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Tuesday’s With Jerry

Books + Responsibility

I tend to dive deep into certain genres or topics when it comes to my reading and listening habits.

Whether we are locked down or not, I will eat up books and podcasts ranging from the nerdiest clinical and nutrition studies, to performance hacks or gadgets, to hardcore business and investing, to get-your-head-out-of-your-butt self help, to edge-of-your-seat-this-won’t-win-any-awards thriller fiction.

Oh and Harry Potter. We like Harry Potter when I need to let my mind take a break.

At the beginning of lockdown my topic of choice was Silicon Valley. I read the book, Bad Blood after having already watched the Inventor on HBO. Bad Blood is written by the Wall Street Journal journalist, John Carreyrou, who blew the lid off the fraud and lies that made up the company, Theranos and its CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Insane story.

And then I read Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. Read is the wrong verb. I could not put down this book. In fact, I’m still reeling from this amazing biography. I’ve read his book on Ben Franklin and it was great but this Steve Jobs one. Holy cow. Whether you’re an Apple person or not, please read this book. Please. It’s almost too good.

Now. I’ve gotten back into the fitness.

Maybe it’s because the Last Dance on ESPN is so damn good. But reading about other athletes and coaches, and hearing them talking about their process and philosophy in their own words is fascinating. It helps clear out the woe-is-me mentality we all like to adopt and gives that little pep in your step we’re all after.

Lately, as lockdowns are easing up and there’s a different type of weird momentum happening in the world, I’m ready to get back into the gym and back to life with the right mindset. Enter: Athletics. It’s a great genre to pick apart when you’re looking for that warrior mentality. Even if you aren’t a sports person, the principles can easily be translated to business and life.

On one of our calls the other week, my owner brought up the book, Mind Gym. I first read this book before going to NYC last April and running a stadium Spartan Race at Citi Field. It’s short, actionable, and great for those of us that like to self-sabotage and get in our own way.

All of these books say the same thing, by the way. Call it process, grit, perseverance, whatever you want. It boils down to what you can control and what you cannot. It’s the mindset you seek. Your thoughts and feelings in the face of any situation are always in your control. And it’s these thoughts and feelings that lead to our actions.

Learning to control them with the mind of a warrior, elite athlete, or CEO, is not easy. Hello that’s why so many books on this exist.

Take skill and combine it with an unapologetic perseverance, and ground it the steady foundation of a calm, confident, and collected mindset. And you get a warrior.

As of yesterday, I just finished up Ben Bergeron’s Chasing Excellence. His premise is about developing the character first. The skills, minutes, and clutch moments are inevitable in life. But to succeed in those moments as an elite athlete, or elite individual, you need not only the hours of training you have accumulated to have the skill to perform, but the will and character to perform successfully.

A good athlete faces a clutch moment and takes the shot. A great athlete faces a clutch moment and makes the shot.

But here’s the kicker. When they don’t make the shot, (or get the job, relationship, or news they want), a good athlete buries his/her head in his hands and leaves the court. A great athlete holds his head up high, takes responsibility, and leaves knowing he/she did everything they could and this is yet another chance to get better.

Mentality separates the great from the exceptional.

MVPs aren’t created from skill alone. They are created when they have learned how to master their emotions, control their reactions, and take responsibility for both.

They work from the inside out.

All of us have that choice. To work from the inside out. To take a breath before we lose our shit on someone. To give that person the benefit of the doubt before judging them.

To realize that while no one asked to be in the positions we are in and a lot of this isn’t fair, we have the choice to play the victim and point the finger or, we can dust ourselves off and take each day as they come with the most grace and composure that we can.

How crazy will it be in ten years when we’re telling our friends and family what it was like during the pandemic of 2020? Right now, in this moment, think about some aspects of this crazy time that are fresh in your mind. The thoughts, feelings, actions, that so far have made up your quarantined lifestyle.

Throughout this mess, and in the lowest of low moments, there was something I tried to remind myself. And that was how I wanted to remember this time and what my narrative was going to be years from now. I want to be able to tell my kids one day what this time meant for me and the people in my life and what I kept doing, changed doing, and started doing in spite of the circumstances that were beyond my control.

There are moments that come to mind right now that I’m not the most proud of. The moments I let the anger, fear, and emotion drive my actions. I was a brat, I played the blame game, and I felt sorry for myself. But other times I got up, stopped being a victim, and remembered I’m alive and healthy and have a life to live and an example to set for Jerry.

We have all had horrible moments. And horrible days. People have been mean and terrible to us and we’ve found ourselves in situations that were not our fault and we broke down. It’s what makes us human. But when you cannot control the people and circumstances going on around you, you must accept that and take control of the only thing you can, your own thoughts and reactions.

Now will you be mostly proud, mostly complacent, or mostly ashamed?

The only way out is through. And you can get through kicking and screaming, Or you can get through with the courage others wish they had.

Not around. Not over. Not side stepped. But through.

This is a graph from Chasing Excellence. Yes, it’s focused on his athletes. But you get the idea. The inner circle are the only things his athletes can control. The outer circle is beyond their control and therefore, cannot be stressed out about. There’s no time for that.

In case you didn’t know, I’m big on taking responsibility for your life. Owning your situation, whatever it is, and however you got there. I don’t care if that person did that awful thing. Good. It gave you the chance to go through something awful and get out on the other end better for it.

If we are constantly playing the victim and looking at our lives and giving credit to the people, jobs, bosses, break ups, and pandemics that put us here, how will we ever get better as individuals?

While choosing to see a positive opportunity out of a confusing and challenging situation is easier said than done, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always strive to do that. I don’t want to work six feet away from people and have a mask on while I’m trying to coach classes. But guess what? I get to do that because I get the chance to set an example, make it fun and comfortable for those around me, and show that I care more about the bigger picture than I do about my own meaningless complaints.

Control what you can. Be the leaders others need. And write the narrative you will want to one day tell.


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