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


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


Talent is not a Gift

“Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Late one recent evening, I found myself immersed in television watching Sister Act 2.  I recall the scene where Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) brings her misfit class into what amounted to an attic space after telling them she wanted to make them into a choir.  There, she had them sing, first individually (not so bad), then as a group (not so great).

As most films go, shortly after this point, Sister Act 2 launched into its montage.  Here, clips were shown of the group as it started transforming from a bunch of individual freestyle singers into a choir.  By the time the few minutes long montage ended, the group was standing before the entire student body, administration, and faculty ready to wow them at its first performance.

As far as Hollywood entertainment goes, I understand the rationale behind such a production move.  It advances the plot much quicker, provides context without destroying entertainment value, and keeps the viewers’ interest piqued.

But, from a realistic perspective, I thought about what this montage glossed over in its few minutes of footage and what message it could be sending.  The impression it gave was that this group magically banded together to form an awesome choir simply because someone cared enough to assemble them and make them such.

The reality of the situation is that it takes hard work.  It takes practice.  It takes repeated failure, correction, and repetition to develop the skills necessary to perform at an elite level.

Too often we expect our talent to develop overnight.  It doesn’t.  Too often we try something once and quit because we were not any good at it.  Why would we expect to be great at something we have never done before?  Too often we give up before we ever get started.

Talent is not magic.  We are not born with it.  We are not just naturals.

Michael Jordan is not considered one of the greatest to ever play basketball because of magic ability bestowed on him.  Peyton Manning was not born with the ability to be an elite NFL quarterback.  Even Roy Hobbs of The Natural was not blessed with a gift for baseball.

Michael Jordan worked and practiced hard.  Peyton Manning studies the game better than anyone else.  Roy Hobbs threw pitches at the side of a barn over and over as a kid.

Do you want to be better at math, at piano, at singing, at sports?

Practice.  Don’t quit when it gets hard or you make a mistake.  Figure it out.  Correct the errors.  Work at it again.  Over and over and over again.

Don’t gloss over the work and effort.  Don’t sweep your mistakes under the rug.  Don’t take the easy way out.

The formula for developing skill can be simply stated:  Hours upon hours of repeated deep practice.

Will you put in the work or will you gloss over it and take the easy way out?

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah


One Piece at a Time

Let me start with a story:

Two friends were walking on the beach and came across a bunch of starfish stranded on the shore.  One person starts picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.  The other friend asks, “Why are you doing that?  There are so many starfish stranded on the beach, you can’t possibly help them all.”  The first friend then picks up another starfish and throws it back into the ocean, then says, “I made a difference for that one.”

Too often in life, we fell as though we have to make a big splash.  We want what we are doing to have an impact on many.  We believe our actions have to help everyone.  We feel that if what we do does not make enough of an impression on everyone, why bother doing it at all?

So, we don’t.  We choose not to make a difference for anyone because we do not believe one is enough.  We think why bother if no one will notice.

What if we all adopted the mentality of “the first friend”?  What if we set out today to make a difference in the life of that one person in front of us at that very moment?  What if, instead of looking at the bigger picture with a negative outlook, we looked at the smaller present with a positive one?

When we set out to complete a jigsaw puzzle, we are not able to make a huge difference in one move or with one piece.  Instead, we have to take it one piece at a time, and slowly as we being to connect a series of individual pieces, our masterpiece begins to emerge.

Suppose that every day we were given just one piece of the puzzle.  Would we play it and choose to make a difference for one individual as we begin to build our masterpiece?  Or would we choose to ignore it thinking that our one piece is not enough to do anything?

Perhaps, we should all think of adopting the mindset of “the first friend”.  Start making a difference one piece, one conversation, one kind gesture, one interaction, one person, or one starfish at a time.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Take that step today.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

What Do You Value?

“You give attention to that which you value the most.” – Amy Larson

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about reading. I had a stack of books that I had not gotten to yet. I had been wanting to read them for some time and knew that they have a lot of valuable information in them. The problem arose that every time I would try to carve out time in my day to read them, I always thought, “I don’t have enough time to read them.”

I always felt that I was too busy. Work was at a hectic point, and other things seemed to pop up to occupy my time. There were just not enough hours in the day.

However, a few weekends ago, I decided to take some time to start reading the latest John Grisham book. As I started in on it, I just kept going and going. I started it on a Saturday and finished on a Sunday.

As it turns out, I did not miss anything by reading. I was no further behind in my work. I was able to take care of everything that still inevitably came up.

So what changed?

Well, the truth of the matter is that I simply made time.

I realized that I valued the time I took to read, so I made time to do it. Since then, I have made it a point to make time in my day to read a little bit. While I may not be sitting down to read an entire book in a few days, I have chosen to make time to read a little every day because it is important to me. As it turns out, I am not THAT busy.

Imagine if we all did this. I am not talking about reading books (though I feel this is an important part of our growth), but simply making time to do the things that we value. Instead, we choose to think of all the reasons that we cannot do something. We find all the reasons that we are too busy. We simply make excuses.

However, we tend to find all of the time in the world to post a status update on Facebook or Twitter (sometimes about how we never have time to do anything). We will spend hours in our week doing things that simply waste time or do nothing for us.

What if we expended that energy on the things we value and want to do? What if we stopped thinking we were so busy and just made the time? Five, ten, twenty, or thirty minutes a day. It would not take much, but over the course of the week it all adds up. We make time for what we value!

Aaron and I spoke a few weeks ago about how we just did not have time to write posts. We wanted to get things started back up, but we were just SO busy. As we discussed what we would need to do, it stuck in my head that the number one reason we were not posting anything was because we simply were not making the time for it. We did not value it enough at the time. We were choosing to value other things (which may or may not be important). If we were to be committed to doing what we said we would do, we had to value it, which would result in us committing some of our time to it.

Today, I challenge you to give value to those things you continually say you are too busy for. Perhaps there is a project around the house you have wanted to do for a long time. Perhaps you simply want to read a book for pleasure. Perhaps there is a friend you want to meet for dinner and catch up with.

If you really want to do it, you WILL make the time. And you likely won’t miss out on anything in the process.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

Daily Short-hOPT: Smiling Through Adversity

This past week brought me some heavy doses of perspective:

  • A $50.00 lesson in asking for and accepting help that is free.
  • A nation coming together to support a little girl, a worthy cause, and a man’s dream.
  • A walk where I failed to realize the power of tone and word choice.
  • The inspiration of faith, strength, and a smile by a friend’s daughter facing a challenging adversity.

Perspective is one of my favorite topics about which to write because it is simply one of the easiest things to lose sight of.  The problems and casualties of our day rush to the forefront of our mind, blocking our vision of just how great we have it.  As a result, we become consumed by these “pressing” visions, complain to anyone who will listen, and spin a web of negativity that spirals us downward toward a feeling of languishing.

What if we took a moment to realize we do not have it so bad?  What if we took a moment to realize we do not have to go it alone?  What if we took a moment to realize it should not always be about us?  What if we took a moment to have faith, be strong, and smile through our trying moments?

“Fear is easier than faith, so most people go there first.”  A friend of mine shared this wisdom with me on Thursday.  I suppose it is also easier to complain and easier to be negative than to face the situation head on, smile through it, and grow from it.  I know this because I am still a work in progress there.

It is more than talking a great game.  It is walking, living, and modeling that lifestyle.  But, I left this week inspired.  Thanks to two young girls.

The first is Leah.  Most of you know her story.  Her father is Devon Still of the Cincinnati Bengals.  If you do not know their story, just click here, and soak in the inspiration.

The second is the daughter of a friend.  Most of you likely do not know her story.  On Thursday, she went to the hospital complaining of headaches.  Doctors discovered a brain tumor and spinal fluid buildup on her brain.  An emergency surgery followed to drain the fluid, and on Friday, she underwent a five hour surgery to remove the tumor at the base of her brain.  Yesterday morning, the neurosurgeon informed her and her family that no more tumors were showing.

She has shown remarkable faith and strength in her healing journey.  As I have remained updated on this story, her steadfast belief and loving smile have served as a constant source of inspiration.  Please continue to pray for this young woman!  I know her family would appreciate it.

We all face tough circumstances, but proper perspective and faith bring a wealth of healing to our daily struggles.  Fear is easy.  Faith is not.  But this week, I learned that with strong faith and the help of your friends, miraculous things can and will happen.

The only way to get beyond a tough situation is through it, then learn from it.

Why not do it with a smile?

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

P.S.  If you have seven minutes to spare (and we all do!) watch this new video from @JoshuaMedcalf.  Buy in and the results could be life changing!

Daily Short-hOPT: Do (and Learn) What You Love

“Love it and learn it.” – Tony LaRussa

Growing up, I loved the Oakland Athletics.  Rickey Henderson was and remains one of my favorite players of all-time.  While everyone enjoyed The Bash Brothers slamming home runs into the upper decks of whatever stadium they were in (you can say what you want about PEDS, but we all enjoyed it then), I loved watching Rickey work counts, draw walks, hit lead off homers, and blaze around the bases in his neon green Mizuno batting gloves.  Because I followed the A’s so closely, I also became a fan of their manager, Tony LaRussa.

LaRussa led my childhood Athletics to three straight World Series appearances.  That streak resulted in my cringing every time I see a replay of the Kirk Gibson home run off Dennis Eckersley (yes, the one he hit on one foot), elating when the A’s swept the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 Battle of the Bay (the earthquake series), and crying (a lot!) when Todd Benzinger caught the final out of the Cincinnati Reds 1990 sweep in Oakland.  (Note:  I also cried a lot when the Reds won Game 1 in Cincinnati, which I attended in full Oakland gear.)

As I listened to LaRussa deliver his Hall of Fame induction speech on Sunday, I pulled out some notes I took when he spoke in January at the ABCA Convention in Dallas.  The above quote was one I had starred in my notes then and one that he mentioned on Sunday.  I began to think about how simple of a philosophy this would be for all of us.

What do you love?  What are your passions?

It may be our job.  It may be a sport.  It may be a historical event.  It may be an idea we first heard about in a book or class.  It may be something we have seen someone else do.  It may be a person or persons.  But, we all have things we love and about which we are passionate.

Do we take those things for granted?  Do we really seek them out as often as we want?  Are we learning as much as we can about those things?

Loving and learning go hand in hand.  If we truly love something, we should want to learn as much about it as we possibly can.  That learning only continues to foster more love, and the cycle continues.

LaRussa expressed this message in January and again on Sunday.  As he began his Major League coaching career, he developed a passion for baseball.  Because of this, he sought out ways to learn more about it.  He learned from its history; he learned from fellow coaches and players; he learned from studying his notes and replaying games and situations he had just managed.  This passion and his desire to continually learn earned him recognition for his in-game strategy and management of bullpens, which ultimately culminated with his induction in Cooperstown.

The Oakland A’s teams of my childhood provide some of the early memories of my love for baseball.  Great pitching, tremendous power, solid defense, and incredible speed.  Those teams lit a spark in me for something that I loved.  I have not stopped learning about baseball since, whether through playing or coaching.  That love and learning has taken me to places that I never imagined, all because I pursued one of my passions.

We all have things we love.  Oftentimes, we make excuses for why we do not get to spend as much time as we would like doing those things.  Find some time.  Make some time.  Do the things you love.  Learn the things you love.  You never know where that passion may take you.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah