Blog Post #2 Own Mistakes
Who are you? Who do you want to be?
I am an athlete, I played collegiate soccer and I understood what it meant to be on a team. It didn’t matter if I was the best player on the field what mattered was I had a role to fill and if I didn’t our coach would find someone else who could. I played defense so naturally, my job was to prevent the opposing players from advancing the ball forward and scoring. I was very good at my job and I took pride knowing that no one could do the job as good as me. I possessed an indestructible belief that I was the best man for the job. It wasn’t easy to get to that position, in fact, it took a long time just to have the opportunity to prove myself. The first time I walked into the office of our head coach after two weeks of hell he told me simply, “You will never start or contribute to this team, having said that you can remain on the reserve team and try your best!” My response, “I appreciate the feedback Coach but you are 100% wrong and I intend to prove it to you!” He didn’t make it easy for the next year and a half I spend my days on the reserve team while everyone got a chance to prove themselves either in practice or in games. No matter how good I played or how much I improved I got no encouragement from the coach, I never asked for it either, I showed up to practice made it to all the team meetings, and never even asked for a chance I just waited. I knew he saw me day in and day out proving without a doubt that I was one of the best players on that field but still nothing from the coach. He was a very disciplined man who ran a tight ship and if you were late you got punished, if you talked back you didn’t play, if you complained we did extra work. This was my life and I accepted it because I knew what I wanted to do and there was nothing that could stop me from achieving it even if the coach wouldn’t let me play. I was going to find a way and I had only my indestructible belief in myself even when I was at my lowest point, even when I was ready to give up, even when it looked like it was going to be too late, I still had my belief that if I had one chance to be on that field I would leave absolutely no doubt that I belonged on that team.
It was probably halfway through my junior year and our team was not doing well, we had a really good defense but there was something missing, we defended with our whole team but our attacks broke down quickly and every team could expose our weaknesses at the back because the team played as individuals instead of a unit. Our coach was frustrated and he tried every means necessary but nothing worked, defending with attacking players, sending defenders forward into to the offense, dropping forwards into the midfield to try to create more opportunities none of it worked. I got to dress for a home game earlier in the season because when we travel the team only takes 18 players but for home games, you can field 22 players so I basically warmed up with the team and sat the bench. The team we played was not good, they were physical and had some decent players but they had no structure, no organization just all effort. We struggled to beat this team because we had become the same thing, a year earlier we dismantled teams like this not because we were that much better individually but everyone knew their role. The captain of our team was a 6’5 tall defender who demanded his players take their role on the team seriously and if they didn’t they didn’t last very long and a lot of good players were playing with me on the reserve because they wanted to play the game as an individual instead of on a team. I saw this and I knew what I could provide for the team if I got the chance. The team didn’t need a charismatic leader they just needed a good example of leadership to follow so that everyone could settle into their role and do their job. I got my chance suddenly, no one got injured, no one got in trouble, the coach two days before our next game put me in the starting line up at practice and I was told by an assistant that I would be starting the next game. Instant. No talk. Nothing. Just show me what you got. We won that game 7-2, (I scored too! Did I mention I played defense) which in soccer that is an absolute crushing score against a team that was nationally ranked and much better than us on paper. For the rest of that season and the following season I only sat out one game because of an injury and I started every game ever since. My last year we squeaked into the National tournament ranked 25th out of 25 teams. Imagine filling out a NCAA basketball bracket that is what our tournament looked like and we were the last ranked team on the bracket “Cinderella?” you bet your ass we were. We made it to final four that season losing 2-0 in the semi-finals one game away from playing in a National Championship. It still makes me smile to think about that journey and everything we all endured leading up to that amazing run.
The reason I am bringing this us and it’s not just because I wanted to tell my soccer story even though I do love telling stories, but I realized at a very young age 13 to be exact that everyone has weaknesses and everyone makes mistakes. To illustrate that I am going to tell another story about how playing soccer made me a better leader. I was 13 years old playing on a select team which is what we called our travel teams back in the day. I don’t remember where we were or who we were playing but I got a Red Card, this is not a regular occurrence for a 13 year old especially back in the 90’s in fact it was pretty much unheard of and to illustrate my point my best friend Matt Pesler who may have been one of the dirtiest/sneakiest players ever would brag about getting yellow cards and at this point even he never got a Red Card. So I tackled a player from behind, yeah I was very aggressive for 13 years old and I was damn proud of it because it made me a better player and people respected my aggression. However, on this day the referee did not see my aggression as a good thing in fact he immediately flashed the card and told me I had to leave the field and I am sure you can imagine I was not very happy about this and I did not go quietly but i did go all the way to my dad’s truck and I sat there for the remainder of the game pouting in the truck waiting for my dad to come talk to me so I could tell him how wrong the referee was and how I should not have been ejected from the game. My father did not show up right away he actually left me in the truck until the game was over and quietly walked to the truck to teach me a very powerful lesson. I was furious that he didn’t come find me after I was ejected, I was furious that I got kicked out of the game, and I was intent on telling everyone that I was wronged. My father saw things differently and when he sat down in the truck he explained how disappointed he was not that I got a card, and not that I was ejected from the game but he was disappointed with how I reacted to the situation. You see in soccer as in life we are all going to have things happen to us and we have a choice on how we will react when these things happen. My father explained that no amount of complaining or protest will ever reverse a call and I have to be aware of these things when they happen because it’s easy to take them personally and act selfishly which is exactly what happened. What I had forgotten about was my team, my coach and I abandoned them because I was taking the call personally and acting selfish because it happened to me. Look at the NFL, MLB, MLS, or NHL athletes that belong on a team act out because of their personal opinions or their selfish beliefs neglecting the one thing that unites the players, owners, and fans; the team. I learned this lesson when I was 13 years old and there are amazingly talents professional athletes that make millions of dollars and they still haven’t learned that their reactions to things that happen to them on the field or off reflect badly on the team. The team suffers because the team is no longer the most important thing that unites a group of people instead it separates and makes individuals performing with other individuals for their own benefit. No team has ever won anything with this dynamic but I am almost positive that every team has experienced it at some point.
Lucky for me I got a chance to prove I learned my lesson only a few weeks later in a local soccer tournament we were playing the first of three games against a very good team who was known for having one of the fastest forwards in the state of Ohio. The team sat back and played balls over the defense and had this guy just run past everyone and score but we knew this going in and played a defensive strategy called an offside trap which is a pretty advanced strategy for a 13-year-old but I was confident we could run the trap. It was not long into the first half that they got this kid into space sending a ball over my head as the last defender and the trap did not work. I was about 5 yards behind this kid and I caught him just before he was going to take on our goalkeeper and surely score. Now to this day I still say this was the most beautiful clean and precise tackle I have ever made but as luck would have it the referee blew his whistle giving the other team a penalty kick and giving me a Red Card again. I calmly went up to the referee being a captain I was allowed to ask for an explanation the referee raised his hand and pointed to the sidelines demanding that I leave the field and uttering under his breath as I turn to walk away, “I know who you are and I will not put up with that kind of play.” I again asked him why? He told me it was because I smiled after I tackled the player. Damn! I knew exactly what to do. I walked to the sideline to tell my coach what had happened and I ask him if I could coach my team from the sideline. He agreed and I brought the team together for a quick huddle to let them know I would be here on the sideline helping them stay organized and work the strategy we had planned before the game. Needless to say, my dad was very proud we never even brought up the Red Card we just talked about how good it felt to do the right thing and I can do that in my life if I am able to be aware when my ego or personal beliefs get in the way. I never forgot that lesson along with the multiple lessons I learned from my dad and it is why I am bringing this up with you now.
This is one of the earliest examples I can think of that I made a mistake and took the consequences of that action personally without any recognition of my own that I had a weakness. I couldn’t control my temper. That would lead me to play too aggressive and overreact when things didn’t go my way. This is something that I still struggle with to this day but no matter what happens I own it like I said we all make mistakes and we all have weaknesses the only bad thing that comes from this is when we don’t try to change it or we refuse to recognize it at all. The second of five tasks that we have to complete daily is to recognize that we have weaknesses and we are going to make mistakes, then don’t take it personally just own it “I have a bad temper,” “I am overweight,” or “I do not communicate my feeling.” For some of us this is a tough pill to swallow we have to be honest with ourselves and we have to admit that we are not the perfect people we may tell ourselves that we are and this does not help our ego we can actually go in the wrong direction and feel depressed because we realize something deeply profound about who we are but you have to know that this is a good thing. “I have a bad temper but I am working on it,” I am overweight but I am going to change my habits,” I do not communicate my feelings so I am going to try different ways to let people know how I am feeling.” You don’t have to have THE ANSWER before you can fix the problem just admit that there is a problem then start trying to fix it. I have made so many mistakes in my life and continue to do so but I own them. I find out what is working and what is not and I make adjustments, learn from my mistakes and try to never repeat any of my previous ones, if I held on to these mistakes I would have never gone to college, never got my master’s degree, never started a career as a college soccer coach, never started another career as a personal trainer, and definitely never started my journey as the owner of a small business. To say I am here because of my mistakes is only half the message, the other half is this, just as I got the opportunity to do the right thing the second time I got a Red Card you will get a chance to learn from your mistakes and do the right thing if you do that enough you will find that whatever mistakes you made or weaknesses you have if you own it and work on it hard enough it won’t be a weakness for much longer. Task #2 Own mistakes. Attack Weakness