Develop a Finish Line Mindset

3As I laid on the ground, face firmly planted into the worn out black top, the thought of staying down there never crossed my mind. The embarrassment of falling 20 yards into the 100-meter race was also inconsequential. I just wanted to finish the race, and within seconds, I was back on my feet fighting through pain and a range of emotions to finish the race.

Little did I know that experience as a 5th-grade student at Emmanuel Christian School would become something that defined the rest of my life. I’ve had plenty of other moments where I found myself in a position similar to the one I was in on that spring day 25 years ago.

But, every time I have had a face-in-the-ground moment, the idea of staying there and giving up on the race has never been more significant than the determination to get back up and cross the finish line.

Throughout the years, I’ve come to understand that the real victory is finishing the race, not just running it. There are many things can trip us up, knock us down, and make us even consider staying in that position. No matter how tempting it is to listen to that voice, turn up the volume on the one that is pushing you and reminding you of the reward that awaits you at the finish line.

You’ve come too far to give up on your race. Develop that finish line mindset and get your reward, because victory is within your reach.

A Letter to Dr. King

martin+luther+king+jr11

Dear Dr. King,
 
I write this letter on a day created to honor your life and legacy. There are so many who have stood and continue to stand on the shoulders of a dream you risked your life to achieve. We still grieve over the act of hatred and violence that stopped you from seeing the mountaintop. But more importantly, we celebrate, for we know your tragedy was not in vain. It created an uprising, sparking the flame of generations who refused to remain silent. Thirty-three years after first being recognized, we are proud to say this holiday serves as the realization of your dream to integrate a segregated nation.
 
You would be 90 years of age, and I can still hear your voice turning the pages of history, beckoning us toward justice and encouraging love and unity for all of God’s children. Amid your activism and prophetic work, you received threats. Despite it all, you continued the mission with no regrets, refusing to leave town or back down and be quiet. In the face of that evil union known as racism, you persisted with the spiritual perseverance to hope, dream, pray, protest, mobilize, organize, litigate, and advocate. You were fearless amid unsung causes and unrewarded sacrifices.
 
We have made strides, but we are still far away from the America you longed to see. As you did, I am keeping hope alive, trying and failing only to keep on trying, even if it means becoming unpopular and risking it all. You taught me that one could not stand if he is unwilling to fall down and pray for a divided land. Believing for a brighter day is something I can, I will, and I must do because my dream is to make sure your vision endures and continues to shine through.
 
Sincerely,
 
Jason A. Dixon

Find the Humanity in our Sports Heroes

untitled design

As I watched New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercept Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and put the finishing touches on a great comeback win, the fan in me could not help but celebrate.

Then, I saw Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey lying face down on the turf after his missed catch resulted in the interception. That moment reminded why I love sports. It’s the same reason why I love life.

It’s because of the people. In this case, it just so happens that these people amaze us with their physical prowess, inspire us with their dedication to their sport, and thrill us with their prodigious skills. These people even sometimes appear to be superheroes as they coolly hit last-second shots, score mind-blowing goals, drain million-dollar putts, hit walk-off home runs, and throw game-winning touchdown passes.

But that’s not where the love, respect, and admiration for these people comes from. It comes from the fact that they are just like you and me. Sure, we may not make millions of dollars, have endorsement deals and entertain fans all over playing a sport we love. Still, these people eat, sleep, breathe, and feel the warmth of gladness and the dull ache of pain just like you and me.

As Jeffrey laid on the turf before heading to the sidelines to be consoled by teammates, I thought about the humanity of this sports hero. I thought about the hurt, disappointment, and anger he was experiencing at the time. Finally, I thought about the heart that beats inside the chest of the guy most of the world only knows as a professional athlete and No. 17 for an NFL team called the Philadelphia Eagles.

That beating heart inside of Jeffrey’s chest is the tide that binds those people and you and me together. Consumers, critics, and the most loyal fan can often forget. Some might call me sentimental, especially since this is the second consecutive week I find myself empathizing with someone the rest of the sports world is criticizing.

Maybe it’s time I spent as a sports reporter. Or, it could be the years I served coaching high school and college athletes. Whatever the reason, life has taught me to care more about Cody Parkey and Alshon Jeffrey the men more than Cody Parkey and Alshon Jeffrey the athletes.

The fact of the matter is we all have bad days at work. Thankfully, though, our bad days aren’t broadcasted on national television and replayed thousands of times for every caring fan to pontificate over.

A cynic might say that’s the price of fortune and fame. You get paid big dollars to make big plays so do it. I understand that logic, and it’s right in many ways. On the other hand, I’m willing to bet Jeffrey’s loved ones weren’t swayed one bit by his tough day at work.

Every athlete, no matter the level, that gets built up or torn down is more than the jersey they wear. Beyond the stats, wins, losses, missed field goals or dropped passes, there’s a heart that beats, a person that bleeds and a sports hero who is only human, made of flesh and blood and is born to make mistakes.

Just like Parkey and Jeffrey’s teammates did for them, we all need someone to pick us up during our weakest moment and support us win, lose, or draw.

Is Life Defeating You? Make 2019 Your Epic Comeback Victory

untitled design

In 1994, the Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball Team was losing by 31 points to LSU with 15:30 left in the game. After his team completed the improbable comeback, Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino stood on the sideline in shock. “I can’t believe it,” Pitino said. “I know I’ve never witnessed anything like it.”

One year earlier, the Buffalo Bills trailed the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), 35-3, in the second half of their 1993 NFL Playoff Game. Despite the odds, Buffalo backup quarterback Frank Reich threw four touchdowns as the Bills defeated the Oilers, 41-38, to complete the greatest comeback in NFL history.

The Cleveland Indians made history in 2001 by overcoming a 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 15-14, in 11 innings.

The list of epic sports comebacks is much longer than the three games I highlighted. Still, you can look at any game in sports history that involved a historic comeback and take away the same message:

Don’t give up, no matter how far you are down.

I believe that message is also relevant when it comes to life. How many people do you know facing what seems like overwhelming odds? How many people do you know who feel like they are losing in life? How many people do you know who feel like they have fallen behind so far that a comeback is unrealistic?

You might know someone feeling that way, or you might be the person feeling that way. Regardless, the feeling is normal, and it’s a feeling I grew accustomed to experiencing.

Whether it was losing a job, a death in the family, struggles in school, a failed relationship, or career indecision, life beat me up to the point that I eventually found myself buried in defeat and self-pity.

Then, I realized life wasn’t going to stop going even if I did. I quit making excuses and expecting to lose. No matter how far down I was, I decided that I was going to keep competing until my life became a historic comeback.

I don’t know how far you are down. I don’t know if you feel like life is piling on and pushing you closer to defeat. I don’t know if you’re on the verge of giving up.

What I do know is that you were born to win. Stop looking at the scoreboard and keep playing, keep fighting, and keep believing in yourself. If you do those things, I am confident 2019 will be an epic comeback victory for your life.

 

Four Tips To Mastermind Your Monday

IT's LOVE

It’s 9 pm on Sunday. Both feet prop up as you lay back on the sofa to watch TV and wait for your clothes to finish drying. You flip through the channels, check your phone a couple of times and head to the refrigerator to get a nice cold drink. You return and plop down on the sofa. Suddenly, you realize that it’s back to the grind tomorrow. After trying to estimate how many sick days you have left, you begin the process of getting mentally prepared for another work week.

If this seems like a familiar scene, you are indeed not alone. According to a massive Gallup poll, 70 percent of people get the “Monday Blues” because they hate or disengage from their job. That can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety beginning on Sunday night, psychiatrists and career coaches say.

I remember the days of dreading the start of a new work week. Going to a job I hated or felt disengaged from was depressing and painful. But through the depression and pain, I discovered four ways to mastermind my Monday and develop a plan of action to conquer my day and not let the day conquer me. Here are my four tips to help you Mastermind Your Monday:

  1. Start with the Heart – What’s worse than dreading Monday? Not getting a chance to see Monday. I learned to appreciate the purest blessing, which is waking up to see another day. So, I touch my heart the first thing in the morning and thank the Lord for another day. If your heart is still beating, there is something you should be completing.
  2. Embrace Your Race – We live in a day and age where everyone wants to compare themselves, compete against others, and run someone else’s race. There is something significant about embracing your race because you are the only one equipped to run it. Embrace your race and set the tone not just for the rest of the week, but for the rest of your life.
  3. Outwork Yourself – The young man asked his boss, “How do you outwork yourself?” His boss responded by saying, “You’ve outworked yourself when there is no one capable of doing the job the way you can.” The excellence of the work you put in leads to outworking yourself and opening the door to other opportunities.
  4. Stop Complaining and Start Training – Why should you complain about where you are when you can use it as a training ground? You aren’t waiting for the opportunities. The opportunities are waiting for you. Don’t allow a temporary position to create a permanent condition. Stop complaining and start training!

I hope these four tips impact you in a positive way. Now, go Mastermind Your Monday!

Keep Playing To Win The Game … Of Life

Edwards

It was October 30, 2002, three days after the New York Jets blew a 15-point lead to the Cleveland Browns and suffered a 24-21 loss. The crushing defeat dropped the Jets to 2-5 on the season.

As Jets head coach Herman Edwards walked to the podium for his usual mid-week press conference, everyone was unaware of what would happen next. Suddenly, to the shock and chagrin of the media, Edwards unleashed a soundbite that would forever define him.

“This is what the greatest thing about sports is,” said Edwards. “You PLAY TO WIN THE GAME.” A reporter’s question prompted the response. She asked Edwards if he worried the team would quit as the result of a season that seemed to be slipping away.

With his voice rising in volume and inflection, Edwards continued: “You don’t just play to play.” At the time of this entertaining press conference, I was a 20-year-old print journalism major at Bowling Green State University utterly oblivious to the symbolism of the words spoken by Edwards.

I had to experience what it felt like to not only lose but question myself and even contemplate quitting. Similar to sports, life has a unique way of teaching lessons through wins and losses.

Have you ever felt hopeless after being turned down for that job you desperately wanted? Did you ever doubt your abilities, lose confidence, or wonder if you were good enough to reach your dreams?

Life is hard. And playing the game gets increasingly difficult, especially when you experience heartbreaking defeats. I remember forgetting why I was playing this game called life.

It took me some years, but I eventually remembered the reason. It’s the same reason why we root for our favorite teams to keep grinding, to keep persevering, to keep putting forth maximum effort. It’s because we hold onto this belief that our teams will eventually reach their goals if they keep playing for a higher purpose, and stay the course.

No matter how difficult life gets, keep playing to win. You have what it takes to bounce back after a loss. After the rough start in 2002, some critics said JETS should stand for Just End The Season. But the players rallied around their coach’s outpouring of emotion and passion and Just Embraced The Struggle. The Jets won seven of their last nine to end the season, made the postseason, and won a playoff game.

Despite the adversity they faced, the 2002 Jets never stopped playing to win the game. They never stopped believing, and they never quit.

Do not let circumstances define you or disappointment defeat you. Keep playing to win the game of life, and Just Embrace The Struggle, because, without it, there is no victory!

Actions Speak Louder Than Wins

DSZ2ErtX4AE8MnP-832x447

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman sat on the field barely moving, his head hanging down and both hands pressed against his helmet. A defender from the Pittsburgh Steelers extended a hand to help the second-year pro get up, but Coleman was preoccupied. Just seconds earlier, Coleman extended his own hands to catch a fourth-down pass from quarterback DeShone Kizer, a pass that would have given the Browns a first down and a shot at winning the game.

But, the pass slipped through the hands of Coleman, fell to the ground and put the finishing touches on the Browns’ 28-24 loss to the Steelers and the second 0-16 season in NFL history.

For Coleman, the feeling was probably as painful as it was embarrassing. Still, he eventually grabbed the hand of the Steelers player who offered to help him up, found his way to the bench and sat in stunned silence. In the closing minute of the game, a camera spotted Kizer sitting on the bench with his arm wrapped around Coleman, whispering words of encouragement.

Unfortunately, the show of leadership, character, and maturity from Kizer was not the headline in the sports sections of the Toledo Blade, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Cincinnati Enquirer or The Columbus Dispatch on Monday. It’s safe to say NFL fans, especially those of the Browns, did not want to open their papers and check online to read how Kizer fought through one of the most difficult seasons in NFL history, kept his head, kept his poise and found a way to pick a teammate up during one of his lowest moments.

That’s not the job of a reporter, to find the silver lining in an otherwise horrible situation. I know that all too well from my days covering sports, which is a big reason why I started coaching.

If it weren’t for my background as a coach, I would have missed the significance of what Kizer did for Coleman in the final minute of Sunday’s game. While the rest of the sports world was focused on making the Browns a punchline, a powerful display of leadership was taking place on their own sideline. That moment, more than anything, is what I will remember about Kizer’s rookie season in the NFL.

That, more than anything, is what matters. If you are a coach or have kids who play sports, please remind them they are not defined by wins and losses, or by how many points they score or by how many rushing yards they have. Remind them of who they are beyond the jersey they wear. Let them know that a team should be like a family; and that sometimes, your greatest contribution is what you are willing to sacrifice for the good of the family.

I get it. Everyone wants to win, get results and see the fruit of their labor. But when those wins are hard to come by in sports or in life, remember that success is progress. And success can be as simple as wrapping your arm around a teammate during their lowest point and lifting them up with some encouraging words.