I received an email a little over a week ago from a childhood coach and teacher of mine from high school. We were "friends" on Facebook and he emailed us alumni with whom he had connected in search of information about our alma mater. Since I did not ask for permission to reveal his name, I'll refer to him as "coach".
Coach is collecting information about the first 50 years of my high school back in Cincinnati, Ohio with the hopes of writing a book. Finneytown is still a small suburban community on the near west side of town. My graduating class was about 150 students in 1990 and the school has maintained its size since to my understanding It's a small school and community. At the time, the school owned a rich soccer tradition with a handful of state championships in 1974, 1976, and 1981 and sent many a player on to play at the college level. It was a privilege to wear a blue and red soccer uniform. Enter Coach: The JV coach for those years....the Athletic Director and wrestling coach for many of those years, and one hell of a history teacher. A stout man with not a hair to his scalp, yet a full beard, one did not cross him. As freshmen, we were unsure of him at first, but relished his idioms, advice, and motivational tactics. We respected him.
Ahhh....the good ol' days. I ate, drank, and slept soccer back then. It often kept me motivated to go to school. So as Coach and I exchanged emails last week, we shared our takes on education (my current professional field), the history of Finneytown soccer, and life. So I asked him if he'd offer up his take on what motivation means to him because as I look back, he is one of the great motivators I can recall in my life.
So Coach.....thanks for your article, for motivating me, and for recent words of encouragement. You've had an impact on me.....21 years later!
I think Coach's essay can apply to anyone who is looking to push themselves to do something more than than think they are capable. No matter if it's starting to eat right, starting to work out more, or trying to qualify for an Ironman, the following can serve as helpful. I've highlighted certain parts in purple that I think can stand out no matter what you are trying to accomplish. I hope you get half as much out of it as I did. Quite frankly, it made my day.
by a Childhood Coach
It seems to me that the key to motivating anyone to do anything is to let them develop in their own mind a reason why what is being considered has a benefit to the individual. In team sports and in employment project groups it is pretty easy to focus on the benefits to the group based on common effort and commitment to a goal. A problem often occurs when reality sets in and exposes the individual limits within the group and at the same time the strengths of the other competitors. That is why those who focus simply on final outcomes become disillusioned and slide into the comfort zone of accepting loss or dropping out totally. The problem lies in how we define SUCCESS.
It seems to me that SUCCESS is a process not a finite goal. To motivate it is important to set many individual goals, each of which can be addressed individually and by meeting them move the group forward. This is perhaps obvious to you and may seem to be overly simplified but to me it is meaningful. The record of those teams and companies etc. that are held in respect are those that have done just that. They have set significant immediate goals that when achieved lead to their larger goal. Lots of teams do it but the great teams are those that keep doing it year after year.
Vince Lombardi’s Packers come immediately to mind. Here the coach established a series of goals for the individuals and group as a whole and pushed, cajoled, persuaded, the individuals to buy in to the system. Mostly they bought the personal goals as well, and even the raving individuals like Paul Horning, were willing to defer to the total objective. Things were pretty simple. “Green Bay Sweep” to the right and then to the left and then Bart Starr would loft a pass to receives who were often uncovered. Everyone knew the sweep was coming. They told you it was coming and simply defied you to stop it. Few did because the Pack had made the total individual and collective commitment to the success of that play. By doing this, motivation became internalized to achieving the other short term goals and resulted in over a dozen seasons which people called SUCCESSFUL More importantly the system became a standard. John Wooden at UCLA did the same thing in basketball. Dan Gable did it at Iowa with wrestling.
How does this fit with the runners mentality? It is the INDIVIDUAL INTERNALIZATION that is the key. The individual must find those short term goals that move him/her forward with the belief that by so doing they will come closer to their higher goals. How do you make the “burn” fun? How do you get yourself moving when it is icy or scorching? It is by training yourself to strive to achieve the achievable immediate goals. One step at a time.