my energy and effort in the process and strived to influence and lead my teammates to do the same. Through experience, I learned to focus on what I could do to make a difference never giving up in the process. If someone was better than me on a certain day or a team beat our team, I wanted to walk away knowing I had given 100% on that day for the entire game or competition. I also learned that I played better when I performed with energy and effort. My high school basketball coach encouraged us and sometimes exhorted us to hustle and “to be quick but not in a hurry,” quoting the great John Wooden and Dean Smith. In working with and coaching athletes as well as business leaders and teams, I have found that when they don’t bring energy and effort to their roles or tasks, they tend to go through the motions allowing complacency and a “good enough” attitude to permeate their performance. It also leads to being tight and stiff versus loose and free, which is where every person needs to be to perform at his or her best.
  3. To Always Make A Contribution – I was fortunate to have some really great coaches in the sports that I played, and they always emphasized this point in some form or fashion. They reinforced the fact that there is always something I could do to make a positive difference and impact. It provided me the space to always find a way to contribute, even on nights where my shot was not falling. Everyone can hustle, play great defense, communicate effectively with teammates, give their best, and bring a great attitude to their team and competitions.
  4. To Take Responsibility And Not Blame Others – In all of the sports I have played and watched, I have never seen an official, referee, or competition judge make 100% of the calls correctly. This principle translates to other areas of life where we feel like someone has done something to affect us or we don’t like what they are doing. As a competitor in sports and in life, I have learned that it does not serve me well to lament the bad (or perceived bad) calls. I also don’t want to waste my emotional energy on using that to blame others in the process or complain about my predicament. As a competitor or coach, I would seek explanation (and sometimes justice) about a call that I did not like and then move on. I knew that it would have a draining effect on me and my team if I generated a spirit of blaming versus channeling our energy in the right direction, which was engaging in and doing well on the next play. I also learned to take responsibility for the things that I did in terms of owning my mistakes and playing with a competitive dignity and demeanor that represented myself, my family, and my coach and team well.
  5. To Move Forward From The Past – Tyler Perry survived a treacherous journey as a child to become an incredibly successful entertainer, actor, director, producer, author, entrepreneur, and positive and powerful influencer! I love what he says in talking about the moments in his life: “If you begin to realize every moment in your life happened for the greater good of who you are…it can really elevate you and change your whole trajectory.” You must remember that every moment in your life – both good and bad – makes you the person that you are. You have to leverage and learn from your moments in order to build momentum in your life. You cannot dwell on or live in the past; you must learn from the past in order to engage fully in the life you have been given.
  6. To Be A Leader And A Great Teammate – Through both individual and team sports, I quickly learned the importance of leading yourself well through preparation, discipline, and effective habits. I also learned how to lead and influence others around a common goal and discover what inspires and motivates them to greatness. As Pat Riley, former NBA player and hall of fame coach and NBA executive pointed out in his book The Winner Within, a true team is the result of a great coach who has the “ability to blend the talents and strengths of individuals into a force that becomes stronger than the sum of its parts.” I have definitely applied this at home, at work, and in my community and have truly enjoyed both being a part of and leading great people and impactful teams.
  7. To Strive For Excellence – Sports taught me a valuable lesson about giving my best on and off the court, track, and field of play. When I realized that excellence was not perfection but was giving my best every day and fulfilling the calling and role that I had been given, it helped me release my fears and unleash my potential. It’s a journey, and there are many times when I fail and don’t achieve excellence in my life, but the goal is to strive for excellence in every area of my life on a daily basis.

Every day, you have a choice about how you process events in your life. I hope that these 7 lessons from sports can help you to think differently about some area of your life and to choose to focus your life on making a positive difference within your sphere of influence. It is very tempting to get so tangled up in the distractions of the day that we miss the opportunities that present themselves to us. Choose to be a leader of influence and impact leaving a positive legacy for the next generation and making your life count for what matters most!

Question: What lessons have you learned from playing sports? You can leave a comment by clicking here.