Pick ‘Em Up

My college coaches didn’t allow us to practice in silence. We were supposed to be loud with encouragement and communication. When practice fell silent with apathy or self pity, we were sure to hear a certain phrase: “Pick ’em up!”

Pick ’em up was our command to get loud with encouragement and enthusiasm. Of course, the command did not need to be issued by coaches. Players could just as easily sound the command to pick ’em up.

The idea was that when we were silent, we were probably too focused on being down in someway….

  • down on the scoreboard,
  • down on our playing time,
  • down on the weather conditions,
  • down on our conditioning, or
  • down on our selves, coaches, or teammates.

When we shouted encouragement, we were picking each other up. Now, based on what I’ve written lately (see It’s a Great Day to be Alive or Pointing in the Right Direction), you should understand that nobody can actually force another person to increase their own enthusiasm. However, we are reliable beings with working senses, and if someone is shouting encouragement at you, it’s hard to ignore.

It’s also hard to ignore the messages we send ourselves in a loud and clear fashion. If I am yelling, “Come on! Let’s go! We’ve got this!” at you, it’s also hard for me to ignore my own voice, and it tends to feed my own enthusiasm, even if I initially had to fake it.

In yelling encouragement, it is very likely that I will pick up my own enthusiasm, and it’s also likely that anyone hearing me will connect to my enthusiasm. The reason they connect is not because I forced them to be enthusiastic. That’s impossible. What really happens is that I am pointing in a direction that they understand. As with Coach Egnatuk reminding me that it was a great day to be alive, the enthusiasm is in them already, and they simply recognized or remembered it when I pointed it out. Their fire was never out. It was just forgotten momentarily and only needed a reminder to be stoked into a raging blaze.

This is great to know because it means that if we ever feel as if someone else motivated us, the motivation was within us all along. The implication of this is that we never really need anyone else to pick us up. We only need a reminder, and that reminder can come from inside or outside.

When you get many people together on a team who understand this, enthusiasm appears to be contagious, and indeed, some people may describe it that way. One person points in a direction, and two or more people connect to it and follow that direction. It can be an incredible experience.

So when life seems like it is driving on your team and about to score, remember to point in the right direction for your teammates and pick ’em up.

Overcoming Fear of Your Light

Earlier this week, one of my friends, Benjamin Rice, reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about our inner light.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness which most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

This quote is from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love. I’m not sure I agree with the entire quote, but I think it rings true for many people. What I really love about the quote is it accurately captures a concept I’ve seen in many people: Fear of our light.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you fear your light, brilliance, radiance, power?

For a moment, consider why anyone would fear their light, goodness, power, brilliance?

I have a few thoughts on why this could happen. Some of these thoughts come from research, but others come from thorough experience and observation working with a good number of clients over the years. Here are a few good candidates for why someone might seemingly be afraid of her own light.

  • Discomfort with Change: People are simply very uncomfortable with change at times.
  • Fear of Failure: If we try to shine, and don’t meet with what we term successful outcomes, we believe we will feel like we failed. Or perhaps worse, we believe we will be failures. Thus, in this case, fear of success really turns out to be fear of failure.
  • Fear of Losing a Sense of Control: People are sometimes afraid to confront their light because they are fearful of giving up control. If I believe in control but don’t attempt to exert that control in pursuit of some outcome, I can still believe that I will have control when the conditions are right. I can save face, so to speak. There’s some safety in that. But if I let my light shine, and I get rejected or don’t get the outcomes I’m looking for, my confrontation with the limits of control is more stark and forceful. This seems risky if I am not ready to confront the limits of my control. Here again, fear of success turns out to be fear of failure.
  • Fear of Being Powerful: Marianne Williamson’s quote above has an important suggestion for why we might fear our light: Maybe we simply fear standing out as special. After all, if we are special and not doing much with our lives, aren’t we squandering our talents?

If you’ve read Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, you probably know that she defines a miracle as a change in perspective. So following her lead, if you are stuck fearing your light or darkness, I’d like to point in a different direction for you. See if these perspectives help you embrace your light.

  • Discomfort with Change: If you are having discomfort with change, relax. You certainly aren’t alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. If you are truly letting your light shine, rather than making a grab at the illusion of outside sources of happiness, you will be fine.
  • Fear of Failure: We create our experience of the world with our thoughts. Success and failure are mental concepts, not physical ones. When we fear failure, we aren’t typically thinking about being a novice high wire walker practicing without a net. We When we fear failure, we are usually fearing the imagined consequences of failure. This is usually not a productive endeavor. It’s more accurate to understand that you can and will change your interpretation of success and failure as your thoughts shift (and they will shift as surely as the winds will change direction and intensity). You can also understand that you aren’t defined by outcomes, and you can focus on the moment.
  • Fear of Losing a Sense of Control: If you read my writing, I hope you already have an understanding of the illusion of control. Control actually contracts your influence and potential. Lose control, and replace it with belief in your powerful influence, and you will feel your light shining brightly.
  • Fear of Being Powerful: I think Marianne’s words point in the best direction here. She wrote:

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine……

Please do not fear your inner fire. We are all powerful beyond measure, beyond our wildest dreams, and when we let this light shine, we can help light the world for others, pointing them toward their own inner brilliance. Use the gifts you have to influence the world in front of you. Don’t worry about making a huge contribution to the world, your contribution should be to your world, which is your team,  your family, your friends, your community, your organizations. Rise and shine today. Be brilliant.

You Are Where You Should Be

Sometimes I am dazzled by outcomes. Who doesn’t feel a sense of awe from time at the winner, the champion, the best?

Then I realize that the outcome is too narrow a focus, and as a performance psychologist, coach, and father, I remind myself, “It can’t be all about the outcome. It’s about the process. If the process isn’t solid, the desire outcome won’t be reached.”

Then I realize even the process is too broad of a focus, and I have to get narrow again. When I narrow the focus from process, I find myself in the moment.

We can only make plays in the moment. We can’t go back in time and get a do-over, and we can make plays before the opportunity exists (meaning we can’t make Friday’s plays on Thursday). When we focus too much on outcome or process, we are always somewhere and sometime else, not here and now in the moment.

One of the keys to making the play is to be alive in this moment, understand what is possible, and act on it in an attempt to make the play. While it’s quite normal, even beneficial, to get caught up thinking about outcomes or processes, I do not recommend staying there too long. After all, the past doesn’t exist anymore and the future never arrives in the present. We only live in now, and it’s always now on the ride between Thursday and Friday and every point after. When our thoughts focus too much on the past or future, we lose some influence over what we can do now.

Being alive enables you to use energy to do work, such as thinking, acting, and feeling. You need not seek things to set this energy in motion. It’s always on, always keeping you alive, always ready at a moment’s notice.

So instead of seeking things to ignite your inner fire, realize it is already on fire, and get to work using that fire’s energy and brilliance to make plays. As you make plays, you may realize you connect to some things more strongly than others, but don’t be confused about how this works. There is no outcome that will set you on fire, and you do not have to be set on fire through a process. You are alive and on fire right now in this moment. There’s nothing else needed to make the plays of your life. Trust that you are where you should be, and make a play.


“Be where your feet are.”

– Nick Saban


Finding the Light of Love

The third key in making the play is to be alive. In this week of connecting to the light inside of us, I think it helps to think of this light as love (and there are good reasons why it makes sense to think this way, including the hot rush of adrenaline we can get when doing something we love). It doesn’t matter what type of love, it’s simply a loving, warm, thought and feeling. This love could be used to connect with another person or it could be used to build something out of wood and nails. The medium doesn’t matter. The love behind it is what drives it all.

If you think of love, it’s one of those things that never really runs out of supply. We think it does. It seems like it does. But if you find someone who is very loving, they will tell you that the more we love others and the world around us, the more love we have in reserve when we need it. The tank is always full no matter how much we use. In fact, it seems like using love in the tank fills it with even more love.

If you can’t find it for a moment, relax. It’s not lost. It never goes away. It’s only temporarily hidden from your view. Be confident that no person and no thing, not even you, can dull your love.

Love is in you and your world even when it appears to be gone. Other emotions are connected to love in ways we rarely consider. When feeling anger, we are energized to defend something we love. When feeling fear, we are scared we might lose something we love. When anxious, we are fearful about what may or may not happen to something we love. Surprise and disgust are sudden distractions from, or even toward, love. Happiness is warm love. Love is the fire. Love is the burning passion. It’s like our sun. It’s the fuel for life, and it’s always burning bright no matter what the emotional weather. It’s all love in various disguises.

So here’s a question to ponder: What do you want to get done? Do you want to point people toward having a good day? Do you want to coach a team the best you can? Do you need to solve a mechanical problem?

Whatever the plays of your life, find the love, connect to it, and use its energy to be alive and make the play.

Lose Your But

Being awake to opportunity is one key to making plays consistently. It works hand in hand with another key I wrote about yesterday, being aware of illusions of control.

In keeping with this week’s theme of the light inside (your inner fire, burning desire, etc.), I want to note that so many people I work with understand that they have a passion for certain things, but they buy into illusions of control that they believe prevent them from acting on those passions. Their belief in the illusion puts a type of glass ceiling on what they think is possible, and this thought keeps them from acting on those passions.

So often when I talk to people, I am clued into their mental limits when I pay attention to their buts.

I would love to write a book, but…..
I want to be more loving, but…..
I want to make more money, but…..
I would love to change careers, but…..
I suppose I can be pretty good at talking to people at times, but…..

To awaken to opportunity, simply start paying attention to your buts. See if you can stop your sentence before your but. Understand that anything that comes after your but is an illusion of control. None of your buts control you. You have influence to overcome them and persevere in a relentless pursuit of your passions.

After you awaken to the illusion of control that resides behind your buts, see if you can awaken to new possibilities. Simply see if you can start a new sentence with your can. I can……..

I would love to write a book. I can start by writing a journal or a blog.
I want to be more loving. I can say I love you more. I can ask people what they would like from me. I can do nice things for my family without any reason other than that I love them.
I want to make more money. I can work a little extra. I can start my own part-time small sales business. I can spend less and keep more.
I would love to change careers. I can start by figuring out how much money I need. I can start with small steps toward gaining new skill and knowledge.
I suppose I can be pretty good at talking to people at times. I can be clear with my thoughts. I can communicate my ideas very well, even if my point isn’t always perfectly clear or accepted by others. I can begin reaching out more in an effort to grow my network and influence.

Once you gain freedom by eliminating buts, you will find mental clarity more often, and a steady stream of possibilities will occur to you. After the possibilities occur to you, it’s as simple as realizing what you can do and acting on it.

Keep in mind, we aren’t defying the laws of physics here. I am not suggesting you say to yourself, “I would love to fly. I can jump off my roof and flap my arms.” You need not throw all caution to the wind. I merely want you to be aware that even physical limitations can be overcome.

We travel across the world’s sky every second of the day because the Wright Brothers refused to buy into assumed human limitations. They showed us we can fly. You can be safe and physically practical without limiting your possibilities. Indeed, sometimes tackling the assumed impossible is necessary when awakening to possibility.

Your inner fire is always blazing and ready for action at any moment, even if you aren’t aware of it. Do not limit your possibilities. Be awake and seize the opportunity available in the moment.