The Best Thing

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

Bryan Stow is a San Francisco Giants fan. In 2011, Mr. Stow was brutally beaten by fans of a rival team. Since that terrible day, Mr. Stow has had multiple lingering medical issues. Coinciding with those issues were mounting medical bills.

Tim Flannery is the recently retired third base coach of the San Francisco Giants. In his Major League playing and coaching career, Tim has achieved magnificent heights, including being a part of the team that has won three of the last five World Series. Aside from baseball, his other passion is music. Tim fronts a band called The Lunatic Fringe, and has been lucky enough to perform with such legends as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. To say that Tim Flannery has achieved a lot of great things would be an understatement.

In a recent episode of MLB Network’s series MLB Presents, the show spotlighted the work that Tim Flannery did on behalf of Bryan Stow. This included a series of benefit concerts that Tim and his band put on to help raise money for Stow’s medical care. In one instance, Flannery related that he raised $95,000 for Stow. Fighting through tears when discussing it, Flannery called this like the best thing he’s ever done.

Tim Flannery played 11 season of Major League Baseball. He coached in the Major Leagues for 15. He played in a World Series and coached in several. Yet, when he reflects on the best thing he’s ever done, it didn’t involve personal accolades. It was something he did for somebody else that needed it. It wasn’t his playing or coaching career. It wasn’t the rings or trophies. It was a benefit to assist a person in need.

As I watched Tim Flannery choke out that phrase through a mist of tears, I couldn’t help but try to think of what the best thing I’ve ever done is. As far as I can tell (aside from my amazing son) I haven’t done it yet. I sincerely hope, though, that it’s something as selfless as what Tim Flannery did. We all have the opportunity to do great things, but we get bogged down in the minutiae of personal gain.

Here’s what I am advocating: do something great for someone that needs it and see if it doesn’t change the entire perspective of what the best thing you’ve ever done is. The needy are plentiful (unfortunately) and doing things like volunteering, mentoring, or coaching cost nothing but your time. It is certainly a great thing to be able to reflect upon personal accomplishments, but try to imagine the joy in the reflection of the face of those who truly need a lift.

What is or will be the best thing you’ve ever done?

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

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Contagious Leadership

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

I used to play ball with a guy who was really intense on the mound. If you booted a ball when he was pitching, he’d glare at you or make some comment about stepping your game up. I remember feeling like I had to be perfect each time I went out to my position. What generally ended up happening was that, when he toed the rubber, everyone played a little tighter which made us all a little more error-prone.

Fast forward to Monday night’s college football championship game featuring Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Mariota from Oregon University. Mariota is expected to be a high draft pick and have a successful NFL career. Without question, the stakes for Mariota’s championship game were a lot higher than my baseball games years ago. However, when faced with adversity, he reacted much differently than the aforementioned pitcher. Multiple times, Mariota did his job extremely well but that effort wasn’t reciprocated on the other end. On two specific occasions, Mariota made tremendous throws only to have them dropped in critical situations.

Football is a horse of a different color. In a sport where testosterone and manliness are held in high regard, we respect guys who yell at other guys. We praise quarterbacks who jump all over guys for not doing their jobs. We call them tough and fearless leaders. We admire their tenacity. However, when Marcus Mariota’s teammates dropped important passes, he took a different route. He sought those players out and patted them on the helmet and told them to get the next one. He didn’t scream at them and tell them to catch the damn ball. He encouraged them and instilled a confidence in them that they would make that play when given the opportunity.

Personally, I find this route far more admirable that the emotional outburst route. It shows maturity and leadership. It tells someone that you have their back and that you are confident that they will do a better job next time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for mediocrity. We should hold ourselves and our teammates accountable for our performances. What I am pushing for is better leadership, which was exhibited by Oregon’s QB Monday night. In the biggest game on the biggest stage, he chose to be a leader who supported his teammates even in the toughest of situations. To me, that speaks volumes about character and leadership.

It should be noted that I’ve never been a fan of the type of coaching that we often see in the game of football. That’s my personality. I was never motivated by someone screaming directly into my face. That does it for some, but not for me. Maybe that skews why I was so impressed with Mariota the other night. However, I do believe that his style is not only effective, but compassionate and representative of true leadership.

Further, this type of leadership is contagious and is certainly an example worth setting. Thanks to Mr. Mariota for exemplifying this trait.

Have an awesome Wednesday,
-A.

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Momentum

“Momentum? Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.” – Earl Weaver​

You may believe, like I believed, that forming a new habit takes about 21 days. Maybe you’ve heard a month. Upon doing a little digging,though, that number is actually more like 66. 66 days. Over 2 months. That’s how long it would take us to make something like exercising or watching what we eat a habit. 66 stinking days.

That means that if I want to reach a point where exercising regularly is a part of who I am, I need to do it consistently for two months first.

This time of year is rife with folks (me included) bent on making positive personal changes. How many of us will reach that 66 day plateau, though? How many of us will eat berries, leaves, and twigs for about four days and then call it quits? It’s certainly easier to quit, says I, as I sit here eating carrots for dessert instead of chocolate pudding. However, in the past couple days, I have added exercise as a part of my daily routine and have watched what I am eating. I’ve cut back on junk and unnecessary snacks. That, my friends, is called momentum.

What legendary baseball manager Earl Weaver is saying about momentum in the quote I chose for today is that momentum is only as good as its ability to continue to draw you forward. As I was researching effective exercise methods, I came across an excellent blog by Coach Stevo about momentum and goal setting. The refrain in this piece is “All that matters is momentum.” In essence, until we decide to put that first foot in front of the other one, we will accomplish precisely nothing. However, we can accomplish awesome things if we’re willing to make that first move. “All that matters is momentum.”

The idea, then, would be to create enough momentum to where the positive change you wish to see in yourself reaches the 66 day milestone and becomes habitual. I know I’m not alone in doing one of the following:

• Setting giant, sweeping goals across multiple spectrums and achieving none.
• Starting something and not seeing it through.

As it pertains to setting “giant, sweeping” goals, momentum isn’t necessarily measurable, so the size of your goal is irrelevant to it. All that matters is making the effort to push forward.

RE: starting and not following up, this is something I know far too much about. Again, I doubt I’m alone. What happens to me a lot is that I reach a point where I think, “I haven’t done this in so long now that it doesn’t even matter anymore,” and I lay the goal to rest. Momentum, once started, can’t be stopped. It can be slowed, sure, but allow yourself the opportunity to allow that momentum to get rolling for you again.

Here’s to hoping those resolutions we’ve made are met with the same desire in making them come to life. “All that matters is momentum.” Let’s get moving.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

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Lessons from a Hammock

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” – Elbert Hubbard

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in a large conference room at the World Marriott Center in Orlando, Florida. For the third consecutive year, I am fortunate enough to be in attendance for the ABCA National Convention, where over 4000 college and high school coaches across the nation attend to gather baseball knowledge from some of the best coaching minds in our game.

As the clinics got underway, I listened to various coaches speak of developing mental toughness. They spoke about trust and effort and resilience. They spoke about competing and never giving up. They shared anecdotes of players in their programs who demonstrated these qualities and how it led to success in their program.

I have learned a lot yesterday about these attributes from some of the greatest minds in the game of baseball that all educators, coaches, and parents seek to see in their students, children, and players. Perhaps, the best lesson, however, came from a little boy trying to obtain some rest and relaxation.

While listening to the coaches share their stories, I received the following texts from my fiancé, Lauren, who is enjoying a mini-vacation by the pool at our Walt Disney Dolphin resort:

“Watching a little boy try to get into a hammock. He keeps flipping out or skidding off, but this kid is determined to find a way in. Counted about 18 face plants into the sand. He’s not giving up.”

It would have been so easy for him after a few tries, five tries, or even ten tries to simply give up and walk away. He could have blamed it on the hammock. He could have made any number of other excuses. But he didn’t…

“He’s a champ.

He made it in!”

This kid had to be so proud of himself.

What a small but simple illustration of persistence. What a glorious success! This simple story provides such a powerful dose of perspective for all of us.

Would we remain so determined? Do we remain so persistent?

I think about all the times we take no for an answer. We struggle with a few attempts before we walk away angry, embarrassed, or grumbling and making excuses for why it was not our fault. We resign ourselves to believe that we cannot do it. We do not have what it takes. It is just not in the cards for us or not our day. We accept the hopeless failure.

For that little boy, the hammock repeatedly told him no. It told him no no less than eighteen times. However, he kept at it. He showed resilience. He showed persistence. He found a way to get that hammock to tell him yes.

Are we willing to work that hard? Are we willing to fail that much? Are we able to risk falling flat on our face multiple times to get what we want?

It may be something as small as trying to get on a hammock or as big as landing our dream job. What are you willing to do to turn a failure into a success? To turn a barrier into an obstacle conquered? To turn a no into a yes?

How far are you willing to go to get in the hammock?

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

Listen. Read. Communicate.

“It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter.” – Steve Anderson, Chief of Police, Nashville, TN

A friend of mine, knowing my generally liberal stance on most issues, tagged me in a Facebook post about Al Sharpton yesterday. The week prior, we had a discussion about Rev. Sharpton where we disagreed about his efficacy. As such, when he came across an article that articulated his point on the subject, he tagged me. This set off a lengthy and, initially, a heated conversation about police and community relations.

Right out of the gate, I was pissed, if I’m being honest. I felt attacked. How could he not see my point of view? How does what I feel not make sense to him? Chalk it up to the narrow minded conservative right, right?

At a certain point, though, we each relaxed. For whatever reason, we calmed down and stopped firing off texts without reading what the other had written. We asked questions. That bled over into today. We discussed more topics, and what we found is that we actually shared similar beliefs on a whole lot of issues. Sure, we didn’t agree 100% on everything, but it felt much easier to discuss things when there was no fear of offense.

My interest in politics and social issues may stem from getting older…I don’t know. I find myself getting more and more worked up over social and political issues than I ever have. What I’ve noticed (and it’s hardly a revelatory observation) is that we are beyond divided. We’re fractured, and this fractured division is largely due to poor communication. Mostly, it’s because of an inability or utter unwillingness to listen to an opposing viewpoint and seriously consider it. Instead, we seek out only the information that suits our agendas. We repeat blatant falsehoods that we read online and don’t bother to fact-check it. We shut off any possibilities of being exposed to differing opinions as if it is somehow going to infect us.

We are not helping to close the rift that we have created. In order to do this, we have to start listening. We have to start being open to the possibility that what we believe may or may not be actually true. We have to allow for the possibility that, though it may be painful, sometimes personal change is the only way to truly advance.

Let’s, like Chief Anderson says, “subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with” for the possibility that middle ground can be reached and progress can be made.

Listen. Read. Communicate. It’s the best possible way to start to close an ever widening gap.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

P.S. – To read an outstanding example of this, read Chief Anderson’s response to a letter he received from a concerned citizen.

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The Real Value of Giving

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

This past week, one of my co-workers brought in some gifts for the office. Now, most office exchanges will range from a Secret Santa arrangement to a white elephant get together to buying gift cards for everyone. Truthfully, we participate in none of that.

As several of us sat in the office, he told us the story that led to his purchase of our special gifts. He was in the dollar store with his girlfriend when she asked if he had gotten anything for people at work. He said that he had not, and she then mentioned that he should get us something. He then proceeded to tell her a little bit about each person, which led to what must have amounted to a scavenger hunt around the dollar store to find our “perfect” gifts.

All told, he had purchased an individualized and unique gift for everyone in the office for what he said was a grand total of eight dollars. A magic towel in the shape of a baseball for me, a clock necklace for a time conscientious colleague, a candle for another, a rock star door hang for the music lover, a jumping frog desk game for another, a pair of pink slippers for one who loves to kick off her heels, and a film strip picture frame with pictures of the deer he finally tagged for another.

I’m certain that these gifts were not the most extravagant that any of us received throughout the holiday season. But, they were no doubt among the most special. It became such a fun moment for each of us to talk about, and the looks of excitement and anticipation on everyone’s faces as we watched others receive their gifts truly embodied the spirit of the season.

This thoughtful gesture reminded me that giving did not need to be about buying gifts for the sake of buying them. It was about giving from the heart whether you spend a single dollar or a hundred dollars. Prior to Thursday, I found myself a few times saying that I spent too much money on Christmas presents.

However, as I watched my family, Lauren, and her family open their gifts and be truly appreciative, I thought a lot about my co-worker’s small gesture. It was not about the money, and it really was not about the gift. It was the act of giving something from the heart that made me feel rich beyond belief.

As we move forward from the Christmas season, the spirit tends to drift away, and people tend to move back towards thoughts of themselves over others. I challenge you to remember that we can and should always be in the giving spirit. It does not cost much or anything really. We can give our time, our energy, or our money.

What matters is that we think from the heart to lift people up and put their needs before our own. While we may have to sacrifice a little bit of our precious time, energy, or money, the riches you gain from the gratitude and appreciation of others will far outweigh any perceived costs, even those as little as eight dollars.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

 

Windows on the World

“Begin challenging your assumptions. Your assumptions are the windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in.” – Alan Alda

I saw one of those “funny” e-cards on the Internet today.

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Hilarious, huh? Yeah…

We tend to make broad assumptions about things that we don’t know about. We base these assumptions on things we couldn’t possibly know about. We’ve all likely heard people talk poorly about those who receive assistance. They write them off as lazy, manipulative, and “ghetto”, apparently. We all know someone who is abusing the system and we bitch about them and their new iPhone, freshly done nails, and Coach bag. Do we all know the actual welfare statistics? Negative. Do we know all the people who receive welfare? No, we do not. But we pass judgment on a whole passel of folks because of what we assume to be true. Do you think it’s statistically possible that every single person is manipulating the system? I’d say that’s doubtful.

Let me get off my soapbox on that.

The point I’m ham-fistedly driving at is this: we don’t know what we don’t know. Passing judgment is not our responsibility, nor is it even necessary. I understand it to a degree: we pay a whole bunch of money in taxes and a portion of that goes into a giant pool that is then used to help others. Some people do take advantage of that situation, and we resent that. But it’s a slippery slope to assume that everyone who falls under a certain umbrella is the worst of what we believe them to be.

If Alan Alda is correct, and our assumptions are the windows on the world, our windows don’t need to be scrubbed: they need to be replaced completely. As we continue to divide ourselves socially and politically, our assumptions grow in scope and depth. All black people are this… All white people are this… All cops are this… It’s an insane way of thinking, but it has been so ingrained in us that it’s hard to break.

It can be broken, though. Admittedly, it would be an extremely difficult exercise, but, with practice, it can be done. I propose that we approach it like this: everyone gets a clean slate and the benefit of the doubt until they give you reason to remove it. Don’t paint people into corners that they can’t get out of. Don’t force people into places where they can’t fit.

I say we start there and see where it gets us. I can only assume it will be a much happier place, but then again, you know what happens when you assume…

Have an awesome Tuesday, and Merry Christmas!

-A.

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(E-card photo pulled from http://philthyheathen.blogspot.com/2013/10/does-anyone-even-know-what-welfare-is.html?m=1)