Complacency versus Fear

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.

Complacency versus fear
Photo by Laurel Fan

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.


Learning About Investing Makes Me a Better Coach

investment coach
Photo by ota_photos

I am not an investment coach, but I believe that learning about investing informs my coaching and makes me a better coach.

I enjoy reading and thinking about investing. For many of my friends this is incredibly dull.  OK, for most of my friends.

They really hope that I don’t discuss stocks or the markets. Or, write about it.

Before you turn away or move on, let me share just one thought.

Many of the things that I learn when reading about investing translate into valuable information for coaching.

For example, this little article on an investment site about overcoming our bias towards action.

The author discusses our need to act in most situations even when it might be best to simply do nothing, show patience or have faith.

Many coaches change quickly when times are tough because they feel the need to do something, maybe anything, to impact the situation.  We humans can’t tolerate how it feels to simply continue on the path, or worse, just wait.

Our team calls this urge to act the “Do Something Bias”—the feeling that you need to act, even when the situation doesn’t warrant it. This bias often surfaces when we feel like we are experts in a situation—and feel an undo amount of control over something uncontrollable—or when we face uncertainty and acting is our way to alleviate the anxiety of the unknown. But this bias becomes a problem when the best course of action is to do nothing. And it’s surprising how often this is the case.

It brings to mind a book I am reading and re-reading lately Antifragile, which is more philosophy than investment, but Taleb, the author made his reputation writing in the investing world.

Of course, this is probably true of any field.

The more we expand our interests and reach, the more commonality we will find among disciplines, the wider the lessons we are exposed to and the more thoughtful we can be about coaching.

Much of what we learn in other areas can be applied to coaching and in fact helps us to expand our thinking and improve our work.

So no I’m not an investment coach, but I still think learning about investing makes me a better coach.


Bias Towards Action

The Farnam Street website provides more insight into our tendency to act, our bias towards action, when the best course may be stillness or better yet, maintaining continuity.

The post from Farnam Street begins with this quote:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” — Roman satirist Petronius Arbiter

We all have this bias towards action at some point. Can you recognize it? And, can you stop yourself from action when the opposite is warranted?

The entire article ,which draws from the great book Seeking Wisdom. is worth reading.



Final Four Debut

Ann Killion unpacks the success of the Cal Bears’ women’s basketball team whose win last night over Georgia earned them  a spot in the Final Four. This was their final four debut. They are the first Cal women’s basketball team to do that.

Lindsay Gottlieb, the head coach, also ranks as one of the youngest coaches to do take a team to the Final Four.

Killion credits the team’s ascent to her confident vision for the program,

“After the game, Gottlieb thanked mentor Joanne Boyle for recruiting the players whom she’s inherited. Boyle left for Virginia in 2011, after a second straight year without making the NCAA Tournament. Gottlieb was hired in April 2011 and rallied a downtrodden team. In her first two seasons, she has now won five NCAA Tournament games.

No other Cal coach has accomplished that. No other Cal coach has dared to dream this big, this quickly. Gottlieb arrived and told her team that it had everything it needed to succeed. Gottlieb had a vision.

Moments after cutting down the net at the Spokane Arena, she smiled. The beginning was ugly, but the result was beautiful.

“This is still better,” Gottlieb said, “than my wildest dreams.”




Calipari Takes the Blame

Last week I featured an article from the New York Times about Kentucky basketball in which Calipari takes the blame for his team’s mediocre season. I was impressed by the coaching tactic of accepting responsibility for the team’s troubles.

But curious about his prediction that if they won the next game all would be solved.

It seemed too easy.

They did indeed win the next game. But then they lost the first round of the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt.

Today they were not included in the NCAA tournament. Last year they won it all.

Calipari takes the blame

On another note, you have to be impressed with Miami’s Jim Larranaga, who has only been at the school two years, but was voted ACC Coach of the Year and led his team to an ACC Tournament championship.

He gets his teams focused and prepared:

“This league is so good, that your next opponent is always very, very good, so you have no choice but to stay focused,” Larranaga said. “If we worry about our win streak or rankings, or gloat on our last victories, our minds won’t be focused on the present task. So far, we’ve been very focused no matter if we’ve been home or away, and that makes coaches very happy.”

They are a number 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and on a path to meet Indiana should both teams play as predicted.