Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

The Pole with the Driver’s License

My grandfather was son of Polish immigrants. Growing up in Newark, NJ, he did a variety of jobs around the area. At one point, he was working as a laborer outside of town with a group of friends. After about a week of working, the foreman on the job wanted to fire one of his friends because he was by far the laziest of the workers. My grandfather explained to him that he couldn’t fire his friend. When asked why not, he explained that his friend was the only one that owned a car. The lazy worker was the only way that the rest of them could get to work so far from home. The foreman did not heed his warning and lost four good workers with the dismissal of one.

Group dynamics in teams are often complicated. People are influential for all kinds of reasons. While coaches may want their best players to also be good teammates and hard workers, it’s not always the case. Captains should also be self-less and think of the good of the team before their personal gain. Again it doesn’t always work that way. The overlapping of personal relationships and power positions within a team can make for a convoluted mess. It is up to the coach or manager to pull the strings that get the best out of the group. This may include knowing who the Poles with the driver’s licenses are. Who are the players who can sway a large portion or the entire group?

Recognizing who these people are can avoid the loss of a locker room. These players do not particularly need to be made captain or be given some form of public power. The coach just needs to be able to read the room well enough to manage the situation. Getting commitment from the players of influence is important. With the modern athlete, this often takes more discussions than in the past. “My way or the highway” is not as effective as it used to be. The narrative inside the heads of the players needs to be similar to the one that the coach is preaching. Players need to know why they should follow the coach. Conversely the coach should not believe that his position obligates his players to follow.

The power of influence is not given out equally or fairly. As we see on social media every day, the world is filled with followers. This means that we need leaders who are willing to step in front. Not just to blindly go forward with the expectation that they will be followed but the humility to empathize. The Poles with driver’s licenses exist in every group. Be wise enough to lead beyond them rather than allowing their power to subvert your mission.

Get to work!



Temporary Real Estate

RealEstateA plot of sand at the beach, deck chairs at the pool, a spot in line, a seat toward the back of the class and hundreds of other locations are the temporary spots that we mark out for ourselves.  They are important to us only as long as we need them.  Although we know that they are just for now, we defend them and sometimes ruthlessly.  The territoriality of humans and the individually made rules associated with it are complex and seemingly inherent.  We want to have a space to call our own and defend it with fervor.

This phenomena was on full display for me in the past few days when I visited three different amusement parks.  The defensiveness of the space is heightened as the density of people increases.  Also the perceived stakes of the space comes into play heavily.  The value that the individual puts on the space is largely influenced by the scarcity of the “prize” that the space provides.  People waiting in line for entrance into the park are much more defensive than the people in the wave pool waiting to get hit by a wave.  Although it is all temporary, the ownership feels very real.

Ultimately almost all of our space is temporary and will eventually belong to someone else.  Houses, apartments, cars and even our burial plots will eventually belong to another person, creature or to nature itself.  Despite our very temporary hold on these forms of real estate, we spend time protecting and preserving them as if they were indefinite.  There is one place only you will ever own.  Yet many people allow easy access to this space as if it were just a blanket on the beach.

Your mind is your own and will be as long as you defend it.  Like holding your place in line, you need to be aware of those who are trying to sneak in.  Much like the owner of a house who has teenage children, you must be aware of people that you trust having a party at your expense.  No one will care for this space as much as you.  So mark your territory!  Be aware of who is allowed in and who needs to be kept out.  This is your real estate, don’t put it up for auction.

Have a great day!



I’m Sting, Not Mozart

We each have multiple groups of friends and colleagues with whom we have a certain amount of influence.  Within one of my colleague groups, I am referred to as Sting.  Much like the famous singer of the Police, I am a few years older than the other group members and my input carries a little more weight.  The role of “Sting” is one that I embrace and take seriously because I want to help my colleagues along their journey.

Influence is a currency that varies in value based upon the group.  Much like monetary currency, the dollar may be valued more than the Mexican Peso but less than the Kuwaiti Dinar.  The key is recognizing your influence and when you should be giving versus collecting.

I embrace my role as Sting but also recognize that I’m not Mozart.  Sting’s influence is in a very specific genre over a specific time period.  I’m sure that he has influenced millions of people with his music.  However Mozart influenced music itself and that influence has lasted for centuries.  If it were possible for Sting to be in a room with Mozart, I am sure that Sting would know to listen first rather than tell Wolfie about his Grammy for “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”.   Perhaps Sting has something to offer Mozart but assuming that is true is foolish.

There are so many people in this world to learn from.  If you are too busy shouting the autobiography of your greatness to everyone, you may not recognize the possible treasures in front of you.  Be comfortable with who you are.  Whether you’re Sting, Adele, Greg Graffin or Steve Zarodnansky, you have something to offer.  Just don’t assume you’re Mozart because even he has more to learn.