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Justin_SuaRecently I had a great conversation with Justin Su’a, Head of Mental Conditioning at IMG Academy. We discussed the current state of student-athletes and ways we can help them (as well as any student) become mentally tough. Through many conversations with athletic personnel like Justin, I am seeing the same trends over and over concerning student-athletes. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did.

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Here are a few notes from our discussion…

How has culture affected the “mental toughness” of young people of this generation?

Mental toughness is a phrase so many people use. When I think about it, it’s your ability to remain in control in any and every circumstance. It’s also your ability to push through things that may be boring. The culture plays a tremendous role in it. It’s interesting to see how this plays out. Young athletes want instant gratification. They want everything to happen now. We need to teach them to focus on the process, and results will follow.

It seems like resilience is diminishing in kids. Talk about the importance of resilience and what we’ll have to do to re-cultivate it.

A quote that I love to share is from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” At the first sign of adversity, everything’s out the window. You’ll always revert to your dominant habits under pressure. One thing I think we can do to help these youngsters is having them frame their plan beforehand. Young athletes often judge incorrectly if left to judge by themselves. Helping them understand judging correctly will help their resiliency.

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

Walk us through your 5 strategies to help kids become mentally tough.

  1. Coach-ability. Being able to be coachable. Praise their effort and be specific with feedback.
  2. “How do I create the environment for my athletes to motivate themselves?” There are three Cs that we follow: competence, control and camaraderie. Let your students feel like they’re progressing at a task. The less control a student feels they have, the more negative they’ll be. Combine these two things with team building and friendships within the team, and this is a recipe for success.
  3. Providing the right frame. A coach can help their athletes focus on “getting better” rather than being “good.”
  4. Teach kids how to fail. Adaptability is huge. Kids should know they don’t need their ‘A’ game to succeed. Teach them to expect the best, but plan for the worst.
  5. Help them find the right attitude. Pessimism never breeds peak performance.

What difference do you see between Olympic athletes and novice athletes?

Their ability to deal with failure, hands down, and their ability to refocus after being distracted. They’re great at controlling themselves when they fail. They keep themselves motivated and focused always.

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I have written before about the generation of younger kids who’ll follow Millennials and Generation iY. They’re still young (12 or younger), but they will experience a different reality than their older siblings, aunts and uncles born in the 1990s. If you teach, coach or parent kids, you should be aware of the coming changes.

facebook kids

Let me illustrate the shift I see coming as I study demographics and culture. Historian Neal Howe calls younger kids “The Homelanders” since they’re born since the launch of the Dept. of Homeland Security. Based on reports by the Monthly Labor Review, The Futurist and World Population Prospects, 2012 U.N. edition, they will display a move from today’s reality to tomorrow’s:

Generation Y and iY (1984-2002) Homelanders (2003-2021)
1. Use technology to be entertained 1. Will use technology to learn
2. Compete with 80 million for jobs 2. Will compete with 172 million for jobs
3. Had two to four siblings 3. Will likely have 0-2 siblings
4. Share the planet with 7.5 billion 4. Will share the planet with 11 billion
5. Largest population is peers 5. Largest population will be elderly
6. Growing problem with obesity 6. Gigantic problem with obesity
7. Confident and self-absorbed 7. Cautious and self-conscious

What Do We Do with Our Kids as Things Shift?

The reasons for these shifts are many. Population, technology, family philosophy, and the marketplace all play a role. Fortunately, millions of parents are regaining balance after twenty-five years of sheltering, over-indulging, and self-esteem expansion that came from pushing to give their kid advantages. Educators are beginning to shift their pedagogy and curriculum in order to focus on graduating career-ready students.

To prepare them well, may I suggest some of the changes we must make as we work with kids born since the beginning of the 21st century?

  1. Get them moving.  Encourage them to balance time in front of a screen with time out and about with people, exercising their bodies and souls.
  2. Help them take appropriate risks. I’m not suggesting they be reckless, but to take calculated risks and try adventuresome ventures.
  3. Enable them to use their portable device to search and learn about things that interest them. Teach them to dig, to “squeeze their own juice.”
  4. Teach them to not fear failure. Fear is a chief emotion in our society. So many are motivated by our fears. Danger is everywhere so help them try, fail, then overcome it.
  5. Expose them to different generations and help them interact. They’ll need to learn to connect with older people, which may feel like a cross-cultural relationship.
  6. Equip them to think for themselves. Millions in our culture let the media do their thinking for them. Help your young kids to interpret what’s happening around them.

I love hearing about parents and teachers who do this. When my kids were young, I had them watch the news on TV from time to time, then choose one of the reported problems and ask themselves: “If I were in charge of this problem, what would I do?”

When my wife and I held parties, we would have our kids learn to answer the door, invite them in, take their coat, and serve them. It was our way to get them comfortable connecting with various generations.

Think about it. The future is coming fast, and we will spend the rest of our lives in it. Let’s prepare our children to lead the way as they enter it.

 

Looking to develop leaders? Check out

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes

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‘Tis the season again! The opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are upon us. If you’re like me, you’re always impressed by a story or two that surface during the games. Usually it’s about a young person who worked to qualify and then astounded the multitudes with her or his abilities.  It’s a battle of minds, bodies, wills, emotions, and even of the soul.

The Discipline Bridge

One of the images we include in Habitudes—Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes (Book One) is called “The Discipline Bridge.” It was inspired by a scene I witnessed as a kid, when workers created bridges to carry them to places that needed to be rebuilt after a tornado. They needed the bridge to carry them across water and rubble in order to restore what was broken.

Discipline Bridge

In the same way, discipline works like a bridge. It carries us from where we are to where we need to go, often restoring what’s broken. In fact, I believe no matter where we want to go in life, we’ll probably have to cross a bridge called Discipline.

I’d like to share the incredible story of speed skater Apolo Ohno as an example and give you some questions and exercises you can use with students. We have an opportunity this month to use Olympian stories to instill leadership skills in them, so let’s not waste it!

Apolo Ohno

Back in 1997, Apolo Ohno was beginning to make a name for himself. At the tender age of 14, Ohno had already won gold at the 1997 U.S. Senior Championships, the youngest person to ever do so. Being a young teen and living away from his parents, however, he decided not to listen to his trainer in the year that followed, choosing “to eat pizza instead of complete required runs.” His habits caught up with him, and in 1998, he failed to qualify for the Olympic team. It was a crippling defeat that led him to isolate himself in a cabin in Washington to contemplate his future.

photo credit: taminator via photopin cc

photo credit: taminator via photopin cc

During this week of solitude, Ohno concluded that his failures stemmed from a lack of proper focus and dedication. Moving forward, he recognized that he needed to become more self-disciplined and attentive to his trainers’ instruction if he was going to succeed in his sport.

The rest of his story is amazing. Ohno committed to an incredibly difficult training routine the next year, which led to wins in the 1999 Junior World Championship and the 2000-2001 World Cup. He then qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics and won gold and silver in two events. Then, at the 2006 Winter Olympics, he won a gold medal in the 500-meter event and two bronze medals in other events.

None of Ohno’s success would have happened if he hadn’t made the difficult decision to commit to crossing The Discipline Bridge. The same is true for any Olympic athlete. Check out the common rigors they experience:

  • Train for 8 years before making an Olympic team
  • Train three times a day or more, six days a week or more. When they’re not training, they’re often resting and eating in preparation for the next session.
  • Set annual goals and may develop a schedule for the entire four years leading up to the Games.
  • Need up to 10 hours of sleep each night, as well as a half-hour to 90-minute nap in the afternoon.

Throughout life, I’ve found that disciplining yourself in only a few areas won’t help you in the end. Discipline needs to be a lifestyle, like an Olympian. They don’t just train physically for the Olympic games—they need to have the discipline to eat well, sleep well, and prepare mentally for the long haul. Hardest of all, this means foregoing activities or kicking habits that don’t contribute to the dream.

Whatever your dream may be—whether it’s to be a graduate, business person, parent, Olympian, you name it—you must build your own Discipline Bridge that will get you from desire to reality. It is a long bridge and won’t get you there overnight, but if you stay on it, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Reflect and Respond:

We used to use the word “virtue.” My parents challenged me to be a man of virtue. The word means excellence, something that functions well. It is implementing a decision to live better than you once did. It is developing from the inside out.

Here are some questions you can discuss with students:

  1. Why do you think virtue and discipline are rare today?
  2. An old proverb says, “He who hates discipline, despises himself.” In other words, an undisciplined person eventually has no self-respect and stops liking who he or she is. Have you ever felt this way?
  3. In which areas of your life do you lack discipline?

Self Assessment:

As you consider your life today, you probably see some areas that are disciplined and some that are not. We usually find it easier to be disciplined in the areas of our passion or interest. However, true discipline becomes a lifestyle that helps you in every area: what you eat, how you connect with people, your exercise and health, your thought patterns, and more. Choose two or three important areas of your life and evaluate your level of discipline based on key areas:

1. Delayed gratification

I can delay pleasures I want; I experience self-control; I can wait for rewards until the timing is right.

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

<immediate gratification                 delayed gratification>

2. Holistic approach

I’m not just disciplined in one area of my life, discipline is my lifestyle; it’s a rule, not an exception.

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

<compartmentalized                                         holistic>

3. Functional training

I experience discipline for a legitimate function; it’s about integrity, not image or appearance.

1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9      10

<I’m motivated by image               i’m motivated by integrity>

Exercise

Think about an area of your life that you consider undisciplined. Write it down. Next, write down one tangible step you could take to build discipline in that area. Next, find someone to hold you accountable to do that one step for fourteen days. Invite them to ask you about it daily. Finally, evaluate if this step helps you to discipline other areas of your life as well. Think of other areas you could build discipline. Begin a habit of discipline—you can usually create new habits in two weeks time. Discipline will be the bridge to get you where you want to go.

 

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Results are in from a new study by Jive/Harris on the most annoying smart phone behaviors at work. You may not be surprised by what they discovered. The most annoying habits in order are:

  • Having loud private conversations: 65 percent
  • Not silencing the phone: 59 percent
  • Checking the phone during a conversation: 52 percent
  • Checking the phone in a meeting: 38 percent

Full length of young men and women holding cellphone

Why do those surveyed say these activities are annoying? All of them signal disrespect.

For over a decade now, social media — and technology in general — has redefined the way we interact with people. And we haven’t yet had a chance to establish common courtesies to accompany it in the workplace. So, for both the old and new generations of workers, let me offer a starting point for common guidelines to follow in a social work setting.

Etiquette Rules to Follow:

1. Unless you’re expecting a vital message, conversations in person always trump virtual conversations. It’s disrespectful to the person standing in front of you to be set aside because of a text or a call from someone who isn’t. This is why we are annoyed at sales clerks who take a call when we are standing right in front of them with money to buy a product. As a rule, prioritize in-person interaction.

2. Emails or texts are only for messages containing information, not emotion.
Digital interactions have made us relationally lazy. It’s easier to communicate a message via email, text or Facebook. Because written words do not communicate non-verbal tone or meaning, however, emotional messages can be misunderstood and do more damage than good (i.e. breaking up through a text).

3. While in a meeting or conversation, do not check your phone. In fact, it’s often better to leave it somewhere else so you can focus on those in front of you. Unless the people you are with have all agreed otherwise, avoiding your phone signals you are focused on the meeting at hand.

4. If you must bring your laptop, tablet or smart phone into a meeting, always acknowledge it and even ask if it would bother anyone if you used it. This is common courtesy and it communicates (even if no one in the room is your “boss”) that they are important and you don’t want to signal disrespect.

5. When on your phone, keep the calls short and quiet. If you cannot, move to an area away from others. This communicates you are self-aware and mindful that the world does not revolve around you. This actually cultivates a culture of caring and perspective that others can emulate.

6. Social media use during work hours should be within the boundaries of your employer or supervisor. Ask them. They have exchanged money for your time, so it belongs to them. The vast majority of Generation Y believes it’s their right to be on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram during work hours. I would just add — it’s also the right of your employer to let you go. It’s your call.

What else would you add to this list?

 

Habitudes Book 2-VBHelp students learn the art of connecting with others with Habitudes Book #2.

Learn more

 

 

 

I spoke to an audience of university students recently about balancing the art of staying focused and the art of leading change. Afterwards, several students talked about how difficult that is. The topic quickly swerved to New Year’s Resolutions—which incidentally are all about both focus and change. In essence, we ask ourselves:

* “What changes must I make in my life to improve it?” Then,

* “How can I sustain my focus until the resolution becomes a habit?”

Almost every student present admitted what most Americans concede by late January: they have given up on their resolutions. The reason, however, was what intrigued me. They all agreed it wasn’t a lack of resolve, but a lack of focus. Focus—especially long-term focus—is very difficult for Generation iY. They had all moved on to new interests.

icon_focus

In Daniel Goleman’s latest book, Focus, he explains the research. When technology increases, there is always a trade off: life becomes streamlined and convenient. At the same time, however, users experience a reduction in the ability to remain motivated for long periods of time. As I’ve written before, inward motivation has been replaced by outward stimulation. The smart phone, the tablet, the device, the gadget…is at our fingertips. We now have a Google-reflex.

What Cultural Realities Hinder Motivation in Students?

1. Too many choices.

Although we all love the cafeteria lifestyle, having so many options can not only paralyze an adolescent, it can reduce their motivation. Why stay committed to something when we know something else, probably something better, will come along soon?

2. A fast-paced lifestyle.

We live in a world of speed, and it’s evident in every area of our lives: Instagram, Snapchat, high-speed internet access, fast-food, and microwave ovens. Unfortunately, when we have to wait on very little, we never learn to delay gratification.  As a result, students will naturally experience diminished motivation.

3. The credit bubble.

I am not a financial advisor, but students who’ve grown up in a world where they and their parents have purchased “wants” on credit will find it difficult to wait or remain motivated. Credit is a leading cause of our inability to cultivate motivation.

4. Celebrity Culture.

Consider the fact that millions of people follow the lives of a small group of celebrities. These stars are often portrayed as ignorant, while reality TV shows portray dysfunctional people getting rich because of it. We seem to worship bad behavior, not self-discipline.

5. Social Media.

Social media has altered reality, enhanced self-promotion, and offered people a “fake” sense of who we really are, as opposed to who we appear to be. Technology is not bad, but it’s like fire: it serves a great purpose, but when used imprudently, it can get out of control and dangerous.

6. Self-Esteem Movement.

Our tendency to praise our kids so often actually reduces their motivation. Think about it: if I’m told I’m awesome just for playing soccer, how motivated will I be to improve? The movement has actually fostered entitlement and narcissism.

How Do We Counter the De-Motivation Trend?

I believe we can begin to undo what culture has done to kids by creating a counter-culture within our environment—our class, our team, our home or youth group. As you review the list above, what if you met with your students and discussed this trend? Then, together, what if you developed the opposite reality for the expressed purpose of deepening personal and inward motivation? Here are some places to start:

1. Get them used to one choice, not many options.

Once in a while, agree on a decision and don’t offer a myriad of options. Help them to learn to live with what’s in front of them—a meal, a task, a project, etc.

2. Slow down the pace and help them soak it in.

Agree that your group of students will actually “stop and smell the roses.” Make a conscious effort to ease up on the superficial pace and go deep as you converse.

3. Set goals and make them wait to reach them.

Post photos or images of their goals, and talk about those targets often. But be careful not to circumvent the process by offering a prize before they’ve worked and waited.

4. Discuss and celebrate people who model discipline and motivation.

Instead of Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian, why not discuss the stories and virtues of those who labor to add value to others and serve those in need? Find “true” celebrities.

5. Agree on a technology fast.

This won’t work unless you agree on it, but decide on a period of time where you will turn off the “ping” of that cell phone text or tweet and the endorphins it creates.

6. Determine to match your praise with actual achievement.

Once your students understand your love and belief in them, choose to only affirm achievement, and match your words with it. If it isn’t awesome…don’t call it that.

 

Looking to develop leaders? Check out

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes

habitudes