In a Word, Respect

Every year my family and I head down to the 9/11 Memorial to listen to the list of names of those that lost their lives on that day in 2001. Only family members of lost ones are allowed to attend in person. My kids are 8 and 5 now, so questions about the events of that day start to come up and sometimes I have trouble answering them.

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Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same.

As we approached the Memorial, we walked past the mural in the photograph above, and the words on the mural explain it all very well. “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same”. In other words, we might not agree on everything, but we should respect each other’s opinions and differences.

Honestly, sometimes that’s really hard to do. Right outside the Memorial were people holding up signs and telling others that what happened on 9/11 was fake, that it was all a government conspiracy. I wanted to punch those guys in the mouth. But freedom of speech is one of the reasons why this country is great. They’re allowed to have and voice their opinions. I might disagree with them, but I’ll respect their rights.

Respect isn’t just limited to big issues, respect is something that should be on your mind with everything. Respect others at all times, and that doesn’t just mean their opinions and/or stances on specific topics but respect their time as well. Respect the effort people put into their jobs and respect them when they say “no” to something.

We may agree to disagree on many things, but we should all agree to respect each other.

Does Who You Surround Yourself with Matter?

The short answer to this is yes, it matters. It’s why this Jim Rohn quote, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is so popular and recognized. Put it this way, we should be very intentional about who we choose to spend our time with.

Maarten van Doorn writes:

“The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.”

The Game of Life

My family tries to have game night every day. We think it’s just a great way to step back from life and connect each day as a family. Recently we’ve been playing “The Game of Life – Twists and Turns”. It’s a fun game and a spin-off of the classic game that you might have been used to playing as a kid. In this version of the game, all of the money, property, and vehicles are controlled by a computer, which is also how you spin the wheel to move. The game loosely introduces the concept of credit cards, and that is how each players stats and data is accessed.

The way the game plays is pretty much similar to the classic game, but the winner is who ends up with the most “life points”, and that is a combination of the amount of money you have plus the experiences that you’ve had throughout the game. So, it’s really not just about the money anymore. I won’t go into any more details about the game, this blog post really wasn’t meant to be a game review, but I highly recommend the game if you get the chance to try it. My wife and I have played with just the two of us without the kids and it’s still a lot of fun.

My older son is what you’d expect from a first-born child. He’s reliable, structured, cautious, and really wants to please his parents. He’s also very competitive and wants to win at everything. My second child (we only have two) is also a boy, and he’s quite the opposite of my older one. The second one is a risk taker, definitely more self-centered but also much looser and more rambunctious. Our first-time playing Life together definitely brought out their personality traits.

My older guy is completely averse to having debt. Real or fake, he doesn’t like the idea of owing anyone money. So, he played the game conservatively, not going into debt to buy things and just doing things as he would in normal life. My younger guy was completely opposite, he bought all the expensive stuff because it looked like it would be more fun. And understanding that it was just a game, my wife and I did the same thing.

One thing to note about my older son, if he does not want to do something, he won’t do it. He really holds on strong to his opinion and feelings about what he likes and doesn’t like. But peer pressure can be really tough. After playing the first game doing things as he would normally do in real life, he played the second game completely different. He saw how the rest of us were playing the game and he felt the need to change how he played. In the second game, he bought anything he wanted regardless of price and had a negative money balance for almost the entire game. As I watched my older son make decisions that I didn’t think he’d make, I knew I was seeing Jim Rohn’s quote in action.

Figure Out What is Important to You

It’s relatively easy to influence kids, and in the game that my family played, the powers of influence for my older son were just too much to resist. As the first born, he sees what his parents’ habits are and he models after them. As adults, I think we are just as easily influenced, but the signs might be a bit subtler.

If you are around negative people, you’re going to be negative. If you’re around people that complain a lot, you’re going to complain a lot too. If you spend a lot of time around people that always see the good in things, you’ll start seeing the same as well.

As I get older, I find that I value my free time a lot more. I also find that I would rather have a small number of quality friendships over having just a lot of friends. Recently what I started to do without really knowing it was I started to spend more time around people who had the same life goals as I do. And what I also noticed was that I didn’t enjoy spending a lot of time around people who had a negative impact on those goals.

To put it on a personal level, I think about finances a lot. I believe I share the same dream as anyone else in that we all want to be debt free. When I think about making sure we have a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, clothes on our backs, college tuition down the road and hoping to retire without financial worry, it’s daunting. So, I’ve found a small circle of friends who are focused on the same thing. Our spending habits are pretty much the same and we keep each other from falling into the temptation of spending money just to keep up with the Joneses. No, we don’t have group meetings or anything like that, we just have similar lifestyles. I know that if I were to spend a lot of time around people that spent a lot of money all the time, I’d probably do the same.

You can apply this same sort of thinking to any goal. Are you focused on climbing the corporate ladder? If so, do you surround yourself with people who are just as hungry about that as you are?

What this means is that friendships probably will change, and that’s ok because that’s life. I’m not saying that I’ve cut off friends that I’ve made earlier in life, I still talk to plenty of people. But the people that I will spend the majority of my time with are those that are going to have a positive effect on the goals that I’ve set for myself.

I also love this article by David Burkus. And he writes that it’s not just the 5 closest people that have an impact on you, it’s actually those 5 plus whoever is influencing them that has an impact on you. And then it’s their friends and their friends and so on and so on.

Who you choose to surround yourself with matters. It matters a lot. It can be the difference between accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself and your life, or looking back when it’s all said and done and wondering “what if”.

Are Breaks and Vacations Really Worth It?

I love going to the beach. On a nice sunny day, I could sit on the beach for hours and just watch the ocean. I enjoy listening to the waves crashing on the shore and hearing the birds as they fly by. If I start to feel hot, I love standing in the water and letting the waves hit my body to cool off. Then I can go back to sitting and relaxing in the sun. It’s a simple rinse and repeat formula. And during all the time spent at the beach, life is great. That is, until I check my email.

I could sit at the beach all day.

Once I start scrolling through my email I can feel the stress weighing on my shoulders. It’s like being woken in the middle of the night by having a cold bucket of water thrown in your face. There’s a sense of panic and worry as I think about all of the things I need to do when I get back to work. The task list starts to pile up almost as high as the list of emails and messages that I have to read and respond to. Then I inevitably ask myself, was even worth it to be away in the first place?

If I didn’t go away or didn’t take a break, I wouldn’t have to deal with being behind or playing catch up. In fact, I wouldn’t have to make the mad scramble to finish things before I went on vacation just so I could go on vacation. I mean that all seems logical right?

Well it appears that Arianna Huffington might have a different point of view, as she expressed in her open letter to Elon Musk. What Arianna pointed out made a lot of sense. People aren’t machines, sleep is a necessity to function at a high capacity. We can’t be plugged into an outlet and take a power feed all day (regardless of how much coffee we drink).

True to form though, Elon did reply back via Twitter (at 2:32 am) stating that taking time off wasn’t an option, pointing out that “Ford and Tesla are the only two American car companies to avoid bankruptcy”.

And so here we are at the crossroads, who is right? Is it the one that is advocating for a better work/life balance, or is it the one that is working hard to ensure a business has a future? I don’t know if there’s a right or a wrong answer.

My family also enjoys the beach, and I enjoy spending time with them.

But here’s what I do know. In life there aren’t many guarantees. I’ve been at a company that was on top of the world, only to have it come crashing down and eventually becoming a shell of what it once was. I have seen friends give everything they have to companies only to be rewarded with their walking papers when push came to shove. I have seen people dedicate their lives to a business only to have it fail due to things beyond their control.

What we can control is how we choose to spend our time, and what we make priorities in our lives. I have a family, and “families that play together are happier”. But in order to play together, I have to make the time. So in the end, for me, breaks and vacations are totally worth it. What about you?

Making the Case for Well-roundedness and Experience

Have you ever passed off an ask or a task to someone else because you didn’t know how to do it or just simply because it wasn’t your job? While I’m sure we all want to manage our workload so that we are not overwhelmed, the lack of diversity in skillset or the unwillingness to learn new skills just might come back to haunt you.

Basketball is a favorite sport of mine, and over the last couple of years there has been a change in the way teams have built their rosters. There’s a high value in players that can play multiple positions and do different things, and the “specialist” players are now finding it hard to get any time on the floor. Players that can play multiple positions and do different things provide teams flexibility and the ability to adapt to other teams. Offensively and defensively there are less weaknesses.

This sort of thing has been playing itself out in the corporate world for a while now, or at least that’s what I believe. As budgets continue to shrink, people are being asked to do more with less. If you’re able to bring multiple skills to a job or an organization, the higher in value you will be. Be wary if you find yourself in a position where your skillset only allows for you to do one thing. And be realistic about that, as much as I’d love to say that I have the skills to be a sports agent, if I don’t have the experience it won’t really matter.

And speaking of experience, it’s sad to hear about companies that seemingly look to force older workers out the door simply due to age. Being a well-rounded employee with multiple skills doesn’t happen overnight, skills are something that you acquire through learning and experience. If you’re looking for a digital marketer that can write, create and edit digital content, and lead strategy, you’re going to look for someone that has actually done something in those areas. Not just someone who says they have or says they’re knowledgeable simply because they took a course.

Taking courses to learn a new skill is great, I highly encourage it, but then those skills need to be applied somewhere so you can build experience. You can achieve this through a number of ways. Maybe the company that you work for will allow you to take a stretch assignment with another team. If you know friends that have small businesses, maybe there is something that you can help out with. Or if you’re like me and you need to brush up on your writing skills, start a blog and write.

The point is, go out and produce. People want to see results, and the more experience and skills that you have at your disposal the more likely you’ll be able to produce more, with better results.

So perhaps being a “jack of all trades” isn’t a bad thing after all.

Lessons in Parenthood: The Martial Arts Experiment

When I was around junior high school age, my parents decided to enroll me in Judo because they thought it would be a good idea for my sister and I to learn how to defend ourselves. They chose Judo because it primarily focuses on throwing people, and less striking. The thought behind the idea of learning Judo was sound. Learn a martial art that will allow you to defend yourself if you have to, and not use the training to be the aggressor. The part that didn’t work was the timing of when to begin the journey.

The journey didn’t last long, maybe a few months to half a year. There were multiple reasons why it didn’t continue, starting with not knowing anyone else in class, none of my friends were into martial arts, and I played sports on multiple teams. But I would say that however short the experience was, it was beneficial.

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The journey starts with white.

Fast forward a few decades and martial arts is once again a subject for my family. But in this case it’s a decision that my wife and I have made for our two boys. We’ve decided to start them relatively young, and for the same reasons why my parents decided to start me years ago. We wanted the boys to know how to defend themselves if necessary, but also build some self-confidence. Having been at it for a good number of months now, we’ve also seen some other benefits.

The drills that the boys do have helped with their coordination, and due to the physical nature of the sport, it has helped them become more comfortable should people invade “their space”. I benefitted in a similar way after going through my short stint in Judo. I’ve seen this help them in other sports as well. They don’t necessarily look for contact, but instead more comfortable with it now.

Discipline and self-control should be preached and taught at all martial arts academies and dojo’s, and 5150 Martial Arts, the dojo my kids attend, it’s no different. They learn that fighting is the last resort.

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We study a mix of Karate, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and Arnis.

Another valuable lesson they learn there is that they need to be ok with working or practicing with anyone. While there is a rank order, respect must be given to all regardless of belt color. They are taught that the students all learn and grow together as a team. It’s forced the boys to meet new people and make new friends.

All of these things are great, and I’m happy the kids are enjoying the martial arts experience. But I will say that one thing that has contributed to the continued interest is the involvement that my wife and I have. She and I also train at the same dojo, but started after our kids did. So yes, they outrank us.

I believe that it is the complete family involvement that will keep the interest in martial arts going for a long time. We talk about it, practice and train together, and encourage each other to climb the ranks. The lesson here is one that all parents know, but at times are tempted to brush aside. There’s nothing more valuable than time spent doing something as a family.

Quick Thoughts: True Friends Tell You What You Need To Hear

If I were to ask you to think about who your friends are, there’s a good chance you’d think about who you love hanging out with on weekends and having fun. You’d think about who you get along with the most, who you’re happy to be around.

But maybe you should also think about those people that brave the potentially uncomfortable and awkward situations to tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not. Now granted, you have to trust that those people have your best interests at heart. But in the end, it’s the friends that are willing to give you the needed reality check that are the best.

Lessons in Parenting: Stop Overcoaching

The word “overcoach” is pretty self-explanatory. But Merriam-Webster defines it as “to coach someone to an excessive degree.” Basically it’s to give so much direction, that it doesn’t allow for any freedom of choice and learning. In some ways, it also takes all the fun out of things too, especially sports.

I am not a parent that yells at his kid from this sidelines during games. I’m also not a parent that yells at coaches during games either, or referees. As someone that has coached basketball at a competitive (but amateur level) I know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of an angry entitled parent. Good or bad, I believe parents should let coaches and referees do their job without interruption.

Instead, I am a parent that chooses to give my kids feedback after the games are done, or during halftime and breaks if they come over to see us. I do not yell or speak loudly for all to hear. The feedback I give my kids is spoken quietly, only for them to hear. It is never my intention to make a public example out of my children for all to see. But what I find myself doing though, is overloading my kids with excess feedback. Quietly, I’m overcoaching.

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As a parent, can you step away enough to let kids find love for the game themselves?

There is a fine line between overcoaching and not coaching enough, and for each kid that line is different. Kids shouldn’t be made to figure out how to play certain sports on their own, but they should be allowed to figure out if they enjoy playing it on their own.

It’s very easy to get competitive when your kids play sports. As parents, we should all admit that some part of us selfishly wants our kids to do well so that we look good. And for some, it’s a way to live vicariously through them if we weren’t good enough to play sports competitively.

At the end of the day, I can’t do anything about that volunteer dad coach that seems to think that recreational league, second grade basketball is the NBA finals. I really can’t complain since he’s the one helping out and I’m not. But what I can do better is keep the sport fun for my kids outside of the team, remove my excess expectations for them, and let them experience the game for themselves and learn to love it as I do.

And in the meantime, I’ll look for a different league with real coaches.

Could You Phone It In If You Had To?

Before you quickly answer this question, stop for a minute and think. In a perfect world, good paying jobs would be plentiful and expenses would be low, but that’s really not how it works is it? There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and/or a lifestyle that you want to keep, and for most of us, companies aren’t knocking at our door ready to throw gobs of money at us.

Hold up for a minute. Shouldn’t we all just take jobs that we like? Why sign up for a job you don’t like or want to do? Well first off, I don’t suppose many people willingly take jobs that they know they won’t like. Well maybe except former New York Knicks Team President, Phil Jackson. But don’t get me started on him, and that is my obligatory sports reference for this post.

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How long could you stand to be in a job you don’t like?

But in all seriousness, I don’t believe we take a job in something we don’t want to do unless we absolutely have to. Instead, what usually happens is that we’re “sold a false bill of goods” so to speak and the job isn’t what was advertised, or it came with complications that weren’t made known up front.

Also, sometimes jobs we want and would love to have don’t pay enough to cover the bills. I’ve seen people claim that they have the best jobs in the world, that they’re doing what they love and they wouldn’t have it any other way, but then they set up a GoFundMe to ask for help to pay their dental bills. How does that make sense?

If you have a job that pays your bills and allows you to survive, you would phone it in if you had to. And you know what, it’ll show.

As a manager, if you’re not in tune with your team members and you can’t see the signs, you risk losing your team. And talent will find a way to move on. Chances are that if someone on your team is phoning it in, that they’re also looking at options to leave.

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Managers, you have the ability to keep your employees from walking away.

“Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual salary.” (Huffington Post)

Managers play a key role in talent retention, as we know that most people quit managers, not jobs. “Unsurprisingly, the manager relationship is highly correlated with employee engagement”, says Jack Altman. People will stay in roles that might not be the best fit if they find their relationship with their manager to be positive.

In some cases, it could be best for both parties to move on from each other, but I would suspect that more often than not, simple, honest communication can prevent employee turnover. If anything, you might be able to find a better fit on another team, preventing them from leaving the company altogether and losing the talent completely.

Good Coaches (Managers) Develop Teams Of Players Instead Of Just Relying On One

As a father of 2 elementary school boys, I’m at my share of team sports games, especially basketball games. And as someone who has coached basketball at a competitive (but amateur) level, I enjoy talking to the coaches of my kid’s teams. What I’ve heard consistently is how the coaches feel the game should be fun, and how it’s more about the experience than winning or losing. But what I’ve experienced consistently is that when the games start, that philosophy gets thrown out the window.

At an early level, sports team’s coaches shouldn’t really care too much about the scoreboard. Their job is to make sure the kids have a fun learning experience so that they come back next season to play. That doesn’t mean that game scores shouldn’t be kept, I believe that it’s good to keep score and that there should be a winner and loser, but at an early age it’s more important to grow the players.

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Team members come at all skill levels, all should be developed to the best of their ability.

What usually happens on teams at such a young age is that there is at least one player that is heads and tails above the rest. And this player is going to be the primary reason why the team will be competitive at games. At this point the coach has a decision to make, use this dominant kid to score all the points, or train him or her to use their skills to get the others involved.

When there’s no score and it is practice time, a coach’s decision is pretty easy. There’s no game pressure, no screaming parents, no winner and loser. And all of the coaches have told me they believe in team ball. But once the game starts, a different story plays out.

You can beat a bad team if you have one good player that is simply just much better than everyone. But you can’t beat a team with average players if they all play together. And kids, like adults, get frustrated when they’re losing. And when they get frustrated, they get selfish. As a coach, if you don’t take control of the team and enforce teamwork, it’ll never happen. Players know when you say one thing but mean another.

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You can only rely on one player for so long, good teams rely on all players.

I’ll never forget those conversations after a game is done where the coach will tell me that my kid played well, but he hardly got the ball. My son has asked me why he doesn’t get the ball when he’s been told he’s played good defense and passed well. As someone who has coached teams, I will never undermine my kid’s coach, so I just tell him that there are other ways to have an effect on the game. And then I do practice with both of my kids at home.

If you’re coaching an elementary school basketball game and look to rack up the points, are you really there for the kids benefit or for your own?

My kids are fortunate to have parents that take an involved interest in their sports development. I am in no way under the delusion that either of them will be professional sports athletes, but we do want them to be the best that they can be in whatever sport they choose to play. But my point in saying this is that I know that there are parents that cannot be as involved in their kids sports as they’d like. And so it’s really on the coaches to develop the kids as best as they can. And that means it might be the difference between winning and losing a game.

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Invest in your player’s development, and chances are they’ll want to play for you again.

Before this season my son had a coach that encouraged the best player to get others involved, and while it might have been a frustrating experience at first for that player, the game results were proof that the strategy worked. Other players that were not as talented were able to step up in games and score points and help win games against better, balanced teams. And in the end, each kid got better.

To put this in context as a corporate professional employee, a good manager works to get their team in a position to best accomplish the team’s goals. Relying on one employee heavily over the others will let you achieve the small, immediate goals, but it won’t work for larger, bigger projects. Every team member must carry their weight, and if they cannot, the manager needs to be able to get them to a place where they can.

Develop teams of players and they will be back to play or work for you. Constantly rely on only one, and eventually you’ll be left alone.

Set Your Team Up For Success And Keep Them Motivated

Coaching basketball is something that I will always look back on fondly. As a coach it’s fun to come up with sets and plays that will help the team win games. But in order for those sets and plays to be successful, the players have to execute them properly. In the end, it all comes down to having the players buy into your plan, and motivating them to be better than their abilities.

Some of the best ways to keep players motivated is to give them ownership and responsibility for their roles on the team, and make sure that they’re in roles that are suited for them. You can, and should apply this same logic to business teams too.

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Giving team members ownership of their roles makes them invested in the success of the team.

The San Antonio Spurs are a world class professional basketball organization that consistently puts a championship level team on the court each year. Juggling talent and egos is no easy task, but the Spurs seem to have a handle on it and teams around the league look at the them as the standard for consistency and excellence.

Coach Gregg Popovich is at the center of the Spurs success, and while he will be the first to defer any praise to the players and the front office, it is Coach Popovich that the players want to play for. Coach Popovich “doesn’t give orders, he assigns responsibilities. And this is the ultimate sign of respect.” (GQ.com)

Giving responsibilities to the players gives them ownership, and this makes the player invested in the team. A personally invested team member will be more motivated to get the job done well as they have more of a personal connection to the job or role.

But allowing the players to take responsibility is only part of it, Coach Popovich “sizes [the players] up, accepts them for what they are, and entrusts them with the tasks suited to them.”

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Give your team roles that best suit their skillsets.

There are a couple of things to unpack here. First, the notion of assigning responsibilities to team members is different from assigning tasks. If all you do is assign your team members tasks, you are not giving them ownership for their roles. Instead, you’re just giving them ownership over the tasks, which gets old and dry really quickly. If you want to motivate your team, give your members ownership of their roles. As a leader, you can set the teams goals, and in some cases even the strategy, but by giving the team ownership of their roles they can set the tasks needed to accomplish the goals. This allows the team members to be invested in their roles and responsibilities.

Second, you need to fit jobs with the people that have the right skillset. Honestly, this should be the first thing to consider if you want your team to be successful. Do you have the right people to perform the tasks at hand? Finding the answer to this requires you to have conversations with your team members to see if they’re the right fit for the team and for what’s needed. There might not be a whole lot you can do right away if you find that someone on your team isn’t the right fit for what you need, but then consider how to make the best use of the skillset that person has. People are much more motivated when they’re doing something that can contribute positively to the team.

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Is your team frustrated and not motivated? Have a conversation with them and find out why.

Lastly, you have to be comfortable with your team taking responsibility for their roles and completing the tasks they need to complete to achieve the team’s goals. As a leader, that means taking a step back and letting your team do what they have to do. That doesn’t mean that you walk away from the group and come back weeks later. You should still have constant communication with your team, you just don’t need to be a micro manager.

If you’re noticing that your team isn’t very motivated and it feels like morale is low, try taking a look at these three things and look for ways to change the status quo.