What should I teach them, Coach?

I always say I learn more from my clients than they learn from me. This certainly was the case one morning when I was having breakfast with Greg Weimer, Partner at Confluence Financial Partners.

Greg recounted for me the first time he met the man who would become one of his mentors, Coach John Wooden of UCLA fame. When they met, Greg was preparing to coach his son’s fourth grade basketball team at St. Louise de Marillac school in Pittsburgh. After being introduced and making small talk over lunch, Greg looked at Coach Wooden and, explaining his new role as coach, said, “What should I teach them, Coach?”

Coach Wooden thought for a moment and said, “If you can teach them not to try to play better than the other children– that would be a good season.” Coach Wooden explained that since the boys could not control how the other children are playing, they should not focus on it. They should focus on only the tasks they can control. Focusing on things they can’t control will lead to frustration and reduce their results.

What a valuable lesson this is for us as leaders, as salespeople, or as friends. So often we focus on the behaviors of others, which we cannot control, and become paralyzed by our frustration over the fact that they are not behaving as we wish. This focus is at the expense of the things we can control; our own activity.

I ask you to perform a simple exercise. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side of the page write “things I cannot control” and on the right hand side of the page write “things I CAN control”. Take some time in reflection and think about a specific goal in your life or a person in your life. Make notes on each side of the page. You will find that everything listed on the left side of the page (things I cannot control) drives up your stress level’s and drives down your performance. Focusing on the things on the right side of the page (things I CAN control) drives up performance and drives down stress.

Maybe your page will list the name of a difficult employee or colleague; maybe it will be the target customer you are chasing; maybe it is your territory plan for 2016; maybe it will be how to get your kid to clean their room.

I do not know the topic you will choose but I know the result:

More clarity and less stress.