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.

Your Past Does Not Dictate Your Future

This disclaimer is usually tagged as a footnote to investment literature that touts how great a mutual fund’s returns and performance have been over the past year. I, however, am often called into situations where this quote plays a vital role in helping someone rebound from a period of underperforming below their elite talent level. It’s amazing to me how the past often haunts us as we dismiss the progress that we have made and selectively frame the pictures of poor performance.

For example, many of the golfers that I work with as a peak performance coach are haunted by the past. Past rounds, past holes, and past shots. They are seeking perfection, and when they do not hit the perfect shot, doubt often creeps in. If they are not careful, they begin a pattern of spiraling downward in performance allowing the past shot to dictate their future opportunities for success. In other words, a bad shot leads to a bad hole which leads to a bad round. This pattern can also happen to you in the roles you play in life. For example, how does a woman go from moments of incredible impact in the lives of her children to feeling that she is a horrible mother – just because of one imperfect moment?confused-signs

The key to breaking through this vicious downward spiral is what I call “Recovery Time©” defined as your ability to respond and rebound from moments you did not expect to happen and move into the next moment. Others might refer to this quality as “grit” or “resiliency,” and we believe that it can be developed and improved.  Using a golfer again as an example, I work with my athletes on thoughts, tools, and techniques that will help them play shot to shot, perform in the current moment, and respond when they miss shots they know they should have made. Part of this process involves developing “trigger/activating” phrases that help them to replace thoughts of fear and doubt with thoughts of trust and belief about them and their talent.

We must also learn from the past, not live in the past. The past must be an ally pushing us onward and forward, not an adversary rising up against us at every turn. Your past may not involve a missed 4-foot putt or a bad round of golf. Your past may include:

  • Being laid off at work
  • Feeling inadequate as a parent
  • Feeling disconnected to your spouse
  • Wondering if people even know you exist
  • Being rejected over and over again
  • Struggling to tap into your talent
  • Striving to pursue purpose and meaning in your life

Whatever you are going through today, know that you can recover from miserable moments. It begins with realizing that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Just because you have had a bad past doesn’t mean that you are destined to have a terrible future.

If we truly comprehend the meaning of this quote and conquer our doubts of past performance, we will learn to embrace the current moment with arms wide open. We will understand how opportunity and possibilities are waiting at the door if we will just relinquish the overwhelming memories of times where we did not perform at our best.

Strive today to “learn from the past, prepare for the future, and perform in the moment” (quote taken from my book Moments: Making Your Life Count For What Matters Most).

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Break Out Of The Box

I sat patiently as the student athlete in front on me desperately tried to figure out the solution to this puzzle. Using his competitive spirit, he worked through every scenario in his mind striving to accomplish the goal. Yet, with each possible course of action, he reached a dead end. He could connect most of the dots but not all. It was almost like an imaginary wall was keeping him from reaching an answer.

Dots Puzzle

Do you ever feel like this in your own life? Desperate to break through, but dogged by doubts and self-imposed limitations that keep you from reaching your potential and accomplishing your goals. In my work with high potential and high performing entrepreneurs, business leaders, and amateur and professional athletes, I find that they sometimes get locked into a certain way of thinking that restricts them from reaching the next level of performance. Many times, the walls that contain them are self-imposed and self-constructed in the form of limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is anything that limits you from reaching your potential or accomplishing your goal. Many times it comes in the form of negative thoughts, fear, and doubt such as:

  • “I’m can’t hit my 5 iron.”
  • “I’m not a good parent.”
  • “I always play bad in April.”
  • “January is always a slow sales month for me.”
  • “My best days are behind me.”
  • “I can do it in practice but not in the games.”

Limiting beliefs can also be a strength that becomes a liability. We think it is a positive thing, but it becomes negative when it limits our capacity to develop in our leadership and self-growth. These limiting beliefs take the form of statements such as:

  • “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”
  • “If we are going to beat this team, I am going to have score almost all of the points tonight!”
  • “I’m the only one who can do this task.”
  • “I never trust anyone.”

Limiting beliefs act as “definitive” statements that lock us into a certain way of thinking, which then translate into a pre-determined pattern of acting. The thoughts take root in our lives and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is like a cage that keeps us contained from ever breaking out to unleash our potential. The key question to ask yourself is this:

Once you have pondered this question and identified the “iron bar” limiting beliefs, work on changing the thoughts that led to these beliefs. Many times, we base our thoughts, and, ultimately, our beliefs and actions on the wrong things including false assumptions, one-time events, people’s perceptions of us, and performances that are not our best. You cannot let circumstances construct barriers that leave you powerless to discover the path forward. You must take time to consider the truths about your life including your strengths as well as past performances that reinforce your abilities and talent.

Dots Puzzle Solution

If you begin to see the problem from a different way of thinking, you can soon discover possibilities that lead to peak performance. Choose today to break out of the box of fear and doubt that is limiting you from unleashing trust, belief, and breakthrough performances in all aspects of your life!

We provide coaching, consulting, and leadership development programs focused on helping you, your team, and your organization or business create breakthrough performances and develop a culture of leadership. Browse our web site for more information.

Question: What are some beliefs that limit you from maximizing your potential and accomplishing your goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Champions Sweat The Details

Champions sweat the details. They don’t just sit back and rely on their potential. They nurture and develop their talent. They work hard at being greater each day. Not all talented people take this approach. In fact, I have seen some very talented people sit back and let others – people who were not as naturally talented and gifted as them – outwork them and, therefore, surpass them in terms of accomplishments and impact. Kobe Bryant always relentlessly pursued being better than he was yesterday in a quest to be the best.

Kobe Doing Work

Steph Curry is another example in basketball becoming a back-to-back MVP and arguably the most improved player as well in the 2015-2016 NBA season, which included making 402 3-pointers shattering his own record of 286 made 3-pointers the previous season. Steph also goes through a rigorous off-season program and a very disciplined pre-game routine to keep taking his skills to the next level!

Steph Curry Dribbling

If you want to succeed in any area of life and become a true “champion,” here are at least 3 things you can learn from the mindset of a champion:

  • Champions expect and deliver great outcomes – Champions don’t settle for just “good enough” results. For a champion, “good enough” is not good enough. They go above and beyond to do things with excellence. The idea and concept of “good enough” to a champion is settling for a lesser result. Champions focus on doing things to the best of their ability and challenging themselves to be the best. You must be content but never satisfied and develop goals that take you beyond what you think is possible.
  • Champions are driven by the outcome and focused on the process – A champion knows that the journey is the key to a great outcome. They are driven by a big goal, and they rely on the process to get them there. Champions know that constantly thinking and stressing about the “success metric” they are trying so hard to accomplish is not the way to make it happen. They focus on doing things with excellence and trust the process to achieve the outcome they desire. You must consistently execute a plan for personal growth and stay focused on the process in order to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Champions sweat the details – Champions take nothing for granted. They develop the right action plan to achieve their goals and then execute it in a determined and diligent manner. They do the big things as well as the small things that lead to success. They perform in the spotlight and produce in the background. They realize that the hard work they do in the gym when no one is looking allows them to reap the rewards when everyone is watching.

Greatness doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that requires hard work and perseverance. It demands focusing on the little things that will yield tremendous results. Whether you want to become a “champion” at work, at home, or in your community, the key question is:

Question: As it relates to your roles in life, what details do you need to ‘sweat,’ or focus on, to become better than you were yesterday and make the greatest impact? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Go Bold!

Rarely do people admit they want to do something timidly.  Most people I know, talk to, and work with in the areas of sports, business, and life want to do things in a bold way.  They want to dream big dreams and accomplish incredible goals.  I have never heard someone say, “You know, when I do my work or compete in my match, I just want to be timid today.”

Snowboarder Jumping

Yet, if we are truly honest with ourselves, there are areas of life and moments in time when we become fearful and timid versus fearless and bold.  We don’t say it, but we show it through our lives and the approach we take to solve an issue or accomplish a goal.  What does this look like?

7 Leadership Lessons From Being An Undersized Point Guard

I was not created with incredible height; yet, I did not let that limit me in my pursuit of playing basketball and competing on the court.  I was a part of some incredible teams in high school including one that went 32-3 and made it to the state championship game at the highest level in the state of Tennessee.  As a 5’10 (or maybe 5’9”) point guard, I was not always the first pick based on appearance but definitely strived to make an impression based on my play.  The key was not letting a limiting belief like my lack of size compared to other people hold me back from competing and achieving my best.

Will, Drew, and me

Based on my experience, here are 7 leadership lessons that I learned from this journey:

Discover Your Identity

“Who am I?” It’s a question some people spend a lifetime trying to answer. Most people look for their identity in all the wrong places, leaving them empty and unfulfilled.

frustrated young business man

They obtain their self worth in their most recent performance and accolades from their peers. People who lack esteem and confidence often chase meaning and fulfillment using this misleading equation:

Identity Equation