Win Goals with Heart

I’m not quite sure what compelled me, but I recently found myself researching soccer players. And on this deep road, I had to explore a woman player whom I think is the greatest of all time, Michelle Akers. Like me, a #10 starting midfielder, she played every minute with such intensity and passion. Her love of the game and drive to leave everything on the field, holding nothing back, inspired me so many of my own soccer playing years.

And the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup Championship?—I can’t forget that time. Michelle Akers and the entire team powered through that championship like a true team does, with authentic teamwork and great tenacity. I was young back then, and only now can I truly appreciate not just the sport at this intensity but the lives that these players lived, the challenges they faced. It’s a different perspective to see that they are indeed human like everyone else on and off the field. They had challenges of being a mom while also a player, of endured athletic injuries, and of the slow yet sudden growth of the sport in the media, especially for women, during this time.

I remembered Michelle Akers always being injured in some way, and it was her continuous fight to play that I thought of often when I wanted to quit. Being one of the oldest women players to play in the World Cup, she sported cuts on her face, wrapped up wrists, sore ankles, dashes across her knees that have been operated on multiple times, and a damaged shoulder. Then to learn that she too was battling Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) just blew my mind. How was she playing 90 minute games and with such strength? I had to learn more and picked up her autobiography, The Game and the Glory.—I can hardly put it down.

I’m still in the midst of reading, but I am so absorbed by its detailed description of Michelle’s minute-to-minute perspective leading up to the 1999 World Cup final game against China and the time during that matchup. It’s as though I am right there with her and just urging her to not give up while her tank deteriorates toward empty even though I already know the outcome of the championship. And while she was able to hold on during the final game regulation time but got helped off the field from exhaustion prior to penalty kicks, you can feel her sense of just never giving up. It took me right back to this sense I always got while watching her play back then.

So where does this endurance come from?
From my perspective, a few things:

First, curiosity. In the book, she describes how, with CFIDS, she wasn’t in self-pity and thinking “why me?” She was asking better questions. Akers says in a NY Daily News interview, “It was ‘What does this mean?’ and ‘How do you want me to change?’ That was the question I would shout at God.” The book describes how most people decide to change their lifestyle with CFIDS, but Michelle decided to compete with it. Her curiosity opened herself up to learn ‘how’.

Second, awareness. She checks in with herself to see how she is feeling. While it may seem small, this act of self-awareness is key to understanding what next steps to take.

Lastly, heart. She loves the game and has such a commitment to her team, herself, and to her faith.

These three things stand out at me while I read.

I’ve only owned this book for a few hours now and am just a quarter in, but I’m learning and gaining so much. The energy in this read is so powerful and inspiring. I highly recommend checking out this book. I cannot wait to finish the rest of it.

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Win Goals with Heart

Negative Creative Talk

It is often said in story that creatives are troubled souls. They live difficult lives which expresses itself in their art. Then they have a challenging career trying and struggling to make a living doing what they love: creating. They don’t take the typical path many people follow. They must create.

Being a creative myself, I think of this. And then I think about many entrepreneurs I interviewed and read about this past winter. Many of them describe a fear of getting in their own way of moving forward in their creative venture. This is so striking to me, and I can relate more than not. Creating a vision, whether its wall art or a business, is creating; and this is hard. Every time. There’s risk to be faced with, vulnerability.

Steven Pressfield writes a whole book about this in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this book referenced in other resources I’ve studied since, and I revisit this read often. Pressfield points it out right up front: “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.” You can substitute [writing] for your creativity of choice here.

In doodling recently, I sketched this drawing:

A cartoon drawing
Negative Creative Talk: A blank page is thinking “I’m afraid vision will never come to me.” An ink pen is thinking “I’m afraid of making a permanent mistake.”

Figuratively speaking, this illustration highlights the negative self talk we do that builds creative resistance. Some people have visions [blank pages] that never come to life because they’re afraid each move is a pass-or-permanently-fail scenario. Therefore, the steps are never taken where the pen meets paper, where new creativity comes to life.

The reality is that the permanent pen is a pencil, a constant work in progress. It’s only a permanent mistake if you don’t learn along the journey, from both the failures and successes. As a side note, I drew this illustration in pencil, not ink; and I drew it three times before I got it right.

Pressfield also says “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us.” —This is the life we create.

There’s no such thing as creative block, just a fear of putting ink to the page.

Just start. The pen and paper would look far more cheerful if you did.

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Negative Creative Talk

Three Central Values

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey references Victor Frankl’s perspective about how there are three central values in life:

  1. Experiential: What happens to us
  2. Creative: What we bring into existence
  3. Attitudinal: Our response to difficult circumstances

Covey highlights that the greatest value here is attitudinal because it’s important how we respond to situations and reframe them in a positive way. While I agree with this assessment, I think it’s also important to put equal emphasis on the creative value. If we simply lived in experiential and attitudinal, we would be in an endless cycle of “this happens” and “this is my reaction”. This back and forth tennis match is not the most exciting. Covey explains the importance of being proactive, which is good; but still the creative gets little attention.

Creative is what brings in the new, the inspiration, and the change. While experiential and attitudinal is important, no doubt, I think there needs to be more creative in order to positively aid attitudinal and exit a negative paradigm.

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Three Central Values

What is the Most Valuable Land?

“What do you think is the most valuable land in the world?”

Several people threw out guesses, such as Manhattan, the oil fields of the Middle East, and the gold mines of South Africa, before our friend indicated that we were way off track. He paused for a moment, and said, “You’re all wrong. The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, unreconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”

– Todd Henry, Die Empty

I like this thought because it reminds me that we only have one shot on this planet. There is another quote that says “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever does,” and I don’t want to be in this scenario. I want to leave a legacy at my grave, not a wonder of what could have been.

I’ve heard this question and answer a few times recently in other media channels, and it’s a good reminder to step back and reflect on what you’re doing with your life. It’s as valuable as you make it.

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What is the Most Valuable Land?

Presentation Notes

I saw a presentation today from someone providing training to a large group of people on their company software product already purchased. Not only were they providing training, but they too were selling buy-in to the attendees who were not as familiar with this purchasing decision and current implementation progression. I thought the presenter’s delivery was very well done. Here’s why:

  • They stated their “why”, and it felt trustworthy. If you’re not familiar with this concept, check out Simon Sinek’s work.
  • They personalized the presentation by using words like “you” and “your” to connect with the audience.
  • They predicted and highlighted nearly all “if” scenarios I could think of and answered them prior to someone asking the question.
  • They used relatable analogies to describe their product as oppose to jargon.
  • The presentation slides were clean, simple, and had a time-progressing outline so everyone knew where we were within the training agenda.
  • The presentation slides were their own style, not some typical template and outline format most pitches follow.
  • There was a good mix of slides and live demo. All demos were on live customer sites which provided not only credibility but also perspective on how flexible the product can be.
  • The speaker was open for questions any time and answered them with great, professional care. For questions that could turn into product improvements, the speaker noticeably took interest and noted them on his own laptop to bring back to share with the company team.
  • Both strengths and weaknesses were shared, and a product roadmap helped balance the two.
  • The training finished early but without rushing any part of the presentation.

I think it’s interesting to study other speakers and presentation styles. You can always learn something from the content, yes; but you can also learn from the delivery style.


Presentation Notes