Overcoming Fear

Coach, that guy’s huge!” There have been a few times in coaching my 5 boys and their teammates in different sports that I have heard this comment or some variation of it. Sometimes, it was a feeling that I sensed was in the hearts and minds of some of my players based on what I saw in their eyes and how they were looking at the other team. Other times, it was an actual verbalization of what they were thinking before game time. Comments like “That team is really big/good/nationally ranked, etc.,” do not help in moments like these, and fear becomes a major distraction keeping us from performing at our best.

No Fear Sign

In his excellent book, Goliath Must Fall, my friend Louie Giglio uses the story of David vs. Goliath to share how we must face the giants in our lives. Whether the giant be fear of an opponent or other things like rejection, anger, comfort, and addiction, he implores the reader to not lose sight of the promise and purpose that God has for our life…in anything you do! Based on advice that he received during a moment of frustration about something that was said about him, he offers this wisdom to us: “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table.”

When we fear an actual enemy or opponent or the pressure of a big moment, we are giving a seat to that enemy at our table. Our focus becomes misguided by fear, and we become paralyzed from performing at our best. The table that is reserved for us with the invitation of an opportunity that we are uniquely designed to discover, embrace, and seize in that moment, and we get to choose who we invite to the table. I understand that ultimately we may have to face that giant through competition or perseverance, but we should not invite the giant to sit at our table or in our huddle or in our minds haunting and taunting us with comments that we do not have what it takes to accomplish the goal. This kind of thinking leads to defeat before we have even had the chance to compete.

Instead of fearing our giants, here are 3 reminders that you can apply from our work with elite athletes, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to overcome fear:

  • Confidence Comes From Within – Many athletes try to derive their confidence from external things or forces. It is an “outside-in” approach to confidence, and it hinges on the word “If.” “If I win this match, I will feel good about myself.” “If I make this shot, I will feel confident about my abilities.” “If my coach says I did well, I will feel good about my identity as a player.” Confidence should be based on an “inside-out” approach and center on the word “Because.” “Because of the preparation I have done, I will feel confident about my abilities and the opportunity before me.” “I will compete and feel confident about this game because of my strengths, gifts, and talents and the hard work I have put in.” And for me, it all begins with the confidence that I have because of the life I have in Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus and what He has done for me, I will feel confident about my purpose in life and the opportunities I have before me. Faith provides the foundation for my focus.
  • Focus on What You Can Control – I always tell the teams that I coach, the athletes that I work with, and the business leaders and entrepreneurs that I coach to focus on what they can control. Many people spend so much mental and emotional energy worrying about things they cannot control. My 7th grade basketball team just completed their AAU season, and we faced many teams that outnumbered us and were bigger than us. Literally, we faced a lot of giants, but we took them down, because we focused on what we could control which was dictating a fast pace, playing an aggressive defense, and moving the ball and trusting our teammates. At the end of the day, we had an excellent season winning many games, because we remained focussed on process-oriented things that we could control and trusting those factors to facilitate playing our best basketball. In any area of life, it is important to identify if you are worrying about things you cannot control and to invest your mental and emotional energy in the things you can control based on your strengths, gifts, opportunities, and people around you that can help you maximize your potential and achieve your goals trusting God in the process.
  • Be Present and Compete – If you have read my blog or heard me speak, you are probably familiar with this quote from Fulton Oursler: “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” It is so true when it comes to competition or achieving goals in any arena of life. Regret for past moments and fear of future moments can paralyze us from being engaged in the current moment and performing at our best. The key is to Be Present – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and Compete – bring your best to the occasion whether it be sports, business, or life.

Katy Raptors Picture - 2017

Never let fear decide your future. The best leaders don’t shy away from the moment, even when that moment requires them overcoming the obstacle of fear, facing literal giants, and fully engaging in what brought them to this moment in the first place. As you think about your roles in life and the opportunities before you, don’t back down from being the best version of yourself. Others are counting on you and the impact that you can have when you overcome fear and exhibit faith.

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Resiliency Is Found In One Swing Of The Racket

Rafael Nadal was in a fierce battle on the grassy courts of the All England Tennis Club against Gilles Muller, an underdog in this battle. This was Wimbledon, a tournament where championships are earned, heartbreaks abound, and greatness is achieved! They were well into the 5th set of the match when the announcer boldly proclaimed: “The distance between triumph and disaster is just a swing of the racket.” The final set in a match at Wimbledon cannot be decided by a tiebreaking game, so they played until Muller eventually won 15-13 games in the 5th and deciding set.

Gilles Muller beating Nadal

Gilles Muller (Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

For many people, the quote from the Wimbledon announcer represents their life. I work with many athletes where success or setbacks hang in the balance of one play, one shot, one game, or one race based on the decisions and choices that they make. Pressure is often at its greatest during these moments, and they must be present and focused in order to bring their best to the competition at hand. Sometimes, they are competing against someone else. Other times, they are competing against themselves wondering if they have what it takes to overcome a misplaced doubt or random negative thought that decided to enter their mind at the most inopportune time.

Triumph and disaster do often hang on the swing of a racket, the follow through of a shot, or the kick of a ball. The key question is: What do peak performers think about in moments like these that will help them achieve triumph over disaster? Here are 3 things that you can learn from elite athletes that will help you consistently perform at your best in any area of life:

  • Be Present – If you want to perform at your best especially in pressure moments, you have to be present not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. This skill is one of the top priorities that I work with athletes and business leaders on in my coaching. We live in a hyper-stimulated world, and our focus is often affected by distractions that direct our mind and emotions down the wrong path, which leads to less than stellar results. I am sure you understand what it means to be present in a place physically, and you also probably know what it feels like to be absent mentally and/or emotionally. As Fulton Oursler said, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” The thieves of fear and regret often kill, steal, and destroy our opportunity for triumph, meaning, and impact. You must be present to be your best!
  • Be Outcome-Driven and Process-Focused – I have written about this technique in other places, but this is one of the top ways to both be present and also achieve the outcomes and results that you desire. In this epic Wimbledon battle, Gilles Muller never lost hope and kept focusing on serving well, moving his feet, playing with energy and effort, and mixing up his shots. He was not obsessing about the outcome to the point of desperation or worrying about the circumstances of who he was playing against or the crowd who was cheering for Nadal. He stayed focused on process-oriented things that he could control, which led to playing his best tennis and winning the match. No matter what your role is in life, set challenging goals and desire incredible outcomes. Just remember that to achieve these inspiring goals, you should not consume your mind and emotional energy overly obsessing about the outcome that you want. You must simplify it and focus on the process-oriented things that will lead you to the outcome or result.
  • Be Resilient – Peak performers are resilient and have refined their resiliency through the fires of competition and challenges. People ask me all the time whether resiliency, grit, and determination can be learned and developed, or do some people just possess these qualities while others do not. Based upon our research and experience in working with elite athletes and high performing leaders in business and life, we believe 2 things about resiliency. First, some people possess an innate ability to be highly resilient and possess a stronger will to win than others. Second, no matter what level of resiliency or grit you have been born with, you can grow and develop your ability to persevere in pressure moments. As Angela Duckworth said in her groundbreaking book Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance, “When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won.” Our research and experience confirm what she discovered through her own process of discovery: Truly resilient people get into possibility thinking very early when facing a trial or pressure moment. They ask “What’s possible?” instead of saying “Oh, this is bad!” and they strive to find ways to persevere. To grow your grit, focus on having a growth mindset, rely on positive “self-talk” from yourself and others, and seek out and discover what’s possible.

I encourage you to apply these techniques in your life as you pursue your goals and persevere in pressure moments. Don’t be fearful or distracted by the weight of the moment. Be present, unleash your talent, and bring your best in every situation inspiring others to do the same. You may just discover, like Gilles Muller, that resiliency and success are found in one swing of the racket (i.e. taking the next step toward the direction of your dreams)!

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Surpassing Setbacks: What I Learned From Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth found himself in a playoff. Just moments before, he was leading the 2017 Travelers Championship Tournament and just needed to finish strong. As he gathered himself and focused on his tee shot, he attempted to clear a tall tree and instead hit the tree, which yielded a fortunate bounce into the fairway. He could have been wondering what happened – not only on this shot but the shots and holes that forced him into this playoff hole. Why did he hit the tree? Why couldn’t he finish the deal? What was happening?

It’s in these moments that we truly discover what we are made of! Character, grit, and resiliency are refined in the midst of setbacks and struggles. We can either become determined or disillusioned, and it only takes a moment to tilt the balance of confidence one way or the other.

In the midst of challenges in sports, business, and life, here are at least 3 things that we must do to accomplish the goal:

  • Clarify the Goal – When something happens that you did not expect and “perfection” is not achieved, you can tend to react with dismay and disillusionment, because your expectations are misguided. You try to control the outcome of everything you do and forget that there will be moments where you are less than perfect. You press in to control, which leads to being tight, tense, and terse. This is not the way to win a golf tournament, lead your team, or accomplish your goals. It is in these moments that you need to reassess and clarify the goal. For Jordan Spieth, the goal was to win the playoff hole and the tournament…not hit every golf shot perfectly, and he re-focused his energy and effort appropriately to achieve this goal instead of worrying about past failures, which he could not change.
  • Simplify the Process – Especially in moments of strife, I often tell my golfers (and other athletes) the following mantra: “Sometimes, it’s just about getting from point A to point B to point C.” In other words, when things are not going your way, simplify the process to achieve the goal. If a certain part of your game is not going right, play to your strengths and what is going well for you on that particular day. Don’t overanalyze what is not working and why. Also, consistently ask: What am I trying to accomplish? This question can help you get back on task and on target. Finally, be present and process-focused which should lead to the best result you can achieve on a certain day.
  • Stay Engaged – When a bad moment happens, the result can shift our attitude into a superlative mindset. “I can’t hit my driver.” “I never play well in these situations.” “The people I lead don’t listen to me.” “I will never accomplish my goals.” I have a superlative rule that I use with my athletes and business leaders that I coach comprised of a superlative: Never use superlatives to describe your performance or limit your potential. Stay engaged and dedicated to the process with energy and effort. Anything can happen even in the midst of challenging circumstances, and you must live your life with a possibility mindset.

So what happened next for Jordan? After hitting the tree on his tee shot, Jordan sprayed his approach shot into the sand trap next to the green. Daniel Berger, his opponent, hit his shot onto the fringe of the green but far away from the hole. This hole was not going according to plan for Spieth. Or, was it? Jordan had hit a great up and down shot out of the bunker on the 18th hole just moments before to save par and assure this playoff hole. The reality was that he had confidence hitting out of the sand – a place that no one wants to land – and he just needed to be present in this moment and hit a great golf shot.

Jordan Spieth

Jordan assessed the situation, developed a strategy, and visualized his shot as he grabbed the appropriate club for this moment. He trusted his shot and the ball lifted out the sand trap and softly bounced on the green and rolled into the hole. He tossed the winning golf club out of the bunker and chest bumped his caddy, as the crowd cheered in excitement and amazement!

An incredible shot that ultimately won the tournament for him!  In the article “Why Jordan Spieth’s Tee Shots Didn’t Matter,” the Wall Street Journal chronicled his day in this way:

“The result was Spieth’s 10th victory at the age of 23. Since World War II, only Tiger Woods got to double-digit wins at a younger age….The lesson isn’t that power off the tee doesn’t matter, or that it matters less than what a player does on and around the green. It’s that there is more than one way to win in golf, and to lose….There is no disadvantage that can’t be countered by enough excellence in other parts of the game. Especially if you can hole a bunker shot in a sudden-death playoff.

Whatever your role and your goals, there is a lot we can learn from the example of Jordan Spieth’s tournament victory including playing to your strengths, developing a growth and possibility mindset, and staying focused on the right perspective and process to achieve success and impact even in the midst of a temporary setback.

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3 Lessons I Learned From Magic And Bird

I grew up watching and loving basketball in the 80s! They were formative years for me as I was playing high school basketball and watching my beloved Lakers battle the Boston Celtics throughout the decade. It was one of the fiercest rivalries of all time! Two dynasties who hated each other and at the same time loved playing each other just so they could show who was the more dominant team. ESPN just recently created a 30 For 30 film about this rivalry, and it took two nights to tell the whole story.

Magic and Bird

What made this rivalry even better was that the two best players in the NBA were leading their teams into battle: Magic Johnson for the Lakers and Larry Bird for the Celtics. This rivalry began in college and climaxed with the two of them facing each other in the NCAA Championship, which was the most watched game of all time! I was a Magic Johnson fan when he was at Michigan State and became an even bigger fan of his when he joined the Lakers. While I was a foot shorter than him, I was a point guard like him, and I tried to emulate his moves, passion for the game, and his incredible no look passes.

At this point in time in basketball history, you chose a team and rooted for that team, which meant that you despised the other teams and players that were trying to beat you. While I have come to appreciate Larry Bird over time, I did not like him at all when he was competing against Magic and the Lakers, because he was a Celtic! He and his team were trying to take out “my team” – sometimes literally – and I hated that! After watching the ESPN 30 for 30 film and reflecting on almost every moment that I remember watching intently during those championship years, here are at least 3 things that both Magic and Bird taught me about Race, Competition, and Resiliency:

  • Race – The emergence of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought out feelings, emotions, and conversations about race during a very fragile time in the history of the NBA. Attendance numbers were horrible for NBA games, and they could not find sponsors or even get the NBA Finals shown on live TV in prime time. I watched many Lakers playoff and finals games on tape delay, meaning they were previously recorded and joined in progress because the network decided the TV show M*A*S*H was more important than my team. Both Larry and Magic entered the league at the same time and brought energy and passion to the game that renewed interest from the fans. The unintended consequence is that part of their rivalry split the country along racial lines. This was never the intent of the two players. In fact, both Bird and Magic saw themselves as great basketball players, not players of a certain color. Growing up in Memphis, I had always seen basketball as a way to transcend race. When we played, the key question was: “Can you play?” If you could play basketball, you were accepted and respected regardless of the color of your skin. Bird and Magic taught me to understand this even more and showed that you did not have to put an extra adjective in describing a player that was of a certain color or race – they were “great basketball players!” Period! I have always applied this in my life when I see people, similar to what Martin Luther King articulated in his “I Have a Dream” speech and definitely what God intended when he created us all!
  • Competition – Magic and Bird pushed each other to be the best they could be. Based upon their passion for the game and their incredible work ethic, I learned how to work hard on my game and compete, loving every moment in the process. Every time I practiced, played a driveway pick up game, or played in a real game, I treated it like Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I also learned that in order to compete well, you focus on what you do well and not the strengths of the other person or team. Competition is all about bringing your best on game day and not worrying about what the other team may or may not do – a lesson the Lakers learned through defeat in 1984 and then success in 1985 and 1987 against their bitter rival.
  • Resiliency – For some reason, I never saw height, speed, or any other physical trait as a limitation to what I could accomplish on and off the court. I know a lot of this mindset was reaffirmed in me by watching Bird and Magic play the game. Bird was doubted at different times in his life, including by his own teammates when he first joined the Celtics, based on the color of his skin and his “perceived” lack of speed and jumping ability. Larry quickly dispelled these perceptions and myths to become one of the greatest basketball players ever! And Magic was called “Tragic” at one point in his career based on a couple of failed moments in the 1984 Finals. Yet, both of them had a courageous heart and an indomitable will to win! Bird was famous for telling the other team the exact play the Celtics were going to run and what he was going to do to win the game and then going out and doing it. And Magic came back to beat the Celtics twice after the bitter 1984 defeat and win 5 overall championships in the 80s by demonstrating leadership and a mindset of “I’m not going down like this!” In fact, Magic won both the league and finals MVP trophies as well as the NBA Championship in 1987 based on a resilient mindset.

There are many things that we can learn from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both individually and collectively. I am grateful for their passion for the game, their desire and pursuit to be THEIR best and THE best, their work ethic, and their intense will to win. I am also grateful for the life lessons they taught me and the love of a sport that has helped me develop as a leader on and off the court.

My encouragement to you is to apply these same lessons in every part of your life to be the best you can be, to show mutual respect to others, and to be resilient when setbacks say you can’t have a pathway to success!

Finally, being a Magic Johnson and Lakers fan, I could not resist ending this post without including this clip of Larry acknowledging Magic’s greatness after a Finals win for the Lakers!

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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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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

 

My Interview With Jon Duplantier – Podcast: S01E004

In this podcast, I interview Jon Duplantier, the 3rd round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks and former starting pitcher for Rice University. I have known Jon for a long time and have had the opportunity to invest in his life through our student athlete leadership program at Rice University. Jon is currently assigned to the Arizona Diamondbacks Class A Kane County Cougars as a starting pitcher. He is having an awesome start to his professional baseball career including 28 strikeouts and no earned runs.

Episode Outline:

Jon is a true leader on and off the field and is a true example of how dreams become a reality through hard work, discipline, and persevering through setbacks and challenges. Specifically, Jon shares some great insight on the following:

  • How playing multiple sports helped him advance his baseball career
  • Advice for parents in coaching and encouraging their kids as they play sports
  • His definition of leadership and how leaders build trust with others
  • The impact of mentors in his life
  • Advice for athletes who want to play in high school and college
  • How he persevered though a significant challenge in college and what he learned from the experience about having the right perspective

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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!

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.

Punctuate With A Period

I was hitting the golf ball well in practice and trust I can hit the ball anywhere I want to, but I don’t always trust this club and I have been working on a swing change and….

One of my best golfers had just uttered this long run-on sentence during one of our on-course sessions. Somewhere in the midst of the forest of fear and doubt, I discovered some trees of truth and decided to focus on it. “What did you say at the beginning of that sentence?” I asked. She responded by saying, “I was hitting the golf ball well in practice and trust that I can hit the ball anywhere I want to.” I immediately jumped in at that point and said, “PERIOD.” Now, go do it. Feeling a little cut off in the conversation, she obliged, went through her pre-shot routine, and hit an incredible right to left shot that bounced about 7 feet from the hole. As she turned around to look at me elated, surprised, perplexed, and confident all in the same moment, I told her, “You must put the period at the right place in the sentence.”

Period

Some people don’t know how to punctuate a sentence. In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have all made this same mistake at some point in our lives. We string words together and when it comes time to putting the period at the appropriate place we extend the thought with additional, not so helpful connectors and phrases. In my experience in coaching athletes, executives, and entrepreneurs, it looks like this:

  • “I know I have the skills and talent to make this team, but…”
  • “I feel good about the direction I am going, yet…”
  • “I have been practicing great over the last few weeks, but…”
  • “I have a great business idea and know it can be successful, but…”
  • “I feel like I am a great mother/father, but…”
  • “I want to lose 10 (or insert magic number here) pounds, but…”

Don’t get me wrong, conjunctions can be very constructive when used in the right way; yet, we often used them to hedge and limit ourselves in what we are able to accomplish. Or, we allow thoughts of fear, doubt, and a lack of confidence to oppose the truths about our talents and opportunities.

My mom was an English teacher and taught me that punctuation is important. Not ending the sentence in the right place can be very detrimental to our performances in sports, business, and life. Negative self talk can lead you to believe and buy in to a false narrative that causes a treacherous downward spiral in your performance and also your self worth and identity. Make sure that you conclude your thoughts in a way that is constructive and can help you achieve the goals and opportunities before you.

Disclaimers and qualifiers only detract from the impact of a powerful, trusting statement about the abilities that you possess and the opportunities that you have to display those talents to the world, thereby making a positive impact in the process!

Question: What have you found helpful to replace the thoughts of fear and doubt with thoughts of trust and belief? You can leave a comment by clicking here.