Five Ideas for Cultivating Success After College

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We’ve all read about the current notoriety of the college admission process that drives parents and some students to tilt its playing field in their favor. Challenge Success, an advocacy group at Stanford, cited that a “school’s selectivity is not a reliable predictor of outcomes.” We ask, what is it that drives successful outcomes for college students?

In my work on leadership in college athletics, we often talk about one’s “range of engagement.” Think about it; those who are engaged really “want” to do something versus those who “have or need” to do because of a requirement. Safe to say then, that engagement is when we really want to get involved, perhaps join a singing group, do research, or take a new class on a new subject. That interest and curious mindset is a breeding ground for success. And for student-athletes this mindset of engagement applies on and off the field.

An institution’s appeal to a young person is based upon their personal assessments; “Can I see myself here?  Can I thrive in this community?” Learning is not linear. It’s a cumulative and integrated process. The more we explore, the more we develop insights and ideas. We often say being on an athletic team is a learning experience, the same way taking a course on urban development during the 40’s or traveling abroad for a semester.

Think of college as a farm and you select what you plant. These are the things you want to grow.

Consider these five thoughts that you, your student-athletes or others could employ to increase learning and engagement to cultivate your success and learning for life:

·       Become more curious by asking questions.

·       Have an explorer mindset.

·       Get out of your comfort zone.

·       Keep a journal of experiences about things you wanted to do and did it.

·       Be patient, thoughtful and non-judgmental.

 

Tiger Woods' Return (on and off the course)

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Like millions around the world, I too became mesmerized by Tiger Wood’s path to victory on Sunday. And the ending was memorable and heart-warming. I’m a sucker for these situations.

But his victory took much soul-searching about himself, and wanting something he had already tasted many times. 14 major titles, a feat only the great Jack Nicklaus has exceeded. Add to that a major title drought of 11 years, and a down-in-the dump life between his  struggles at home and back issues.

Tiger’s about-face is a journey and it so aptly circles what I refer to as the “6 ways to grow as a conscious leader” on and off the field. Think about them as we think about Tiger:

Enrich self-awareness – Tiger self-reflecting about his “whole person”. Because it starts here making that commitment, about anything and everything that influences him and others. He has been so focused on his down periods and physical issues, he didn’t really think about others around him, or how it might affect his leadership. And being such a visible celebrity, his influence is infectious.

Uncover Clarity – Clarity is like peeling back the onion. And for Tiger, clarity is about his commitment, his courage to confront and proceed with his development of his character, how he shows up. The Tiger Woods brand is wrapped up in all of this, and with clarity, the Tiger brand re-emerged.

Verify influences – Much has been said about his dad, Earl. The influence he had on Tiger, the love and support and the characteristics his dad instilled in him. Fast forward today, a new role as dad has emerged with his daughter Sam and son Charlie, and the longing for being proud of himself and his family’s influence - being proud of him. We all have influences that we turn to and are aligned with.

Be intentional – It seems he understood his wanting to live his life being happy and fulfilled with what he has. Anchored by his will to not give up, he made the journey of his return about what he cherished most: family, health, golf and joy. And all decisions he made reflected these intentions.

Make conscious choices – Tiger made choices about what’s important to him. We make choices about every day activities such as time with family, in his case commitment and return to golf excellence, physical well-being and the list goes on. When we make conscious choices is when we lead with conviction and authenticity and perform our best. It's what we want, not what we need.

Be thoughtful, not reactive - Great athletes, and for that matter leaders, are thoughtful in how they express themselves. It’s easy to get in to reactive mode, when we act on impulse. And while sometimes it can serve us, patience is on the side of being thoughtful. It would seem Tiger was thoughtful on the course and off. He looked relaxed, controlled, and happy with his choices.  

Nobody would dispute that Tiger is one of the greatest athletes of all time. But this story for me is about his wanting for happiness and fulfillment. His “never give up” mindset on Sunday is testimonial to the athlete and the man on his rocky road journey, just like the undulations and unpredictability of a golf course. We all can learn from this historical day.

Passion to Improve

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Are you a coach? It could be said we're all coaches whether in sports or business. I often think about the similarities.

Leadership is a continuous journey of discovery about oneself and others. It requires a curious and learning mindset. It's being mindful about self and others, and striving to build trusting relationships absent of judgement. It's our passion to improve.

I was particularly struck by an interview between Sanyin Siang, the Executive Director of the Coach K Center of Leadership and Ethics at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Patrick Hunt, President of the World Association of Basketball Coaches (WABC).

I'm in sync with what Patrick says. He's got great insights.

Train Your Brain

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Whether you are on the field, in a meeting, on a trip or having dinner with a friend or colleague, we all encounter moments that impact us. But how can we retain these often fleeting insights? Maybe they are telling something we want to improve or act on. Let’s recognize our brain is our training hub.

Desiree Linden, this year’s Boston Marathon winner, and the first American woman to win it in 33 years, declared that much of the work she did to train and win this historic race was mental. Her training regime was certainly rigorous and there’s no denying that it paid off. But, it’s not a secret. The great athletes realize it’s what you tell and train your brain to think.

So, one might ask, how do I train my brain? What’s the secret sauce to shift my perceptions about things so I am more in touch with myself, my feelings, and maybe even my actions.

There’s no one solution. But for some, journaling is a powerful tool with many benefits. Write your thought in a diary, create a file on your computer, log it on an app. The idea of inventorying your feelings lets you be present with yourself.

Think about why you would want to do it:

You’re booking yourself an appointment with you. That’s personal, and the fact you do it, let’s you reflect on your feelings. We’re all busy, but time with you is special.

Fresh points of views. When you record your feelings, emotions, and experiences you can “step away” from those moments that cause those feelings. Voila, you may find that you can reframe or freshen your perception so it’s working in a more positive way for you. And that can feel great.

Recording your story. What a neat thing to be able to reflect on your chronicles. No matter who you share them with or for that matter nobody, the mere fact that you are present with these instances makes them that much more meaningful.

For you, a team, an organization, your brain has special powers, just think about feeding it. A little training goes a long way.

Why Curiosity?

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Two years in to retirement, who would have thought Kobe Bryant would have turned to filmmaking. For that matter, many of us don’t know what our next chapter of life will be after we leave a craft, a job or something
we’ve done for years.

Just like Kobe, it was two decades with the Lakers and a host of NBA titles.

“Dear Basketball”, his new film, nominated for the Academy Award for animated short films, is a shining example of curiosity. Just read the recent article in the New York Times. It shares Kobe’s journey about how this film came to life and the partners he chose.

Curiosity or sometimes I refer to the “learning mindset” helps us thrive. It becomes our beacon of awareness of everything around us; our family, our team, our friends, world politics, sports, movies and of course ourselves.

When you’re curious it breeds engagement. It’s something you want to do, not something you have to or need to do. It’s when we show up most authentically and ideas flourish.

So, listen, read, think and share. Maybe you’ll find a new chapter for yourself.

 

"I am comfortable with who I am, not the results"

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Zooming down the luge run at 80 plus miles per hour is edge-of-the-seat material: heart pounding, exhilarating, and dangerous to say the least.

Chris Mazdzer, our US luge team member, displayed the courage and skill necessary to take home the US’s first medal ever in the men’s singles luge.

As Mazdzer was being interviewed after realizing he had captured silver, he said something that resonated with me. May have not been a wow to many, but it stuck.

“I am comfortable with who I am, not the results".

I was so impressed with how Chris shifted his energy to a more productive mindset which enabled him to be “present in his moment”. He was clear with himself, purposeful and not influenced by all the external influences such as physical environment, social pressures and other things that could have distracted him.

Re-framing a perspective of a situation is so powerful for high performance athletes and leaders. That's what I believe can change a behavior and influence an outcome.

Kudos to Chris. You’ve set a wonderful standard for yourself, for your team and all of us.



 

When to Show Gratitude

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Hope you’re 2018 is off to a roaring start. This is the first in a series of videos I will be posting on various topics that are of interest to me. I’ll be sharing “tips” on how to make the topic come alive for you and/or your organization/teams.

Gratitude is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. It’s such a simple, but compelling quality, and defined as....

 “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

So take a moment, think about these 4 tip-offs, and see if they might spur an idea/insight.

Gratitude builds trusting relationships and shows your authentic you.

Why Love in Sports and Life?

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I hope this finds you in a holiday spirit.

In Garret Kramer’s book, “Stillpower: excellence with ease in sports and life” one would not think that love would be part of a discussion on excelling in sports and life. Yet it makes perfect sense.

Every day and certainly with the holidays here, love is about the feelings behind the words we use. When we interact with our student-athletes, our staff, our alums and any stakeholders, we want to bring our authentic best. Choose your words that reflect who you are because isn’t that what builds trusting relationships.

So, let’s challenge ourselves this holiday.... 

Write down a word of the day that guides you and think about your feelings behind it.

Happy holidays to all and a joyous new year.

 

"I see you"

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It's hard to believe it's Thanksgiving time again, when we gather to catch up and find out "how's everybody doing" and delight ourselves with the table's bounties.

I often talk about listening as a cornerstone of leadership, especially in athletics. It sounds trite, but really listening to people is something we can all practice. It makes a difference. We are dependent on our team members, our coaches, and staff.

In the movie Avatar, a few years ago, the Na’vi greeting translates to “I see you”. The Avatar Wiki explains, “To see” is a cornerstone of Na’vi philosophy. It is to open the mind and hear to the present…

They have two versions of the verb “see”:

Tse’a, which pertains to physical vision; and,

Kame, which means to see in a spiritual sense. It is more closely a synonym of “understand” or “comprehend”.

Take a moment and listen to Leona Lewis sing the Avatar theme song, “I see you”

While we give thanks this Thanksgiving, take a moment to practice listening. Be fully present with family and friends. What better time to engage, ask thoughtful questions, so each person knows “I see you”.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

 

 

A Lesson on Emotional Intelligence

I was particularly taken by Justin Bariso's recent article in Inc. about Isaiah Thomas' letter to the City of Boston and the lessons it teaches about Emotional Intelligence. 

I often talk about authenticity, and the ability to be yourself, even sharing one's vulnerabilities. Well, Isaiah masterfully crafts his word,s and you can tell he talks from the heart. Being traded by the Celtics to the Cavaliers was traumatic for him. When you think about it, packing up your family and moving is no small task physically, mentally and emotionally. Furthermore, his heart was in Boston.

As leaders, we all influence. Isaiah certainly influenced me. His message reverberates far beyond basketball.

 

At The Intersection of Coaching and Leadership

Dom Starsia, former Hall of Fame Men’s Lacrosse Coach at University of Virginia, wrote an article recently for US Lacrosse Magazine entitled “10 Principles of Coaching and Leadership”. It is a compelling article that gets to the heart of the why and how we do what we do that underlies leadership and great coaching.

As a certified professional coach focusing on college athletic leadership, leadership applies to all of us, not the “just who’s in charge”. Why? Because everyday we influence others on the field, and in life…friends, family, coaches, business peers etc. It's how we show up everyday that often shapes our attitudes. This has a cascading effect on individuals and the team unit. 

One of Dom’s principles is “People Hearing without Listening”. I call this the “listen, don’t be listened” syndrome. Unless we take the time to be empathetic, that is really understanding what’s “not being said”, we can’t really form a trusting relationship and make informed decisions.

Another principle that stuck out for me was his “Men and Women of Value Have Scars”. We can all think about people who have been knocked down on the field, in business, yet “you have to get up”. Why? Because it’s that moment in time, where not only do you persevere and demonstrate resiliency, but you can “change your attitude and then learn to re-frame what’s just happened”. This helps us have clarity and we're better equipped our failures in to learning opportunities.

So, take a moment to read Dom’s article. A wonderful, successful coach and person, who understands and embraces why leadership (and for that matter Energy Leadership) in life breeds opportunity, fulfillment and success. 

A Birkdale Victory and Leadership Lesson

A great article in Inc. magazine about Jordan Spieth and the leadership lessons we can learn from his recent and miraculous British Open victory.

Jordan is a shining example of leadership. He always sees opportunity, he creatively solves problems and embraces match play with a "we" vs. "me" mindset.

He elevates his level of awareness about his vulnerabilities and knows how to reframe his thinking about something in his way that blocks his goals. 

I call him a Level 5 or 6 person...ideas abound and everybody wins, not just him.

Kudos Jordan.

How Curious Are You?

North of Cheyenne, Wyoming, if you’re traveling north to South Dakota, you take State Road 85 through the eastern plains of Wyoming. I was on route to Black Hills State University in Spearfish. But before you get to Spearfish, at the foot of the beautiful Black Hills, one travels the open roads, with miles and miles of miles and miles. With small towns dotting the route, one begins to realize the beauty and vastness of our country.

I returned from two days working with the athletic staff at Black Hills, exhilarated by working with wonderful people, excited about what they do. I was richer in insights, learning, and discussion. Why, because I observed, participated, shared, and listened.

When you’re curious, you tap in to what energizes you environmentally, socially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That spirit is the awareness you have about yourself and everything that influences you.

Whether an athlete, coach or administrator curiosity is one’s fuel for you showing up powerfully and looking at things as opportunities.

My curiosity got a good injection. Try a drive to the Black Hills sometimes and let me know if your curiosity took a big leap forward.

So, reflect a bit and think about what curiosity brings you:

            Empowerment…to achieve what you want

            Empathy…to put yourself in someone’s shoes

            Intellectual…a quest for knowledge, ideas

            Gratitude…expressing thanks and being grateful

 

What Does It Mean to "Disagree and Commit"?

What does it Mean to Disagree and Commit?

Jeff Bezos recently wrote in Inc. about three vital words to get to organizational excellence; “Disagree and Commit”.

For many of us, it’s hard to take a stand on any issue or a decision that’s out of one’s comfort zone. Yet, often we must reframe our thoughts about things, because there’s always a more productive way to gain consensus and support.

Bezos says, “"Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? The outcome is probably a yes.

Whether you confront budget issues, disagreement about certain capital expenditures or gaining alignment with coaches on certain department directions, expressing your disagreement doesn’t mean you won’t support the project or the person. Candid disagreement and commitment is a way to move forward.

When you are committed to your people you trust, good things happen.

 

Who Are The March Madness Coaches?

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In this past Saturday’s New York Times sports section, a front-page article entitled "For the Court, a Head Coach, for the Head, a Life Coach", speaks to the whole notion of how do we maximize our performance.” And for these elite college basketball players at the pinnacle of their sport, performance hinges on how they show up in the moment. There is no second chance. 

Firstly, let’s put some words to “life coach”.  Simply, a person who listens, engages the person to dive deep in to what’s getting in the way of their goals, so they can reach them. These are not “fix-it” people, but those professionally trained to listen acutely, with real empathy, and allow the person to formulate their clarity of purpose so present and ready to perform. Many have resorted to life coaches, like Michael Jordan and LeBron James to name a few.

And in the world of collegiate athletics, where demands and expectations are high, student-athletes face many distractions that influence their performance. Adequate preparation for studies, conditioning for games, social interactions and other influences effect how all of them every day and ultimately in big moments. March Madness!! It's a distraction but an opportunity.

Good for the New York Times to bring to light the power of life coaching. Whether it is the student-athletes, the coach or other person, it starts in the inner sanctum of each person to get to their highest level of performance on and off the court.

Coaching life yields big returns for coaching on the court.

So I ask you....

-              What do your student-athletes value?

-              How do their values show up, personally, and from a team perspective?

-              How do they define their success and what does it look like?

 

How To Wake Up Your Energy

Athletic leaders, business people and everyone have a sort of DNA – their energy. It shifts every day, every hour and it is connected through physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies.

Physical well-being is critical to how we show up daily, yet to fire your engines it takes the fuel of your spiritual energy (your values that guide your character) to inform you on your journey to all aspects of your performance, especially physical.

John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were both great tennis champions, winning many Grand Slam events between the two of them. You could argue that McEnroe’s biggest enemy was his temper, sometimes on display in demeaning ways. It was his display of negative energy, that drained him. Yet, it didn’t seem to stop his success. Jimmy Connors, certainly no angel, had a fierce competitive edge, fist-pumping his way through many matches.

Yet underlying their successes was their determination, sense of adventure and opportunity or spiritual energy.

Connors remained in the game longer than McEnroe because he continued to relish his opportunity and joy of the game.

McEnroe experienced burnout at age 34, and positive passion for the game halted. This likely side-swiped him of even further greatness. One could say his spiritual energy was not aligned and affected his playing days.

Fast forward, McEnroe today is a successful, articulate tennis commentator. Along with his brother Patrick they provide wonderfully insightful commentary at many majors.

John’s physical energy shows up on the Champions Tour, where his talents and personality look joyful. Maybe he gets his energy from his spiritual connection to himself and is in touch with what matters to him.

Spiritual energy, aligned with one’s purpose and values, is that silent, but driving force of inspiration and purpose. It fuels us every day to get psyched about life, what we’re doing, and having resolute clarity. For now, and future in life.

So, get up each day and challenge yourself by asking on a scale of 1-10 (one the lowest; ten the highest):

How excited am I about today?

How inspired am I about work, not the result?

How well am I “walking my talk” daily, fulfilling my values and my why?

What does my success look like for me now and in the future?

Confrontation to Collaboration

A week ago, we all witnessed an ugly incidence at Madison Square Garden. Charles Oakley, former NY Knick great, became vocal and aggressive toward Knicks owner James Dolan, who was seated nearby. It was Oakley’s first time back to the Garden in years.

Anyone’s first reaction would be Oakley was out of line. Whatever his intentions, they were manifested in a way that was confrontational. When confrontation occurs, often we close ourselves off to options. Dolan’s response was equally confrontational, banning him from the Garden. So where does that leave things? While Dolan did apologize, and Oakley not receptive, it does beg for a little more insight.

From the leadership standpoint, Dolan’s Knicks first and foremost are there to serve their fans because they pay to watch and follow them and receive great pleasure in doing so. The organization’s culture is comprised of the fans, former players, and executives. If these stakeholders are engaged in support of the bigger mission of inclusiveness and intimacy, then all thrive. It’s a culture of inclusion.

So how does this situation shift from confrontation to collaboration. First, it’s starts with the leader, Mr. Dolan. He must ask himself “how were Oakley’s actions not in line with our beliefs and values?” Secondly, “in the long term, what’s the benefit to our organization of banning Oakley”? And thirdly, "how can Dolan walk the talk of the values and beliefs of the Knicks so that Oakley gets it"?

Great leaders find ways to listen and learn. Humility and accountability rest with leadership. It’s the tone and authenticity of both parties which enable collaboratjion to be productive. While I’m not sure if Oakley will accept the apology, the takeaway is lead with authenticity and walk the talk of your organizations’ values and beliefs. That way, all of the oars are pulling in the same direction. Not sure this happened! Everyone's a victim here including collaboration and Knicks culture!