In a numbers driven world that stacks apples to oranges and circles to squares, athletes and parents have become fixated on scores, rankings, and rewards. But when we roll up the proverbial red carpet, there are no footprints left to tell the tale of where you’ve been, what you did, and whose lives you changed along the way. Buried beneath the statistics that define your academic and athletic achievements are an abundance of undefined characteristics – the stats we don’t keep. Good athletes make their mark with goals and assists and shutouts, but great athletes also leave footprints in five very special, less-quantifiable ways.
Imagine for a minute that your greatest God given gifts were taken away from you. What would be left to define you? When your intelligence turns to mediocrity, your hand-eye coordination to shambles, and your quickness to lethargy, how might the parents in the stands, the coaches on your sidelines, and the person you’ve never met, describe you? As ambassadors of great opportunity, it’s your responsibility to place greater value on changing the world than merely changing your own. These are the goals that matter, the assists that change lives, and the shutouts that no one will ever notice – the stats we don’t keep.
1. One strong voice will always be stronger than 10 weak. Parents in the stands, players on the bench, and teammates on the field are three different subcultures, yet all fall victim to one illusion of thought. Mob Mentality….nothing is more dangerous to your success than blindly trusting in the majority’s opinion. Be a team player, but never fall into the trap of collective perspective. Think for yourself, craft your own opinions, and come to your own conclusions. When everyone else asks “why“, take the road less traveled and ask “why not“. Athletes, parents, and teammates must all place greater value in power through positivity, change, and alternate view points than in the belief of the majority.
2. Diversify your friendships. Befriend people unlike you. Surrounding yourself with people who consistently empower you will ill-prepare you for the world that lies ahead. Social media is not real life. We befriend teammates, classmates, cousins, and neighbors in search of likes, shares, and compliments in a world of acceptance, empowerment, self gratification, and the ill perceived fallacy of admiration. Dare to be different. Approach classmates you do not understand and those who do not understand you. Peel back the onion layers to find the core of emotion in all who consistently defy you. Make yourself approachable. Embrace personalities that collide with your own and place faith in a moment of rejection. Those who are truly invested in your life, your success, and your ongoing battle against failure will not only raise you up, but will indeed knock you down. Surround yourself with people who will ground you and empower you at all the right times. Your athletic ability will raise your action potential but to a parent, an onlooker from afar, college coach, professional scout, or employer, you will always be defined by the group of people you call friends. Call them friends not because they compliment your clothes, but because they compliment your path.
3. Exhibit acts of kindness as a way of life, not a way of service. No matter how bad you think your day is going, there is always somebody who has it worse. Be thankful for the life your parents, siblings, and friends have provided you and make an extra effort to bring the same blessings to other people each day. By performing acts of kindness for friends and strangers alike, you will inevitably change the landscape of kindness for as far as an onlooker can see. Think not about the adversity you have faced as an individual and instead focus on what you can do to help others on a similar path. Salt the road for those who will face the slippery slopes behind you and be ready and willing to help if they slip off the less traveled road of resistance. Give change to the homeless, serve dinner at a shelter, deliver groceries to a less fortunate family, compliment a stranger, defend a classmate you have never met, or buy a veteran a coffee. Kindness is the shortest distance between just being and just being great.
4. Embrace alone time. It’s OK to be alone. Go to the movies alone. Leave your cell phone in the car, hold the door for a stranger, and wait in line. Buy your ticket from a human being. Buy a bag of popcorn. Enter the movie theater. Don’t sit in the back – sit in the middle. Relax. No one is looking at you. No one cares that you’re alone. No one has noticed that you’re alone. Embrace your alone time. Reflect on who you are, who you want people to portray you as, and how you are going to accomplish that feat. Being alone is OK. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you need alone time. Introverts need alone time to recharge. Extroverts need alone time to decompress. Being alone is an opportunity to reorganize your color palate, prime the canvas, and paint the picture of your life as you want others to view it. Being alone doesn’t make you different, it makes you indifferent. Never underestimate the power of being alone.
5. Sit in the front of class. Research shows that those who sit in the front of class are 81% more likely to beat the class average than those who sit in the back. Research also shows that students who sit in the front of class ultimately have better hearing, vision, attention, and eye contact when conversing with strangers. Where do you sit? No different than in sport, when you’re in the front, others admire you for your courage, your work ethic, diligence and consistency. You never go unnoticed, your voice is always heard, and you will always work harder to maintain that position. Alternately, when you’re in the back, no one notices you, your achievements typically yield less reward, and your ability to impact the bell curve for success is essentially null. Sitting in the front of class is your opportunity to take advantage of a leadership position. Control what you can and confront with courage all that you can’t. When all that God has given you is taken away, will you be the person that was always sitting in the back, or leading class from the front?