Bully on the Court!

Mitchell was in his first year of high school tennis.  He was the smallest on the team, having my genetics to work with (I’m 5’7” with shoes on), and he was bumped up a grade – a freshman at the age of an 8th grader.

But he played good tennis. He was smart on the court, fast and nimble, and had good consistency. Through team ladder play at practice, he eventually worked his way onto the varsity team, sharing the second spot on second team doubles.  His partner was his junior varsity coach’s son.  This was the kind of player who had the big serve, the big swing and no consistency.  Trying to be unbiased, he was good when he was good, but usually he was bad.  He towered over Mitch by nearly a foot and almost doubled his weight – and had the attitude and action of a nasty bully.  On the court, he’d tell Mitch, “If it’s close, call it out!” and if he made a mistake, which was often, he’d usually blame it on Mitch or take it out on him in some twisted way.   And Mitchell paid for it.

It got to a point where Mitch told us he wanted to quit the team. I remember the discussion in our kitchen shortly before another match.  He just hated playing with this guy.  We told him we’d support him no matter what, but that the best course of action might be to talk to the coaches and sort it out together. I would never have had that kind of courage.

He did.

He talked to his junior varsity coach the next day.  Remember, the coach is the bully’s dad!  And Mitch actually told his dad that he would not play with his son anymore – not could not, would not. No exceptions. Yikes.

Fortunately, this coach might have known a few things about his son. So the conversation went well, but because Mitch could not yet move up (over his son), he had to accept junior varsity again, which he gladly did. 

He finished the year, though, earning his varsity letter and went on to do so every year after.

Confrontation can be difficult, but handled properly and straightforward, maintaining purpose and respect, it can be highly productive.   Mitchell did not confront his teammate, but he did confront the coaches, who should have seen it all along.  And they respected his position, leading to an ultimately positive outcome. I admire that.

How do we see confrontation?   Maybe if we redefine confrontation, take away the assumed negative implication and see it as potentially productive, we’d engage in it with much more effectiveness at home and work, rather than attacking or avoiding – which does nothing productive.

Let’s seek the win/win in difficult situations. It’s usually there if we look for it.

The Noise in Our Heads

(Contributed by Mitch Greene)

How many times have you experienced silence in the past year?

Got a number in your head? Okay, now take out the time you are not awake. Now take out any time when there is background noise like the TV, your family talking, music or the sound of your own movement. Okay, now you are down to very few moments. Lastly, exclude the time when you have any thoughts you have about the past, the future or anything happening in any place other than right where you are. This leaves you with what? Very little or possibly nothing at all. There may not be a time on any given day where your mind was not consciously involved in some way.

Our brains are always so occupied with something. We always have the TV or music playing. We are having a conversation, or maybe we have a podcast playing. We’re working on a project, doing chores, driving somewhere, and so on. There’s always something filling the void in our thoughts.

I feel that some of us do this so that we can avoid this outer silence. We know that the second the noise on the outside stops, the noise on the inside picks up. It feels as if we are flooded with thoughts. We drown in our own heads. The million things we have to do or everything that’s going on in the world around us. It gets so loud that it becomes overwhelming. So, we avoid it, by filling the space. Most of us don’t want to be alone, in silence, with our own thoughts. It’s almost as though we’re afraid of the silence.  Maybe it will expose us to ourselves in ways we don’t want to face. So we just keep our minds busy.

But what if, occasionally, we let our brain go wild. Take out all other noise and be left alone with our thoughts in complete, uninterrupted silence. Take a second to think only about what is going on with you in that moment of silence. You’re breathing. Your muscles relaxed – particularly your face. Your emotions settling down.

It feels pretty nice to be truly aware of being alive.  And that often comes into our awareness only in the silence.

A Bad Fit

There we were, rookie coaches, at an evening social event with other, more seasoned coaches, trainers, staff, and spouses. 

I was talking with a few of the newbies, of which I was one, when the lead dog came into the room.  This was the guy who started this thing many years ago and who built it into one of the most successful franchises of its kind.  At least that was what I was told.  I never really checked.  Either way, this guy was a genius at how to build businesses by virtue of his own experience, his track record helping others succeed, and the worldwide company he now owned.

It was pretty cool. Except for one small challenge.  I didn’t like him, not one little bit.

While we were standing there chatting amongst ourselves, the “big dog” walked into the room and headed toward us. Not much choice, since we were right inside the door he used. He walked up, said something shallow, and I could not help but notice him looking over our heads.  In all honesty, he was a pretty tall guy, but looking “beyond” us was pretty condescending.  What was he doing?  Small, shallow, I-don’t-care-who-you-are-or-what-your-story-is talk in order to buy time, look over our heads and find someone he deemed important and far more worthy of a conversation. Then he was gone. Off to someone or something seemingly better.

I hope you’re getting the gist of what I’m sharing. If you are, you might have had similar experiences.

Rude, arrogant, condescending.  Not attributes I’m very fond of. Outwardly smart and successful as this guy was, he rubbed me so far the wrong way! I struggled from that point on with him being the leader of this entire gig.  While many of my colleagues were the polar opposite of him, he was at the top and that just did not sit well.

Our values are what we hold to be true and important in our lives. They are filters through which all decision are made.  If it fits the filter, keep moving forward; if not; run away.

So I eventually ran.  A good decision. One that led to my company today.

What are your top 3-5 values? Companies define these things often, some even live and execute through them consistently.  But this is about you – what are your personal values? What filters do you use to evaluate careers, relationships, and difficult choices?

Having the right filters, or defined values, will lead us to make better decisions and live with fewer regrets.  And that’s a good way to live.

Arctic Dock Jumping

Every year we go on two family vacations.  One is set, for life, never changing –total tradition.  That’s West Virginia.  Working on the 19th year this fall. Fired up. 

For spring/summer, we typically go to the beach. Most times it’s been OBX.  This year we switched it up and went to the Finger Lakes.  We figured we could still swim and have the relaxed, mountain-type atmosphere.  

Well, we got the atmosphere, but not the swimming. What were we thinking?!!! Not sure what the lake temperature was, but in those 700’ deep lakes, and after a cold and rainy winter/spring, the last week of which we chose for our trip, it was flat out freezing. 

We arrived at 60 degrees and rainy. And of course, my son Mitchell immediately put the challenge out to jump off the dock that evening. Kind of like a highly committed polar bear plunge – you have to swim out.  Gotta admit I did not want to do that. But he’s my son; I’m his dad. What’s a good dad to do? I’m in. And our youngest daughter and new son-in-law “jumped” at the challenge as well. 

So we did it. Jumped right in off the dock. I had no idea how cold it was. Didn’t test it. Just jumped in. And it was beyond cold – the immediate take-your-breath-away, I’m freakin’ panicking here and gotta-get-out-now cold. Never hit water that cold. 

And we did it again the next day. 

And again the last day. In fact, by the last day, it wasn’t likely any warmer, but the sun was out and, to tell truth, we were getting used to the pain.  

As I looked back, I realized what I dreaded most became one of my best memories of the trip.  I can’t tell you how much I wanted NOT to jump in, but I’m sure glad I did. We had a blast and built some fun and unique memories. Imagine if I stood on the dock and watched. I’m his dad – can’t do that. 

I don’t want to ever miss these opportunities to connect with the people I love. Even if it means doing something I really don’t want to do.  Yet, sometimes that thing we don’t want to do, like dock jumping into arctic water, turns out to be a fantastic, unforgettable memory.  

It sure did for me.

Pride Sucks

 

(Contributed by Mitch Greene)

I’ll admit it. I’m a very prideful person. It’s a real problem. I’d like to say that I can be humble, and I have good integrity. But if someone were to say that I have no integrity that would take me over the edge. That is one thing I can’t say I’m proud of. 

Well, this day taught me a lot about swallowing my pride and letting go. 

I was at work having a completely normal day and actually in a great mood for no real reason. That all ended very abruptly when I did something I wasn’t supposed to. Honestly, I had no idea that it was something I shouldn’t have done, which was pretty unusual since I had been working there for four years. When my superior found out about this misstep he was not happy at all. See, he is even more prideful than I am. I’ll just say that I have not seen a time when he was “wrong.” We constantly get into arguments for no reason, and it was about to start again. 

We were simply going through the steps. He says I wasn’t supposed to do that; I say I didn’t know. He says yes I did and things go on. That is until he says that I was purposefully undermining his authority and trying to make a fool out of him. 

It was official. 

My integrity had been challenged, and I was ready to rumble. The whole nine yards. I think if you were there you would have seen me sprout two horns. I took a huge breath and was ready to let hell loose from my stomach. 

But then a little voice in my head told me to calm down. 

So I let all the air out, put my head down and said the painful words of humility: “I’m sorry.” He laid into me for the next five minutes and then let me go. You would think that I would have known I did the right thing and was happy with that, but I wasn’t. I was so mad. Thinking in my head, “I should have let him have it! I should have shin kicked him!” I went on grumbling to myself for the next 20 minutes or so until my superior came around the corner, smiled at me and cut a joke. My entire mood changed after that. 

I think I did the right thing.