RLL 53: '100 Years Since the Great War'

RLL 53: '100 Years Since the Great War'

 One of my favorite veterans: my dad! This is also one of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad in his signature Dodgers cap, my older daughter in a Cinderella gown, and me getting ready to coach a soccer game. These kinds of memories are ones to treasure.

One of my favorite veterans: my dad! This is also one of my all-time favorite pictures: Dad in his signature Dodgers cap, my older daughter in a Cinderella gown, and me getting ready to coach a soccer game. These kinds of memories are ones to treasure.

Today, on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the day that ended what would become known as World War I, I am struck with three thoughts that I wanted to share with all of you. These three thoughts occurred to me in relation to how to celebrate our holiday of Veterans’ Day, but they also are great reminders about how we should approach leadership.

First, we should do the work of remembering. Our brains are funny things, and when we fail to think of things often enough, we tend to forget them. This isn’t new or novel information, but it’s worth being reminded about: we need to be reminded and we need to remind ourselves of important information. That’s the whole purpose of holidays (literally ‘holy days’, or days set aside for a special purpose): to remember something important from our past. So today, let us remember the service and sacrifice that millions have made to give us the world that we live in today. It’s far from perfect, but it’s also better than it might be.

 Another one of my favorite veterans: my mom! Here, Mom and my younger daughter were dressed up for a school event.

Another one of my favorite veterans: my mom! Here, Mom and my younger daughter were dressed up for a school event.

Second, we should be grateful for what we have and where we are. We live in a world with amazing technology, plenty of food and medicine, and a world that even goes out of its way to be beautiful (fall leaves, anyone?). God has given us this amazing planet to live on, and we need to show gratitude to the Creator of beauty and to the brave men and women who have fought to make it safe for us to enjoy such beauty.

Third, we should be humble and kind in all of our dealings with other people, especially with those that we disagree with. There are some serious disagreements out there, but if we approach each conversation and interaction with love and respect, with truth and gentleness, with humility and service in our minds, then we’re much more likely to have a helpful, positive interaction. Plus, it’s just good policy. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Every single human is an immortal being created in the image of God, and when we remember that, we tend to treat them differently, better.

Today, let us remember those who have made our world possible. Let us honor them and thank them. Let us show gratitude and humility in our dealings with others. And most importantly, let us be thankful to Jesus for making all things, and let us look forward to His return.

Action Step: be sure to thank a veteran (or a lot of veterans)!

RLL 52: 'The Messiah Method'

RLL 52: 'The Messiah Method'

Last year in one of my first blog posts, I wrote a little bit about a book I had read called The Messiah Method: The Seven Disciplines of the Winningest College Soccer Program in America, and today I want to take a more expansive view at it. Written by Michael Zigarelli, a business professor at Messiah, the book is not about soccer per se, but rather it’s about leadership and it contains wisdom that can be applied in any area of life. Today, we’re going to take a look at the key principles in the book as well as some specific applications that can be made. I hope you’re as excited as I am; I love this book!

The men’s and women’s soccer programs at Messiah College have won a combined 16 national championships in 18 years. This is an astounding record of success in any sport and at any level; the purpose of the book is to explain how these programs have been able to attain and sustain success for such a long period of time. The book, written after many interviews with current and former coaches and players, focuses on seven key disciplines that form The Messiah Method.

Discipline 1: Pursue a higher purpose than winning—Success begins by redefining it

Here we learn that, though these are ultra-competitive college soccer programs, their ultimate goal is not simply to win games and championships. Rather, their goal is to glorify God and to encourage each other in everything that they do: academics, athletics, social life, and relationships. The success, then, is a by-product rather than the main focus. “We definitely want to win, but it doesn’t define us. Our worth as a person isn’t wrapped up in it,” says Brad McCarty, current Messiah College men’s coach.

Application: Remember to keep an eternal perspective in our homes, our jobs, and our lives. Our goal is not earthly success but rather bringing eternal glory to God. When we do that, we will experience success as a by-product.

Discipline 2: Be intentional about everything—There’s more under your control than you realize

This blog is all about leadership. We, as leaders, have the power to make changes in our little pockets of the world, and this means that if things aren’t going the way we want them to, we are responsible. “As the leader, you have the power—all the power you need, in fact—so use it to create the team and culture you really want.” (pg. 67) Often we lament that we don’t have the power to change certain situations, but the truth is that this is often a cop-out for when we don’t want to rock the boat.

Application: If there are changes that need to be made, be intentional about addressing them. Choose to consciously make adjustments wherever necessary, especially in regards to relationship-building.

Discipline 3: Recruit the “both-and” players—Why talent is not enough

Often in sports and in life we see that exceptions are made for people with outstanding qualities in other areas: athletes with great physical ability aren’t held to the same academic standards; employees with great sales records are let off the hook for not attending mandatory training, etc. However, at Messiah, they blow this notion up by refusing to compromise their standards. “While elevating faith to a paramount ideal, they do the same with intellect. While affirming the value of discipline, it affirms the value of imagination…While maintaining that absolute truth exists and is knowable, it also allows students to think broadly for themselves to pursue it.” (pg. 85)

Application: Examine your life and the people that are in your family or organization and see if/where you have compromised one value in pursuit of another. Then, raise the standard back to where it needs to be to develop “both-and” people, not “either-or” people.

Discipline 4: Cultivate team chemistry—how close relationships create a competitive advantage

While both teams pursue team chemistry in a variety of ways, my favorite part of this section talked about how one of the teams has what’s called Forced Family Fun nights. On these occasions, the players are required to get together and go to a movie, or have a game night, or participate in another team-oriented function. They don’t always like missing out on other events, but all of the players talk about how much this helps their relationships with each other. And as much as we don’t want to admit it, when we like someone we are more likely to work extra hard for them. As Zigarelli writes, part of team chemistry is “mutual feelings of loyalty and empathy for one another.” (pg. 113) This is more powerful than we realize. Says former coach Dave Brandt, “There is nothing more important than organizational culture. And it is 100 percent under your control.” (pg. 137)

Application: Have regular opportunities for relationship-building in your home and organization. As I wrote in my book, “If you take care of relationships, the results will take care of themselves.”

If you want to learn more about Mike Zigarelli and his book, listen to this great interview with him on the Way of Champions podcast, found on the Changing the Game Project website. There are also other amazing resources on this site, so be sure to check them out as well! https://changingthegameproject.com/mike-zigarelli/

Discipline 5: Link training to the match—what everyone knows but few can do

This may be the most soccer-specific principle, but it still applies elsewhere as well. In soccer, the idea here is to make every activity at practice useful and applicable to game situations. In life, the idea is to make sure that we are consciously training our audience using activities that are useful and applicable to their real lives. One example from our world is teaching our children to wash their own laundry and dishes and to cut the yard. These are life skills they will need when they move out on their own in just a few years. Often we hear about letting kids discover their own way, but often that’s simply an excuse for abdicating parental responsibility. As current women’s coach Scott Frey says, “Freedom becomes chaos without structure.” (pg. 141) Our job as leaders is to provide a framework in which freedom and creativity can be exercised safely.

Application: Honestly evaluate the training provided at your job, or the activities you do with your family to see if they are applicable in real life situations. If not, consider changing some of them to make them more relevant.

Discipline 6: Choreograph Game Day—Readiness by design

This is closely related to discipline 5 and again has to do with creating a structured environment. The purpose for choreographing certain things is to have an established, comfortable routine, and we all do this: think of your morning routine and how it often feels uncomfortable when that routine is upset by travel or other circumstances. As Dave Brandt said about preparing his players for games, “I’m anti-distraction. I try to eliminate these and set the team mindset.” (pg. 173)

Application: In our homes and at work, look for ways to eliminate distractions and set up helpful routines that allow your group to focus on the task at hand so that they are always ready for whatever may arise.

Discipline 7: Play to a standard—secret to sustaining success

Any successful person can tell you that what’s even harder than having success is sustaining it, often because complacency steps in. When we’ve set a goal and then reached it, our motivation wanes, and then we find ourselves having less success. Rather than focusing on just a goal, then, what we should focus on is reaching a standard of excellence every day. Pursue perfection, even if we’ll never reach it. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (quoted on pg. 191). The idea is that “Playing to a standard means doing everything with utmost quality and distinction.” (pg. 191)

Application: Instead of being solely outcome-driven, we need to focus on doing the best we can in every situation, constantly seeking to improve. Coach Frey states it best: “When we play and train, it is so irrelevant what anybody else in the world is doing. I don’t care what this team or that program has done. It’s all about us and what we can achieve.” (pg. 190)

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, especially for soccer people but really for anyone interested in becoming a better leader. Give it a read and let me know how it helped you!

RLL 51: What's Your Story?

Real Life Leading #51: What’s Your Story?

 A gift I received after coaching my younger daughter’s soccer team this fall.

A gift I received after coaching my younger daughter’s soccer team this fall.

When I was in 8th grade, I played varsity soccer for a man named Ken McIntosh, and at the end of the season Coach Mac said to me, "You really should think about pursuing soccer as a career." I thought he meant as a professional player, so I really focused on soccer in high school and even played in college. But when I stopped playing midway through college, Coach Mac's words came back to me. I realized he was right: I should pursue soccer as a career, but not as a player; as a coach. I began as a student assistant at Covenant College while I was still a student there, and I've been coaching ever since (a total of 15 + years now).

Coaching soccer has opened up doors I never imagined, from jobs at high schools to getting to coach at camps at Duke University. It's allowed me to work with athletes and players from all areas of the country and of all different ages. And it's also continued to bring me a specific type of joy that I don't find anywhere else. Most importantly, coaching soccer has allowed me to spend many extra hours with my children, coaching them at different levels.

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Why do I share this? Because that one comment changed my life, and the stories and comments that you remember and focus on have the power to change yours too. Stories can serve many purposes: transmit information (‘how to’ stories), stir the emotions (every Nicholas Sparks and John Green novel ever written), rally support to a cause (Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle was written with this in mind), create an identity (think family histories told around the dinner table), and to reinforce beliefs (every religion in the world has sacred texts full of stories and history). But for our purposes, the power of a story is in its power to change your life.

Here’s the key today: the stories we tell ourselves shape who we become.

Many books have been written on this topic, from the Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s classic The Power of Positive Thinking to the more recent Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan. Going back even further, the Bible is very clear about this in many different places. Philippians 4:8 reminds us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew that how we think, the stories we tell, what we focus on, has an incredible impact on who we are and what we do.

So the question is, what stories are we telling? Do you tell yourself you’re not smart enough? Not good enough? Don’t have the right skills? Or do you tell yourself that you can, you’re capable, and you will succeed? As Henry Ford said many years ago, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” This has been true throughout all of history, and it remains true today. If you want to change your world, you first need to start by changing your thinking.

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To help people think better and change their lives is the major goal of the BeliefHacker project, recently created by a friend of mine named Dr. Bill Findley (this is not an advertisement, and I don’t get compensated, but I would recommend you check out his work at www.beliefhacker.com). The premise is simple: “Think better. Live better.” Again, the Bible is also very clear on this when Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2)

My favorite story of all time is The Lord of the Rings. I never tire of reading it or of reading other books about it; I even listen to podcasts and belong to discussion groups devoted to LOTR. The reason is because that story is so powerful to me, with themes of good vs. evil, the possibility of redemption, the necessity of perseverance even against overwhelming odds. I even quoted LOTR in my own book. This story has helped shape who I am, just as the stories you involve yourself in help shape who you are.

One last word, this from the excellent and generous Dondi Scumaci (international business speaker and consultant, and author of Career Moves, and Ready, Set…Grow). She says, “It’s how we tell the story (to ourselves and others) that will ultimately determine how we move forward. How we frame those events—what we pull from those experiences—will shape who we become in the future.”

Action Step: Take a few minutes today to write down the stories that you consistently tell yourself and determine if they are helping you move forward or just holding you back.