I moved back to my hometown about five years ago, after about a year dating my future wife. I went down to the post office the other day, and ran into an old buddy from middle school. We gave each other a big smile and a handshake, and made small talk. I hadn’t seen him in a long time; probably since we graduated high school, over 15 years ago.
He asked me what I have been up to since I moved back home (I lived on the west coast for four years). I told him I have a performance coaching business. He chuckled, and asked who spends money on that type of thing. I wanted to defend myself, but I overcame the urge…he wasn’t going to get it.
We shot the shit about the Pats and how ridiculous it was that Tom Brady is suspended to start the season. I mailed my envelopes and then headed back home. I asked him if he read the David Halberstam book on Bill Belichick…again, he chuckled and proudly said that he hasn’t read a book since the end of high school.
It was great to see him. It really was. We used to hang out all the time. We would go to the pool or Falls Pond after football practice. We drank beers together, many of them before it was legal to smoke a cigarette, never mind alcohol.
As I drove home, I wondered how we had grown so far apart.
Growing or Dying
“We are either growing, or dying” – Tony Robbins
It is a simple quote, but it is absolutely true. The quote is not really about whether we are growing or dying at this given moment. It is about decisions. Specifically, the little decisions. Each decision we choose to make, feeds us. And I mean every decision, including the ones that end up as failures.
We don’t have a crystal ball to tell us what the outcome will be from each of our decisions. But we can control our decisions.
E + R = O
I interviewed a man named Tim Kight for my podcast this year. Tim is a peak performance coach who’s worked with Fortune 500 CEO’s, professional athletes, and professional level coaches from across the globe. In particular, he was hired by Urban Meyer, head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, prior to the 2014 football season. The Buckeyes won the National Championship that year. Tim developed a heuristic to illustrate the micro level process that human beings go through each second of the day. Here it is:
E + R = O
“E” stands for “event”. “R” stands for “response”. “O” stands for “outcome”. What Tim states is that we cannot control the event, and we cannot control outcomes. The only thing that we can control is our response to any given event, which leads to better outcomes over time. The better we get at stronger, higher level responses (decisions), the more consistently we will experience better outcomes.
When we implement this into our mindset, we can begin to see each event in our life as an opportunity to develop our skill in response. We are building resilience, without even knowing it. Tim is Mr. Miyagi, and we are all going through the famous “wax on, wax off” exercise in Karate Kid. Let’s call an effective response a “growth response”.
Sometimes these events are positive, and reacting with a growth response is easy. The difficult events are the negative ones – the adversity moments – the moments, big or small, that manifest in all of our lives. When we drop the baton in the 4 x 100 meter relay and lose the event for our team. When we freeze during a presentation, and lose a million dollar deal. When we haven’t written a single word of a manuscript that our editor is asking for, and the due date is fast approaching. The event already happened. Now, how do we respond?
In a follow up post, I’ll focus on activities and exercises we can do to improve our “growth response” muscle. For now, let’s get back to my buddy from high school.
I know why my buddy and I have grown so far apart. It’s because I’ve chosen to grow, decision by decision, rather than die. What does that mean for him? Maybe he’s just trying to stay the same. Maybe he’s happy. He seemed to be.
That’s just not my version of happy.