Authority

I sometimes have a problem with authority. Growing up, I never liked being told what to do. I still kind of don’t for that matter. I’ve been lucky enough to have a job where I get a lot of say in what I do each day. But it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve worked jobs (part-time) where I had to do things a certain way, even if I thought there was a better way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been the insubordinate type. I’m not the rebel who wants to do things his own way just to be different. I just need to believe that what I’m doing makes sense before I can fully be comfortable.

I’ve been thinking back on some of the situations where I didn’t buy into the system, or where I had trouble trusting that the person in charge knew best, and I’m trying to figure out what was really going on. Why did I not respect their authority? Was it a maturity issue? Was it their leadership style? As with anything, it’s probably a combination of a lot of reasons.

These thoughts on authority have been on my mind ever since I traveled to Orlando a few weeks ago, to a meet at ESPN World Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney with our cross country team. Part of my job is to organize team travel, so flying a group of 20 athletes to Florida for a long weekend takes a lot of planning on my part. To add to this, our head coach wasn’t flying in until the night after we arrived because he was being recognized for an award on our campus back in Canton. That meant I was the sole coach in charge until he arrived. This was a first for me.

Upon arriving to the course and checking the team in with the meet organizers, I was directed to speak to the guy with the headset about me being interviewed for the online broadcast… Wait, what?

“They want to interview me? But I’m just the assistant coach, the guy who ordered the plane tickets and booked the hotel rooms. Coach Hazen is the one you want to interview, after all, he has been coaching at Malone for 48 years.”

These are some of the thoughts that went through my head.

I tried to explain it to them, but considering Coach Hazen wouldn’t get there until late that night, they insisted on interviewing me instead. I couldn’t say no, so I followed the man with the headset to their on site production studio, with monitors covering the walls, and control stations with fancy knobs and buttons… like you see on TV. This was a legit production studio, and I was about to do an ESPN production quality interview.

Okay, let’s be honest. This wasn’t going to be aired on SportsCenter or anything. In fact, they only used about 30 seconds from my five-plus minute interview during the actual webcast of the race on ESPN3. Even so, I was nervous about the whole thing. I’m not used to being on camera, which was part of it; but I don’t think that was the full reason my hands felt a little shaky and my voice weaker than usual.

I knew all the correct answers to their questions, I knew what I should say about the team and about the meet and how the season has been going. What made it difficult was I had not yet accepted that I had the authority to talk about these things. Even though what I was saying was true, hearing it come from me felt like I was saying things that I wasn’t in charge of saying. But I did my best to pretend, although faking it is not in my natural skill set.

As with many of the things that I spend time overthinking, in the end, they are probably not as significant as I make them out to be. Most people wouldn’t spend as much time as I do dissecting what was going on during that interview. The head coach wasn’t there, so I answered some questions about the team, no big deal.  But that’s not how my mind works. I needed to think more deeply about this.

To get to a point, I believe that many people’s problem with authority is rooted in how it is distributed to those in charge. Many times authority is given without being earned, or even taken by someone who isn’t ready to lead. When authority is given to someone who isn’t ready for it, sometimes the responsibility that comes along with it is taken for granted. When it isn’t clear why the person in charge is in charge, or how they came to be in that position, it’s hard for some to respect their authority.

As I grow as a coach and as a person, I am learning better where my place is in regards to authority. There are times when I need to embrace my role as a leader, take charge, and own the power I have been given. At other times, it is better to step back and follow those who have been given authority in other areas of life. As with most things in life, this will take time to master. But it starts with awareness of what is going on in my head. And I guess that’s why I wrote this.

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Hard work is hard.

I’ve always been of the opinion that it takes something special to be really good at what you do. I’m talking expert level, like to be at the top of your field. While talent is important and I acknowledge that some things come easy to the naturally gifted, this isn’t what usually separates the greats from all the rest. To me, it is the ability to habitually work hard at your craft that takes you to that next level. Of course, this idea is nothing new. I’m sure you’ve heard the famous quote by Aristotle “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

The point is, hard work is a choice. It is something you can control. That’s the good news. However, if you’re anything like me, making choices wears you out. It is easy for me to work hard when I am motivated or in a good mood. It’s on those bad days that deciding to put in the work becomes more difficult. I’ve adopted a new life motto to help with this problem. I call it “easy mode.” Allow me to explain.

Easy mode deals with the way you approach those decisions about how hard you work. When I’m in easy mode, it’s easy to make the hard decisions because the choice has already been made. What I mean is if you decide ahead of time that you are always going to choose the hard work option over being lazy, you have taken the decision making part out of the equation (well, you only had to make one decision as opposed to deciding every time). When you expect and plan to work extra hard, working hard becomes the norm, and therefore, easy.

I’ve been trying my best to apply this to my job, and I still have a way to go, but so far it’s worked out well. For example, when someone asks me to help with something, I just help them. There’s no thinking about it, or hesitating, or trying to make an excuse about why it’s not my responsibility. This has actually made my job easier despite the fact that I am doing more work. Things get done more efficiently, and I have peace of mind. When in easy mode, you are happy to work hard because you are going with the flow and you become super productive.

It should be noted that being in easy mode doesn’t mean the actual work becomes easy. The work is still hard, that’s why it’s called hard work. And this is how you will get better at whatever it is you do. I hope you’ve noticed, I am being vague on purpose. This is because easy mode can be applied to a multitude of situations, such as your job, relationships, athletics, or even cleaning your house. When you’ve decided to always try and do what’s best, you automatically become better.

I’m not going to lie, living in easy mode isn’t always easy. I still decide to be lazy at times, probably more often than I’m willing to admit. But hey, at least I’m trying. Now it’s your turn.

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Stolen Goods

Over the past month, we’ve had a few things stolen from the office at work, including a few laptops, an Ipad, and my cell phone/wallet. Other than being super annoying and inconvenient (especially not having a phone), this made me think just how selfish a person has to be to steal from someone else. Do these people who stole my stuff realize the kind of impact they are having on the people they steal from? I have a lot of important things on my computer and in my cell phone, things I use for work, or to contact my family and friends. It is a big deal when you no longer have your phone, not to mention your debit card and driver’s license. And this has happened on more than one occasion.

I mean, what kind of a person would be so cruel to do such a thing? That was my first thought. Then I remembered something I once read in a book called the Kite Runner. It’s a fairly popular book, so maybe you read it too.

In an early part of the book a father is talking to his son about sin. The Father, who is called Baba says: 

“..there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that?”

He goes on to say:

“When you kill a man, you steal a life,” Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?” […]

This made me think about all the things I’ve stolen from people over the years. Of course, I’ve never stolen material things like a computer or an xbox, or even someone’s wallet, but I’m sure I’ve stolen plenty of people’s right to happiness by being unkind or making an inappropriate joke or comment. Maybe I’ve lied to someone about something, or kept something from someone that I shouldn’t have. These are things to think about when comparing yourself to those “criminals” who steal cell phones and computers.

I’m not saying that lying to someone is a bad as robbing a bank (especially in the eyes of the law), but what I’m saying is we all do things that are selfish and unkind. I don’t want to go around condemning the kids who broke into our office, labeling them as “bad kids”, or as hardened criminals. They are just making some poor choices and I’m sure eventually it will catch up with them.

So again, I ask myself, “What is it that I am stealing and when will it catch up with me?” I hope I can figure it out before it does.

That’s all. Carry on!

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Taking the Scenic Route

A few weeks ago I tweeted about how I often take the scenic route when I’m driving places wondering how much gas I’ve wasted in my lifetime by doing so.

The thing about the scenic route is it isn’t the way that makes the most sense, nor is it very time efficient, but for me, it’s the most enjoyable. Of course, when you take the scenic route there is always the risk of getting lost, or ending up somewhere that you didn’t plan on going, or even breaking down in the middle of nowhere without cell phone service.

This got me thinking about my life in general and how I feel I’ve kind of taken the scenic route to get to where I am today. I’ve always tried to do things differently than the norm, and I certainly have my own way of making decisions when it comes to my career, or relationships, but I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way.

I will admit, the scenic route can be a tough way to go. You encounter potholes, detours, and roadblocks that you have to figure out how to get around. Sometimes you feel like you’re wasting your time or wandering around without a purpose. But those kinds of thoughts come and go and deep down you know that this is the route you have to take to get to where you want to be.

Don’t get me wrong, the scenic route isn’t the easy way, and it doesn’t mean you are being lazy, but it definitely has it’s own pace. A lot of people might wonder why you would choose it over a more direct way, and it’s okay if they don’t understand. I’m not saying it’s better than other ways you can take, I’m just saying this is the way I’ve chosen.

To be clear, taking the scenic route doesn’t mean you are avoiding having to be somewhere, or that you don’t have places to go. It’s just a different way of getting there. Also, it doesn’t mean you are wandering through life aimlessly. It is still grounded in direction and purpose. It just isn’t afraid to take a wrong turn or two along the way.

I know what you’re thinking, why wouldn’t you want to avoid taking a wrong turn? And yeah, I get it, getting lost can be a scary thing or it could keep you from getting to your destination “on time”. But that doesn’t scare me as much as always playing it safe, never venturing off the expressway, counting down the miles until you reach your destination only to get there and not remember how it happened. I know it sounds cliché, but to me it’s more about the journey than the destination.

So, what does this all mean? Why does it matter? Maybe it doesn’t. These are just my thoughts. Take it for what it’s worth. But next time you have the choice between taking the conventional route, or venturing off the beaten path to perhaps experience something new, I hope you at least consider both options. You never know what you could see along the way.

 

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Labels

I listen to a few different podcasts in my free time (cause I’m a nerd) which are usually educational in some way. They cover a variety of topics such as science, economics, politics, philosophy, religion, and even the paranormal.

I was listening to one the other day where the guest (a very prominent science advocate) was talking about being labeled as an atheist and how he didn’t like that people have to put a label on him in order to feel like they know what he believes. While he doesn’t acknowledge the existence of God, he feels there are too many assumptions made about how an atheist should or shouldn’t behave or what they stand for. He would rather be viewed as an individual with his own thoughts and beliefs than be thrown into a category in which he may not completely fit.

I think he brings up a good point about our constant need to label people. While it does make it easier for us to feel like we know a person or to remember things about someone, labeling people in these broad categories probably does more harm than good. I mean, how much do you like it when someone makes an assumption about you that isn’t true and it shapes their opinion of who you are or how they think you should act?

There’s a lot of baggage that come with labels, especially certain ones like Atheist, or Liberal, or even Christian. I don’t know about you, but my beliefs and perspective on life is always changing and developing. It’s called growth. I’m not saying there aren’t things I hold as being true, I just acknowledge that life is way more complex than I’ll ever understand at one point in time and I’m okay with letting my understanding develop as I get older.

To feel the need to label myself as one thing or another can be problematic to my ability to learn new things, things that don’t fit neatly into my current belief system. This way of thinking scares a lot of people. And I can understand why. Sometimes it’s easier to not ask questions and just stick with what you know. That’s boring to me though.

It’s one thing to label yourself, but to always try to label others is way worse. How are you to get to know someone if you already think you have them figured out? If you have a preconceived idea of what you think a Catholic is, when you meet someone who attends a Catholic Church and attribute your ideas of that label to that person, you are probably less likely to get to know who that person really is.

I’m not saying labels don’t have their place. Labels and categories can be very useful in organizing things or trying to make sense of things, but they’re not always completely accurate. What’s important is that you don’t let them limit your ability to learn and grow.

Learn and Grow… I feel like I use those words a lot.

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I may have wrote it, but that doesn’t mean I own it.

I once told a friend of mine that I don’t feel like the things I write belong to me. While they may be my thoughts, my words, my sentences, their origin is not necessarily rooted in my brain. My role is simply to process the things I’ve encountered and make some sort of sense of it. What I mean by this is that I take information that I’ve learned, experiences that I’ve had, or interactions with other people; and organize it in a way that is meaningful to me. Sometimes I’m compelled to share these things with others.

This process sounds a lot like writing a research paper (without all the citations) and I guess that makes sense. I spent so much of my life writing papers for school (whether it was high school, college, or grad school), that how my brain works has been greatly impacted. This has influenced how I see the world, which I think was kind of the point of writing all those papers.

Back to my original statement about not owning the things I write. This has another level to it. When I write something, I don’t expect the person who reads it to completely understand where I’m coming from, but that’s okay. There may only be one thing that the reader takes from my writing that is meaningful to them. It may not even be the message I was intending, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If something rings true to you, don’t be afraid to use it!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that sparked an idea in your brain that had nothing to do with the conversation itself? This happens to me all the time. Inspiration is all around us, you just have to keep your eyes open to it. With that said, the same is true for inspiring others. You don’t have to be a leader, or a teacher, or a writer to inspire someone.

I’ll leave you with a quote that someone showed me that I really like. It says, “There are people in your life whom you unknowingly INSPIRE simply by being you!”

Be inspired. Be inspiring. Be you!

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You don’t know me, I don’t even know me.

I don’t write as much as I’d like, mostly because I don’t have the time, but I think there are other reasons that keep me from sharing my thoughts as frequently as I should. Let me explain…

Whenever I write, I’m sharing a part of who I am, something that’s been on my mind or close to my heart. This can be a scary thing to allow others to read. I am opening myself up to judgments, criticisms, and potential misunderstanding. Just because a person has read what I’ve written, doesn’t necessarily mean they fully understood my intent or the message I was attempting to convey.

There’s a second part to this, and here is where I think things get interesting. Every post I write- my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs are just a snapshot of who I am at the time of writing. My perspective is not permanent or unable to change. I am not the same person I was when I started this blog in 2008. I’m not even the same person that I was last week. Growth is a part of life. I have written things in the past that when I read them today, I realize I don’t agree with anymore, or perhaps I now see things from a different perspective.

Let me be clear, this does not mean my older posts are less true than the more recent ones. They were true to me at the time. They may still speak to you today, and I hope they do. But be aware, just because you read something I wrote 3 years ago, don’t assume this means you know me, because I still don’t even know myself.

This applies to more than just writing.

How many times have you heard a person say something that you didn’t agree with or that you thought was inappropriate or rude, and you’ve allowed it to forever inform your opinion of that person? I know I’ve been guilty of this. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes we don’t give people the opportunity to change and grow. Or maybe we don’t allow ourselves to change the way we see others once we think we already have them figured out. This is especially true when we read something someone has written. I mean, if they took the time to write it down, it must be what they believe for all of eternity.

All of this brings up an interesting question. Doesn’t it seem as though once something is “on paper”, it carries more weight? Written words are taken more seriously. People often  hold you accountable for your words long after they’ve been said. When you write them down, it’s like they become permanent. And there’s nothing wrong with this. That’s why I try to be careful about what I write. However, what this doesn’t mean is a person should be bound to everything they have said in the past, without our acknowledgment of potential growth or change.

Think of it like this. Would you want to be held accountable for all the things you said or did in middle school? What about high school? Most likely not. It’s understood that you have learned a thing or two since then. You have matured. This maturation process should continue on through the rest of your life.

I’ll end with this, a call to action. Let’s do our best to encourage continual growth in not only ourselves, but in others as well.  Stop assuming you have everyone figured out and start looking for ways to get to know the person each of us is becoming. You might just be surprised with who you meet along the way.

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