Coaching fifteen, sixteen and seventeen year olds in the game of hockey at the Midget level for the past seven seasons became a passion the day I realized that there was so much of the team game that had to do with life away from the rink. Each day afterward the importance was placed on making the player a better player and perhaps a better young man as well. The beauty of this is that to become a better player in hockey you have to become a better team player and when you become a better player you also understand that you will also need to be the hardest working player, be accountable and responsible. Just like in life.
Many of our children become enamored by their sports hero. Much more than anybody on television or film, in music or politics and there is a reason for this. More often than not a successful athlete, especially one involved in a team sport, possesses many traits that are rare in our everyday society.
The following is something that describes what’s needed to be a successful athlete and indeed are the traits nearly all successful people possess. Each year I’d give a copy to each of the nineteen players on the team, I don’t know exactly who read it or not, but for those that did not I hope one day they come across it and give it a ponder, because it could also be read as the expectations of yourself to live a successful life. If you simply replace the words teammate with fellow human being and coach to parent, who should be the child’s mentor and hero, and team to community, it lists what is needed to be successful no matter whether it’s on a field, in an arena or an office tower, on the street, at home or simply interacting with a fellow human being.
Commitment – the pledge to one’s teammates that you will be accountable for the responsibilities of your position and how it relates to the team system.
Drive – the desire or need to win, to achieve, and to be successful in athletics. An athlete with drive desires to attain athletic excellence and responds positively to competitive situations. They also aspire to accomplish difficult tasks and set and maintain high goals in athletics.
Determination – the willingness to put forth the physical effort necessary to be successful. A determined athlete is persistent and unrelenting in work habits, practices long and hard, works on their skills until exhausted and does not give up easily on a problem.
Emotional Control – the capability to maintain one’s cool during the stresses involved in athletic competition. An athlete with strong emotional control can face stress in a calm objective manner and rarely allows feelings to affect performance. They are not easily discouraged, depressed, or frustrated by bad breaks, calls, or mistakes.
Conscientiousness – the willingness to do things according to the rules. A conscientious athlete will not attempt to bend the rules to suit personal needs. They display the tendency to be exacting in character, are dominated by a sense of duty and place the good of the team ahead of personal well being, nor do they try to con the coaches or teammates.
Mental Toughness – the ability to accept strong criticism and setbacks without competing less effectively. A mentally tough player does not become easily upset when losing, or competing poorly. Does not need excessive praise or encouragement from coaches and recovers quickly when things go wrong.
Trust – the acceptance of and belief, in people. A trusting athlete believes what coaches and fellow athletes say, is free of jealous tendencies and tends to get along well with his teammates.
Responsibility – the acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, including mistakes. A responsible athlete accepts blame and criticism, even when not deserved, can endure physical and mental pain and does not dwell on mistakes or impose self punishment.
It’s also very important to have passion for the game, whatever that game happens to be.
These fundamental traits have become rare in society today because our measure of success far too often is based on acquisition of wealth, property and power, instead of the fulfillment of one’s own potential and pursuits. The problem with our altered definition of success is that it breeds the defamation of rational thought.
Many of the young today are simply not stimulated by anything anymore or for very long, no matter how hard the media and technology tries to keep them entertained. They see their future as getting through high school and if able, party through college, then get a job, marry and produce children for many times the wrong reasons, buy things and go into debt. For many youngsters this way of thinking has become so very boring and shallow. But then they have learned life through television and through their parent’s actions. Anyone can berate their child with words for hours on end, but it passes effortlessly in one ear and out the other. While the same child will learn more about life, by watching a few moments of interaction with their parent and someone else, than a thousand words screamed at them would. There is a gap between outside stimulus and our response. The key to growth and happiness is how we use that space.
Too many parents have just wanted to be liked by their children instead of wanting to be trusted and respected, which is called having integrity and which will eventually produce love.
Many of the young, around the globe, are also realizing that it was illusion that led them to believe life is a race. That they were led along by strings of bells and whistles, goodies and shiny, sweet things and that climbing a ladder or a set of stairs was the benchmarks for status and success. They see the end game, of simply becoming either a wage slave or reaching some place of social standing and financial security. In both cases many will feel unfulfilled, even cheated in some way, because they have been led to believe that live is a journey with a serious purpose only at the end, instead of during. Too many, just before they die, regret that they did not realize that while the song of life was being played they had failed to listen to it or failed to sing and dance while it was being played.
As the traits listed above attest to, being an exceptional person, athlete or not, takes hard work and discipline. This is why so many are attracted to and follow sports, where success still possesses the time-honored components of hard work, where both great love and great achievements involve great effort and sometimes risk; patience, as in listening and not afraid of spending time alone just reflecting; scholarship and learning as much as one can; self-discipline whereas not believing all you hear, spending all you have or sleeping all you want; self-sacrifice and not standing by while a fellow human needs help or encouragement; and due diligence, doing your homework.
But the notion that success is achieved because of effort-induced aptitude has been replaced with success now being seen as all about the right positive attitude. Which on some levels is very important, but as we do too many aspects of our lives we wander to the extreme. Having the right attitude has been far too overly hyped and has become all about spin, where even hope is hyped, which has brought about a pandemic of self-entitlement, especially amongst the young. For too many years, too many children have been pushed along to be either a rock star, movie star, the best hockey, soccer, football, basketball etc, etc, player in the world or even the next prime minister or president, though this last endeavor has lost its ranking and luster, not because of the goal to become a better person but to achieve the money and purchasing power that goes with it.
Self entitlement brings about unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. The intention is to now blame someone else or something else for everything that goes wrong with our lives, as well as feeling justified in thinking so.
After many a lackluster, no effort given game or practice I’ve heard players whine the old, would have, should have and could have. I always tell them that that is no way to live one’s life. But because of the numerous distractions of our modern, speeded up lives the majority of us, especially youth, have become excellent procrastinators. Three factors push our procrastination habits along, a lack of self-confidence, being bored with the task at hand and impulsiveness, which all lead us away from our goals and toward distraction.
This belief in self entitlement has wreaked havoc in both corporate business and society, with many human’s egos doing the happy dance over the fact self-confidence is now all about anger, narcissism and rage, because outrage and lack of civility gives instant gratification and personal empowerment of the ego. These traits used to be deemed unacceptable and inappropriate behavior, not anymore, especially when it comes to business. Far too often predatory and greedy behavior is what allows one to survive in today’s corporate business world. Though there are signs this behavior is changing. For it is not human nature to act that way, but is a by-product of our culture, ever since we stopped hunting and gathering thousands of years ago and had to learn to live with each other in larger than family groups.
This negative behavior uses wrath in an attempt to make one’s version of the world unchallengeable. Too many are using raw, in your face anger to get one’s way, for the world to conform to their wishes. It’s basically emotionally punching another human in the face. There are many weak men and women who actually think rudeness, contempt, mockery and derision is inner strength. People who live lives of random acts of rudeness and anger, whether aggressively or passively, are usually people that feel something is missing in their life. Even though in many cases they might have grown up getting all sorts of toys and treats in lieu of a hug, a kind word, any love or forgivness, or perhaps even raised by parents who believed the earth, planets and stars revolved around their perfect child. Basically, most rude people are not very content, self-confident or happy people. Anger is becoming a problem because of family structures breaking down and too many parents no longer teaching self-restraint and self-control but instead the narcissistic, “To be truefully yourself you need to be expressive of what you feel”, so now a person’s rage just spews out, with their opinion alone the right way.
In reality anger is a built in mechanism of the “fight or flight” dynamic of a human being. Whenever we are in a life threatening situation anger affects the human body by suppressing the immune system, the heart rate climbs, breathing becomes rapid, muscles tense up and blood pressure rises, which is good if one’s survival is at risk, but is totally unnecessary dealing with our lives today.
The teams and players that make up politics and the corporate business world have been achieving very little success and in actual fact have been on a losing streak, with everything they try to better the situation so far is just guaranteeing much more of the same. They keep losing, and keep losing the lesson as well. Much like our societies, where too many have become reactive and driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions and their environment and focusing too much on the weaknesses of others, problems and conditions in which they have no control over. Allowing the negative energies of blame and victimization to control us and not allow anyone to accomplish anything also enables reactive people’s nature to absolve themselves of responsibility.
Proactive people on the other hand are driven by carefully thought about, internalized values and focus their efforts instead on things they can do something about. They possess many of the traits listed above, commitment, drive, emotional control, determination, conscientiousness and responsibility. They understand that being aware is being conscious of one’s behavior and that when the ego and the uninterrupted thoughts in our heads are in charge we are unconscious.
It is interesting that in all the great literature of all progressive societies, love is a verb, expressing action and existence; while reactive people define love as a feeling, as in a point of view, a perception and an idea.
So how does one become successful and/or get what they need? Understand that most everyone is secretly wondering what’s in it for them. Listen carefully. Allow intuition to arise from within, and then simply provide the very thing the other person needs. In life and in business, any change needs to be where kind and considerate people get farther than having selfish, greedy and cutthroat people get ahead. The people that are moving forward should be with clear eyed confidence that comes from knowing that being sincerely nice and polite and placing other people’s needs on the same level as our own will get you nearly anything you want.
It’s all about respecting oneself; indeed this is where integrity and compassion comes from. You can’t buy respect or success, they both have to be earned and you can’t go through life thinking happiness will happen all by itself because you have an attitude or a false sense of entitlement. Nearly all we purchase in our lives makes us happy for about a day. The stuff we can’t buy, through healthy relationships and supportive communities, is human experience.
Success, nearly every single time, goes to people who are proactive; people who have solutions to problems and are not problems themselves. They are most often people who grab the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with proper and correct principles and values to get the job at hand done. We all possess these traits but in many of us they lie dormant and unused. They are immobilized because of constant pushing and shoving of someone else. Acting according to your own principles and values, instead of being acted upon by others creates a noble and balanced character.
The most important need today is to restore in ourselves, and instill in our young, the courage to take responsibility, to admit mistakes and look within to solve problems. If the problem is overwhelming then one must look beyond themselves to people in the community and then be willing to work with each other to find solutions. Just like any successful athlete, business person or citizen would do.