Get Uncomfortable

Get Uncomfortable

I’m learning more and more about this concept from coaching. It’s funny how our brains work but I can’t stress how much I’ve learned from coaching youth soccer.  Not just about the game, but about business and life. It’s a daily lesson in human psychology. Hats off to all the youth sports coaches out there – if you can build a team the right way you’re doing some cool things. And the psychology piece is the biggest variable, I believe. 

Over last two weeks, I’ve been tinkering with our training sessions. Instead of working mostly on technique or even playing to goals, we’ve spent a lot of time simply playing keep away with two teams.  5 passes in a row is a point and the other team has to do push-ups (yes, it’s competitive). Here’s the catch – we always restrict the touches when we do this. Either two or three touches max. If you go over, possession goes to the other team. 

Most of the kids don’t like it so far but they are coming along. I even had one kid tell me how it made no sense because “you don’t have restrictions in the game”.  Ha. Exactly. That’s why we’re doing it, I told him. 

You see, the faster we think in practice, the slower the game becomes.  The more we get comfortable being uncomfortable in practice, the better we will play in games. 

I see them improving each practice. In our game yesterday I even scrapped the traditional warm up. No more shooting with no defenders…we just did his possession drill.  Trying to make it more game-like.

The result?  We won 5-0. I really don’t care about the score but we absolutely imposed our will on this team. And guess what – we lost to these guys 3 weeks ago and narrowly beat them last month. Wasn’t even close this time. The difference?  I believe the game is slowing down for us. Why?  Because we are practicing at a high level and forcing the issue. 

Look, I’m not naive. I realize we will continue to struggle at times. That’s part of growing…but I’m encouraged.  These kids are a challenge at times. Some of my guys can’t seem to grasp the concept of effort and pushing themselves. They’re getting better but it’s a constant push. 

I’m reminded about all the teams I’ve been on…in sports, in business…and in life. 

It doesn’t happen overnight.  We need to focus on incremental improvements on a daily basis. Get a just a little bit better each day. Just a little bit. And, over time, you should have some good things happen. 

So, my advice to you (and to me) – keep getting uncomfortable. That’s where real growth happens. 

Here’s a video with some similar thoughts as well:

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How Gritty are you?

How Gritty are you?

In 1940, researchers at Harvard decided to test a group of students. Over 100 sophomores performed in a study where they were asked to run on a treadmill for up to five minutes. The angle was steep and the speed was fast – the average of the 130 students was four minutes with some running as little as one minute and thirty seconds.

The test was designed to be exhausting. They were testing not just the physical capacity of the students but also the mental capacity (or “strength of will”).

The goal of the study was to determine if there was a correlation later in life to various “success” factors. They monitored things like marriage status, income, career advancement, self-reported satisfaction with work and marriage, social activities, psychological medical history, etc. The researchers tracked the participants every two years and the study continued into their later years.

Here’s what they found out – The participants who were able to stay on the treadmill the longest had the highest performance on the factors they rated later in life.

Angela Duckworth and “Grit”

Angela Duckworth is the author of the book, “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”. Duckworth is a psychologist, former Consultant and School Teacher. She’s observed a lot of people – that’s what she does for a living. Her research points to this “Grit” factor as the defining trait of the most successful people. I get that “success” can be defined in many different ways, but I think, overall, any type of performance or result is usually accompanied by many struggles. The best of the best simply have this Grit deep inside them.

It’s interesting in that a study that I conducted last year where I interviewed over 30 high performing sales reps and leaders, the results were very much in line with Duckworth’s work and the Harvard Team’s research.

Sure, many other factors play a part in overall performance, but the best of the best were the most resilient and, ultimately, viewed obstacles as opportunities. In fact, if I had to big one overriding trait of the top performers, it was easily their mindset and their capacity to overcome challenges and still perform.

Back to Duckworth’s research. Although the Harvard test was a good indicator, she talks about the willingness to come back and do it again the next day. This, she says, was an even closer identifier of true Grit. Essentially, are you willing to get back up once you’ve fallen down?

She also outlines a formula which I believe is really profound on right on:

Talent x effort = skill

Skill x effort = achievement

Here’s what this means.  Of course, you need some sort of talent to get any type of achievement.  Talent, however, only takes you so far.  For example, let’s say you have a very talented youth soccer player.  By the way, I see this all the time, as I coach my son and his U10 club team.  So, you have a talented kid – this is JUST the beginning.  Next, comes the Effort.  When you combine Talent with the Effort, then you develop skill.  I have some very talented kids who are still learning to put in the right amount of effort.  It’s been pretty astounding to see some kids with less talent start to surpass the more talented kids, simply because they are outworking them at practice.  Once the skill is developed, now you add some more effort onto this and that’s where you get the achievement.

Effort Times Two

Here’s the secret sauce – there’s a reason effort is in both equations.  Talent without effort doesn’t get you very far.  Furthermore, once you develop a skill, you need to keep working hard to get to any form of achievement.  I tell my kids all the time – I’ll take effort over talent all day long.  We’re a work in progress still but I definitely beat this drum every time we’re together.

This isn’t easy.  Grit takes awareness.  Grit takes intention.  Grit takes a daily approach and deliberate practice to get really good at it.  I don’t think people are born with grit.  I think some may be predisposed to it, sure, but I think everyone has the capacity to dig deep and push out of their comfort zone.

If you’re struggling to perform at whatever it is your trying to do, think about these equations.  Talent only gets you so far.  Once you develop a skill that, too, only gets you so far.  It’s the consistent effort over a long period of time that leads to achievement.

We tend to see successful people – whether that be athletes, musicians, business leaders, parents or coaches – and we think they were born to succeed.  The truth is, you don’t see what they’re doing when the cameras are off.  You don’t see the early morning wake up calls or the countless hours honing their craft.

Take the Grit Test

So, how gritty are you?  Well, the good news is, Duckworth created a test that was part of her research.  She calls it the Grit Scale.  You can take it there – http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/ (by the way, I scored a 4.0 which is about 65% – some work to do here for me)

I’m a firm believer that this is one of the most important things we can teach the younger generation.  I think, in this day and age, kids want things right away.  We live in a 140 character world where things happen fast.  Focus is pretty much non-existent.  Heck, I’ve read that our avg attention spans have gone from something like 12-13 seconds to 8 seconds in recent years.  That’s not good.  I think it’s turning many of us to adopt a “want it right now” mindset and we patience and discipline are going out the window.  I tell you this from experience – I struggle with this just as much as anyone.

Good & Bad News

Here’s the good and bad news for all of us.  The bad news first – we’re going to miss out on many opportunities if we can’t get beyond the constant noise in our heads.  Let me ask you this – how often have you found yourself reading an article, a book on your tablet or been on social media – and the next thing you know, you look up 45 minutes later and you’re doing something totally different than what you set out to do?  C’mon, be real – I’ve been there many times, haven’t you?  We chased the rabbit, so to speak.  So, as amazing as social media or the internet may be, it’s designed to grab (no crush) our attention.  Now, to the good news – those that can see above the noise and find the awareness to not fall victim to this constant struggle give themselves and opportunity to get some really amazing things done.

It takes awareness first and grit second to do things like put your phone away for a day (or even a couple hours) and spend real time with your family and friends.  It takes grit to wake up every day and read one more chapter in the book you’ve been wanting to read.  It takes grit to sacrifice the short term gain of eating those french fries for the long-term gain of feeling healthier and living better.

Grit isn’t easy.  I think Duckworth is spot on.

How can we all take action?

The first step to any change or any achievement is Awareness.  The second step is Action.  Here’s something really practical for you as a next step – Take the test, find out if where you land on the Grit scale.  If you don’t like your score, be intentional about setting a plan to get better in this area.  Put a reminder in your calendar twice a day – 7am and 2pm that just says “Be Gritty” and set it recurring daily for 30 days.  When that reminder hits each day, just stop to think for 5-10 seconds and ask yourself two questions “Am I exuding Grit?” and “How can I be more Gritty?”.  Feel free to write down your thoughts or just think about.  It takes intentional practice to get better at anything.

Here’s the test again – http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/

Good luck and shoot me a note or enter a comment below and let us know how you did.

Until next time…

Jon

Sources:

“Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”Angela Duckworth

Harvard Research Study – The Treadmill Test, 1940 (later expanded on by psychiatrist, George Vaillant) – you can learn more about George here.

Duckworth’s TED talk is worth watching as well – only 6 minutes – watch it here.

 

Impact

Impact

There’s a lot of talk these days about success and what makes a person successful.  First off, success is individual.  Each person has their own identity when it comes to success.  Some think of success as simply achievement.  I set out to do X and I accomplished X.  Or, I want to make X amount of money and I make X amount.

In my dealings with many clients and business leaders, explicitly with high performers, I do believe that success differs for each individual.  That being said, I believe there’s a common theme among all higher performers.

This is Impact.  Whether it’s impacting a client, a team, a family, another person…whatever that is…it comes down to impact.  Those that feel they aren’t impacting others in a meaningful way are typically not viewing themselves as successful.

So, I’ll ask, are you impacting others?  Are you really making an impact on whatever it is you’re doing day to day?  Your family?  Your business?  Your friends?  Your cause?  The list is really endless.

Impact matters.  This is a quality we can all cultivate, in my opinion.  I don’t believe we’re simply born with the ability to impact others in a positive way. It can be a learned trait.  It can literally be a daily focus….a moment by moment focus.  To me, I think it comes down to adding value.  Either you’re adding value or you’re not.  Simply ask that of yourself.  In every interaction, are you being a positive influence or a negative influence.  That’s true impact.

At times, this means you have to press and you have to talk about tough things.  Making an impact isn’t always about talking about how great everything it is. Sometimes it’s the hard conversations that no one wants to have.

Impact.  You can literally change someone’s life when you think about this way.  Adversity can strike, you can be ready to fight back….and think twice about how you respond.

Tactically, think about an interaction today.  Whether it’s dealing with your kids, a colleague, a client, a parent or a friend….think about how you make a positive impact on your interaction.  This may mean swallowing crow….this may mean thinking outside the box.  This may mean showing a high level of humility.  Push yourself a bit.  Thinking this way is a paradigm shift – I really believe that.

How can you impact others in a positive and meaningful way?  That’s the big question.  You can impact others every day – don’t ever underestimate it!

Good luck!

Courage

Courage

The year – 1924.  The scene – The Paris Olympics.

A young man was running in the Olympics – his best event was the 100-meter race.  He decided not to run.  He made a courageous decision.  Eric Liddell, the Scotsman, decided to not run in the 100-meter race because it fell on a Sunday.  His faith and religious belief built up a strong enough foundation in him to make the decision not to run.

Can you imagine?  The Olympics.  Once every four years…for the best of the best, the window is very small – one, maybe two major competitions, and their career is finished.  Liddell made an intentional and courageous decision to not run his best event, simply because it fell on a Sunday.  We know his name because he went on to run and electrify the world by winning the 400-meter race, which wasn’t even close to his best event.  He made a conscious decision before the games to not run and you better believe he had many naysayers trying to talk him into running.

Liddell stood strong on his decision and, for that, his legacy is much greater than what simply winning an Olympic Gold Medal.

I get to ride with my son at least three days a week to soccer practice.  He’s eight and I have the privilege of coaching his team, as I’ve talked about before.  We have a lot of funny conversations and every once in a while a more serious one.  I try not to “coach” him on the way to and from practice or games.  I get to do enough of that on the field.  We started talking about fear – he brought it up and the conversation moved to him asking me if I was ever afraid.

This led to a talk about courage.  As I told him, it’s okay to be afraid.  I fear just as much as anyone else.  Fear is a normal human emotion.  In fact, it helps us a lot.  The key, however, is to not let our fears keep us from moving forward.  Fears can easily hold us back but I also think fears can be a significant catalyst for doing something amazing.  You see, courage is what brings us to the other side of fear.  Courage is a matter of the heart.  It’s the cornerstone that brings us across the stormy waters in whatever we face in life.  In fact, root of the word courage is the latin word “cor”, which means heart.

For Eric Liddell, courage was taking a stand and holding firm in his beliefs and his faith.  Do you think he was afraid? I imagine there was some fear in there somewhere.

So, the next time you feel fear – maybe you let it breathe a little bit. Feel it but don’t run from it.  Accept it for what it is and ask yourself – what if I face my fears and do something out of the ordinary.  What if you pick up the phone and have the conversation you’ve feared having?….or, jumped into a cause you wanted to support but were afraid of what people might think?

Fear is going to happen….fear is okay, fear is normal.  You can let it drag you down and keep you from moving forward…OR, you can take a good hard look and decide that courage trumps fear.

Good luck and God Bless.

 

 

What is Leadership?

What is Leadership?

I recently heard Chip Ingram talk about Leadership.  Chip’s a well-respected Christian Pastor.  He said a Leader is simply someone who “makes stuff happen”.  I like this.  I think we tend to popify leadership these days.  We try to put some fancy words behind it.  You’re a leader if you simply make it happen.  It comes in many forms.  A parent, a spouse, a teach, a coach, a student, a child – it doesn’t matter.  Either you make things happen or you don’t.

I had the privilege of interviewing 25 plus high performers in my company recently.  My goal was to uncover the patterns behind achievement.  Some were high level leaders, including our CEO. Some were project managers without big titles.  What I learned from all of them was that the best of the best have a definitive plan on a daily basis to make things happen.  They plan, they take action, they review.  They plan, they take action, they review. They plan, they take action, they review.  I could keep going but I won’t : )

The best of the best….they make things happen.  They lead.

Leadership or making things happen isn’t always clean.  In fact, it’s messy most of the time.  The best leaders…the best performers, I found, simply embrace that messiness…and make things happen.

The next time you wonder what it takes to be a leader of if someone is a good leader – ask – do they make things happen? It’s easy to talk a big game but to get to the grind and get really intentional (and messy) – that’s where the magic is.

So, are you talking or are you making things happen?

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

When the Obstacle becomes the Opportunity

A Sunday afternoon in early Spring.  Heads hung low.  One kid is crying…then another.  Like Dominoes.  Blaming each other.  Blaming the ref.  10-1.  Final Score.

I have the privilege of coaching my son’s soccer team.  They are 7 and 8 yr olds.  Young…very impressionable.  We walked off the field a few weeks ago as 10-1 losers.  Down early 2-0, we decided to pack it in.  Lots of pouting, lots of negativity.  2-0 quickly become 5-0 at halftime and I knew during the halftime talk that I lost them.

I don’t usually do this but I called a meeting after the game with both our players and parents. Look, I get that these kids are young, but this was about more than some sport.  This was life stuff.  This was an opportunity masked in adversity.  We wear a slogan on our shirts – “Become Better”.  We talked that day about responding to adversity.  We talked about stepping up when things don’t go our way.  We talked about not pouting and being resilient.  I wasn’t sure how it would resonate.

Fast forward two weeks.  We played the same team, different result.  4-3 loss.  We were in it. There were signs of resilience being born.  The seed was planted….or so I hoped.  One week later, playing the best team in our age group in Columbus – down 4-1….we decided to fight back…we ended up losing 5-3.  Progress…

Over the course of the next few weeks, more of the pouts and sulking turned into grit and focus.  Every game, every practice, it was a constant melody line.  Step up.  Respond.  Control what you can control.  I know – just 7 and 8 – you may be thinking I’m crazy….but, the opportunity to teach was staring me in the face.  These boys are like potter’s clay right now.  We continued to beat the drum.

Three weeks ago.  A sunny Sunday afternoon.  Our third Final in the last two seasons.  We were ready.  We just stepped up in our early morning semi-final and played our best game ever.  We were ready.  The game turned south quickly.  Parents were yelling, refs were yelling – it was, frankly, too much pressure on these young kids.  We were the better team that day in the first half but couldn’t put the ball in the net.  That frustration added on to the intensity of the game turned into a debacle in the second half.  We started to complain again.  We stopped controlling what we could.  The emotion of the game took over.  Result – 3-0 Loss.  The good news – we didn’t totally give up like we did a few weeks back.  Another teaching opportunity…

So, we continued to talk about stepping up….being resilient…our melody line.

Our final tournament was this past weekend.  This would be our last time together as soccer in the US is changing the way the age groups are laid out.  The team, these boys, will be splitting up this Fall.  So, the test was upon us.  How would we perform?

In our two early games, we found ourselves behind.  As I said earlier, our MO had been to pack it in when things weren’t going our way just a few weeks ago.  We found a way to win both of those.  I started to hear some of my players pick each other up.  I could see it in their faces.  Focus, resilience – a beautiful thing to watch.

So, we were on to our Final….and an opportunity to redeem our game from two weeks earlier – we were playing the same team.  Let’s just say the last game didn’t end well.  There were hard fouls and words between coaches and parents.  It wasn’t pretty.  It was actually everything that’s wrong with youth sports.  Thankfully, we were able to work with this team, the refs and the parents, to ensure the atmosphere would be a positive one for both teams.  It was intense, but much more palatable for these kids to have fun and compete.

Five minutes in….my boys our down 0-2.  Familiar territory.  This time, though….no quit.  I even heard one of my players yelling on the field to “keep fighting”.  I felt good about this one.  We indeed battled back…made it 2-1 by halftime.  Tied it up in the second half, then took the lead 3-2.  After conceding a late goal, we went to a Penalty Kick Shoot Out.  It’s a crap shoot in those things and I feel bad for anyone who’s on the losing end.  Our first player missed his, they made.  Not a good start.  Second player (my son, Gabe), makes, their kid misses, so we’re back in it.  Our third and final shooter has to make to send it to Sudden Death Penalty Kicks, where you go one for one. He makes.  Talk about pressure on these kids.  Our 4th and 5th players both scored….so did they. So, it came down player 6…our Goalie makes a save.  Now, it’s down to one of my little guys – I wasn’t even sure if he could get the ball to the goal.  He steps up and buries it.  We win.  The joy on these kids faces…

But…the result didn’t matter.  It really didn’t.  These kids already showed what they were made of.  2-0 down no longer became the cause for panic…the catalyst for blaming each other….for sulking.  2-0 down now becomes the rallying cry.  The opportunity.  The melody line.

I learned a lot of lessons coaching these kids.  It reaffirmed a lot for me on how to handle situations in life and in business.  We all have a choice.  Every day.  The cards may be stacked against us in many ways.  In fact, you should expect from time to time that the cards are indeed stacked against you.  The question though….what are you going to do about it?  Will you see it as an opportunity?

My hope is that these seeds are firmly planted inside these kids.  They see the fruits of their labor. They tasted what it was like to be resilient.  I pray that they will look back on this experience many years from now as they push through whatever it is they’re facing in life.

Success Habits

Success Habits

I had the opportunity recently to dive into the minds of over 35 business executives, entrepreneurs, business developers, key project leads, etc.  My findings were pretty fascinating and I thought I’d share some of this with you.

What started as a small project back in November as I reached out to a few colleagues around what makes them successful, turned into a full-blown research project, where I had the opportunity to spend many hours with very successful people in many lines of business (over 75 hours of research and deep conversation!).

First, for some background.  I work for a tech company, CCC Information Services, out of Chicago in a sales role.  I’m half way through my sixteenth year (I know, who works for anyone for sixteen years anymore??).  It’s a great company.  Very forward thinking, very high performance culture. We’ve averaged approximately 24% yr over yr Return on Equity during this time.  I tell you that not to brag, but to point out that many of the people I talked to work for CCC….and it’s definitely a high performance culture.  The results are there – but I can assure you that everyone goes about their work in a different way.  Some better than others….most have the good and the bad – things they do really well and things they can improve.  One of the objectives was to uncover both and help everyone get a little bit better.

I started the project because I knew I’d be able to learn something from some of my colleagues about what they do on a day to day basis that sets them apart.  I really believe no matter how much success you have or how “good” you are today, if you’re not looking to get better it’s a recipe for disaster.  I say that from experience.  Nine years ago I got a big promotion.  I was 30 yrs old and if I’m being honest – got a little complacent.  I stopped pushing the envelope and thought I had “made it”.  Thankfully, I got a wake up call a few years ago and my mindset is all about continuous growth. Hard lesson, but a great lesson.

Back to my research and some key findings.  I say it was fascinating because I was blown away by the candor and how different people approach things.  I liken the conversations to that picture of the iceberg where all you see is what’s above the water.  You know the one I’m talking about – where you can only see a small piece above and there’s this huge piece below the surface we never see.  This was such a big theme – everyone had so much they did on a day to day basis that they really never thought about.  I found that many never thought about their daily habits and what made them “successful”.  I put that in italics because success is certainly different for everyone.  I can definitely tell you that although important, financial success was rarely the primary factor. In fact, the idea of serving and adding value was a big theme for most.  The best of the best definitely had a contribution mindset that set them apart.  That was cool to see.

I thought I’d list out a few key learnings and the cool part is this has opened up a much larger conversation about how we can all learn from each other.

Three core themes stuck out and they are as follows:

  1. Theme #1 – Mindset – Everyone has challenges in their daily lives.  It was a pervasive theme.  The best of the best have a resiliency to them.  A grit factor, I’ll call it.  They know that things won’t always go their way but they’re focused on moving forward.  Carol Dweck, who wrote the book “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” refers to two different types of approaches.  One is a Fixed Mindset and the other is a Growth Mindset.  Here’s what Dweck says about Fixed Mindsets – “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.”  Here’s what she says about Growth Mindsets – “People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”  Make sense?  We can all get better.  Whatever cards you’re dealt today are simply the hand you are dealt.  You have a choice with how you play that hand.  This is crucial – without this foundation, I’m not sure anything else matters.
  2. Theme #2 – Planning – The best plan their work everyday.  They don’t let the urgency of others own what they do.  They utilize their calendars to schedule important tasks and meetings.  As Stephen Covey said in “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, the best definitely “Begin with the end in mind”.  Abraham Lincoln has a great quote, “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Think about that…we often times want to dive into our email or daily grind….but are you really thinking about your work the right way.  The best focus on high impact work and plan their day around that.  Quick tip – Pick your top one-three most important projects for the day.  Write down 1-3 definitive outcomes you aim to achieve today for each….then set a timer for 90 minutes and get to work on those and those only.  Don’t check your phone, don’t go on social media, don’t get lost in email. Focus for 90 minutes on your top three projects.  I promise you that if you can do this on a continuous basis, you will build great momentum and will start to really get some high impact results.
  3. Theme #3 – Fuel – The best fuel for optimal performance.  This means they think like an athlete when they work.  Whether it’s what you put into your body (food/liquid) or how much you sleep, I can assure the best of the best are thinking about this.  In fact, I talked to a very successful CEO who chuckled about the notion of CEO’s pulling all nighters and working 80 hour weeks.  He counted sleep as one of the primary components to his success.  The average amount of sleep per night was about seven hours for these top performers.  There were some that operated on less but I can tell you that their stress level was a lot higher.  When it comes to what you put in your body, if you ever played a sport, did you perform well if you just at a Big Mac and Vanilla Shake before your game?  I think we both know the answer – so, why would you eat a bunch of junk during your work day?  To perform at an optimal level, you MUST think about what you’re fueling your body and mind with.

These are definitely the top three themes that came to the surface but there were a lot more that are important to the daily success.  I can tell you that most woke up early but not all.  I talked to some very successful folks who aren’t early risers…they still do high impact work.  The fun part is that the conversation continues to evolve.  I haven’t written much lately as my focus has been on other projects, but I plan on diving deeper on this topic.

Especially now, with so much coming at us on a moment to moment basis, the habits we build and focus we put into place is essential to achieving any type of result.

I’d love to hear from you.  What’s the one habit/ritual/thing that helps you achieve what you set out to on a daily basis?

Thanks for reading.

Jon

Sometimes you have to struggle…

Sometimes you have to struggle…

There is no Easter without Good Friday.  I read this last night…a blog I follow by a guy named Chet Scott who runs a coaching firm, Built to Lead, in Columbus.  He was talking about prayer and the fact that we typically pray for circumstances to change.  Chet cautions about this – he says that we are in “much deeper need of change” as individuals, not necessarily our circumstances.  The idea – that our struggles are many times a prerequisite to get us to where we want to go.

So, what are you struggling with?

Our pastor talked about the term Paradigm Shift yesterday and how it came into play.  By the way, if you’re wondering what a Paradigm Shift is – here’s the definition – a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.  It’s essentially a complete change in how we look at something.

Back to the struggle.  What if you could change your perspective from looking at your struggle as something that’s holding you back?  What if you could look at your struggle as an opportunity?  I’ve heard people say – use your Adversity to your Advantage.  Pretty solid advice, I believe.

Profound wisdom comes from some odd places and I never knew much about the Comedian Steve Harvey.  Yes, that Steve Harvey who recently botched the Miss America Pageant winner.  Steve’s a guy who struggled with a lot of things in life but he gives a great perspective in this talk about the power of adversity in your life.  Harvey talks about how a seed grows.  He said a seed goes into the ground and doesn’t grow right away.  No, a seed needs a bunch of dirt to be piled on top of it and around it.  At first, nothing happens, the seeds is just surrounded by dirt.  Eventually, though, the rains come and that dirt starts to turn into “soil” and begins to nourish that seed.  Over time, with continued watering and nourishment, that seed will eventually grow and come up out of the ground. Pretty soon, you’ll have a full fledged tree (or whatever seed was planted).  If you want to watch it – here’s the link (it’s about 30 minutes or so).  Harvey’s got a shorter video (about 5 mins) about taking a leap of faith and “jumping”, which talks a lot about the same principles.  Here it is – Jump.

Bottom line, most of the time there is no “success” (whatever that is for you), without some sort of struggle.

It’s almost been a year since one of my best buddies, TJ, passed away.  He was buried last year on Good Friday.  He used to talk about Jesus all the time and it used to make me uncomfortable when we were younger.  Over time, and with a lot of dirt, I began to listen more intently and soak in more of what he was saying.  We lost him too soon, but he left a great legacy….planted some great seeds in many people.  In the last year, I decided to venture in…to really learn about what being a Christian means.

I’ve found that the struggle is often times just the thing we need to move us closer to the promised land.

So, I’ll ask again….what are you struggling with?  Maybe your paradigm shift could be looking at this in a whole new light.

James 1:2-4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

What are we chasing?

What are we chasing?

I read this parable many years ago and once again saw recently in a Jimmy John’s as I was with my son, Gabe.  I think it’s a really great lesson for anyone chasing success and wondering what really matters.  It’s a question all of us should ponder consistently as it’s easy to get caught in the trap of chasing down things that may seem to matter on the surface, but ultimately, don’t provide you with real happiness.

The Mexican Fisherman and the Investment Banker (Author Unknown)

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle-man, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery. You could control the product, processing, and distribution,” he said. “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time was right, you would announce an IPO, and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you could retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

If this resonates with you, I strongly suggest you save it somewhere and read it from time to time.  It brings to mind a great bible verse that brings a similar message –  For what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul – Mathew 16:26.

Have a great week.

Jon

The-Parable-of-the-Mexican-Fisherman-and-Investment-Banker2-1024x760

9 Ways to Leverage Adversity

9 Ways to Leverage Adversity

There I was….21 years later. Speaking to 25 18-22 year olds about some pretty important life lessons. I was speaking to me 21 years ago. Unfortunately, I never got this advice 21 years ago. My goal…my mission…was (and is) to make sure these 18-22 year olds didn’t make the same mistake I did.

The message – Own Your Story. Simple concept….yet so hard to live.

I had the honor of speaking to the Bowling Green Men’s Soccer Team a few weeks ago – my alma mater. I played at BG from 1994-97. We had a great team and for that I’m still really proud. Personally though, I had high expectations for being a key contributor. I let the challenges I was facing on a personal level take over my playing ability. It was a mindset shift – to one of fear. If I had a bad touch in a game, it would snowball. It led to be going from a starting player and key contributor to coming off the bench late in games. I failed at a very personal level. I look back and connect the dots and I see the value in the experience. It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me the ultimate lesson – the sooner we own our story, the better off we are.

I lost my confidence both as an athlete and as a person. I struggled with personal issues and never dealt with them. I buried them and continued to fight through the struggle. It eventually led to me living with chronic pain and severe anxiety. Simply b/c I didn’t deal with the issues at hand.

My wish for these guys (and for really everyone) is to embrace whatever adversity you face, be open about it, OWN IT and don’t get caught up in trying to put on a perfect face for everyone.

So, let’s get practical – how do you own your story? Here are 9 key things I believe will help you face any adversity – and, ultimately, overcome it.

9 WAYS TO LEVERAGE ADVERSITY

1. Declare ownership – there’s power in simply stating that it’s my story, my life, my challenges. Blaming others or situations or the way you were raised….not a recipe for success.
2. Be okay with being imperfect – I think most people have perfectionist qualities – we all want to a great job but being perfect – that’s just not a good way to go about life.
3. Surround yourself with the right influences – This goes for people and things (TV, Social Media, Books, etc.) – it’s like the saying, “If you hang around a barber shop all the time, you’re bound to get a haircut at some point.” Insert bad influence for barber shop…if you hang around people who bring you down – you’ll eventually become a downer. If you watch crappy tv shows all the time, you’ll eventually start to feel crappy.  My friend Scott always references this quote from Jim Rohn which I love – “You’re the avg of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”  Think about that.
4. Control what you can control – One of the things I talked about was The R Factor. There’s a formula – E + R = O – The E stands for Event…the R for Response and the O for outcome. The idea is the one thing you can always control is your R – the Response. No matter what happens, you can always control how you respond. The idea is that you respond “Above the Line” with intention and purpose. If you respond “Below the Line”, this is typically negative and many times our default mindset. Focus 3 is the company that developed this concept….they’ve been working with Ohio State’s football team for the last couple years on incorporating this into their culture. It seems to be working : ) – Read this article for more on how Ohio State is embracing this mindset….and, by the way, Urban Meyer’s (coach of the Buckeyes) book, Above the Line, comes out on 10/27/15.  Here’s a great quote from Brian Kight who is the CEO of Focus 3…

“You can’t stop challenges. The question is, ‘Are you strong enough to step up and respond?'”

5. Be authentic – Stop trying to impress everyone and be someone you’re not. It’s easy to fall into this trap in this era of quick social media posts and selfies. I’m not saying either are bad but be yourself. I heard a quote that goes something like this – “Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” It’s a struggle to “keep up with the Jones’s” when all you see is how great someone’s vacation was or how their family life is (or seems) perfect. I’m a big fan of things like Facebook and Twitter but let’s face it – for the most part people aren’t posting the garbage in their lives.  Keep that in mind the next time you start to feel bad that you’re not living up to your expectations. Speaking of garbage…
6. Take out the trash – I used this metaphor in my talk. We all deal with a lot of stuff and it’s important to “take out your trash” on a consistent basis. What happens if you miss trash day? Your trash can will begin to overflow, it’ll start to smell like some ungodly stuff, you’ll probably get some nasty bugs or something. You get the picture. The more you get stuff off your chest, the better you’ll be. Keep a journal…confide in a close friend if you’re going through something. Don’t internalize everything. Your insides will eventually start to stink : (
7. Make your adversity your advantage – Ever hear of the Hero’s Journey? It’s essentially the premise for every movie out there. Someone goes through life, they face a huge challenge, they overcome that challenge – and become a hero. Why can’t that be you? Everyday we face adversity in some regards. Why not be a hero everyday?
8. Pray – My friend TJ wrote about this in his 39 life lessons before he passed away earlier this year. When in doubt, pray. There’s power in this.
9. Get outside your comfort zone – Owning your story isn’t easy. Facing down fears and challenges is hard. It’ll make you really uncomfortable. There’s beauty in the discomfort though…that’s where growth takes place – on the fringes of comfort.

So, there I was. Speaking to my 18-year old self, but this time to the 25 players that make up the BG soccer team. I know it resonated b/c I know how authentic I was. In fact, my slides didn’t work. I had slides to help with the message, videos to show, etc. The old me, in that victim mindset, probably would’ve crumbled. Responding Above the Line was part of my message. I had no choice but to go with it – to just speak from the heart and tell my story and try to inspire them to live with this mindset. As I said to them, even if it helps one kid in that room, it’s a message worth giving. My goal was to plant a seed b/c I know many of them will face extreme adversity at some point in their lives.

Pain & adversity is inevitable.  The question always is….how are you going to Respond?

I’ve been staying in close touch with Coach Nichols (the BG Head Coach) and he shared with me that he had his players do some research on something that inspires them.  One of their key players sent a video that he watched online about Dreams.  It’s a really motivational 5 or so minute clip.  In that note to Coach Nichols, Alexis wrote about why it was important to him. He talked about struggling in Bowling Green last Spring, being away from family and dealing with pretty dreary weather conditions.  He said, “There are moments in my life where I had to face personal problems.  There are moments in my life where I failed. I could give up, suffer the consequences, or own it as a strength. Some people say “Forget your past, move on”. Now, thanks to my experience and things that I learned, I can definitely say this quote is wrong.  And the meeting with Jon Giganti supported my opinion.”  

I love this and this is why I’m sharing my journey.  If it helps a young up and coming guy like Alexis – if it simply validates his thinking and plants a seed – then I can live with the fear of putting myself out there.

Adversity truly could be your greatest Advantage!

All the best,

Jon

P.S. Here’s another quote from Alexis.  He’s making a decision to live and breathe “Above the Line”.  It’s not easy but it makes all the difference in the world.  I love the first line – “My History is My Strength.”  Profound stuff.

Alexis quote