Fail to flow..

This morning, with a room full of PJ’s tribe, we pushed, planked, and burped our way through thirty minutes of acute pain. We followed the not so nice, seconds timer and did what we were told. We worked. And, we failed. We failed early and often. The seconds timer kept asking us to do more push ups and we kept reaching without quite grabbing hold. In fact, as we became weaker, the timer demanded more. Good.

After the good work was behind us, I told the team they just tasted the first condition for flow. The first condition for flow is that the goal is clear. The seconds timer does not lie. The goal for the current iteration in right in front of your face and resonating in pure black and white. And, the second condition for flow is right there too. Either you do the work demanded of you or you fail. Pass or fail. The feedback is unmistakeable. When your body can’t produce the push ups demanded, I told the team, tell yourself “fail.” You see, just like in video games, you level up the fastest when you fail frequently. The more you fail, the more you learn. The team smiled as they extrapolated this learning to their aim of writing their book or starting their business.

Get clear on your aim. Embrace the fail. Find the flow that comes from pushing yourself to the edge of your challenge zone. Turn the frequent fails into fun – the joy of reaching toward something you want with all your worth. You, friend, are not a failure just because you are failing at the moment. You are on your way to winning the game. Keep working. Keep learning. Keep reaching. You gotta fail to flow, friend. Fail to flow. Fail to flow some mo.

Flow is coming. Good…

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Virtuous teammate…

In BTL practice we talk all the time about becoming one, distinct and deeply connected. We believe this is the heart of both individual and collective performance, regardless the endeavor. Recently we’ve been watching Sully and his performance back in 2009 where he grabbed the stick from his teammate in their moment of truth seconds after the massive bird strike that crippled their aircraft. It was not a miracle on the Hudson, that day – it was mastery on the Hudson.

If you want to improve your performance in work/life, you can begin by recognizing that some moments are more important than others, some moments are hinge moments or moments of truth. As you begin to recognize these moments in work/life, you can begin to plan for them. The more prepared you are, the better you perform. In our work with the OSU grapplers, we are having them write to each teammate regarding their moment of truth and how they are going to evaluate, track, and improve the performance. All that I’ve read to date are inspiring. However, the one I’m sharing with you below is FM, baby. Check it out and extrapolate to you and your team. Good.

“My moment of truth:
As a senior on the team, my moment of truth actually came this year. I had spent the previous three years on the team doing what I thought would make me better with the hope that I could haphazardly find a way to improve my teammates. While I was on the phone with my father earlier this semester, it dawned on me the responsibility I have on the team is more than for my own benefit. I realized this all upon analysis of the composition of my lifting group: I am the lone senior among three young freshmen. I am not wrestling for my own personal aggrandizement; I am wrestling for my teammates. I have no delusion that I will be the next Buckeye on the top of the podium. That is not my role. My role is to better prepare my teammates to go out and be the ones at the top of the podium. My role started to become clear as I began teaching Aaron and the others around me in my weight how to beat me in scrambles. This role became even clearer again when I had the chance to wrestle live with Luke. My style of wrestling is unorthodox and funky. After finishing our live go, I took the time to show Luke how to beat me when he was in on a single while I am trying to sit through. Any of my three previous years, I would have just walked away after the go hoping that Luke would not catch on to how to beat me. In hindsight, that was a very selfish, immature attitude to hold. And, it was certainly not in the best interest of the team. Luke, Aaron, and others around me in weight are going to wrestle opponents with good hips that rely on funk as I do. I should be doing everything I can to best prepare them for those battles instead of holding my knowledge of wrestling close and not sharing it.

My assessment:
I am still learning. Previously, I had kept everything to myself. Now, I am trying hard to teach my teammates to beat me. It is taking some adjusting and some getting used to. I feel as if I am moving in the right direction and that I will continue along that path as I come in early with teammates throughout the season (and even after the season for that matter).

My improvement:
As I continue to take on the role I should have taken on years ago, I am spending more time after each go trying to give a quick lesson in even if it is something as simple as ‘get your hips away’ or ‘keep your hips underneath you.’ On top of that, I hope to continue to come in early more often in order to spar with and coach my teammates around my weight.

My measurement:
As odd as it seems, I will see the results of my work best when I am getting beaten on by my teammates. If I have done my job well and prepared my teammates to wrestle against someone like me, they should be well prepared to beat me. I will have to suck up my pride and look at the situation with maturity.”

Want a better team? Become a better leader, friend. And, don’t forget, leader, that the best leaders are not trying to achieve a specific position/title/recognition – the best are simply trying to make a difference. It ain’t about your role. It’s about the goal. The teammate you just read about understands his role and is clearly doing what is right for OSU Wrestling and the teams goal. He is a virtuous teammate. Are you? Are you a virtuous leader? Are you doing whatever is required to help your team achieve its goals? Are you becoming ONE, distinct and deeply connected even when it requires you to swallow your pride? Good.


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Sugar Maple…

Sixteen years ago we planted a Sugar Maple tree right off our driveway. Miss and I planted another one off our back patio too. These were transplants and they were huge and beautiful. The Sugar Maple is my favorite tree and I wanted one in the front and one in the back to kinda bookend our home. When we planted them I could hardly wait for that first Fall season to arrive in late 2000 – I couldn’t wait to see the bright orange canopy when I turned down Pennington Court. So, I waited. Anticipation grew.

And, nothing beautiful appeared out front. Fall season after Fall season came and went without anything beautiful. The Maples were healthy and kept growing slowly but the colors were dull. To say, I’ve been disappointed is an understatement. I used to drive the kids nuts when every season I would slow the car down and drool over Maple after Maple out in the country. I had Maple envy.

So, I’d kinda given up hope on our Sugar Maples, especially the one out front. And, then this year happened. Taking out the trash the other evening, I almost bumped into one of the low branches and leaning to miss it, my eyes shot up the inside of the canopy and caught a glimpse of something bright. I dropped the trash and came in close. I noticed the sunlight reflecting off a bright orange leaf or two at the very top. In the mid canopy there were bright yellows and the outside leaves were still green. After dumping the trash out front, I ran in to tell Miss the good news – the Sugar Maple’s gonna be sweet this year. Each morning since the bright orange leaf sighting, I’ve gone out to see the progress. Beautiful. Today, the entire canopy is on fire. The Scott Sugar Maple is a thing of beauty.

Sixteen years after we planted her, we’ve got a beauty out front. I have no idea if next year she’ll go back to dullsville. This year the Scott Sugar Maple is sweet. I’m going to take a long stare this Saturday and Sunday before I head out to KC. I’m going to remember. And, I’m learning that some beauties emerge early, some take awhile, some take a long time, and some take even longer. Whatever beautiful seeds you’re planting, friend, remember this. Some beauties take time. Just because the first fruits are rather routine, don’t give up hope. Just because the second and third rounds don’t do anything to excite your senses, doesn’t mean the fourth round is doomed to be dull. Some season, sometime soon, or sometime later, the beauty you’ve been caring for is gonna reach it’s potential and your eyes are going to be filled with beauty beyond belief – you’ll see. Someday, your beauty is gonna be sweet. Someday. Good…


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Empty the tank…

Empty the tank, friend. Empty the tank. If you want to improve your performance in whatever your endeavor, remember this – you have way more in the tank than you think you do. Push harder. Reach more. Take yourself to the edge of your challenge zone. Good.

Tuesday/Thursday/and SEAL Saturday are empty the tank days for me, physically. Today, after 40 minutes of body weight work, this old dog ran it for 6 miles in a nice, cooling, Fall rain. As I headed up the last hill, I pushed the twigs for a little extra. I still didn’t empty the tank, however. More work to do. I’m still too afraid to taste the edge where I might not make it back home. Why in the world would I worry about not making it home? Kinda silly and sad to admit but my weak mind needs more work. Fact. Our performance gains, remember, are mostly mental – even for old dogs like me. We’ve gotta visualize the gain instead of focusing on fear & pain. Keep working, friend. Keep working.

Now I’m off to push myself to serve others toward their aim. Let’s see how far I can push them toward their own full effort. Let’s see how willing they are to empty themselves through their effort. Let’s see how creatively I can help them. Let’s see.

Empty the tank, friend. Empty the tank. What’s the point of arriving at the end with half a tank in reserve? Empty the tank…

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Care, but not too much…

Today, a young lady cried in practice because our topic took her back to some not so good memories. Today, a young man shared his story of pulling out the bazooka when dealing with a bully. He realized his fear was misplaced. Being tough, in the moment, wasn’t nearly as hard as he’d imagined. And, today, another youngin’ learned he’s more likely to get sued for caring – caring too much. Today, I’ve come to believe, is a fairly normal day in my life’s work. I’m learning to take the work seriously; myself, not so much.

Everyday in the work of BTL, I attempt to speak and listen “truth in LOVE.” It is rare the teams I’m practicing with hear what I want them to. Oftentimes they hear something else playing in their head and mix it with the message coming from me. Sometimes they are hurting to such a degree they hear nothing. And, sometimes I use too many words, share them too fast, deliver them too passionately, and cause confusion instead of clarity. Sometimes I make a mess myself.

Here’s what I know. I’ve found peace in this. My aim is to master the work of building leaders and building teams with deep, hard earned trust – the kind that leads to unity. I do not measure my success by the words of praise or poison. Each week, I look back and write about what the work itself tells me. My aim is mastery and I’m miles from it. So, each week, I’m writing where I can get better and kicking my own to take it up more than a notch. I demand the most of myself, then the leaders, and then the team. The peace comes from my focus on mastering the work, not worrying about what others think. This has been the hardest mental gymnastics for my mind. I want very much to be liked and esteemed for my work. Speaking truth does not yield much of either.

Someday, however, the truth will set me free (John 8:32). I love marinating in this thought. Today, a few clients had a lightbulb go on. I didn’t flip their switch but my questions got them to. God, help me master this work and realize my role, my role, my role. God, help me care, but not too much…

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Why we write, why I don’t want to write, and why I’m writing anyway

At BTL, we write for 3 reasons:

  1. To slow down
  2. To influence ourself
  3. To put ourself on the hook

I’ve been personally writing (BTL style) since 2008 when I met Chet (a.k.a. Chicker, to me) and he started building into me as a young, dumb, passionate fool.  Chicker pushed me to write and over time, MY writing lead ME to clarity about MY purpose:

Help people discover who they were made to be AND how to live in alignment with what you believe

And so I recently joined this band of elite builders who, I discovered from my writing, all believe what I believe.  Now don’t miss the point here: I joined an ELITE group, a group that has lots of experience, wisdom, knowledge and skills that are exceptional.  One of those skills involves writing for this blog.  Hence, why I don’t want to write for this blog.  Hence, why I’m writing anyway.

I have learned over the years that you don’t get better sitting idly by, you must productively practice through the fear, anger, pain, failure, etc.  So here I am, leaning into it so that I get stronger.  I hope this post, and the many more to follow, might also be an encouragement to others who need to step out beyond their comfort zone and get after their OPUS.

Together we improve my friends, together we improve.


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Share the spotlight…

“I read the chapter about humility this morning. I am prideful in the worst way. As I read that I did feel that as my core gets stronger, it is easier for me to become prideful about the work I’ve accomplished and look down at others, instead of up. Gosh, this hit home. I think I read the CS lewis paragraph early on with you and it didn’t sink in. But after feeling good about my opus, feeling like I have a stronger core than I did X months ago, it made a lot more sense.

I need to practice this more. practice all the things that a leader needs to do to not let pride disrupt the progress of becoming a better leader.

And man that CS lewis quote. Summarizing here….. we aren’t prideful about the things we are good at, we are prideful when we are better at something than someone else….. that theory always makes me smile because it is so true.”

The first step to building humility is realizing the need. Today, this client and another one of mine took the first step. They both looked in the mirror and reminded themselves to look up. The strong CORE centered, self controlling, humble man looks in the mirror to take responsibility and looks out the window to give credit – the proud man does the opposite. What are you building today, my friend? More pride or more humility. We could use a few leaders who’ve built such deep reservoirs of strength that they don’t have to parade around and show off for others. Strong men/women, girdled by humility, share the spotlight with others which makes their team feel more – not less. I’ve got more work to do. How ’bout you?


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