Tag Archives: Fear

Barriers Can Make You Better

I am writing these words on March 27th. For basketball fans across the country and around the world, March Madness is in full bloom. And with the field shrinking down to Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four, this year’s tournament has been filled with surprises.

As it happens every year, there have been a number of great games go down to final shots. There have also been plenty of great story lines filled with upsets, bracket busters, and Cinderellas. On one end of the spectrum there has been lots of second-guessing, hand-wringing, and head-hanging. On the other end standing ovations, celebrations, and jubilation.

As each college basketball season comes to a close I am always reminded of the amazing feat accomplished by the UCLA Bruins during their unprecedented 10 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships in 12 seasons from 1963 to 1975.

During that amazing run, UCLA had a number of truly great players but, arguably, the greatest was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). His athleticism and ability to dunk the basketball made him stand out like a man among boys on the court.

But between his sophomore and junior years at UCLA, the NCAA Rules Committee made a rule change that outlawed the dunk shot. It was widely believed that the committee had instituted this change with the single goal of lessening Abdul-Jabbar’s dominance during games.

At first, Kareem was devastated. He perceived this as a huge barrier to his success. A giant obstacle thrown in his path. But his coach challenged his perspective and told him to look at this barrier as a way to raise his game to a higher level. As he later wrote in his autobiography, Kareem:

“At the time, Coach Wooden told me it would only make me a better player, helping me develop a softer touch around the basket. This I could use to good advantage in the pros, where I could also, once again, use the dunk shot. He was right. It didn’t hurt me. I worked twice as hard at banking my shots off the glass, on turn-around jump shots, and on my hook. [This barrier] made me a better all-around player.”

Just as the “no dunk rule” barrier caused Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to develop more of his potential by forcing him to focus on other skills and abilities so too can barriers have the same impact on our lives.

Whether the barrier you face is new technology, a new competitor, a challenging student or an economic downturn, remember barriers can truly help us to become even better than we were before.

Free Your Cares and be Carefree

The older I get (the half century mark is approaching very fast and that older looking man in the mirror won’t leave me alone), the more I realize just how much “stuff” I tend to hold on to that really negatively impacts my quality of life. In fact, I am starting to feel more and more like Rocky in his last movie.  Did you see it? I think it was called “Rocky 18”. Not really. It was “Rocky Balboa”.

In it, an aging Balboa is drawn back into the ring, as he puts it, “To get the ‘junk’ out of his gut.”  You see Rocky had been holding on to some stuff in his life– cares and concerns that were dragging him down. And these cares were preventing him from moving forward and truly enjoying life.

I find the same thing happens to me if I am not careful.  Here are 5 strategies I have learned to help me live with fewer cares and be more carefree:

  1. Free your mind from worry. When we worry, we borrow cares and concerns from tomorrow and we drag them into today.  Once we get them here, they just ruin our present.
  2. Free your heart from hatred. This one is very similar to the first strategy only in the opposite direction. When we harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness toward someone for something that happened in our past, it is like handcuffing ourselves to them and pulling them around with us all the time so they can continue to ruin our present.
  3. Free you life from complexity. Simplify. Look for things that can be pruned out of your life. Are you so busy doing all those “good things” that you are killing yourself? Cut some out.
  4. Free yourself from greed. Many people tend to get caught up in two twin syndromes: the “get as much as I can” syndrome and the “hold on to it as long as I can” syndrome. When I fall prey to these two, I find myself going through life clutching tightly to all “my stuff “and worrying about it. Giving is a wonderful antidote to battle greed. It helps us take our eyes off ourselves and focus on helping others.
  5. Free yourself from expecting perfection. To put it more simply, expect less. No one is perfect. People are going to mess up—including you. My bride is going to disappoint me…so are my kids…so are my colleagues at work…so is the gate agent at the airport and the kid washing my car. When we expect perfection, we can only be disappointed (or neutral at best). But when we don’t expect it and we get it…it’s GREAT!

Implement these strategies and set yourself up to live a life full of pleasant surprises…it is way more fun.

Sometimes it’s the Little Things that Make a Big Difference

This summer, after 22 years of being a professional speaker, I had my first opportunity to work with our men and women in the military. Having never presented to folks in our armed services before, I was quite nervous. As I flew from Atlanta to San Diego to work with the Navy, my self-talk continually threw questions of doubt around in my head:

Would they enjoy my program?
Would my principles apply to “their world”?

Would they be able to relate to my stories and illustrations?

I envisioned a room full of men and women in uniform, sitting in perfect rows, staring up at me with lifeless, stony expressions that conveyed a “hurry up and finish, we have a country to protect” message.

As always, I arrived early to get set up and make sure all the technology was going to cooperate (laptop, LCD projector, wireless lapel microphone, etc). Moments later the first sailors began to arrive and sure enough they were in uniform. Having never served in the military, I immediately felt out of place in my coat and tie. I’m not sure if they could “smell the fear” or not but many of them immediately approached me and introduced themselves to me. Those first to arrive were actually part of a Navy band that was there to play music as the crowd of over 200 filed in.

“What a first class move”, I thought to myself. It sets a whole different feel when people walk into a large meeting room and there is upbeat, toe tapping music playing—much less from a live band. My contact told me that everything they planned for the meeting was intentional and he wanted folks to instantly feel engaged.

I thought to myself, “How many times have I watched people walk into a silent meeting room or ballroom and it was like walking into a morgue. It somehow makes folks want to sit in the back and “punch out”…you know, a lot like church.

The band continued to play right up to the start of the program and then performed the most amazing rendition of the star spangled banner I have ever heard. It gave me goosebumps. As I was introduced and took the stage, I had a crowd full of eager learners who were ready to be challenged and inspired by their speaker (me).

The morning went great and as I flew home I reflected on my contacts words “everything is intentional”.

What a great lesson for all of us. Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference in our lives and our pursuits. What many people might have thought of as an afterthought — “Hey, there was live music” –was actually an intentional step in creating the best environment for learning to take place…one with positive energy, that invited folks to engage.