On Becoming A Better Human: 8 Unusual Lessons From 2018

I’ll be honest here.

I thought nothing could be worse than 2017.

Leaving that year, I was so grateful it was over. Yes, I had achieved a lot, but I was miserable. My biggest lesson was that achievement does not equal value, purpose, or greatness, and I vowed to change that in 2018.

Then 2018 actually came.

Suddenly, 2017 paled in comparison to how brutal 2018 turned out to be.

Serious business issues. Financial problems. Legal problems.

Dealing with two countries and two governments who weren’t sure where or who I was and what to do with me.

An enormous client turnover. Splitting up with a business partner and mentor. Working way too much and seeing no reward for it.

Literally being completely alone… and lonely. Mental health crash.

Then August came along.

I hate the term “rescued”, as it implies weakness, but I was at that time. I was, essentially, rescued by a group of three amazing lady strength coaches who have become my mentors, my confidants, my business coaches, and my family.

New colleagues came into my life, inspired me, and pushed me. My professors and academic mentors have truly invested in, believed in, and guided me. I have been able to give and receive trustful, respectful relationships with clients (coaches & athletes) like never before.

I was able to redefine who I am as a sports industry professional, what I stand for, why I am worth being paid for my services, what I want to bring into the world, and how I want to do it.

We are rebuilding.

Slowly but surely, the year, the world, and my life started to look bright again in the last few months.

I didn’t mean to sound like I am complaining or asking for pity; I am immensely grateful for what 2017-2018 has taught me and for the lessons I learned while having to tear literally everything in my life down.

But, in all honesty, I am so ready for it to be over and to continue building White Lion, my passions, my values, and my purpose into 2019.

As I look back, some of the past year is really funny, and some of it still can’t be laughed at.

In a mix of both, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in 2018:


Less Reading. Less Thinking. More Doing.

Don’t get me wrong - reading is great.

Continuing to learn is vital to success and growth as a professional, as well as a person! Besides, haven’t we all seen that Facebook add that claims “all CEOs read over 100 books per year” or something like that?

However, learning is too often used as a mask for our fear of action. Don’t trick yourself into believing that your book count will magically turn into your success.

Success requires action. Work. Process and progress.

Learn. And then figure out how you can translate that into action as quickly as possible.

Move!

“Don’t just think. Don’t just talk. Don’t just dream. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is that you actually do.”

– Jocko Willink

Spend Time Learning About Yourself.

For me, I had to revisit some places to really “see” myself again. Here, I am kicking at my childhood pitch, where I fell so in love with football that I would never be able to let it go.

For me, I had to revisit some places to really “see” myself again. Here, I am kicking at my childhood pitch, where I fell so in love with football that I would never be able to let it go.

Self-development is important.

Shockingly, it’s not based on grades or Continuing Ed credits or, again, your book count.

Getting to know ourselves is important to our lives and our progress; how can you expect yourself to continually become better, more successful, and thriving if you have only developed your professional side? What if you have only developed as an academic, but, as a person, you don’t know anything about yourself?

People will tell you what they think of you, who you are, and what they think you should do.

If you don’t know yourself, you might believe them. That is so dangerous.

Sit with yourself, learn about your emotions and your process, take time to get to know your own personality, likes, dislikes, passions, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. What kind of people are drawn to? What kind of things do you struggle with? What do you need to deal with that you have avoided?

Deal with it and watch how you, as a fully formed human being, improve as a coach, leader, professional, and, most importantly, as a person.

Values Are Your Foundation.

If you don’t know what you believe in and stand for, you will wind up angry, frustrated, resentful, and lost.

Does that sound fun? Nope.

I spent the last six years working for and in partnership with companies, institutions, and organisations that could not care less about the people that work there or who they are supposed to serve.

This may seem like too blunt of a Breaking News segment here, but here’s what I’ve found:

Most athletic institutions don’t care about their athletes as humans. They care about how, when, and whether they perform. But there’s not much beyond that.

Additionally, they often don’t care about the coaches, team staff, or fans. They care about the money they all bring in.

My values are as follows, in no particular order:
Courage.
Action.
Development.

After working in the sticky situation of balancing my desire to develop athletes in a healthy environment and the financial/other needs and restrictions of various schools, clubs, and federations, I couldn’t do it anymore.

I was angry, feeling sick with myself, dreading going to work every day, miserable, and bad-mouthing my environment to others - something I strive to never, ever do!

So I am here to tell you this:
Find your values. Live according to them as closely as you can! You will not regret it.

There’s no “good” vs. “bad” values. They’re not morals. They are just what matter the most to you.

You cannot lose when your values stay in the forefront. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but you will not hate yourself or the fact that you have to get up in the morning if you know that you contribute according to your values.

Step One: get CLEAR on what you value the most!

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.” 


― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Stress Smashes Creativity.

I could pretty much leave this point as it is.

When we are stressed, we aren’t creative. We aren’t productive. We aren’t working at maximum capacity or bringing maximum impact.

I spent a lot of time trying to work in weird places in order to get perspective and shake the stress. Everything still got done that had to, but not easily and nothing else!

I spent a lot of time trying to work in weird places in order to get perspective and shake the stress. Everything still got done that had to, but not easily and nothing else!

I truly love school. I love the academic environment as much as I love the sports environment. I love the journey to building a business. The hunt, as I call it.

But, in 2018, when I was dealing with immense stress and had no idea where to put it, my love for learning and building was destroyed.

I showed up to class and to training sessions. I wrote exams and made content. But I felt like I was working at 5x the effort and -2x the speed as everyone else. Let me tell you about how fun going to graduate school and running a service-based company while having a full-blown mental breakdown is.

No focus, no new ideas, no true productivity.

Don’t let high functioning depression and anxiety trick you into believing you are fine. They will suck your ability to create, build, learn, and serve.

And guess what…

As soon as I could off-load my stress - mostly by setting timers and (full transparency!) being medicated - ideas, projects, information, and people started rushing in.

And so did my passion for doing it.

Get rid of your stress. Manage it in a way that is best for you in this moment. Your creativity, purpose, passion, and ingenuity will come back, and you will be ready to give that to others too.

Find Mentors & Avoid Manipulators.

This one is special, and I hope you can get the jest of what I am trying to say.

There are people who will see your potential and invest in it for the good of the world.

There are also people who will see your potential and invest in it for the good of themselves, their status, and their wallets.

In my experience, people who are immensely driven to give, serve, learn, and build are sometimes not the most clear-minded and discerning when it comes to authority figures, business partners, and mentors. We just want to reach maximum capacity for maximum impact as soon as possible!

This is a mistake. Sharpen up that Gut Muscle. Let your intuition and discernment play a role. Your analytical brain should be hard at work before you allow anyone to substantially invest in and impact you.

Why?

Because, if the people who are investing in you are only doing so for their own benefit, you will slowly begin to see your work being used to make money, bring status, and take things. And you’ll resent that.

Trust me when I say it’s much harder to get out of that cycle once you’re in it than to just avoid it to begin with.

When someone invests in you because they believe in your purpose and gifts to benefit the world, you will see more opportunities open up, your confidence rise, and your clarity be like never before.

My dudes. Colleagues in Köln who are current and up-and-coming strength coaches. Training partners. I’m lucky to be able to share the love and the knowledge with these buff boys.

My dudes. Colleagues in Köln who are current and up-and-coming strength coaches. Training partners. I’m lucky to be able to share the love and the knowledge with these buff boys.

Find people who see the best in you, invest in it, and then cheer for you and push you while you work. Yes, even if there’s no immediate payback to them. They are rare and absolutely irreplaceable.

Then, be that person for someone else.

I am so thankful for my badass lady mentors, Deanna, Leslie & Kim, who, this year, saw my capacity to bring good into the world and push me another step toward it every single day (yes, even on Christmas Eve!), even when it costs them something. I can never appropriately express my gratefulness in words.

Additionally, thank you to Linda C, Babett L, Christian Z, Sylvain L, Alex K, Chris G, Chris H, Hunter C, and many more who have taken their own time and resources to help me develop as a professional and a human this year. Many thanks and cheers!!

Spend Time In the Micro & Appreciate The Macro.

I’m a small-picture person. I love details.

In my opinion and experiences, it’s rarely the huge overhaul of the Big Picture that’s needed. It’s the smallest changes make the most significant difference.

The sports industry, however, is a Big Picture space. We tend to lose sight of the micro, because we are so zoomed out on the success of the team, the season statistics, or the entire league and organisation itself.

But why? I work with and for athletes. Why should I have the majority of my focus on league statistics and standings and not on my players?

If we increase the speed, strength, condition, and resilience of every single player in our roster, will the team improve? Most likely.

If the team continually improves individually and collectively, will we win more games? Probably.

If we win more games, will we move up on the tables and improve statistics? Yep.

And what impact did the people focused on league statistics have on the success of the players and team? Some - but did it make the deciding difference? That’s up to the situation.

It pays to have a healthy, realistic view of the macro, the zoomed out Big Picture of it all.

But, most of all, it’s immensely more purposeful and valuable to be zoomed into the micro and spend the most time there. Invest. Be attentive. Serve.

The big stuff matters, but don’t get overwhelmed by the loudness of it.

The small stuff makes the difference, and the people matter the most.

Be A Human Being, Not A Human Doing.

I wrote about this in my article On Greatness, but it’s worth repeating:

Greatness is not a destination. It’s a really long, rough journey.

When we know ourselves and our unique gifts, we gradually come to learn our impact on the world, and that it’s multiplied when we can work and exist from a place that is authentically ourselves.

Should we value an athlete’s opinion and needs more when s/he is a starting player or National Squad athlete? No. That would be incomprehensible, and we rebuke coaches and institutions who do that.

So stop doing it with yourself. Stop waiting to live authentically until you’ve “made it”, because, if that’s your modus operandi, you will never be satisfied and forever frustrated.

Enough with the performative nature of social media, networking, and Holier-Than-Thou preaching from the alter of Twitter and WhatsApp. Let’s leave that in 2019. Just live your honest self - you, in yourself, are worth listening to.

In 2019, I hope we all “do” less and “be” more.

“This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”


―Maya Angelou

“No” Is A Great Word.

This should be your favourite word. It’s the greatest answer.

There are two sides to “No” The Answer:

When it’s an answer to you, it means “not this thing”, “not at this time”, or “not in this place”.

When it’s an answer from you, it means “this is not right for me, and, because of my values/situation/needs/purpose/beliefs, I cannot do it”.

“No” is not inherently negative. It’s just an answer.

And, like any and all answers, they are the best friend of people like us who have lots of questions.

—————

Well, friends, that’s that on that.

I have to laugh. It’s shocking for an over-prepared, over-analytical bookworm like me to go learn a lesson that I’ve not read about at least twice before, let alone eight! But here we are - we made it, and I hope my reflections cause you to pause and think about what you learned, solved, and grew from this year.

In 2019, let’s do more “being” at maximum capacity for maximum impact, and less “doing” to achieve and gain false confidence.

If we aren’t serving, teaching, giving, learning, growing, changing, and easing suffering, what are we doing?

“If you are alive, there’s something for you to learn.”

-Charles T. “Chuck Harmony” Harmon from Louis York Music

Thank you for reading and following along with me this year. Thank you for your kind words, your support, your criticisms, and all other feedback you’ve sent.

I look forward to building more in 2019 with you all.

Merry Christmas, if you celebrate, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year!*

*Good Sliding into 2019 :-)