Vacation’s over. I’ve been on vacation for the past week which means I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit, but not writing, blogging or tweeting. I know I’ve missed some interesting stuff, but I’ve also had a chance to read some books and catch up on articles and magazines I’ve been putting aside.
Pete Carrill, legendary Princeton basketball coach, wrote one of my favorite coaching books. The name of the book is The Smart Take from the Strong is a play on the quote “The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.”
When I was a young coach working at a very academic school, I read it multiple times. (The other book I read often during this time was My Life on a Napkin by Rick Majerus)
Do you love to read? Are you often searching for great coaching books? Me too. I also love to walk to work in the morning and listen to podcasts.
So I am happy when I can combine these two favorites and listen to podcasts focused on books on my walk. Tim Ferris of The Four Hour Work Week fame devotes quite a few of his podcasts episodes to books. My favorite of these was with Josh Waitzkin the author of The Art of Learning.
I imagine most of you have heard about Tim Ferris and his podcast. So, here’s two you may not have heard about:
The Columbus Blue Jackets see it that way. Head coach John Tortorella, who is one of the favourites to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, killed the practice completely earlier this season — and the team responded with a 16-game winning streak.
“I think it’s huge for the players,” said Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson, who is tied for fourth in the league with 26 goals and is one goal away from his career high. “You want to be ready to go for the game, not so much for the morning skate. You want to save all your energy. I don’t think it’s a secret. I could see more and more teams doing it.”
The “black box” in the title refers to the little black box in every cockpit that informs the airline industry on the cause of each accident. The point is to improve future performance, eliminate error in critical moments and to encourage growth and development based on those errors.
He sums “Black Box Thinking up this way:
“It is not about literally creating a black box, rather it is about the willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit. It is about creating systems and cultures that enable organizations to learn from errors, rather than being threatened by them.”
One thing, this book brings many disparate ideas together. You may find yourself wishing that it went a bit deeper on a certain point or feel unsatisfied with Syed’s interpretation. I decided that for any idea I was particularly interested in the book served as a starting point for my investigation not an ending point. This is the same way I feel when I read many of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. For example, Gladwell introduced many people to the idea of deliberate training, but he also created an incomplete picture of the concept which you would know only if you hear/read about deliberate training from Anders Ericcson himself. But that is a topic for a different post.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”–Earl Weaver Managing Genius
When I was a kid my dad and my brother Jim were big fans of the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. They thought he was a managing genius.
“Earl Weaver managing genius.” I heard that a lot.
My dad clearly got a kick out of his colorful personality and the things he was willing to say. My father passed away almost 20 years ago this April, but my brother Jim continued to carry the torch for Earl Weaver well into our adult lives. He even made me listen to a You Tube bit in which Earl Weaver spoofed the radio call in shows. It was pretty funny, especially since I thought it was real for the first few minutes.
After my last conversation with my brother about the manager –“Earl Weaver Managing Genius” was oft repeated– I decided to borrow one of his books, Weaver on Strategy so that I could decide for myself what I thought of the guy.
The book is pretty great.
It is remarkably readable even though it is packed with details about how to coach baseball. (I enjoy baseball as a fan, not a coach.) In fact, it reminds me of one of my favorite coaching books which was written by Bill Walsh and is all about how to coach professional football.
Both are jammed with details. These coaches don’t generalize. Their information is specific yet it transcends their sports.
“As I wrote in Seeking Wisdom: “If we reward people for doing what they like to do anyway, we sometimes turn what they enjoy doing into work. The reward changes their perception. Instead of doing something because they enjoy doing it, they now do it because they are being paid. The key is what a reward implies. ”
Complacency versus fear. We experience both while trying to achieve big things. Typically we worry more about latter, but it might be valuable to reconsider.
Recently a friend of mine recommended a video of Alison Levine doing a Ted Talk in which she recounts the lessons she learned about fear and complacency leading an all-women team up Mount Everest. Levine is a polished speaker, the talk is often funny and entertaining, and includes many lessons that can be used while coaching a team.
You can pull out a number of small excerpts throughout to show your team and use them to make a point.
One of my favorites–and I’m paraphrasing–is that “fear is a normal human emotion, but complacency can kill.”
She is discussing the danger that awaits on particularly precarious and dangerous parts of the climb. In those dangerous moments it is better to manage your fear and turn it into focus than it is to be complacent in the face of danger.
I recognize this same dynamic in coaching.
We vilify fear, but in certain situations it can be a useful tool to concentrate the mind or drive us to prepare. Complacency, on the other hand, can creep in and makes us vulnerable to the big moments we failed to prepare for, and to the mundane that we take too lightly.
It can do a lot of damage quickly.
I find this a very useful talking point with players.
Don’t worry too much about having some fear. Fear points you in a direction. It challenges you.
Worry more about becoming complacent and turning manageable tasks into bigger challenges and big challenges into threats.
Levine’s tale of ascending Mount Everest is valuable on many levels. You can find the video Lessons From the Ledge here.