You can ask any of my racquetball players that I have coached over the years and they will they you they have heard this line a million times from me. It was my credo throughout my time as a coach and certainly the philosophy that I live by in general.
Personal Accountability is not an easy thing, but an important one to conquer. To a large degree no one can make you do anything, only you can. Yes, your boss can give you the ultimatum of “Do this or else you’re fired” but only you can take action or not. You are clearly aware of the consequences if you do not show up on time or complete a task by a deadline, but only you can make yourself get out of bed on time or focus on a task until completion. Sounds easy enough, right? Haha, guess again.
When it comes to Personal Accountability, many of us fall short. I have, and I am confident in saying that you have, too. It is in our nature to do so; the real question is, can you limit this to an infrequent occurrence or is it a problem that plagues you throughout your life? It was one thing to push myself very hard all the time to achieve what I wanted to in sports and in life. My efforts directly impacted my outcomes, that was pretty clear early on. The tougher part was when I became the coach of a team of players; trying to find the balance between pushing hard but being realistic about all the things a college student has on their plate. So I did what I thought was the best way to approach this…I adopted my own personal credo to lead by example.
That is where the phrase that I use came into play:
The Line Starts Here
This applies well in several ways, the first being my own accountability. By making a declaration publicly that everyone can hold me to, I am committed by proxy. Yes, I use the scrutiny of others to motivate me. I have others help hold me accountable for my actions, it is a secret weapon of mine. I HATE to let others down, and I work very, very hard to avoid that feeling. I will go to great lengths to fulfill a promise I make. I am sure some of this is a burning desire to protect my reputation and be looked upon as a trustworthy person. I want to lead by example. So that phrase is not implying that I am a better person than you, it is stating that I will show you the way. I have had the great fortune of a life full of challenges and obstacles that I have had to overcome. In retrospect, they have been a blessing, as I learned far more out of the tough times than I did from the triumphs.
Secondly, as a coach I never wanted to ask anyone under my charge to do something I couldn’t or would not do. There are physical limitation that have to be adhered to for safety reasons of course, but there are times where pushing through perceived barriers is crucial to growth. I did the workouts with the kids instead of standing on the sidelines barking orders. I ran up the hill first, and waited at the top for the others, one by one, to sprint up the hill. I have nearly thrown up in the process, as others have too. It is a bonding experience to suffer collectively, and this was a key part of the equation. I was willing to suffer along side of them.
I led by example on the court as well; I was never late for practice, I never forgot my shoes or other vital equipment in the 15 years I held that role. I was always prepared for the task at hand. I played the matches against them, trying my hardest to win against my best players and dialing it back a notch or two for the less seasoned ones. I taught players how to ramp up and peak for a specific event; how to prepare 3 months out, one month, one week, one day and one hour out from a targeted event. I did my best to help them manage their fears and concerns, some real and some totally fabricated. I helped people dig deep when needed, overcoming or outperforming any level they have ever hit before. I have been down this road many times myself and I know the path to follow. I know what NOT to do, as I learned these lessons the hard way for myself. I know you are not winning, you are simply ahead in the score at the moment. Things can change in a huge hurry, and losing focus for even a moment will allow your worst fears to come true.
I can honestly say that I learned a lot being a coach that has helped me a ton in the business world. I learned to be a good listener, reading between the lines when needed. I learned that sometimes it is better to smile and nod than say anything. In other cases, there were times when I needed to intervene and “be smart enough for someone”. People don’t always understand things or see the big picture, and this skill is one of value. There are times when you have to hear people out, let them vent, and then quietly provide a coherent solution to the problem at hand. I learned that preparation is the key to success in life in general, not just sports. Tightening up your approach on the micro level yields macro results. So once again, the line starts with me. I set the tone for a business interaction by doing things like being on time, well informed as possible, not taking someone’s time or issues for granted. I learned to let my opponents (competitors) do their thing, know that my process wins most of the time. I learned not to sweat the small stuff, and I also learned that an awful lot of it is small stuff…
When it comes to the takeaway advice I would want to share in this blog it would be this:
Easy to say, but not easy to do. The world is full of victims, people who blame others for their life’s circumstances. There are also a lot of people who are afraid to take risks, despite the potential reward. EVERYTHING is changeable if you want to make changes badly enough. YOU and you alone have the power to change things. Yes, you may need to recruit help along the way, and that is just fine. NO ONE reaches a new level without a boost from someone else. I had a burning desire to maximize my own potential as an athlete, and I worked really really hard to do that and I recruited as much help along the way as I could. As a coach, I wanted to help others do the same, and see the benefits that discipline and effort can create. The real measure of my success was the impact I had on the individual, not how many wins they racked up or if we won a team trophy that year or not. Did I imparted skills in our time together that would serve them well for a lifetime? That was the most important thing I could accomplish. Again, this starts and ends with each of us, and personal accountability.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.