Don’t get ahead of yourself, I am not comparing myself to a Sifu, Grand Master, or anything like that. I do my best with what I have, and what I accumulate along the way. But there is a lot to be said for having more than just your parents as mentors. For certain life lessons, your mother is much better suited for sharing and teaching, and then of course there are things that are better conveyed through the eyes of your father. For today’s blog, I am going to focus on the second part, as I have been on both the student and teacher end of the equation for quite some time now.
From a developmental perspective, the family unit is designed to be a mother and father raising a child together. The child(ren) benefit from input of both; each has different strengths and weaknesses, and the child not only inherits characteristics, but also becomes a product of their environment. Millenia ago, the entire village played a role in raising children, and I am sure that in some cases the benefits of this larger group were exponentially better than just two individuals. As our societies changed, so did this dynamic, reducing down to the two parent model, and in far too many cases today, a single parent. I think it is a DNA coded thing to want both parents in your life, throughout your life, but not everyone gets that. We as humans are flawed from the start, so of course some of the habits we share with our children are not the best, but we do the best we can with what we’ve got.
As for my Dad, he deserves a lot of credit in my opinion. He taught me how to work hard, sacrifice, and to do things despite your fear of them. I learned that winning and losing a Little League baseball game didn’t make or break me as a baseball player, let alone a person. I learned how to be a coach watching him coach the Little League team. I read books he suggested that taught me about the world, and how everyone has a different background, but had a chance to do something great no matter where they came from. I learned that girls can play with the boys, and in some cases, be the clean up hitter on the team. I learned endless patience (eventually) through things in the field like hunting and fishing. I learned respect for the environment, and for the world as a whole, regardless of how small my little part of it is. As grateful as I am for all of this and more, it wasn’t enough. That is no knock against him, but he is one man, and his view of the world is confined to his experiences and ideas. I think to be a more complete person you have to learn from everyone around you
This is where secondary father figures like coaches, teachers, instructors and other people can really play a role in someone’s life. As I have stated before in many of my talks and blogs, I learned early on in my coaching the racquetball team that I was teaching life lessons disguised as racquetball lessons. As college students, they are still in a very formative stage of their lives, and sometimes a positive experience in one realm can be parlayed into many other things.
Core tenants of success apply across all walks of life, the medium through which you learn them can be irrelevant in many cases.
Another thing I reference frequently is my time playing on the Pro Tour; reaching this level of proficiency taught me a lot of what it takes to be successful. I also spent a lot of time with guys who were at the top of their chosen craft, but not complete human being by any stretch of the imagination. As it reads in the ending paragraph in my Percentage Racquetball book: Some of the most accomplished athletes are still hack human beings. Yeah, I meant that statement wholeheartedly. And it applies to many other athletes I have been associated with throughout that part of my life, too. Pro athletes who have been coddled and treated differently their whole lives have a tweaked perspective of the world to say the least. That is why so many of them love the relationship they have with a great coach; it grounds them and teaches them to be more, well…human.
These are lessons I try to share with people when I find myself in a mentor role. It is easy to make assumptions about the world, its inhabitants, and how things work. Some are too naïve and trusting, others are bitter and jaded. Helping someone find a balance of experiences and assumptions versus biases and hearsay is tricky, but essential. In today’s world, social media, the news, and many other resources that used to be somewhat reliable for providing the truth, now only share things that meet their side of the story. Weeding through that can be a very tough thing, but developing that skill is essential. Social media has changed our perspective of the world in may ways. Hard work to create success has never changed, but the illusion of “overnight success” and big dollar exits from start up companies pervade the social fabric. The illusions of wealth and leisure lead the way, and although you need to have certain things to fit in, to belong, this is out of control. This mentality has us spending money on things we don’t need, in many cases to impress people we don’t like or don’t even know.
As someone who has fifty years in the book of life, it is a little easier for me to navigate these waters, as I have lived through the transitions of our world. I didn’t grow up staring at a cell phone screen, or with a TV in the car to keep me entertained. My mind wasn’t inundated with images of luxury cars and private jets, vacations in Ibiza, and mansions in the Hollywood hills. Once in a while I got a glimpse of these things, so I knew they were out there, but it wasn’t front and center in my mind. My life consisted of my parents working, us helping out on grandparent’s farm just over the hill from us. It was about hard work and sacrifice to get ahead. We focused on what we needed or strived towards, we tried to better our own lives with the mindset of working hard to earn more and get ourselves in a better position. I think in some cases we have lost this mindset, and this is, in some cases, where a coach or mentor comes in.
To be successful at anything, school, your job, in your relationships, it all takes work. Coaches know this, and we teach this. We reinforce “the lesson of old” that set the foundation for success. We preach that others are out there working harder than you, and you’d better pick it up. We force you to push your boundaries, your pre-set limits that exist in your mind, and break through that sh*t. We teach you to accept defeat gracefully, only cry when you win and take it like a man when you don’t. We share experiences, both from the past as guide posts, and together in the present. I know that I have a data base of amazing experiences and memories that I was privileged to share with some of my students. I was able to learn and grow as a person because of these experiences, and this in turn made me a better coach, This perpetuating cycle is an amazing thing to be a part of, and I do my best at every turn to accumulate what I can, and impart whatever I can as well.
We are all a work in progress, and ideally we are all working diligently to improve all the time. Imagine how much better a place the world would be if this was the case…
I wish you luck in your endeavors.