This week I had the distinct privilege of visiting an alternative high school that serves the neediest and most challenged of students. My conversation with the principal—a man who has given his life to reach and impact disadvantaged youth and help turn their lives around—left me inspired and encouraged. His stories of the ups and downs of working with that student population reminded me of the introduction to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” when the narrator would dramatically announce, “…the thrill of VICTORY and the agony of DEFEAT.” Seeing a homeless student from a background of gangs and violence graduate from high school—victory! Seeing another go back to the streets—defeat.
No matter where our life path takes us, each of us experiences both victories and defeats. Whether it’s sports, contests, career, dating, or school, you win some and you lose some. Most of us don’t have too much difficulty with the winning part.
But does the fact that we don’t always win mean we’ve lost? Perhaps, narrowly defined, the answer may be “Yes,” but in most cases the answer is emphatically “No.” Many of our “losses” prepare us for our victories later on—that is, if we choose to learn from our defeats.
Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to say that winning “is the only thing.” Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, on the other hand, used to simply ask his players to play their best, and that was good enough for him.
I’m probably more in John Wooden’s camp (despite growing up 20 miles from Green Bay!). Winning may be an important goal, but I don’t believe we’re losers if we don’t finish in first place. The key is to learn from a defeat and use it as input for the next practice and for future strategy.
Turning a defeat into a victory can be positively transformational. One example that comes to my mind is a program I heard of recently in which teen moms reach out to younger girls and share their stories. With unique authenticity and perspective, they can encourage their younger peers to make wise and strategic life choices. It’s already making a big difference.
Humbly celebrate your victories and see how you can gain from your defeats. It will position you to do better the next time, and it certainly will take some of the sting out of your losses!
How have you handled your victories and losses? Do you view a short-term loss as a learning experience to help achieve greater heights in the future? Are you satisfied with the outcome if you did your best?
Being half Irish, I love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day I may not be a big fan of corned beef and cabbage, but bring on a pint of green brewsky and a good rendition of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and I’m in the zone!
Have you ever thought about what your eyes—what your countenance in general, really—say about you? When I first meet someone, I look at their eyes (are they kind?) and their mouth (are they joyful?). Sound crazy? Actually, these cues are often spot on, indicators of a person’s level of engagement. If the eyes and mouth don’t make a great first impression, it’s likely the rest of the person won’t either.
What impression do you give other people when they meet you for the first time? Your countenance matters! After all, the person you just met could become a new friend, future spouse, future in-law, potential employment reference, employer, manager, industry contact, mentor, or client. The fact is, life is a series of chance moments with others, and you never know what might become of the people you meet and the role they could play in your life.
There’s a wise saying: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” In fact, most employment recruiters will say that the first 30 seconds of an interview will make or break your chances! Yes, that’s 30 seconds! For some, it only takes five!
In order to foster successful new relationships, it’s essential to make a great first impression with everyone you meet. Here’s all it takes:
- Demonstrate through your countenance, words, and body language that you’re happy to meet them
- Give a firm, confident handshake and look them in the eye
- Smile and be positive and enthusiastic
- Be inquisitive. Show an interest in them and in what they say. Focus more on listening to them than talking about yourself.
- Remain engaged in the conversation and avoid distractions like calls and texts
- Use good manners and be gracious
Surprisingly, many people just don’t get it. They allow negative thoughts, cynicism, suspicion, self-focus, and indifference to cloud their countenance. They may not realize it, but it shows—and it can be a real turnoff. They may say all the right things, do all the right things, yet wonder why others aren’t warming up. Many times, it all comes down to countenance. Your smile can make all the difference!
Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite smiles—people who are revered by their fan bases:
Magic Johnson after the famous Lakers Win May 16, 1980
How are your eyes and smile looking these days? What do they reveal about you? Try asking a few trusted friends about what your countenance is saying. Be sure you’re making a terrific first impression—there’s more at stake than you think!
Think about the people you are drawn to—and those you aren’t. Then think about their eyes and smiles (or lack thereof). Does their countenance play into your impression of them? What type of impression do YOU make on others? Please share your thoughts and feedback with us; we’d love to hear from you.
I love being with School Counselors. I think they’re the “heart of the school.” They are asked to do so much—guiding the high achiever and those who are struggling mightily with life. What’s more, the fingerprints they leave with their wisdom, care, and direction aren’t often felt until years later—long after their students have left to their next steps. It’s so reminiscent of Mr. Holland’s Opus (one of my favorite movies), where Mr. Holland had no idea of the countless students whose lives he impacted. I know I speak for the masses of graduates who look back and wish we’d thanked our counselors for pouring into our lives.
Such was the case last week in Newport News, Virginia where I keynoted for the annual VSCA conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from those in the trench…who are dealing with complex student and parent issues like never before. It was a privilege to say, “Thank you!” from all of us who look back with such appreciation for their guidance. These days, with the multitude of familial and cultural headwinds students are facing, it’s the school counselors who are the front line, “keeping the boat afloat.” They’re making a huge difference, one student at a time.
So, thank you VSCA and dear friend, Bea McLeod (pictured) for having me, and especially for all you do to serve the students of the great state of Virginia. You ROCK!
It used to be that when I was upset, I either made a rash decision or said something I would later regret. I don’t know about you, but that never worked for me!
I may have learned it the hard way (a few times over), but I did learn. The fact is, we don’t think as clearly when we’re in a highly emotional state. There’s too much distraction and we don’t think objectively. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because my thinking is clearer and more objective the next day.
Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.
Being in a stressful situation messes with your brain—and can impair your decision-making capabilities. Why? A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we are stressed-out.
Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity, don’t you?)
When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can. Think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. Learn to recognize and release your stress. You’ll be glad you did!
Have you noticed your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? How can this lesson be good for young people who may find themselves in stressful situations—do you see how they can be influenced to make potentially life-altering decisions when they’re in the wrong frame of mind? Share your thoughts by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences.
We all know of brilliant, straight-A students who barely even study. The other 99% of us mere mortals have to earn it the hard way! It might be easy to conclude that most successful people owe it to raw talent and brilliance, but that’s rarely the case. Usually, other factors like commitment, focus, discipline, and a winning attitude have an even greater impact.
Most things in life aren’t handed to us on the proverbial silver platter—success being one of them. People who do well at what they do—whether it’s academics, sports, art, music, business, a trade, or a hobby—generally have these things common. They overcome challenges and opposition, and they do it through planning, practice, and perseverance.
I can’t think of a better illustration of this than the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The team of collegiate athletes was gathered randomly from around the nation under the leadership of Coach Herb Brooks, who developed a brutal training regimen and a strategy to win.
The prospects didn’t look good. They were dominated by the Soviet team in an exhibition game by a score of 10-3. But, that didn’t deter them. They tied Sweden, upset perennially strong Czechoslovakia, and proceeded to defeat Norway, Romania, and West Germany. There was just one problem. The next stop was another crack at the Soviet team, and the players were haunted by their previous humiliation. Nonetheless, Coach Brooks was relentless, challenging the team to do their best when it counted.
Amazingly, the U.S. scored the upset of the ages, defeating the Soviets 4-3 in a win dramatically captured in the 2004 film Miracle. As one of the millions of Americans who watched it live, I can honestly say that the last ten minutes of the game were the slowest 600 seconds in all of eternity! They went on to win the gold medal game over Finland, and rallied the country like (in my opinion) no other sporting team in history.
When it comes to achieving your goals, remember that you, too, can overcome great odds by applying the same 3 P’s the 1980 U.S. hockey team did: planning, practice, and perseverance. What good would it have done for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to skate out onto the ice without the practice and grit to compete? Unfortunately, many people live that way—and they live frustrated, underperforming their potential.
They (mistakenly) believe they “deserve” success they’ve not earned. They show up the first day of a new job expecting the corner office and the respect of the CEO when they’ve not made the sacrifices necessary to deserve either. They resent not receiving the career opportunities they’d like or the salary they think they deserve—when they’ve not put in the study, effort, or commitment needed to earn those rewards. We call this mindset one of entitlement—and it’s becoming a pervasive issue in our society.
Don’t let this attitude mark you. When you set your mind to something—whether it’s academic studies, a job, a sport, or anything else, I encourage you to do it with intentionality and excellence. Remember the adage, “Plan, practice, and persevere to succeed.” Doing this will give you the best chance in life and build great character along the way.
Is there a young person in your life who needs a reminder he or she is not “entitled” to success? Challenge him or her, “If planning, practice, and perseverance are keys to achieving goals, how would you rate yourself in each of these areas? Think back on a goal you didn’t achieve. How might the outcome have been different?” These are good discussions to have. Share your results with us by commenting below; we’d love to hear your stories.
This is part two in a series on helping young adults improve their public speaking skills. Check out last week’s blog post for part one.
Just as a golfer battles nerves on the first tee, most of us have butterflies when we present. The good news is they usually don’t last long, and unless it’s a really bad case, the audience won’t notice. That was my biggest takeaway when I watched a video of myself at a presentation workshop. Whew!
Young adults are already in a season of rampant self-consciousness and insecurity. Public speaking may seem to exacerbate the problem, but actually the opposite is true. Honing presentation skills is one of the best ways to help teens grow in confidence and self-esteem.
Here are some helpful tips to help your children or students handle nerves and believe in themselves when preparing to speak in public:
- Remember, the better prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be.
- Cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to be a perfect orator to win over your audience! Some nervousness is to be expected.
- Remember, you (usually) know more about the subject than your audience, and only you know exactly what you plan to say. If you miss something, they won’t even notice.
- Try to ask your audience a question as early as possible. You’d be surprised by how much this relaxes you. And, it creates a bond from the start.
- In most cases, the audience is on your side and they want you to succeed.
- If it’s a really bad case of the nerves, cough once before you enter the room. It’s a great stress reliever! No kidding!
Building effective communication skills in young adults should be one of our most important training priorities. It’s an essential ingredient to a successful career and plays a huge role in all of our relationships. Here’s how you can help them grow in this area:
- Encourage them to take speech classes, debate, and club assignments with speaking and leadership opportunities.
- Have them practice their speeches/presentations in front of you and offer positive feedback and gentle suggestions.
- Observe and evaluate speakers (e.g., political candidates) together to help them see the difference.
- Teach them etiquette and manners at every opportunity.
- Help them learn to read body language. Show them the difference between someone engaged and someone bored. This will serve them in social situations as well!
Then, watch how they conduct themselves when speaking with others (especially adults) in any situation. Praise them accordingly when you catch them doing it well. Confidence in general communications breeds confidence in presentations.
One day, they’ll thank you for it! (Okay, maybe.)
How have you trained the young people in your life or classroom to grow in confidence with their communication skills? We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions; please share them by posting your comments below. And then pass this post on to a friend who may benefit. We are always growing the circle!