Those of you who are regular readers of this blog, know that I like quotes. Well, here’s one for you to consider:
“I always wanted to be somebody. I guess I should’ve been more specific” – by unknown.
Why is the author of the quote unknown? Because no one cares who they are. He or she never accomplished anything.
What I like about the quote is it’s simple and to the point. It tells us that if you want to be successful, you need to be specific about what it is you are after. You just can’t become “somebody” if you have no talent, or redeeming value to a pursuit — unless your last name is Kardashian – and most importantly the passion to constantly improve and advance.
People discover their passion at different times in their lives. Once they do, they usually start on the path to becoming somebody. It isn’t always as grand as “finding their mission in life,” or as dramatic as “discovering the reason they were put on earth.” Sometimes it’s as simple as finding something they enjoy, look forward to, and something at which they have a desire to excel.
Several topics have been bouncing around in my head for a while now, and narrowing them down is always the hard part. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out the whole realm of improvement in young athletes, specifically the 32 teenagers age 13-15 I have been coaching this fall. Why do some of my players make significant improvement seemingly overnight, while others are stagnant and are the same player today they were six months ago?
I know what you are thinking. It’s all brilliant coaching. Sadly, I know that’s not true.
I have also been thinking back to a conversation I had with Chris Heidelberger, the CEO of DRIVN. He said, “Some players just want more.” He’s right, of course. Some players are intrinsically motivated to play their chosen sport, and they want to do it as much as possible. Simply put, they are driven. They are motivated, but can someone be motivated without passion?
Passion takes you from being able to make a basket from 10 feet to making one from three-point range. You feel great about throwing your first curveball, but you stop feeling good about it, until you can throw it for a strike, consistently. Kicking a ball into a net gets boring. You can either stop or teach yourself to bend it around an imaginary wall. With passion, stick-handling a puck alone, grows into trying to keep it a tennis ball away from your dog in the basement. Dribbling a soccer ball is replaced by trying to nutmeg your mom in the kitchen.
But there is more to becoming “somebody” in your chosen pursuit than just skill acquisition.
The result of all my pondering is this: Passion has to lead to purpose. Young athletes, probably all athletes, need to understand their purpose in the big picture.
Margie Warrell writes about leadership for Forbes magazine. She uses a magnifying glass as an example for what can be achieved when we understand our purpose.
“Diffused light has little use, but when its energy is concentrated—as through a magnifying glass—that same light can set fire to paper,” writes Warrell. “Focus its energy even more, as with a laser beam, and it has the power to cut through steel. Likewise, a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risks and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles.”
It’s our jobs as coaches to help young athletes go through the process of first discovering their passion, then understanding their potential. At that point, with any luck, they will focus on their performance, trying make each day on the field their best ever.
Then, we can start talking about purpose. What is their role on the team? Can they expand it? What do they need to do to become dominant? How can they bring everyone else’s level up a notch?
Understanding their purpose may convince them to take on challenges that stretch them as players and people. And every time they take on a challenge, they have eliminated an obstacle to becoming somebody.