Connect Before you Correct Young People

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With every dropped pass, every lost yard, and every missed tackle, the coach grew more frustrated. The breaking point came when the opposing team returned a punt to the endzone, making the score 32-0. As his group of dejected players ran off the field, the coach gathered the team before they could reach the sideline.

What shocked me was not the tone the coach used to call out his team’s effort. The shocking part came from witnessing each player’s response to their coach’s motivational tactic. One player threw his helmet while the other one walked to the locker room. As if the things could not get any worse, the coach began arguing with one of his players on the field.

During my time working with young people as a coach, mentor, educator, and speaker, I came to understand a valuable lesson: one must connect before they correct.

While the coach erupted and his team imploded, he seemingly forgot about the golden rule of working with young people

I failed many times at trying to get the best out of young people because I was asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.

If you are someone who works with young people in any capacity, it is a rewarding experience, but one that can be quite daunting, especially if there has been no solid foundation of trust and reciprocity established.

Before you call a play, give an instruction, hand out an assignment, make a request, or demand anything from a young person, make it a priority to connect with them first.

Failure to do so could lead to a result in an experience like the coach who not only lost the game but also lost his team. Remember that every person needs their heart to be reached before their mind can be taught because the old saying is true, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

the coach grew more frustrated. The breaking point came when the opposing team returned a punt to the endzone, making the score 32-0. As his group of dejected players ran off the field, the coach gathered the team before they could reach the sideline.

What shocked me was not the tone the coach used to call out his team’s effort. The shocking part came from witnessing each player’s response to their coach’s motivational tactic. One player threw his helmet while the other one walked to the locker room. As if the things could not get any worse, the coach began arguing with one of his players on the field.

During my time working with young people as a coach, mentor, educator, and speaker, I came to understand a valuable lesson: one must connect before they correct.

While the coach erupted and his team imploded, he seemingly forgot about the golden rule of working with young people

I failed many times at trying to get the best out of young people because I was asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.

If you are someone who works with young people in any capacity, it is a rewarding experience, but one that can be quite daunting, especially if there has been no solid foundation of trust and reciprocity established.

Before you call a play, give an instruction, hand out an assignment, make a request, or demand anything from a young person, make it a priority to connect with them first.

Failure to do so could lead to a result in an experience like the coach who not only lost the game but also lost his team. Remember that every person needs their heart to be reached before their mind can be taught because the old saying is true, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

 

 

Pioneer Your Path to Greatness

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When the boy told his mentor what he wanted to do had never been done before, his mentor responded by saying, “Sometimes you have to chase the dream before you create the path.” What the mentor was essentially saying to his mentee is that there will be times in your life when you have to pioneer your path, times when you will be the only one who believes in the dream you’re pursuing.

On this day in 1870, Hirman R. Revels of Mississippi was sworn in as the first black U.S. senator and first black representative in Congress. I can’t imagine what type of negativity and backlash Revels received when he pioneered his path. Regardless, it wasn’t enough to stop him from making history.

I had to pioneer my path when I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Perhaps you have a dream calling you, but there is no path showing you the way to get there. Don’t let the unknown deter you or discourage you. It just means you have to be the one to chase the dream so that you can create the path. That’s how pioneers are born, and that’s how you make history.

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

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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

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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.

Four Tips to Mastermind Your Monday

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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

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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!