A Revelation: Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Easy

I was burning through a fitness blender yesterday followed by blistering 4:30 minute half mile intervals (ha ha) and it occurred to me that life wasn’t meant to be easy.

(I recognize that for far too many people life is far too hard and it would be great if it could be significantly easier. It would also be tremendous if we went out of our ways to make it easier for the people around us. Friend, family and stranger.)

But, specifically for me at this juncture I recognized that I am just not happy when it’s too easy. I don’t want to just hang out at the beach.

There is a tremendous pleasure in taking on a really difficult project and seeing it to completion.  Most people have heard of the concept of Flow, but not as many have read the wonderful book Finding Flow, by social scientist Czichzentmihalyi.

In this book he alerts us to the remarkable finding that people self report that they are happiest while in the midst of work. Later, however, when asked to report what activities they believe will make them happy, they say they prefer to sit and watch something, or hang out and relax.

But, they don’t actually report the same level of satisfaction while in the real-time  activity.

It makes sense, right?

We are happiest when fully engaged.

But we are sold this idea that we need to be relaxing.

Who sells this idea? Everyone who can make money if you choose to watch cable, drink beer, or make netflix binge watching the destination.

Every now and again that’s a fun thing to do because it’s a contrast to a purposeful life.

I’m working on getting fitter right now. There is no focus on weight or even health, although that’s good, but actual fitness. Why? I love working hard when I’m doing it and after.

I just think I hate it all the rest of the time.

It would be great to increase my capacity to train hard at this point in my life.

Recently I read the book by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness called Peak Perfomance.

The important nugget in the book is their growth equation:


Throughout the book they redefine stress and rest and growth.  As a result I have redefined them for myself as well.

What is stress?

Reframe stress as a challenge. Challenges are good for us physically as well mentally.

Put yourself out at the edge of your ability and work on getting better. When I chug around the block at a 4:30 minute half mile pace that is a challenge for me especially by the third interval. I hope in the near future that I’ll be discussing a 4 minute pace, but I’m not right now.

When I hit publish on a blog post that is stress for me right now. What will people think? Did I write it well enough? Tell too much? Too little?

This is where I have to dig deep into my Stephen Pressfield mindset and hit publish.

What is rest?

life wasn't meant to be easyWell, it’s not just sitting on my butt.  I like the example in the book of the Norwegian cross country skiers.  On their rest days they ski. Very slowly.  I’ve started to adopt this for myself.  On my rest days I go for slow contemplative walks in the woods.  I get a lot of steps on my fitbit, but at a super slow pace.

You can take this philosophy and apply it beyond sports. I am thinking about this in terms of work.

The book covers much more ground than this when discussing rest.

What is growth?

This is such a good question. We know objectively what growth is in many ways. If you hit a personal best or your team wins a championship that is an obvious sign of growth. But what if it leads to burn out? Or can’t be sustained?

What if you never win or get better, but the actual effort is satisfying? Is that growth?

What if it leads to excellence in something else, or deep insight?

These are all important questions. In the book the authors are trying to help us reach higher levels without burning out. That is an incredibly valuable effort and important even for us amateurs.

There are also natural endings or ascensions in life. Sometimes we are just done with an activity and ready for the next one. This is also growth and requires of us the wisdom to move forward.


Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading

vacation's overVacation’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.

Back to work I go.

Coaching Book :

In honor of March Madness I read John Feinstein’s book The Legend’s Club

In the past, I have read and enjoyed other Feinstein books including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled

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Pete Carrill, Legendary Princeton Basketball Coach

The Smart Take From the Strong

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)

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Love to Read. Podcasts Devoted to Books

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:

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Weekend Links: A Measured Dose of Chaos

Another snowy Sunday. A good time for the weekend links.

Goodbye to the morning skate

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.”

Lessons From the Championship

Training Towards Reality

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Learn From Mistakes. Your Own and Others.

Black Box Thinking

Mistakes are inevitable. The ability to learn from mistakes is not, yet it is a critical factor in our growth and success as professionals.
I just finished the book Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Mathew Syed. I recommend it for anyone interested in examining more deeply our failures, our successes, and the intersection of the two.

learn from mistakesThe “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.

Back to the topic at hand.

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Earl Weaver, Managing Genius

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”–Earl Weaver Managing Genius

Earl Weaver Managing Genius
Photo by Keith Allison 

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.

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Sunday Links: Intrinsic Motivation and Reward

[su_heading size=”24″]Sunday Links: Insights on reward, decision making, leadership and more[/su_heading]

*An interview with author Peter Bevelin who took a year off to read, write and think his way through some important ideas.

“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. ”

reward photo

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