I’m a big fan of people who communicate straight-up and with integrity. The challenge for many of us is consistency and practice. The more we practice being straight forward and authentic the better we get. I often tell people that I am a trying to help and teach people to communicate better and with more authenticity. And the good news is that the more we practice the more graceful we become!
Anne Williams-Isom, the head of Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit anti poverty organization, seems to have a similar style. She learned from a mentor to have clear goals and be really straightforward with people. I couldn’t agree more!
Roger Ferguson, C.E.O of TIAA-CREF, the retirement services provider, is a huge believer in personal responsibility. So am I! The first thing I do with a new client or business is to make sure they own everything in their lives regardless of how difficult that might be. Our parents and early environment may shape who we were but what we become rests upon taking ownership of who we are, our strengths, weaknesses and all the rest. Determining to change what we don’t like and develop ourselves by constantly learning and growing is how will become what we want.
Mr. Ferguson went to Harvard and scrubbed toilets for other students as part of his student aid package. He wasn’t the least bit resentful but did the job better than anyone else. Fortunately for him his father helped instill such values as hard work and doing things well. There is little substitute for a great attitude. With passion, creativity and common sense, so much more is possible!
This morning I played 18 holes at Palos Verdes Country Club in beautiful Southern California! Lately I’ve been playing golf 1X per week but managed to shoot 72, a fantastic round especially since I’ve had little time for actual practice. The key to my success today and on many other low scoring rounds is the mental game! I spend a great deal of time off the course eliminating the dramas and distractions that are such a normal part of living for most of us. This allows for greater focus on the course and greater potential in general. I also spend a fair amount of time meditating. Meditation is a process of learning how to better focus the mind and to train it to be more still, a wonderful aid in business, life, and sports!!
Yesterday, I met with Greg Mathews, a former St. Louis Cardinale pitcher, who is now the pitching coach at both Glendale College and Compton College. He is helping young boys become better athletes and better pitchers, in particular, through a combination of strength and conditioning and technical expertise. We talked about Sports Psychology and the importance of the mental game, especially as kids are developing. Good mental and emotional habits lead to better performance, period. For instance, if we learn to harness the power of our minds to focus more and more on what we want and to let go of the myriad of drama and distractions then we will dramatically improve our game in life, business, and sports! I proved this last year with a minor league player who hit .208 and .212 his first two years in professional baseball without mental game coaching and with the assistance of Dr. Brett he hit .272 and is now well on his way to the next level!
Adam Bryant interviews Kate Cole, the president of Cinnabon, in this week’s Corner Office! Her perspective is worth knowing. For instance, when business is going well she tends to ask more questions to be certain of the why and to be prepared for the downside. She likes to encourage feedback and communication and even disagreement though in respectful ways. Ms. Cole also encourages coach-ability, curiosity, and commitment to others. I like her perspective because she seems to genuinely care about others, is intelligent and very interpersonally oriented values I teach and value myself.
There are many ways I can express what I do for living as a sports psychologist and business and life coach. One playful way is to say that I teach self and other. We live in a society that does a fair amount of self. In other words, lots of people are self-absorbed. I liked Ms. Cole’s perspective because she clearly values other. If you want to be truly happy you must know how to love and value people! The ability to feel, create, and express love is essential for happiness and makes for greater success as an athlete, businessman, or parent. To cultivate love, show a genuine interest in other and learn to be generous with your body, mind and spirit!
I’ve been working hard for months and months with very little down time. This weekend my twin brother and I went on a three day golf and fishing holiday. Getting some sun, time away, twin time, and especially time on the water was just what the doctor ordered! Occasionally, I take clients for walks on the beach or to fish and even to hit golf balls. Sometimes, I take clients to my parents’ island where I walk them out over bridges and do a session looking at the water below or the pond in the back. There is something truly amazing about the water and the elements of nature I tell them, especially when it comes to letting go. Many of us are too busy; busy doing, doing, doing and spend very little time just being. Fishing and any activity involving water is a fantastic way to help the mind release and just be!
I mediate a lot, far more than most of the people I know and yet there is nothing like a few days of exposure to the elements to facilitate peace and a feeling of rejuvenation. I recommend time in nature every week to most everyone I guide. If you can find a few days in a row every so often, all the better!!
Adam Bryant interviews Hannah Paramore, president of the Digital Agency. Several things she said resonate with me: one is how important it is to take personal responsibility. I am working with a client now who has a pattern of running the negative emotions of jealosy and envy. I’m trying to teach him to shift his thought process and change a devastating cycle of emotional states that leave him weak and ineffectual. Taking personal responsibility for our emotions is at the core of successfully navigating relationships in business and intimacy. If you blame others for anything you are effectively giving your power away and acting like a victim. Powerful people make tough decisions and do something about situations that are not working for them. This may not be easy but it is the only way to take control over your life and business.
Ms. Paramore ends her interview by stating the value of trusting one’s gut. I am a huge believer in developing and trusting your intuition. It is my fifth principle of living successfully! To develop your gut instinct you must practice slowing down and listening to yourself by bringing yourself constantly back to the hear and now, the essence of mindfulness and good decision making.
I recently began working with a high school baseball pitcher with a big dream: he wants to work in the front office of a Major League Baseball team one day! I asked him if wanted to be a GM and he replied that was like asking him if he wanted to be the president of the United States one day! I smiled.
I asked him why he sought out a sports psychologist and he said that he was having trouble maintaining his focus and concentration on the mound for more than four innings. I looked at him and said that his dream was a nine inning dream and that I could teach him how to build mental toughness and stamina that would allow him to pitch even ten innings, a metaphor for unlimited possibility! He said he was on board. We began with a discussion about eliminating the drama and distraction in his life outside of baseball. By teaching him to communicate at a higher level too he would learn patience and discipline, a necessary step along the way. My argument is that everything we do off the field affects our performance on the field. The more we practice patience, discipline, present moment time and self-expression the more muscle we build everywhere! I even asked him to listen to his girlfriend more. He said that would be tough and I replied: “How bad do you want to successfully pitch nine innings?” He smiled!
What are you willing to learn, change or do differently to accomplish your dreams?
The feature article in the April 13, 2014 New York Times Sunday Review section entitled “Raising A Moral Child” by Adam Grant covers the fundamentals of good parenting that every person, not just parent, should know. Essentially, we need to be mindful of the difference between shame and guilt and make sure we are never shaming our children or others for that matter. Shame is the feeling that one is a bad person while guilt refers to one’s behavior being wrong. If we learn to praise good character and punish bad actions essentially we are on the right track. Children who are praised for good character show far more generosity and caring in research studies.
Generosity, the act of giving without strings attached, can be encouraged by parenting and discouraged as well though the actions of others not their words. Thus, if a parent acts generous and caring, children will copy this behavior and eventually internalize it. The opposite is true as well. Therefore, if you want to raise kind, generous, and moral children, then act that way yourself and be sure to punish actions not character.
Tom Erickson, C.E.O of Acquia, an open-source softwear company, addresses the value of accepting failure on an emotional level in this Corner Office interview. He states, “I’m looking for people who are going to jump in and own their own work, who are going to risk something and risk failing.”
I love it!! When people ask me what I do for a living I have many different responses depending on my mood and the person asking the question. The traditional response is that I have a doctorate in psychology and do a hybrid of business coaching, life coaching, and sports psychology. I do all that but what I really do is help people face their fears, embrace change, become more fluid, flexible and creative and ultimately live with more courage! This is what Mr. Erickson is taking about too. How does one do that, you might ask? By practicing living and expressing your truth each and every day until it becomes the core of who you are! Only you know what your truth is and what you are avoiding. Coaching and guidance is helpful but at the end of the day, you must take action and practice living with courage!!