Weekend Links


My Dad’s Friendship with Charles Barkely (WBUR)

What are Friends for? (NYT)


Just in Case (Humble Dollar)

Index-Investing (Bloomburg)  A good defense here against recent critics

First, it costs less — often much less. High fees are a drag on returns; compounded over decades, they lead to a 20 to 30 percent penalty on total returns. Next, the alternative is active-stock or mutual-fund selection or some form of market timing. Academic research overwhelming shows that the vast majority of investors lack the skills or discipline to do that. Attempts at outperformance invariably lead to underperformance. Last, even among those who have the requisite skills, the discipline and emotional control necessary to successfully manage money is intermittent at best, absent at worst.


Gridiron Genius (What I’m Reading Now)

Pep Gardiola and Manchester City: A Case Study (The Sport Journal)

From the Deputy Chief Executive: The Matildas’ World Cup opportunity

Atlanta United (Sky Sports)


On Greatness (White Lion Performance)

Some people are impressive and motivational in their achievements and messages, but the practice of true Greatness is a rarity.

The Trouble With Girls: Obstacles to Women’s Success in Medicine and Research (thebmj)

Warren Buffett: The Three Things I Look for in a Person (Farnam Street)

“You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person,” says Buffett. “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, ‘Everyone here has the intelligence and energy—you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”

The End of An Era (The Guardian)

What is Your Culture?

I was lucky enough to be in the room a few years ago for a conversation with a very successful and prominent coach. There were about 12 coaches there to hear him speak.

The coach asked a question, “What do you center your team around.” Not all responded, but most said, “our culture.”  All around the room.

His response, “I don’t know what that means.”

He went on,

“For me, I center everything around one simple question, What’s best for the team. Every decision. The players do the same.”

He explained a bit more and answered more questions, but this one response has stayed with me.

Don’t talk about “culture”–talk  very specifically about your team.  The word culture is like the word technology–overly broad with too many different interpretations.

What is your team culture?  Do your players know? Can we see it from the outside?

When you have a very clearly defined culture, a set of values, shared language, a plan, principles that you believe in, and accountability, all your decisions get easier.

This does not mean executing them is always easy, but making the decision to act gets easier.

So, what’s your culture?

Recently I was in Utah to help lead a retreat for a very high-end, high-quality sporting goods store.  They sell great stuff that’s way out of my price range, but super valuable for people who spend their lives on the slopes or outdoors and need quality.

The owners were in the room, as were the leaders of each of their divisions and all of their stores. It was a funny, bright engaged group.

The view out the window was stunning.  Fortunately I was facing the window, and the group  was not, or we would never have held their attention.

Here’s a photo from my morning hike!

What is your culture?


Basically the retreat was a positive experience on many levels.

The company asked us to center the retreat around the book The Culture Club by Daniel Coyle, which they were reading in a company wide book club.

The Culture Club seeks to answer the question: why do some groups excel while others fail?

He says culture.

But more importantly he tells us his three keys to setting up this culture.

First Key: Make it Safe. Foster Belonging.

Each member of the team must feel comfortable speaking his or her mind. Strong groups foster a sense of belonging and understand how to develop this through common language and “signals of belonging.” 

These signals must be consistent and used often in order to foster this.

You can’t toss it out every now and again and think it will have an effect.

The Second Key: Be willing to Share Vulnerability

 Of course these two (safety and vulnerability) are linked, but he makes  a very interesting point that we often wait until we are certain that it’s safe–until we trust a situation–before we show who we are:

“Normally we think about trust and vulnerability the way we think about standing on solid ground and leaping into the unknown: first we build trust, then we leap. But science is showing us we’ve got it backward. Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust–it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”

The Third Key: Have a Sense of Purpose. Tell Your Story Well.

This third point circles me back to that prominent coach I started this post with: What do you center your team around? What are the defining values everybody is aware of?  What’s the story you tell internally and externally?

In The Culture Code Coyle gives some great examples of this including touching briefly on the All Blacks, the New Zealand Men’s Rugby Team.

He does not mention the book Legacy , but it is one of the best examples of a clear culture I have ever read.

They know how to tell their story. How to create a sense of belonging.  And, how to be willing to take a step back, be vulnerable, and let others shine.

James Kerr, Legacy’s author, writing for The Telegraph reminds us of 5 of the values they focus on:

Sweep the Sheds— literally everyone cleans up after themselves as a reminder of their value of personal humility

Follow the Spearhead–all three points as one; they don’t tolerate anything else

Champions do Extra–Speaks for itself, but the focus is on incremental gains

Blue Head–Maintain their calm and demeanor, but read the book to see the contrast to the “red head”

Leave the Jersey in a Better Place–Again, speaks for itself, but a clear picture of legacy.

Common language creates a sense of belonging. Values that remind us to be vulnerable to one another. And, most importantly a common sense of purpose and story.

I highly recommend Legacy when you get a chance. It’s a blueprint for building the team you really want.

In the meantime–stop speaking about “culture” and start speaking about the specific culture you are creating and why it matters.



Changing My Habits

Getting Better Every Day

I buy the idea that changing habits happens in small incremental steps every day.

James Clear who appears to be one of the experts on this uses this image to make the point.

changing habits in small incremental steps

Or as Aristotle put it, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

But, damn if it isn’t hard to change a habit even if you look at it in these small bite sized increments. Or, at least that’s what I’ve found.

I find most of my bad habits can be broken into two categories–completely thoughtless and stubbornly hard to break. That’s how it goes for me.

In the completely thoughtless category I put things like reading twitter when I should be working. I am working and then something pops up and I pop over and then it leads to another things and then I’m like–“right, I was working, but now I’m knee deep into an article on …..”

Gretchen Ruben in Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives says that fully 40% of my day is governed by habit. I’m betting most of my habits fall in this category of thoughtless.

That’s why actually tracking what you eat is so powerful. Dark chocolate almonds add up when they are grabbed as you walk past the pantry. Each time you walk past the pantry. Surely a thoughtless habit.

But if you write down everything you eat that awareness may help you to forego the handful of nuts. Just by bringing awareness.

These are the habits I’m going to tackle first. The thoughtless ones.

I’m going to start with one habit.

I’m going to read more novels. Specifically I’m going to read a novel for 30 minutes of my day.

I used to read novels all the time. When did I ever stop? Slowly they’ve been replaced by non-fiction books and too much time on the internet.

A novel brings something entirely different into my life.  The best novel allows us both to lose ourselves and expands our perspective. It explains the world and capture it’s complexity. Think, To Kill a Mockingbird or The End of the Affair.

Now I know in many ways this is a ridiculous place to start. I should be doing something harder. After all I enjoy reading novels.

But, why did I ever stop?

Because I allowed myself to drift thoughtlessly along. And, because I started to read only to get information. For utility.

The irony is that I think we learn more from a novel at times. The book  The Art of Fielding contained a character who was as effective a coach as most coaches I’ve studied. Only he wasn’t a coach. He was a teammate. The novel anticipated a book like The Captain Class, which makes the case that the leader on the field is the most important leader.

In other words, I bet I can be a better coach or a better professional by reading novels. Charlie Munger would agree.

But that takes me back to the place where it’s only about utility, where I justify my decision by making a straight line to productivity.

Maybe that’s the habit I’m really working on.

Breaking this notion that I need to read to be more productive as opposed to reading a novel simply to  be more fully human.  More compassionate, kinder, thoughtful, open and aware.

Simply because I will be a better person.

Why did I ever stop reading novels in the first place?

(The Coaching Conversation is an Amazon Affiliate. If you purchase books or other items through here we receive a small percentage)

Practice Kaizen

Make a plan–One habit at a time

Breaking Habits

Effective Feedback

Interesting article on effective feedback in Psychology Today. Basically he articulates the value of criticism in development and reminds us of the problems with excessive praise.

“Well-chosen criticism, delivered in an environment of high expectations and unconditional support, can inspire learning and development, whilst poorly judged praise can do more harm than good. Even relatively young children can tell the difference between constructive and destructive criticism, and it is a serious and unhelpful error to conflate the two.”

Found the article via Changing the Game Project on Twitter. Read the whole article.  Also, give them each a follow on twitter.

Evokes the concept of Mindset by Carol Dweck :

What is Growth Mindset

What is False Growth Mindset?

Life Wasn’t Meant to be Easy

The Mind is Always There

The Way of Baseball Finding Stillness at 95 MPH by Shawn Green

the way of baseballThe title of this post comes from a great book,  The Way of Baseball Finding Stillness at 95 MPH written by Shawn Green. You do not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book.  I am not one and yet I found this book incredibly compelling.

A coach I respect recommended it as a companion to The Inner Game of Tennis.

I love The Inner Game so I picked this book up. And, it’s been well worth it.

Shawn Green was one of the best hitters in baseball. His career stats are impressive, but that success was not inevitable.

This book describes his journey from a frustrated young professional baseball player into an All-Star and incredibly successful power hitter.

As is true of all stories of success his path was not linear.


The book begins with a Chapter entitled “Stillness,” but the start of his career was anything but still.

Green was frustrated. His coach wanted to change and limit his batting style. He and his coach disagreed on his potential and the path he should take.   So he momentarily turned to a different coach for guidance.

The result? He was banished from the team’s batting cages unless supervised.

Pissed, rebellious and a bit desperate he turned to a batting tee in a tiny space on the team’s training campus.

What begins as a ego-driven rebellion shifts to something else:

“However four or five days into it something changed. I began to enjoy it. After the first fifteen or so swing, my mind would quiet and the swings would start to be fluid…. I even made a ritual of placing the ball on the tee the same way every tie…my tee work had started out as a form of punishment, yet it suddenly felt like something else, something more than just a hitting exercise. 

Was it becoming meditation?”

He continued the routine even after showing significant improvement and a return to the lineup.

He stayed focused on his breathing and on the ball. He kept his focus external and concentrated.

The deeper he dug into his routine the less he was affected by other people, critics and fans alike. The more still he became.

Peer Influence

He describes how his peers around the league actually became his mentors and surrogate coaches.  He fulfilled the same role for others.  They picked each others brains in search of information and keys to success.

We meet Tony Fernandez a key influence on Green. He impacted him in many ways, but one method stood out: Fernandez was willing to take a temporary step backwards in the results he achieved in order to take a more meaningful leap forward:

“Tony wasn’t one to put Band-Aids on his swing just to scratch out an extra hit or two when he was struggling; rather he remained committed to finding his true swing.  If that meant going hitless for a game or two by swinging the heavier bat, he was willing…His mere presence had a profound impact on my personal success.”

The book reminds us that we often don’t give enough credence to the role models on our teams or the power of peer leadership.

We need to pay more attention and leverage this more. ( The Captain Class, another recent read, really drove that point home.)

Locus of  Control

His account is a fascinating look at the locus of control in sport. At this point he feels as though he has gained a measure of control over the ball.

I had reduced hitting, an extremely difficult activity, to its most basic form. As a result, I took each swing with full attention.

Previously when a pitcher threw a ball to me, the ball was in control. I reacted to the ball’s speed and movement.  Since the pitcher was the one with the ball I also reacted to the pitcher. Of course, in my tee routine I no longer worked against the pitcher and the ball. Now, there was no pitcher,and the ball was simply sitting there waitingfor me to hit it. I didn’t need to speed up or slow down. …In essence I reversed my relationship with the baseball.

And, on a deeper level,I was learning to step out of time.

This is a critical paradox. He learned the timing of hitting by placing himself outside of time. He becomes both proactive and less reactive. Awareness specifically indicates awareness of the ball, the pitcher, the movements–not himself.

Of course, this has profound implications for his life off the field as well.

Life also becomes calm.

Work With What You Have

Green details the imperfections of his stride and his swing.  But the bigger point is that all hitters, even the best, have flaws in their swings.

The key is to navigate these flaws and “work with what you have.”

He credits the tee work with giving him the mental space to finally solve some of these flaws. He recognized he had always been too analytical.

He was trying too hard to solve problems.

When he got quiet and allowed space, the solution emerged. He got a picture of what was going on.

The actual problem with his swing is neither here nor there to me. The important thing, is the process by which he solved it. This movement into calm, the growing awareness, the solution through intuition.

The lack of force.

The power of simply doing the work.

Green’s solution to his flaws, “Instead of fighting where my body wanted to go, I went with it.”

He, of course describes this thoroughly, but it’s an excellent description of how to get out of your own head.

I think I could have done better with my left foot if I had read this book at 18 years of age.

Here’s a thought for coaches. We often say get out of your head, but do we create environments where people can?

Have Fun and Compete

Another important factor was how much fun he had with the other great hitters. They used competition in training as a form of cooperation.  They enjoyed this and it ingrained the competitive habits that he would need at the plate in real-life competitive situations.  The athletes created these environments for themselves.

“Coaches had always wanted me to hit for power, but, oddly, they’d never told me to practice hitting home runs during batting practice. Instead they’d give me mechanical suggestions as to what changes in my swing or approach would help me hit more home runs, but they never suggested I simply practice hitting the ball as far as I could.

Often the simplest ideas are the best.”

Here it becomes clear that the tee is only one piece of what propelled him forward. He needed this batting practice time to “bring his tee time into the real world.”

Green also does a great job of describing the way the mind can get in the way even when you are aware and experienced at managing it.

As he says “the mind is always there.”

He developed detailed routines and habits in order to manage the mind’s chatter and keep his awareness focused on the pitcher’s movements.

Success got to his head at one point even as more experienced people around him tried to guide him. Without vigilance and constant practice it was easy to slip into old habits and negative spaces. His journey back from that was fascinating and filled with many more insights. He reconciles with his former coach and comes to understand the interaction a bit better.

All in all a really insightful and entertaining read.

If I were still coaching I have no doubt The Way of Baseball Finding Stillness at 95 MPH  would be a useful tool for a thoughtful athlete.

I’ve written about baseball before

One Shot at Forever

A Short list of soccer books

(Disclosure:  The Coaching Conversation is an amazon affiliate. If you purchase a book or anything through here the blog makes a small percentage. Thank you in advance.)

Great Coaches Are Often Originals

A look at the book Originals by Adam Grant

"Originality is an act of creative destruction." Joseph Schumpeter

Many of the best coaches I know are originals. They move at their own pace, think their own thoughts, and make enormous contributions to the game or the culture around them.

In Originals Adam Grant extols the virtues of these nonconformists who create novel ideas, or go against the grain of convention, and lead successful powerful lives.

Of course we all borrow thoughts from others.  We may even think they are ours. Grant describes this with the great phrase “kleptomnesia.”

Grant shows us why curiosity is crucial and leads us to question the status quo and to look behind “what is’ to see “what could be.”

“When we become  curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how to change them.”

Like you and me

The book offers us the same cautionary tale of being selected for greatness too early that we can see all around us in sports.  We push people to achieve, but achievement motivation can hinder creativity and create a need to play it safe in hopes of succeeding.

Evidence showed that many great leaders had to be pushed and ‘cajoled” into leading as a result of this.

He also adamantly makes the point that originals aren’t inherently extraordinary. We all have it in us because we all–even some of the most famous people in history–grapple with the same doubts, fears and desire for security.

“Originals” often get pushed out into the spotlight by others much of the time.  They are often as risk averse as you or I.  The positive side of this is that it leads them to hedge bets and build stable and successful structures around their creative ideas.

Taleb in Anti-Fragile talks about building robust systems and structures. Grant seems to be making a similar point.

“Those assumptions overlook the central benefit of a balanced risk portfolio: Having a sense of       security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another.”

So don’t quit your day job, but do explore your best ideas. Originals can take big risks in one area precisely because they have security in another.

Compassionate Leaders

Some of these reluctant leaders are very attuned to others. They show deep compassion and can be very deliberate even hesitant and self conscious when making decisions.

They weigh the opinions of others.

He uses the example of Abraham Lincoln the remarkably deliberate president. (By the way I  just watched the movie with Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. It was great, subtle and made me think about this book.)

Ok, so originals are very much like you and me. They weren’t necessarily the early overachievers, they are likely to play it safe in many areas of their lives and they can be self conscious and care what others think.

So how do they make the leap?

Remind yourself that originality is not a fixed trait. You can choose to be an original. Sometimes we just need someone to show us that is possible, which this book does.

After you buy in to the promise of your new idea Grant says we then need to be prepared to communicate it well. Then he shows how to sell it to a bigger and bigger audience.

The last third of the book focuses on how to set your own originality free not just in your career, but your life.

His final chapter “Rocking the Boat and Keeping it Steady” presents ways to manage anxiety as you push bravely forward. It’s fascinating and important to recognize how many “originals” deal the same ambivalence and doubt as you and I do.

“Psychologist Julie Norem studies two different strategies for handling these challenges: strategic optimism and defensive pessimism. Strategic optimism anticipates the best, staying calm and setting high expectations. Defensive pessimists expect the worst, feeling anxious and imagining all the things that can go wrong…”

They both performed well

“At first, I asked how these people were able to do so well despite their pessimism, Norem writes. “Before long, I realized that they were doing so well because of their pessimism.”

Turns out this pessimism can be motivating.

Finally, at the end he has included a section called “Actions for Impact,” a reminder that if we want to join the list of originals it’s a choice and an action.

Get going.

You can follow Adam Grant and his podcast WorkLife

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