Smack Dab in the Middle of Life – Winning Happens

By now you know I am the proud father of my 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. They are really different, but they are both driven and thankfully, good kids (all due to my hard working wife). My son and I went out for a celebratory dinner as he achieved all of his personal goals that he set out to accomplish during his basketball season. This night my wife and daughter were off to volleyball practice as our never-ending shuffle of life continues. So the boys went stag.

My kids have expensive tastes which is crazy since they are not contributing to the family bottom line. My son decided to take a break from his love of sushi and “take me” to a fancy steakhouse for his celebration. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited for a great steak as I know it was part of the JLo and A-Rod crazed no carb, no sugar for 10 day diet challenge…at least until dessert came. 

My son had his ups and downs during the season and in the end, he still achieved his goals. He set what some would think were unrealistic goals, but he conquered all of them. However, the goals achieved were less important than the life lessons he took away. It was the journey, embracing the grind and having fun along the way that mattered most. He had great games, bad games, and some in between. He learned the games were not instrumental to his success, it was the work he put into them.

I am getting goose bumps as I type this because he has learned these important lessons at 16 not 30 or 50. My son taught me so much from watching his journey. He set goals, worked hard and just did it. Simple. The simplest approach in many ways is the right path to go in our complex world. How many times do we complicate things in our lives? He learned that achieving his goals was a result of his hard work, and, at times, not making it more difficult than it needed to be.

Here is what I learned from my son:

Get Your Mind Right 

Heck, I have been trying to do that for years and he got the concept down as a teenager. Being mentally strong blocks the voices that bounce in our heads that say ”you can’t” or “you’re not good enough.” Better yet, it blocks negativity from others who try to influence how you should be, who don’t deserve a say as they have no skin in the game. For most, this is always a work in progress. Our minds play games on us, so we need to take control. My son repeatedly reminded himself that fear is not real; fear is our imagination at work. This is very true except when dealing with my own fears, like the real fear of heights or a horrible life without peanut butter, banana and chocolate ice cream. It’s kind of my Elvis thing.

Failures and mistakes are part of being human. As leaders, we need to support our teams when things don’t go well. Success is usually right around the corner when a failure or mistake is made. Failures make us better and makes our successes that much sweeter.

Get your mind right and believe in yourself even through the tough stretches – a great first lesson! 

Be In Great Physical Shape 

With his mind beginning to hum, my son already started working out with vigor – push-ups and sit-ups galore. He got into tip top shape as he worked on his speed and agility. Unfortunately, he was blessed with my genes, which means he has to work 20 times harder than the next kid to get there faster. Genes are a blessing and a curse.

I have a lot to learn from him on just getting out the door to go work out. And no, working out does not equal pulling myself off the couch to grab something from the fridge. I have A LOT of work to do in this category.

Mind and physicality – check. 

Find a Mentor

Finding someone who has been in your shoes that can teach you from their experiences is solid gold. A great mentor teaches, they root you on, or call bulls@%t on you when needed. My son’s mentors did all of those things for him.

Having great mentors was another critical factor of my son’s success this year. Fortunately, my wife’s family are basketball junkies so there was no shortage of mentors, starting with his grandfather who coached for many years. He also found great mentors for the other areas he worked on. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor.

Find great mentors – it is solid gold. 

Know Your Craft and Become a Student

You can’t only have your mind right, be in tip top physical shape, have mentors and expect to win. For my son, it was taking his understanding of the game of basketball to a new level. He already understood the game but that was only on the surface. He needed to understand how he applied that knowledge to the sport he loves in his and his team’s performance. That meant he had to watch videos, lots of video of himself and others at all levels, playing basketball. He needed to smell, eat and sleep the sport.

He immersed himself into the game. He was drawn to a few great players and began to watch full games on TV, the computer, YouTube, and social media as well as his own games. He broke down those games in detail as he learned philosophies, applications to the game and gave himself constructive criticism as he reviewed his decision making on certain plays. In the past, he watched highlights of games on ESPN or Snapchat and he learned that while entertaining, watching highlights does not fully immerse you into the game or success.

He was now a student of the game. 

The Differentiator

He’s got his mind, body and basketball in a great place but that was not enough to conquer the goals. There was one differentiator and that was to have fun. Fun was the breakthrough and secret to his success. Fun, smiling, laughing even while being focused releases great chemicals in your brain that allows you to play freely without a care in the world. When my son was having fun, whether it showed on his face or not, he became a different player. In those games, when fun was predominant he far outperformed the days fun was not present. During one game, he had so much fun, he went five for five from the three point line.

Fun is the critical difference maker.

The Wrap

I find it amazing how much we learn from our children on a daily basis. They somehow make us better people. When you are trying to tackle something great, or even mundane, try applying my son’s action plan. If it works for a 16-year-old, it can work for us at home and at work.

  • Get your mind right.
  • Be in great physical shape.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Know your craft and be a student.
  • Have fun!

I have learned so much from my son about internal fight, a winning attitude and how to prepare to win. Finally, the last lesson he taught me is that success takes time. His goals were written down eight months before he ever stepped onto the court for the season. He just went to work when no one was looking. Nothing is guaranteed.

What is stopping you from your own successes?

Onward and Up!

Greg – The HR Dad

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