Overcoming Adversity

RLL 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

Real Life Leading 73: Leadership Lessons from Soccer Seniors 2019

This past week marked the beginning of soccer playoffs for my high school soccer team, and it proved to be quite the exciting time. We have three seniors on the team this year, all of whom have been excellent and key contributors throughout their entire careers. We were blessed to be able to celebrate them and recognize their accomplishments at a senior night ceremony during one of our games. Since then, I’ve been considering some of what they have taught me over the years, and I came up with two quick lessons that I want to share with you.

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

Had to get a team picture after a 4-3 double OT win in the playoffs!

The first lesson is the importance of resilience. You could also simply refer to this as toughness or hardiness: these girls are resilient. They have overcome all kinds of challenges in their four years together on the varsity team: multiple injuries to themselves and/or teammates; changes in our school’s area (meaning our conference opponents) and classification (the size of schools we have to compete with); personal issues off the field (what teenager doesn’t face those, right?); and the usual assortment of issues in the classroom (again, think back to your own high school days).

Through all of these difficulties, these girls have remained tough and continually overcome these obstacles, culminating this week in a 4-3 win in double-overtime in our first playoff game this year. In fact, in each of the past four years, these girls have helped win at least one game in the post-season, an accomplishment never before achieved by our soccer program. They’re tough. What a great example, and what a great reminder to me: no matter what’s going on, my job is to continue moving forward despite whatever obstacles happen to appear.

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

Celebrating our seniors with their special gifts on Senior Night 2019!

The second lesson is that they’re consistent. They show up ready to play and to work every day. High school soccer season in Alabama is a long grind, beginning with preseason training right after New Year’s and not ending until the end of April or even mid-May (depending on the post-season). So for these girls, while other seniors are getting ‘spring fever’ and thinking of graduation and summer, they’re continuing to work and to sweat at practice and in games. And they’ve been at it for four years of high school (and many years before that). Though there are always ebbs and flows during a season, it’s been a joy to watch them come out to play and work hard at every opportunity, and our program is better for it. Again, what a great example to set: always come ready to work and to give your best effort.

These two reminders hit me this week, and so I wanted to share them with you. Whether you’re a business leader, part of a blended family, a college student, a parent, or anything else, you can benefit from remembering to be resilient in the face of adversity, and from being consistent in your hard work every day.

Action step: This week, look for new ways to overcome obstacles that have held you back, and commit to working hard each and every day.

RLL 44: Leading in the Midst of Busy

Real Life Leading #44: Leading in the Midst of Busy

This week has been crazy: following a long holiday weekend there's been school, soccer practice, podcast interviews, prepping for upcoming events...oh yeah, and also wanting to still spend time with my wife and daughters! I'm sure for some of you it's been the same way. So the question is: how do we make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to, even in the midst of busy? Here are a couple quick tips to consider.

Me and my partner-in-life: my wife, who helps me get everything done, even when I don't fully realize how much she's helped!

Me and my partner-in-life: my wife, who helps me get everything done, even when I don't fully realize how much she's helped!

1) Prioritize what needs prioritizing, and stick with it. For me, each day begins with a routine that involves reading my Bible. I get up, let the dogs out, feed them, and then read by Bible while they're eating. I know that if I don't read my Bible early, then it's not likely to happen. I also know that I need that time to spend in reading and prayer in order to get myself prepared for the day. So, look at what HAS to get done, and make that your priority so that when things get busy, it still gets done.

2) Make a list. I tell people all the time, "If I don't write it down, it doesn't exist in my world." If I don't put it on a list, it probably won't get done. I have, right now, about six different post-its on my desk of various lists that need to be addressed in the next week or two. Write down what needs to get done so that things don't fall through the cracks.

3) Enlist help. Whenever possible, get help to accomplish everything, especially when you feel overwhelmed. Better yet, don't wait until you feel overwhelmed! I often ask my wife if I can help her; and she's great about doing the same for me. At school, sometimes I ask my student-assistant to make copies, etc, so I have more time to do other tasks (typically things like grading essays and other fun things like that). Ask for help! It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign that you trust the people you're asking.

Just a sample of the lists of things on my desk!

Just a sample of the lists of things on my desk!

4) Be ok if something is left undone. Rarely do I accomplish every task on my list within the original timeframe I've given myself. I purposely try to overload my list and then prioritize it, so that what HAS to get done does; and then everything else that gets done is bonus. Also, just take a moment to realize that much of what we think HAS to get done really doesn't. The world won't end, the sky won't fall, and we'll be ok if some things get pushed back. Give yourself the freedom to let things wait.

5) Schedule time to relax! I had a pretty big list for this weekend, and I am thankful to have gotten most of it done. But the best part of the weekend so far? Catching up on sleep! My wife and I took a 2+ hour nap yesterday, and it was possible because we had planned to have time to relax after finishing up other tasks. You need time to unwind, or you'll burn out. So, make "relaxing" part of your "to do" list!

I hope everyone else has had a great week, and I'd love to hear about it! As always, please feel free to share this and pass it on to anyone you think needs it. In the meantime, please be in prayer for me as I get ready to present at a conference in Florida this week and also do more podcast interviews. If I can do anything for you, email me and let me know. Thanks!

RLL 39--Lessons from the World Cup (Knockout Rounds)

RLL 39--Lessons from the World Cup (Knockout Rounds)

Greetings again, fellow leaders! This week I wanted to share with you a few of thoughts that I've had after watching the first two knockout rounds of the World Cup, one inspired by England's performance, one by that of Russia, and one by that of France and Belgium.

England badge.jpg

First, England has advanced to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, and on the way they had to defeat Colombia in a shootout in the Round of 16. For those of you who don't know, England historically has been dreadful in shootouts, especially in major competitions (google "England shootout record" and the first article is about how they have literally the worst record in the world at these). This year, however, was different, and one of the major reasons is because of a decision by head coach Gareth Southgate to change the history and mentality of the England squad. His lesson was to "own the process", or in other words, to control what you can control. By doing this, he instilled a mental toughness in his side that allowed them to overcome not only their opponent but also the burden of England's history regarding shootouts. Control what you can control.

russia wc.jpg

Second, Russia has been the fairy tale underdog story in this tournament, going from a team that everyone expected to be very poor to coming within touching distance of the semifinals. Despite the pre-tournament predictions of failure, they have overcome what many considered a lack of skill and have drastically exceeded everyone's expectations. Two major reasons are because of their effort and because of the support they've gotten from their home crowds. Two quick things to be learned from this: one, passion and effort can make a huge difference, even if you may not be as "good" at something as your competitor. Sports history is filled with stories of teams overcoming long odds against superior opponents, and this Russian team has added to that list. The second thing here is: motivation and encouragement are crucial. Every game that Russia played in the tournament saw them supported by a loud, cheering, believing crowd of tens of thousands. That motivates players, and it inspires teams. So remember, "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," and also remember that encouragement and motivation go a long way.


Third, Belgium and France are two of the favorites left, and both of them have played better as the tournament has gone on. Early in the competition, though, neither team played terribly well, despite having been hyped ahead of time. The lesson here is also simple: potential, publicity, hype, press, etc, are all ok, but you still have to go out on the field and earn your success. Both of these teams learned that lesson (after a near-miss or two), and they are better because of it. We should remember it too.

To summarize: let us control what we can, let us remember the importance of motivation and effort, and no matter what (good or bad), let us not believe our own press. We're not as bad as some think we are when we struggle, and we're not as good as others say we are even when we succeed. As Romans 12 reminds us (verse 3), "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Let us see ourselves realistically so that we may perform as well as we possibly can.

Have a great week, leaders, and be sure to come sign up to get your free copy of '(Extra)Ordinary Leadership: 10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything' today! 

Also, be sure to share this article and spread the word about 'Inverted Leadership'! :-) Thanks!