3 Life Lessons from the Basketball Court

This weekend’s NCAA Final Four brings out the best that college athletics has to offer.

It’s been almost 15 years since my last college basketball game, and the lessons I learned in college sports have helped me in life and in sales.

In August of 1999, I stepped on campus with the goal of making a college basketball team. Leaving a small west Texas town, I came to a school hundreds of miles from home as a walk-on with only the promise from the head coach of a chance to tryout to make the team.

We started with 20 walk-ons, all with a single goal — making the team. We went through tryouts, practices, weight training, and conditioning sessions. In the end, there were 2 of us that made the roster.

msu-roster

Over the course of the next 3 years, I went from walk-on to scholarship athlete. But the lessons I learned playing have stuck with me and prepared me for new challenges. Looking back, the 3 reasons I made the team are the same qualities that lead to success in sales, in business, and in life.

  • Grit
  • Resilience
  • Coachability

GRIT

Grit involves staying determined and persisting when faced with rejection or lack of progress. As a walk-on college basketball player, you have to develop a sense of grit to believe that the time and energy your putting in will eventually lead to results. Ultimately, the sacrifice I made – putting in the work and staying focused on the goal of playing a college sport – paid off and I made the men’s basketball team at Midwestern State University.

In life and especially in sales, you have to know that you’ll face rejection and discomfort. The ability to stay determined and focus on the goal allows us to keep moving forward, even in the face of discouragement. It can be easy to get down and lose hope, however having experienced success because of grit in the past reminds us of what is possible, even when the odds are not in our favor.

Resilience

Resilience and grit go hand in hand. When you get knocked down, do you stay there, or do you scrape yourself off the floor and go at it again? Getting knocked down is inevitable, but getting back up is a choice. And getting up with the right attitude is even more important.

In sales, we face ups and downs. The market changes. Our product has technical issues. Potential customers show us the door. Resilience is getting up again each time we experience a setback and giving it another shot. When you fail and when you fall, can you regroup and bounce back with the same attitude and enthusiasm you had when you began?

Getting up when you get knocked down is possible. Regaining the courage and enthusiasm to go at it again is what takes resilience to the next level.

Coachability

As a walk-on, you have to be coachable – willing to listen, to learn, to adapt, and to do whatever is asked, without questioning or complaining. The ability to take positive and negative feedback and make the changes is one of the quickest ways to earn credibility and respect.

To be successful in your job, you have to be coachable. Listen to those who have been successful and emulate what they do. Whether it’s a manager, a leader, or a colleague, when you step into a role for the first time, you have to do so with gratitude and the willingness to learn.

When you combine coachability with gratitude and humility, you have the opportunity to improve and make a difference.

Developing the walk-on mindset

Trying to make a team by walking on is not an easy thing to do. You have got to show up early and stay late and improve every day. You have to do the little things while showing grit, perseverance, and resilience. Learn to lead up and influence those around you with your example and enthusiasm. Figure out how to add value to those around you by your actions and attitudes.

As we watch the Final Four this weekend, I hope we see the best that college athletics has to offer.  The games are fun to watch. The stories are captivating. And the lessons we learn last long after the final horn sounds.

Develop a sense of grit, bounce back when you fall, and be coachable. Use the mindset of a walk-on to make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.

 

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E.P.I.C. Students – 7 Tips for Implementing Classroom Technology

It was 20 years ago that I first stepped foot onto a college campus. As I spend more time on college campuses, it’s amazing how much students and classrooms have changed over the last 2 decades. We had little access to technology, and if we wanted to call home, we had to wait in line at the one pay phone in the dorm.Technology Blog Pic

Contrast this experience with what students see today.  Almost all students step on campus with at least one connected device, and most have access to two or more. Classrooms and buildings have been updated with WiFi to keep students connected. Instructors plan and design lectures to be interactive as technology has allowed us to communicate and engage students.

Since becoming a teacher in 2004, I have seen various technologies come and go. Sometimes technology changes the way we do things for the better, and sometimes technology just changes how we do things. Our students today come with a different perspective and background even compared to those from just 10 years ago.

Dr. Tim Elmore has done a vast amount of research on today’s students (http://growingleaders.com/tim-elmore/). He describes today’s students as E.P.I.C.

Experiential – students prefer a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage.

Participatory – these students grew up with American Idol and are accustomed to having a “vote”.

Image Rich – “Screenagers” – this is the language of the 21st century.

Connected – they view technology as vital – comparable to air and water.

As we think about this EPIC generation, we can begin to plan new ways of instruction and engagement in our classes. One of the most powerful ways that I’ve used technology to impact students is by incorporating a student response system. In my time at i>clicker / REEF Polling, I have seen how students can participate and stay connected, while using technology in an intentional and purposeful way.

The rest of this blog will look at 7 ways to get the most out of your student response system.

Explain Why

Author Simon Sinek, discusses the importance of “Why” in his book Start with Why. When we explain the why, we plant the seeds for success and students begin to buy in to what we are trying to accomplish. As you share your goals with students, your “why” may include the following:

  • Promote participation and attendance
  • Provide and receive instant feedback
  • Foster community
  • Increase engagement
  • Assess comprehension
  • Generate discussions
  • Enhance conceptual understanding
  • Provide students with additional resources.

These are just a few ideas of why we would want to use a student response system with our EPIC students.

 

Set Expectations Early

To be clear is to be kind. By letting know students what to expect, we remove surprises and set ourselves up for success. Let students know what they need to bring – i>clicker, phone, or laptop – and let them know early on how to access. Use your syllabus and Blackboard to share useful tips and information as well as resources and support.

You might also consider dropping the lowest 5-10 scores. This encourages participation and allows for challenges that arise over the course of a semester (i.e. forgot their i>clicker or phone). This is also a great time to discuss academic integrity and cheating.

By setting expectations early on, we help set students up for success and lay a solid foundation for a successful semester.

 

Use for more than attendance

Use for more than just a replacement of a sign-in sheet. The SAMR model is a great illustration of the hierarchy and goal of technology. If we simply use technology as a substitute for an older way of doing things, then we fail to get the most out of technology.

As we move along the spectrum, from Augmentation, to Modification, and the ultimate goal of Redefinition, we have a chance to do things with technology that were not possible prior to that technology being available.

For example, in a class of 200 students, if we only use a clicker to take attendance, we’ve simply substituted what we used to do with pencil and paper. However, if we ask questions, allow time for discussion, and provide instant feedback for students, then we begin to redefine teaching and learning with technology.

If we leverage the technology available, we can help students learn and succeed, and we ultimately create more engaging classrooms.

 

Allow time for discussions

One of the best examples of discussions comes from an instructor using REEF Polling at the University of North Texas. She gives students a question about the best choices of breakfast foods. She then presents new information and allows students time for discussions. Finally she asks the same question again to students. She is able to see the shift in students’ thinking, and students are able to see their progress.

Breakfast pic question

Use for more than just multiple choice

While mobile technology sometimes allows for more types of questions (target and open-ended), physical clickers can also allow students to answer numeric and short answer questions. While may not ask students to type “War and Peace” with their a clicker, if we can have them answer different types of questions, we’re more likely for them to be engaged and participate.

Short answer question

 

Review/Recap or Exit Poll

As class ends, ask students a final question to assess whether or not they got the main point. You can also allow students to ask their own questions or provide feedback on what they’d like to see next class.

  • Did students get it?
  • Are we ready to move on?
  • Did the activity work?
  • How did I do?

 

Extend use beyond the classroom

Encourage students to access information and review after class. If you sync your scores to Blackboard, remind students to check to see how many points they received. If students are using REEF Polling, have them review sessions to see questions that were asked.

Student Review

 

Looking ahead to a new semester

Technology, when used effectively, increases the chances of making a difference with our students. As we look to a new semester, we have a new opportunity to reach students and impact future generations. Technology opens doors and allows us to do new things with our students.

Our students today are Experiential, Participatory, Image rich, and Connected. Knowing this will allow us to plan, prepare, and implement technology in a powerful way to engage our students and transform the landscape of education.

 

Note: The above article was modified from a webinar I recently hosted entitled 7 Strategies for a Successful Student Response Experience.

Webinar pic

How to Lose a Sale and Gain a Customer (for life)

Are we serving our customers or just selling to them?

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the heat and the mosquitoes. With the recent rains we’ve received over the last 6 months, mosquitoes have set their sights on any who venture outdoors. As we prepare to wage war against these pesky pests, we recently contacted our pest control company to see how they could help. Lawn

My wife called our pest control company and talked to the sales rep. She asked about the mosquito treatment we’d recently seen advertised. The sales rep had a hot lead and could have sold us on any package he wanted. He could have zinged us with the Zika virus or warned us about West Nile. Instead, he asked us questions, told us the truth, and didn’t sell us a thing.

He asked questions about our house and location, and he realized that an additional service was not a good fit. The truth is that they could sell us an something extra, but it would not do help any more than what we were already doing.

The sales rep could have easily sold us a service and made a commission. However, by telling us that we might not benefit from what they provide, he gained our trust, and more importantly our loyalty and referrals. We were happy with their service before, but by telling us the truth and NOT selling us a product, they created a customer for life and one who will refer others.

How many of us would walk away from a sell or a deal because we value our customers and seek to serve them? If we add value, serve our customers, and seek to solve their problems, we may not always make the initial sale. But if our goal is long-term success and relationships, the sell we turn down today may lead to the customer that sticks with you for life.

12 Reflections on 1200 Straight Days of Running

IMG_3328It started off as an ordinary February day. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the day itself, but looking back now I wish I’d paid more attention. On a typical week, I’d hit lift weights at the YMCA and find time to run 2-3 times during the week. This day was like most Friday’s, but 3 years later, Feb. 15th, 2013 is the day this whole madness started.

Today marks day 1,200 of my Running Streak – meaning I’ve run every day for the last 3+ years (minimum of 2 miles). I never planned this; it just sort of happened. I guess I thought I’d try to run every day for a week. That week turned into 2, then 3, and before I knew it, I was approaching 100 days of running.

So here we are 171 weeks later still going at it, and not knowing how to quit. Looking back, here are 12 takeaways from the last 1200 days.

  1. You have to be intentional.
  2. Some days are easier than others.
  3. The best way to run in the morning is to set out your clothes the night before.
  4. My wife deserves 95% of the credit (She’s a saint!).
  5. Habits – good and bad – are hard to break
  6. Cruise ships are much more fun to run around than hotel parking lots.
  7. Texas summers are miserable.
  8. I’m a much more pleasant person when I run in the morning.
  9. “What we’re doing here is not a mark of intelligence.”- Jon Simpson
  10. I’m very thankful for hotel treadmills.
  11. My dad is my hero – at age 73, he’s averaged 3 miles a day for the last 365+ days.
  12. Set goals and celebrate milestones.

    IMG_2927
    Lily deserves a gold star for joining me on most early morning. 

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a quick snapshot of observations over the last 3 years. I never set out to take on such an endeavor, but now that I’m here, I suppose we’ll keep going.

Over the next 100 days, I’ll probably complain about the heat and humidity of Texas summers for 90 of them. And for the other 10, I’ll most likely be on a treadmill somewhere.

So bear with me as my twitter feed is 90% running, and the next time you see my wife, make sure to congratulate her for enduring and supporting such nonsense.

Happy Streaking!

IMG_3417

 

Cartwheels and Comfort Zones

3 Goal Setting Lessons from Gymnastics Class

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughter to her gymnastics class. For the past 3 months she’s been diligently working to perfect her cartwheels, and as I watched the session, my eyes were opened to some important lessons on goal setting and getting out of our comfort zones. Cartwheels

When you’re 6 years old and you’ve never done a cartwheel before, it’s scary to invert yourself and get both legs in the air. My six year old doesn’t want to get hurt doing something she’s only seen but never done herself. The challenge is wanting to do something significant but being afraid to take actions that move us toward our goals.

We tend to stay in our comfort zones instead of taking steps that move us toward our goals. Sometimes we’re scared of falling, and sometimes we fear what others will think.

There are 3 problems with the status quo.

  • It’s safe, but it keeps you from doing something significant.
  • You’ll never fall, but you’ll never fly.
  • You won’t stand out, but you’ll never see what could be either. 

When you’re 28, 38, or 68, it’s easy to let our desire to stay safe keep us from taking a chance. What if we try something we’ve never done before and we don’t succeed? Staying comfortable is safe. The trade off for staying is safe is that we lose the opportunity to do something truly significant.

Coaches give us courage

An amazing thing happened when the gymnastic coach came over to help. While she was still scared, she began to believe that she could go a little higher and a little further than she could by herself. Her coach instilled courage and was able to spot her to give her confidence.

When we set our goals, who do we surround ourselves with? (Hopefully people that don’t end sentences with the word “with”). Surrounding ourselves with the right coach and community can help us go further than we could by ourselves.

Accountability leads to amazing.

Without accountability, it’s easy to revert back to the old way of doing things. This was apparent when the kids started doing various activities on their own (circuit). The coach couldn’t focus on every athlete, and my 6 year old daughter was smart enough to know when she was being watched – and when she wasn’t.

As I watched her move through the exercises, an interesting thing happened. When the coach with her, she worked harder and took more risks. However, when the coach turned to work with another gymnast and wasn’t watching, she regressed and fell back to doing what was comfortable.

Six year olds know when they’re being watched – and so do 36 year olds. Without accountability, we’ll never accomplish our true potential. Surrounding ourselves with the right people – a coach or a group – can help keep us accountable.

Our car ride home after the class was insightful. Whether she consciously realized it or not, she agreed that she was not pushing herself when her coach wasn’t around. We agreed that she should do her best with or without the coach their, and she should make an effort to move out of her comfort zone and into the cartwheel zone. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Closer to home

Regardless of what our goal are, we can right them down. We can commit to them. We can structure our days so that we devote time to moving the needle. However, over time we can easily slip back into a mindset of comfort unless we’re self-aware and surround ourselves with the ones that will push us and hold us accountable.

As we get older, we look to stay comfortable. For many different reasons, we’ll never take the actions that we perceive as risky. The result is that we won’t have to worry about skinning our knees or falling in front of others. But we’ll also never have the chance to do something significant. Keeping one foot on the ground is a way to not fall, but it’s certainly not a way to do a cartwheel.

As for me, I got more out of that class than every other young gymnast there. Unless I take the actions that move me out of my comfort zone, I won’t make the progress that moves me closer to my goals.

To my daughter, keeping one foot on the ground is safe. But safe won’t let a 6 year old do a cartwheel. And safe won’t let the rest of us do amazing things. I hope we’ll all find a way to move out of our comfort zones this week!

Instructional Technology

3 Things Technology Can Do (and 3 things it never should)

When I took my first teaching job in 2004, technology was starting to emerge in the classroom. Very few students had their own devices, and teachers were learning new ways to teach and engage students. Technology Blog Pic

Over the last 10 years, technology in the classroom has created some incredible learning opportunities, and we’ve seen a number of changes – from the way we teach to the way we manage our classrooms. From a teachers perspective, sometimes the challenge becomes leveraging technology in a way that takes something off an educator’s plate, instead of adding something else onto it.

Whether in a middle school math class or an intro chemistry class at a university, there are at least 3 things that technology can (and should) do.

  1. Engage – Technology allows instructors and students to engage at a level that was impossible to do just 20 years ago. Through technology, we have the ability to understand difficult concepts that in the past were abstract. If we can utilize the devices that students already use and are comfortable with, we have removed a barrier and engagement increases.
  2. Connect – Today’s student is connected. Very few of us are every more than an arms length away from our phones. Technology allows us to connect to a community, both inside and outside of the classroom. If we as educators can use technology to connect with our students in the classroom, we can start to understand the gaps and reach those students who need us most.
  3. Maximize efficiency – Technology provides a way to streamline many of the processes and housekeeping items that take away valuable instruction time. As educators, we should leverage technology to automate and empower students. Taking attendance, sharing presentations, and providing feedback are ways that educators can use technology to reclaim valuable classroom time. If we simply use technology to help us make the best use of the time we have, then we are beginning to leverage technology, and not just implementing it.

As valuable a tool as technology can be, there are also 3 things that technology cannot do.

  1. Technology cannot replace educators who care. Teachers have an incredible ability and responsibility to create relationships with their students. No App or social network can take the place educators who invest in the lives of their students.
  2. Technology cannot replace dynamic presenters and effective communicators.  It can allow us different ways to communicate, but Siri and Alexa are poor substitutes for the passion and knowledge that educators can bring to the table.
  3. And finally, if educators are to fully leverage technology into classrooms, it should not create additional work. While there may be a learning curve, and sometimes we may have to spend time on the front end to design or create, in the long run, technology should be used to optimize the most valuable commodity we have – TIME. When technology fails to work or creates more problems than solutions, then we have only substituted one medium for another.

Many things have changed since my first year in that 9th grade Algebra classroom. We’ve seen initiatives come and go. We’ve seen technology change the way we do many things. In some ways the role of an educator has changed, but the one thing that remains is the impact teachers have on students.

Now that I’m on the outside of the classroom looking in, I am grateful for the educators who have invested in me. I’m also thankful to be able to work with a group of people that influences future generations, and I hope that in some small way, I can help leverage technology to make a difference with teachers and students.

 

Margin – 3 Ways to Transition to Home from a Home-Office

Most people hate the idea of a commute. I admit, being stuck in rush hour traffic is frustrating. However, when you travel to an office or a location outside your home to work, you create “MARGIN” in your life.

Margin is the cushion lets you be your best possible self. When you create a boundary between work and home you can process what you’ve done at work and start to focus on your family who’s anxiously awaiting your arrival at home.

When you work from home and you exit your office door at 5:00 p.m., you are thrown directly into the excitement and drama that can be your family. Without margin in your life, you gone from calling on clients to calling your kids out of the tree. From closing million dollar deals to closing pantry doors. From planning marketing events to planning dinners that may or may not be appreciated.

So how do we create margin when working from home? Here are 3 quick tips.

  1. Go through the motions – Shut down what you’re working on, leave the office, go outside, and come back in. The physical action of stopping one thing and starting another can help your mind transition and your energy level increase.
  2. Work with your spouse and kids – Let them know that your plan is to give them 100%, but explain in order to do so you need 5-10 minutes. My wife, Chelsea, has done a great job of encouraging (requiring) me to break after work and before I’m present with her and the girls.
  3. Exercise – The most powerful way I’ve found is to get in a workout right after work and before being home. Even if it’s just 2 miles when I finish work, those 20 minutes (I’m slow) give me an outlet and let me recharge my battery. Do some push-ups or burpees. Go for a walk. It won’t take long, and the benefits will make you a better spouse, parent, or friend.

I’ve worked from home for the last 3+ years, and we are still adjusting to some of the challenges. I’ll address some of the other challenges in subsequent posts, but in the meantime, understand that creating margin leads to stability and gives you the ability to give the people that mean the most to you what they deserve.

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to create margin in your life?