Thursday, November 15, 2018

Move Over Ego & Learn

Often we just think we know what we are doing.  We think we. have seen it enough, heard about it enough and even talked about it.  Whatever it is; we still had not really done it ourselves.

Our ego tells us we are equipped or more than equipped to handle the task at hand, so we take action lead by our ego, not knowledge.  I'm guilty of this, in fact my masculine ego cost me some smoky chicken wings last weekend.

We had recently got a new Traeger grill and I was pumped to make some wings.  I read all the instructions during assembly and put it together quite pleasingly. I then read the initial firing instructions and executed those steps.  Then it came to cooking meat. Enter ego.

I figured, you fire up the thing to smoke, check the meat thermometer in a few hours.  I checked on
them in a little over two hours and the outsides had the most beautiful golden smoky rubbed crust to them.  They looked perfect and tasty.  As I checked on them in a little bits they should have been hot enough internally - they were not. Deciding to finish them in the oven, I dried those chickens like out.  They were rubbering and disappointing. Fail. Ego 0, Chicken Wings 1.  Yeah, I lost to a chicken.

Seeking to learn from this wasteful failure, I looked in the cook book that came with my grill. Sure enough it advised to crank the heat on the wings early and slow smoke from there.  In next attempting some ribs, I consulted this book.  Took their guidance all the way to some satisfying ribs.

This lesson reminded me how when our ego gets in the way we end up wasting time, money and smoking our hopes instead of proper wings.   Ego often overrides the simple details from previous experiences (or negligence), not the complicated.  If I was going to slow cook some wings I should have had the sense to slow down and read a few more instructions. Learn and BBQ on.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Learning to Breathe

As my eventual wife got me into yoga. I was fascinated by two key elements I wish I knew as a high school and college athlete.  Having gone through a fracture in my third lumbar as a college football player I would have loved to have known the core strength and flexibility benefits.  The other, more practical to all of us as it's a function of life, is learning how to stimulate different breathing techniques.

You've probably seen Jay Shetty on Facebook, a former monk, who often talks about the first thing you do at monk school is learn to breathe.  Super Bowl 50 Champion Ryan Harris (who spoke at our elev8 Leadership Summit last Summer) talks about in his new book about how after nine years in the NFL he sought out to better control his breathing through MMA coaches. Whether it is yoga, monk school or being an elite athlete our body flows and follows our breath.

Breathing helped me regain flexibility I had lost and create stillness in my mind when I needed.  Here are several elementary breathing exercises you can work on to learn about your breathing and create focus. Remember our breath helps bring us back to the moment we are living.

1. Breath, Bounce & Break
        We see this done unconsciously in sports all the time.  It consists on three key elements to regain
your focus.  First, take a deep breath in & release, bounce lightly on your feet and clap your hands.  Teams leave huddles doing this all the time. If it's going through the motions it won't help you create nearly the focus as when done with intention. Put the last bad moment or play behind you by breathing, bouncing and breaking back into action. There's a reason football teams break a huddle in similar fashion.

2.  Square or 5x5
        This one is a bit more useful not within the confines of a game or competition, but great for pre-game, timeouts, the sidelines or relaxing. This should help slow our heart rate a bit and helps us get greater oxygen to where our body craves. Simply take a breath in for five seconds, release for five seconds, in for five, our for five and repeat.  Cycle through a few times or as many as you need.  If closing your eyes, imagine each five seconds gets you around one side of a square and continue around.

3.  6-2-8
        Another great one for controlling our breath is this exercise. Again most useful to calm, relax or reduce stress. Focus on your breath in and out. First in for six seconds, hold for two and exhale for eight seconds. Again, in for six, hold for two and out for eight. Focus on your breath and the numbers to create a more meditative state. Or add music to this 16 second cycle if you wish.

One thing yoga taught me was how connected my breath was to my muscles while stretching. Try the last two mentioned as you stretch.  You should begin to notice greater range slowly with each cycle or two through.  For other ideas, try a yoga or meditation class if you haven't.  There's also tons of useful techniques you can learn on YouTube.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

elev8 Questions with Kevin Carroll

Find Kevin's books, website, twitter and Instagram!

1) For people that aren’t familiar with your work and books, tell us about yourself in a few sentences?


Kevin Carroll, Katalyst
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play...” I think the words of James Michener truly summarize my personal and professional journey. My pursuit of what I like to call “blurring the line between work and play” started in 1977 with my high school graduation and led to: a short stint at college in Tennessee (Tennessee Wesleyan College) playing soccer and half-heartedly pursuing my collegiate education; enlisting in the military and my foreign language ability is discovered via military career aptitude testing in 1980; honorably serving ten years in the United States Air Force (USAF) as a Interpreter and Translator in Serbo-Croatian and working as a Technical Training Instructor for Czech, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication with a minor in Athletic Training studies in 1989; a 1990 Honorable Discharge from the USAF was followed-up by teaching at two elite private schools on the Main Line of Philadelphia, PA and leading the athletic training efforts for the student-athletes at those schools; which led to me being hired as Head Athletic Trainer at basketball power St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia from 1992; finding time for continuing my scholarly pursuits and earning a Master of Science degree in Health Education in 1995; that collegiate hire created a leap to the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Philadelphia 76ers - notably as only the third African-American Head Athletic Trainer in the history of the league - in 1995; that NBA work and my language training in the Air Force created a unique opportunity, in the Summer of 1996, to join the Yugoslavian National Basketball
Team as a sports medicine liaison for their competition at the Atlanta Olympic Games; at the Atlanta Games, an NBA media feature story of my work and a curious executive at Nike prompted my transition in 1997 from the NBA to the sports industry giant; over the next seven years I carved out a unique role and legacy; that role (official title: Creative Katalyst*) presents opportunities to share my plethora of personal and professional stories on global stages and I’m approached by the lecture/speaking circuit and a book publisher; a personal brand is launched in 2004, Kevin Carroll Katalyst/LLC, focused on espousing the role and value of sport in play in our lives, via a global speaking calendar, publishing three books, and a dedicated effort to advance the work of organizations and individuals around the world using storytelling, curiosity, grit, mindfulness, high performance coaching and sports/play/FUN as a competitive advantage.

2) Why are sports a powerful tool for youth development?

Sports teaches social and emotional skills that will be used in the classroom, in the workplace, and in life - such as communication, goal setting, discipline, team work, sportsmanship, empathy, resilience.

3) What is one of the greatest things you’ve learned from knowing Kobe Bryant through the years?

Hard work NEVER goes unrewarded. Do. The. WORK! The results/WINS will follow.

4) Your words ended up on 17 million Starbucks cups, how did this come about?
Kevin's Starbucks Cup

I spoke at a marketing event for Starbucks & the marketing leader/team “gifted” me The Way I See It/TWISI Cup. I decided that my quote would honor teachers + encouragers.

5) You’ve also addressed the United Nations, tell us about that experience?

It was part of the UN International Year for Sport & Physical Education in 2005. I was honored to speak to leaders from more than 30 nations about the power of sport for social innovation + social impact.

6) What was the most fascinating thing you learned serving our country in the Air Force? 

Attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA two times for foreign language training in Serbian/Croatian + Czech with members of every branch of the US armed forces, other government agencies (CIA/FBI agents), diplomat attach├ęs then working in military intelligence field for 10 years.

7) If you could go back and tell 16 year old Kevin one truth you’ve learned in life, what would you go tell yourself?

Expect + Respect the Unexpected!

8) Definition of Success?

My definition of success can be captured in one work - ARETE! Arete means "excellence of any kind" (also moral virtue). In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential. Maximizing one’s human potential!

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Friday, November 9, 2018

But Coach what about the Mistakes?

Wade Phillips is a legendary coach and defensive coordinator to many.  His book, Son of Bum, is a great read. Emphasized through the years and the many teams he and his father coached was the importance of building relationships.  Wades's stories on rap music to Lady Gaga's National Anthem are testaments of not only staying young at heart, but avenues of connecting with his players.

The term 'players coach' often gets a bad denotation, building trust with your players and teammates is never an adverse thing. I'm a big believer that kids and pros alike need great coaches, not more friends. Wade it seems from his book has understood this balance for many years. Probably one reason his LA Rams defense is thriving.

Son of Bum was consistent with many parts of how he's built trust in his defensive rooms, one was how he not only primed them to play fearless, but to clearly state what he was looking for.  Wade said the same thing before every game.
Wade Phillips, Rams Defensive Coordinator

"I want you to go out and play as hard as you can play. We practice everything we had to practice. Now, you go out and plays as hard as you can play, every play, and don't look back. And any mistake you make is mine"

He recalls in his book, he was so repetitive with this pre-game talk that prior to Super Bowl 50, he left the last sentence out. As he headed to leave the meeting room, a bunch of players shouted, "Coach, what about the mistakes?"

Wade replied, "Oh yeah, the mistakes are mine."

I love this for a couple of reasons. One, for creating a relentless pursuit towards a best effort. Two, by reducing the fear of mistakes. And three, for the coaches high level of accountability.  If coach didn't prepare the players/teams well enough, that there are making mistakes, well that's on me. That's what leaders do. Leaders take the blame for things that even aren't always within their control.

When we as coaches struggle with our athletes being accountable for their actions and responsible for their choices, we must show them what these things look like, not just speak of them.  The more we get to know our athletes, the greater our ability to teach our athletes. The more we model what we teach, the more they will absorb.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Positive like Peko

Every team needs positive teammates and in Denver, one of them you hear about is defensive lineman Domata Peko. Yesterday he was on Orange & Blue 760 radio and the guy just oozes positive energy.  You can tell he's a teammate you'd want to have around.

You can take a listen to the short interview here.

Domata Peko, Powerful Champions Pose
By the end of the interview the radio guys are talking about how Domata should be a motivational speaker when he retires; I don't disagree.  And when your team is not off to a winning start, what's the alternative to being optimistically positive?  Not one that will help turn things around that's for sure.

Positivity is a powerful weapon. Even though the Broncos are off to a rough start, the competitiveness is present - focus, maybe a bit more fluttery from my perspective. Positivity helps focus, negativity hinders it.

It's only naive to be optimistically positive if you it's not grounded in commitment and hard work. Belief with commitment is grounded optimism; without commitment, naive optimism.

We can't just believe and achieve. Belief is the beginning, the roots of our work.  When our belief in self and team is strong, it takes a much greater force to disrupt your growth and where your going.  We still have to be committed to the hard work that is necessary to achieve our goals.  Stay realistic, stay grounded and stay positive.

Be like Peko and let positivity fuel you forward in your quests!

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Don't Eat the Marshmallow

Years ago they did a research study with kids with a sweet treat in front of them. The objective for the young kids; don't eat the one marshmallow (or Oreo or Pretzel) you have now for 15 minutes and we'll double your treat. It's been repeated over the years and goes down as shown in this quick video.

Originally done at Standford, this examination into delayed gratification extended well beyond the 15 minutes of isolation with a marshmallow. They followed the kids into adulthood and what they found
was that kids who could withhold from devouring their treat for the 15 minutes did better on the SAT's, their educational attainment, had lower BMI(body-mass index) and overall better in general life measures.

A later study with a much greater sample size demonstrated that economic status more than will power impacting these original findings. From a social viewpoint I agree. In digging more into the analysis of will power - the age of kids correlated positively with increased will power; makes sense as well.

However, the lesson is what I find the most appealing in this simply study into gratification. In today's sports environment we see all too often kids being asked to eat the marshmallow and also obtain the second treat. We want our kids to be stars now and stars later. And some select few will be, don't get me wrong. For the majority of kids, the development and focus to the long-term process will better serve them beyond sports. Patience towards a bigger picture and a better you is what we need to help them seek.

Like the original study, the measurements were years apart. It's in these years that we must keep kids engaged in activities and sports that can develop this mindset. As coaches and adults around youth we can't always be looking for the quick fix or instant gratification option. In the short-term their great, in the long-term the trade-offs can be costly.

We see it in coaching changes all the time. A new coach comes into a tough situation and they want the marshmallow eaten right away. We want to win more now. Building a winning culture is a bit like building great young athletes. It takes time. We have to realize that eating the marshmallow right away won't get us to our long term goals, it'll just fill us up with accomplishments and boxes checked.

It reminds me of an ancient parable that goes like this...

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

The neighbor seems like the type that is always eating the marshmallow, accepting what is now, is it. Like the farmer, we often need to wait and see.  Many blessings and opportunities are disguised as initial discouragement and hard work. The process has ups and downs, just as this story does.  It navigating them like the farmer with patience and a good attitude that makes the difference.

Notice the neighbors attitude towards the situation is in response to the most recent event. The farmers attitude is not affected by the events. Be like the farmer, don't let the circumstances dictate your attitude, let your attitude dictate your circumstances. 

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ed Thomas Leadership Academy, Washington DC & more blogs

We'll start in in reverse of that headline in today's blog, because that part is about blogs.

I've been knocking out a lot more writing this past month, you can check many of them linked on this blog and others at . Always love your feedback & thoughts as it's extremely helpful!

A few weeks ago on October 16th I attended the Aspen Institute's Project Play Summit in Washington DC. If you are unfamiliar, I was too until a few years ago. From their website here is what goes down.

"Built around the theme “Think Global, Play Local,” the 2018 Project Play Summit brought together domestic and international trailblazers to share ideas on how to build healthy kids and communities through sport. Among the 40+ speakers were sports legends Kobe Bryant, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Tony Hawk, NBC Sports broadcaster Mary Carillo, and many sport leaders and community heroes who have pioneered breakthrough models and programs. The nation’s premier gathering of leaders at the intersection of youth, sport and health, the Summit sold out for the fourth consecutive year, with 425+ people attending at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Another 75,000 watched via Facebook livestream. The hashtag #ProjectPlay trended on Twitter."

It was an incredible event to attend as I geek out a bit on learning what's going on in the youth and high school sports climate. It was inspiring, I learned a lot and got to meet some fascinating people. Getting to interview Tom Farrey and Kevin Carroll were highlights of the day. Tom is a former
Tom Farrey
Kevin Carroll
investigative journalist for ESPN and current Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society programs. Kevin Carroll was a ball of energy that you want to be around. He has an amazing story and hopefully an 8 quick questions coming out is a link to video's from the event itself.

Earlier last month I got the chance to go back to Iowa and speak to 500 high schoolers at the Ed Thomas Leadership Academy, through the Ed Thomas Family Foundation. Having met coach Thomas years ago and played in college alongside a few of his former high school players, it was a special event to be a part of. Ed's son Aaron also spoke and was tremendous. If you don't know the story about this amazing man and family, here is the story from the ESPY's as their family received the 2010 Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

I've cried watching that video I don't know how many times. Meeting his wife Jan was an emotional hug and cherished moment. Everyone involved with the event and family's foundation was tremendous. Special thank to Al Kerns with ETFF for having me and taking great care of me.

As an extra bonus on my Iowa trip I got to catch up with some UNI players since working with the team in the Summer of 2017. Though they had a tough draw against the #1 team in the nation; always proud to be a Panther. Every time I am back I'm reminded how special a place the University of Northern Iowa is. It was great to catch up with old teammates, coaches and people that helped me through my college years.

More exciting stuff to come in the next few months!

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