A lesson learned from a student-athlete last school year. These students teach amazing lessons if we're willing to learn!
Jim Rohn said that there is a surprise a day when you work with people. I have the opportunity of getting to work with people all day. Older people, younger people, people from all walks of life, and even some people I don’t necessarily want to work with. I can confirm what he said; everyday gives you something that will make you shake your head. Sometimes from disgust, sometimes in admiration. Either way, he’s right.
Last week, as I was walking to my first period class, I ran into several of our soccer players coming into the school with breakfast items from off campus. Initially, this doesn’t seem like a problem, except for the fact that our campus is a closed campus (students cannot leave during school hours) and they were late coming back. Of course, I asked them questions that didn’t have an answer to justify their situation. We finished the conversation of why it’s not okay, and all headed our separate ways. The next class period, our soccer period, our head coach got into them about not leaving and reinforced the idea of doing what we should be doing.
The thing that surprised me the most about the situation was that a couple of the guys who decided to leave were seniors, and one was a team captain. It’s disappointing to be let down by a guy you feel you can trust with anything. We don’t believe in big mistakes or little mistakes. There are simply mistakes. Because “little” mistakes repeated over a long period of time will undoubtedly lead to failure. So, Jim Rohn was right, there is at least a surprise a day.
The story doesn’t end there. Later that day, our captain who had left, caught up to me in the hallway. He said he would meet me after school to remedy the situation (run ladders, bear crawls, etc.). This was completely unprovoked. Our head coach didn’t ask him to do it, I didn’t ask him to do it, he came to us and requested it. It caught me a bit off guard, but I can’t say I am completely surprised. There is a reason this guy is one of our leaders. This just so happened to be one day before we opened district play. We didn’t want to run his legs out 24 hours before the match, so I simply asked him to write us a one page report on why it is important to follow simple rules. The next day, he brought this to me:
“For something to be effective, especially in a team sport, there has to be a set of rules all the athletes must abide by. Regulations are established to provide guidelines to what is acceptable and what will lead the team to success. When the system is corrupted, or there is a failure to follow simple rules, the team as a whole begins to show signs of impairment. If a person does not show up to practice, team chemistry will not grow. If someone is late to class, they will struggle with the lessons which will ultimately lead to a failing grade and impede them from playing in game. As more and more athletes realize the importance of rules, the team will accordingly grow stronger. Vice Versa, if athletes ignore simple rules, the team slowly deteriorates and becomes ineffective.
Having a set of rules doesn’t mean the team is restricted; on the contrary, having a set of rules keeps the team organized and efficient. Where there are no rules, there is no order. Where there is no order, there is no team. Where there is not team, there is no success. Without success, we will never move forward.”
This is a 17 year old kid who is proving he is making the transition to becoming a man. He accepted responsibility, corrected his wrong, and communicated that he understood why we have rules. There is so much good information in his paper. He didn’t say that if people ignore rules, deterioration comes right away. He said it happens slowly. When we make small bad choices during the day, we rarely see an immediate negative effect. It might not be until weeks, months, or years later that we see the consequences of our actions. A healthy individual today can eat fast food for two weeks straight and still say they look and feel fine. But over two years? Of course not. It’s not our big decisions that typically make or break us, it’s the small everyday decisions that we have to pay most attention to.
I learned a lot from reading his paper. I learned that we can recognize our mistakes right away. I learned that sometimes we can also fix our mistakes right away. I learned that we can learn from somebody else’s mistake so we can avoid doing the same. He titled his paper Simple Leads to Success, and it absolutely fits perfectly. His paper made me ask myself what I could change in my habits. Are there any simple choices I am making every day that are taking me away from my goals? Am I making my day harder than it should be because of a few simple actions? Am I choosing to give some of my days 90% instead of my full 100%? I had to honestly answer yes to all three questions. Sometimes the surprise a day while working with people can set you in the right direction. I challenge you to read what he wrote. Then ask yourself the same questions. Your answers might surprise you.
First, you deserve to know that I am grateful for you. I am grateful for everything about you. Yes, even the not-so-great things. Being exactly who you are has given me an experience as a teacher that very few people get to have. You share your stories, your struggles, your successes, and your slip-ups with me, and it lets me know you’re human. It lets me know that, really, we’re not that different from one another. So, thank you for that. Thank you for being exactly the way you are, the way you are supposed to be. You’re perfect that way.
Second, you deserve to know that you are literally the reason I come to work every day. I don’t do this for the money, I could have made more as an accountant. I do this because you add a richness to my day that can’t be bought. You add relationships to my life that change the way I think, act, and live. My wife and I talk about your stories and your experiences. A lot of times we laugh as we reminisce and compare our crazy teenage years, and sometimes we cry because we don’t think teenagers should have to experience some of the stories your life books have written.
Third, you deserve to know that I believe in you. You might need some refining and perhaps you need to learn some things, but guess what, we all do. I believe in you because I’ve seen not only your potential, but the product of your effort. I’ve seen the manifestation of your work. And let me just say this: You have everything you need to be successful. Period. Never forget that.
Finally, and most importantly, you deserve to know that I love you. That’s right, I said it. I love you. I consider you family. Family isn’t defined by blood, it’s defined by love. If you ever need anything, my wife and I are here for you. 5, 10, 15 years from now, we’ll be here for you.
Thank you for making my “job” one of the best in the world. I am beyond fortunate because of you. Keep being exactly who you want to be.
I just recently had an incredible opportunity to share an idea at the 2017 TEDxIdahoFalls event just 20 minutes from where I grew up. During the lead up to the event, and after, I would get messages and phone calls from people telling me how great of an accomplishment it is to speak at a TED organization event. I’d simply say “thank you,” and then share that I was excited for the opportunity. This lead me to really start asking some questions that I am not sure I have the answer to, yet.
I don’t have an argument I’d like to defend regarding the first three questions, but I do have one for the last one: Does it really matter how we look at things/events in our life? And my argument is absolutely, YES. It does matter.
Now, please understand that I am not claiming to be right. It is 10:51 am on Saturday, March 4th, it is overcast outside, and I am just finishing up some coffee as I write in a brainstorm manner. My thoughts on this are mostly gathered, and I am hoping to solidify them as I write. I need to just get the idea out, then we can refine it.
I was so stuck on this question that this week I actually enlisted my students to help me out. For a warm up activity in class, I had them write down their opinions on whether or not there was a difference between opportunities and accomplishments, and if so, which one was more important to focus on. The majority agreed that there was a difference between the two, but it was evenly split as to where our focus should be. Even their arguments for why they thought we should focus on one more than the other didn’t match up.
So, I guess I am really writing this to just further dilute the pot. BUT, I think I have a strong point to share. It’s very simply this:
It is more important to focus on opportunities than accomplishments.
When we are focused on opportunities, we are forward-thinking, with gratitude. When our focus is on accomplishment, our thinking is behind us. Again, I am not dead-set on this. There is a lot of room for good discussion, but it’s a place to start. I think the two are definitely related. Accomplishment pushes us because, well, who doesn’t like to feel accomplished? And, one could argue that opportunities give us the ability to accomplish. In addition to all these thoughts, when we view even the stresses of life as opportunities, we start to reinvent the way we view the world around us. Suddenly, the “I have to’s” become the “I get to’s.” And that just makes for a better day all around.
To conclude, I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share an idea at TEDxIdahoFalls. Whether or not I, or any of the speakers, accomplished anything will be decided by whether or not the ideas are actually implemented and actually help somebody. If they don’t help, what was really accomplished?
Please, help me figure this out. Are they different? Does one strictly follow the other? Does it matter? I’d love to hear your opinion!
I have concluded that life will sometimes kick you square in face, and it will keep moving like you don’t matter. I have also concluded that my first conclusion is just what it feels like, that’s not really the case.
On Tuesday evening (November 1st), our JV and Varsity girls’ basketball team had a scrimmage at the school I teach and coach at. After both were finished, I was walking to the coaches office to grab my stuff to head home. I passed one of my freshman players, and simply said, “Goodnight, Kay!” She didn’t respond. With a straight face, shoulders slouched, eyes looking just a few feet in front of her, she kept walking. So I laughingly said, “Hey, Kay, I like you better when you smile! I’ll see you tomorrow.” Again, she completely ignored me.
Not willing to let her walk away unhappy, I turned around and jogged up to her. I had to ask her what was on her mind a couple of times before she gave me anything. After 10-15 seconds of simply shaking her head, she covered her face and broke down crying. We quickly made our way to the athletic hallway where we had a short, perspective-correcting conversation.
I reiterated that she could talk to us, and we would help any way we could. She said, “I just miss my dad!” I replied, “I understand… Well where is your dad?” Responding with a shot of perspective that I couldn’t have possibly prepared for, she said, “I don’t know. He doesn’t want to see me anymore!” Her crying became uncontrollable and I almost immediately regretted asking the question. What do you say to a 14 year old who believes her dad doesn’t want to see her anymore? What words are supposed to fix that situation? It may have been my longest, most uncomfortable moment at the school.
I wish I had a profound, happy ending to this story, but I don’t. All I said is what I really thought. I told her that we (her coaches and teammates) will never be able to take her pain and sadness away, but I told her we loved her, and we were here for her. Our conversation didn't fix the problem. Not even close. But I trust that by letting her know she was appreciated by her team, it might have some positive effect on her.
I promise that I did not write this to ruin your day. I actually wrote this to make it better. Because somebody around you will have a heavy heart or distracted mind, and you get the opportunity to take them from feeling like a 1 to feeling like a 2, or feeling like a 4 to feeling like a 5. Matter of fact, this is our job as members of humanity: seeing the humanity in others and acting accordingly.
Maybe we won’t stop those around us from feeling like it’s a battle of them against the world, but at least we can make them feel like they’re not fighting alone.
I would argue that there aren’t too many life experiences that, when reflecting on them, make you cringe in fear and warm your heart at the same time. Well, the evening of Thursday, October 20th, 2016, I had one of these unique experiences that reminded me of a couple things.