Breaking It Down To What You Can Control

Breaking It Down To What You Can Control

Everyone has heard that in order to accomplish anything we must have goals. Goals can be modest (I want to make more money) and they can be lofty (I want to become President). Goals can be vague (I want to be healthier) and they can be specific (I want straight A’s).

One thing the above goals all have in common is that achieving each one depend on something that is out of one’s control.

Making more money may require someone else wanting to buy what you’re selling or a boss being able to pay more. Becoming President requires at the very least getting someone you don’t know to vote for you. Wanting to be healthier is just plain vague and getting straight A’s requires a teacher agreeing with your answers on tests or homework.

John Williams, the creator of Academic Life Coaching (ALC) proclaims, “Goals are over-rated!” Williams continues from the ALC student workbook, “On one hand, having goals are great. But unfortunately, the word goal is overused. The concept of having ‘SMART’ goals gets closer to being useful, but the whole process of setting goals and then trying really hard to get them (often doing the same actions, just harder) usually leads to frustration.”

At Academic Life Coaching we like to work with the concept of a well-formed outcome. We help the student create a system that leads to an outcome. I suggest that by living in the moment helps us build the blocks toward reaching whatever it is you are looking for.

A well-formed out come has four tenets:

• It is stated in the positive

• Getting started and the success (or failure) of the outcome depends entirely on you

• It has a good size to time ratio that moves you into action and keeps you moving at a comfortable pace. In other words it is happening now!

• It is specific and measurable

Notice that the four things stated gives you full control over what happens. Having control over something relieves a ton of stress whether it’s in your job or schoolwork.

In addition to my work as an Academic Life Coach I also coach high school baseball. I often hear my players say, “I have a goal of hitting .375.” I tell them that they don’t have control over that. The opposing pitcher we see may be really good or the fielders make an incredible play or every ball you hit one day goes right to a fielder no matter how hard you hit it.

I will suggest they come up with a well-formed outcome.

For example:

In addition to our team practice…

• I will hit on a tee every day for 100 swings.

• I will meet with a teammate each day for extra batting practice in the cage.

• I will visualize myself being successful for five minutes prior to every game.

• I will work with my coach individually each week on both my strength and weaknesses. Even if it just talking.

Once again, notice that the above; are all stated positively, it depends entirely on the individual, it happens at a minimum every week and it is measurable. You either did it or you didn’t.

Now it’s your turn. Again from the ALC student workbook –

Pick an area of your life that you want to improve.

What structure or system do you need to make this outcome easy to accomplish?

What will let you know that you’ve accomplished this outcome?

Many people that use this plan will find that they start to use it in other areas of their life. The process becomes a habit. Little things do make a huge difference over time.

Pick the things you can control and lose the worry over the big picture. Take control of your own life and enjoy.

Let's Have a Chat (Face to Face)

Let’s Have a Chat (Face to Face)

I don’t want to comment on the Manti Te’o story directly as I really don’t know what transpired, but it does make me feel really sad. Whether he was completely hoaxed, participated in the hoax fully or simply embellished the story doesn’t matter to me.

What does matter is my concern over what’s happening in our country and probably in the world. I am concerned our young people are forgoing meaningful face-to-face communication, missing out on the wonderful highs and lows of real relationships or simply not having the skills to carry on a conversation.

I am sure that anyone reading this under the age of thirty will say, “relax old man, it’s a new world out here that you just don’t understand.” Actually it would probably be closer to, “Dude, go eat some oatmeal and chill.”

Many of us of a certain age have all driven our kids and their friends somewhere and hear no talking from the backseat as they are furiously texting others or even one another in a language that has evolved to the point us adults have to look for meanings in the Urban dictionary on our own computers.

We watch our kids use social media to make friends and talk in 140 characters or less. I admit I don’t like to text, and not because I am slow at it. It sometimes takes five texts to get an answer to a question and the follow-up questions could take longer if one of the parties steps away from their phone. Texting, Twitter or Facebook are simply tools, good tools, but should not replace actual conversation or relationships.

The internet is wonderful. We can find answers to so many questions. We can learn so much. We can stay in touch with family and friends much easier, especially if they are a fair distance away. But when we replace a real laugh with an LOL or a heartfelt smile with a smiley-face we can and will run into problems.

What is a real relationship? Is it talking on the phone, instant messaging, Face time or Skype? Or is it something deeper? I suggest that we teach are children how to relate to others.

One way is to have them included in our own conversations. Introduce them to other adults, like your own friends and colleagues. Teach them to look into the eyes of those who they are speaking with. Allow them to express themselves to adults in their own way. Often we hear people say, “I don’t understand kids today.” Isn’t it possible that kids don’t understand adults?

Do you allow your kids to express their opinion? Do you include them in your activities? Do you explain the difference between texting and talking and why it’s important to be able to do both?

It’s a given that kids are more social media and technologically savvy than their parents. It’s also a given that the life experiences of a young person are not as rounded as those of us that are more seasoned. Let the kids teach technology, let us teach them how to communicate.

So send a text to our kids today, and tell them it’s time to talk.

What is going on?

What the hell is going on? On this morning’s news I read and watched of shootings at a school, a shooting at a mall, a shooting in a movie theatre, and violent crimes throughout the country?  Why is this happening?  I am sick to my stomach thinking about the families that have had to deal with these senseless tragedies.  I cannot imagine the deep sorrow of those affected.

I am sure there will be a tremendous cry to ban guns, but I’m not sure that is the answer.  [Full disclosure – I own guns.  I hunt and I shoot trap and god forbid if someone threatens my family or me, I have a gun for protection.  I have been a member of the NRA.   I am not currently a member, as I believe that the NRA stance of absolutely no control is wrong and I don’t know why I would need an assault rifle.]  But I believe that banning all firearms is wrong too.  Much like our political process, this issue is framed completely in black and white, right or wrong. There is no room for sensible compromise.  The NRA is afraid that even one regulation is a fatal step towards repealing the Second Amendment and the end of an American way of life.  Gun control fanatics believe that if guns were illegal we would not have any murder or violent crime.  There must be a middle ground.  There must be.

I have tremendous respect for the power of firearms.  I was taught at an early age that guns were not toys.  In order to hunt we all had to take a firearm safety class, and my family reinforced those lessons every time a gun was taken from the gun case.  I even spent time teaching hunter and firearm safety to kids wanting to get their first hunting license.   I think everyone who owns a gun should be required to take a safety class, and would not be against have a re-training class every five years.  Have the NRA teach the classes!

We have heard both sides of the gun argument ad nauseam.  This blog is not be about the merits of gun control.  This is about parenting, being a friend and society.

While many will blame guns or the so-called gun culture the fact remains that there are millions of responsible gun owners, as there are millions of responsible social drinkers who would never get behind the wheel of a car after having only a couple of beers.  There is a vast majority of good people in this country who cannot fathom the horror of what some people do.    That a rational person would deliberately kill an innocent child is beyond comprehension.

But if we simply blame an instrument like a gun, can’t we also blame the ultra violent video games that seemed to be advertised every 15 minutes on prime time television.  These games that allow for indiscriminate destruction and killing that makes things seem, dare I say not real.  Can’t we even blame the proliferation of social media that allows us to “friend” someone or “like” their status without ever looking into their eyes to see if everything is really ok?  And if it’s not ok, do we offer to listen to them non-judgmentally?   Can’t we also blame our political process that has become so polarized that meaningful discourse and compromise has been regulated to name calling and divisiveness with compromise simply a form of “give me this and I’ll give you that” without really helping anyone?

But why do we need to attach blame?

Instead of blaming the instruments of these horrific acts, should we not work on the cause?  How can we help the people that do these things before they do something horrible?  There have been evil people throughout time.  There have been people suffering from mental illness throughout history.  Bad things will happen; horrific things will happen.  Where can we start to make a difference?  Eliminating the means is not the answer, eliminating the cause is the real cure.

Do we as parents still provide guidance and discipline to our children?  Do we teach them to respect others?  Do we let them understand that not everything in life is easy, and that they will face disappointment? Or do we believe that we all deserve trophies, and that one’s self esteem is more important than really working towards bettering oneself?

I believe we need to start with ourselves.  We need to know our own kids.  We need to teach them to think and act for themselves.  We need to let them experience life and not protect them from disappointment.  We grow as humans from pain.  Like muscles that are torn and stretched through exercise only to grow stronger, we too  grow stronger mentally when we face adversity.  It’s ok to struggle, just let your kid or your friend know that you will walk beside them as they progress.

And the next time someone asks how you’re doing tell them the truth.  When you ask someone the same question make sure to listen at more than a superficial level.  We never know when a life may be at stake.  We have the ability to reason and we have the ability to feel.   Use these unique skills to make a difference in someone’s life.

It will not happen overnight.  Many of the people reading this already love and honor their kids.  Many of us are already good friends.  But we can do so much more.   Even a nod, a smile or other acknowledgment to the server at your coffee shop or a random person that you meet may cause a chain reaction of good will across our country.

It will be too easy to get caught up in the great debate of gun control and both sides have arguments finely honed.  Let us not lose sight of the real issue.

As mentioned earlier, there are millions of good, solid people in this world.  Would it be too much to ask that we reach out individually to another person in need – not to simply give a handout, but rather, a hand up?  Ask yourself, what can I do to help…today?



Let your kids play multiple sports

Please let your kids play multiple sports for as long as they want to play

As a high school baseball coach I want my players to play multiple sports. There are many reasons for this the most important being that it’s a lot of fun. There are other motivations as well.

The multi-sport athlete spends his or her off-season competing which to me me is way more valuable than having them do a few extra drills. Learning how to win and in some cases learning how to lose will teach them life lessons they can rely on throughout their lives.

Playing multiple sports keeps the player fresh. I personally can’t imagine practicing, conditioning or simply thinking about playing just one game twelve months of the year. At the risk of sounding like a geezer, my favorite sport was always the one that was in season.

In my experience I have seen the one sport player often come to the opening day of practice full of energy and enthusiasm, but slowly backslide as the season goes along as they inevitably feel burn-out. It doesn’t happen all of the time, and I usually see it in the younger kids. Baseball is a long enough season as it is. We start in late February and the school season lasts through May. We then head right into a summer season that ends in July or early August. The kid should have a chance to do other things, play on different teams, and play for different coaches. I know that I use things that I learned from all of my coaches whether they were baseball coaches or not.

Another thing I shave seen is unrealistic expectations. Primarily it comes from parents, but it is certainly filtered down to the athlete. It goes like this:
“I practice all year long for baseball. Why is that guy who only plays during the baseball season ahead of me?” Or, “I go to all these camps and do great. Why am I not starting?” “Why am I not getting attention from colleges?” And from the parent, the unspoken words are, “I have spent so much money on this, why isn’t my kid doing better?”

There are simple answers to those questions. The multi-sport kid just might be a better athlete. Look at the college and pro rosters and see how many of them played more than just their chosen sport during high school. To be a pro or college athlete at any level requires an exceptional talent as well as desire.

Health wise, it is also important to get a wide range of training. Bev Smith, the former head women’s basketball coach at the University of Oregon lamented that her athletes coming from high school were breaking down during the season. The reason, she felt, was the newer phenomenon of year round basketball training which was forcing the player into training sport specific muscles and they were not able to handle the increased load of college athletics.

Part of this problem also stems from the lack of PE in schools, but it also falls on coaches and parents to encourage if not demand that our young athletes train their bodies not just their drills.

Coaches should do different things in practice to use all muscles. Practicing a crossover dribble or throwing off a mound is not enough. The all-around best exercise for athletes in any sport might just be a game of tag. Which brings me back to the number one reason for playing multiple sports – it’s a lot of fun.


I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.  Last week I was up in the mountains elk hunting.  The world was both big and small.  Miles and miles of unoccupied land stretched out before me.  Unoccupied by human types anyway.  The comment around the campfire was always, “This is BIG Country.”

Yet it was small too – a look around the campground found no less than five different camps with people from around my small town of Coburg Oregon, with a couple other camps within five miles that had friends of ours also out hunting.  As my friend, Dick said, “ I drove 300 miles and discovered my neighbors were also my neighbors.”

In spots, we also had access to the Internet and phone service where we could connect with anyone in the world.  (It’s not true that when I got my elk that I actually did contact everyone in the world…it just seemed like it.)

Speaking of campfires, it is the place where stories are told.  One story brought the subject perspective into clear focus.  On one trip years ago, my brother Sam came out from the woods and met my grandpa at his pick-up.  My grandpa who was 80 something at the time told Sam he had been out walking the trail.  Sam was out there as well and asked grandpa if he saw anyone.  Grandpa said he saw a young guy out there and Sam replied that he didn’t see a young guy, but had talked to an old man.  My grandpa said, “No, it was young guy I saw, around Joe’s age.”  Sam started to laugh.  Joe was our Uncle Joe, and he was a young 70 years old at the time.

As I age a bit, it sure is nice to know that to at least some people I will always be a young fella.

So how will changing your perspective help you in school or work?

What if you changed your perspective on how your coach, teacher or boss related to you?  You may think, for example that your coach is too tough or your teacher is never satisfied or your boss always demands more.  What if you came in tomorrow with the perspective that: your coach, teacher or boss is simply helping you extend yourself, and assisting you in reaching your best effort.  How would you feel with that attitude?  Could you see yourself through the other person’s eyes? How would that look?

Change your perspective, and see a different picture.

That's why I coach

I damn near cried.  The game had ended in defeat, our team beaten by better players.  Yet we had played hard, and there was no shame in losing.  The tears that welled behind my eyes were not due to the loss.  I did not choke up because the season was over.   It was that kid, the one that rarely played, who got to me.


Trevor is 13 years old.  He weighs less than a buck, and for most of the season he wasn’t hitting his weight.  Barely five feet tall, he looked to be all arms and legs, loosely connected and seeming to stick out at random at the most inopportune times.  For example, he could field a ground ball in the outfield, and when he was ready to throw the ball back into second base; his left arm would suddenly, and without warning, go sideways causing the ball to fly to some other part of the baseball field.


But he tried so hard.  He wanted nothing more than to get better.  Everyday he showed up with a wonderful smile, asking me “How’s it goin,’ Coach?”  He never failed to make me smile.  Trevor will be a baseball player someday soon.  He will grow into those arms and legs, and he will make them go where they are supposed to go.  He wants to be a pitcher someday, and I will not bet against him.


Trevor was always one of the first kids to show up for practice or a game.  I am quite sure that he was always the last one to leave.  He hated to leave, and I would have to make him go home by having him carry the bucket of baseballs to my pick-up.  His parents were patient in their waiting, knowing how much he loved being on the team.


He obviously wasn’t the best player on our team, and even though he did get his opportunities to play, it wasn’t enough for either of us.  I wished I could have played him more, but part of being a coach is looking out for all of the kids, and not just one.  He is old enough now that competition is becoming part of the game, not only against the opposing team, but with his teammates for playing time.  Trevor will soon pass up many of this 13 year-old team’s better players.  He will get bigger and stronger, and because he wants it so badly, he will keep improving.  Some of the ones who are better today will not work as hard as Trevor.  Trevor will soar, I am sure of it.


Baseball is a game.  We play baseball, and if we play, it should be fun.  I don’t remember a day this spring that being at the field wasn’t fun.  It is the kids like Trevor that make it so.


After the last game, and while the kids were packing up their gear, Trevor quietly walked up to me carrying a small sack.  “I’ve got something for you, Coach.”  He said. “Open it up.”  Inside the sack was a card titled, ‘10 things I Hate About You Coach.’  Of course, it laid out all of the things that coaches were supposed to teach their players.  Written on the inside was a note from Trevor.  His simple words thanking me for my time and how he was going to work hard before next season touched me to the core.


So, why do I coach

For lots of reason I think

I love to teach as I love to learn

Coaching gives me both

But yesterday it came pouring into me

In the form of innocent heartfelt thanks

From a 13 year-old boy

A young man who wasn’t the best

Who only wanted to be better

Who gave his all everyday

With a smile and a laugh

A young man who hated to leave

Squeezing out the last minute of practice or a game

Like one squeezes the last drop of juice from a lemon

He drew a tear from me after the final game

With a card and a simple gift

Thanking me for being part of his life

But I know

I should be the one giving thanks

That’s why I coach

Breaking Free

Have you ever tried

To be something you’re not

Have you acted as you should

Not as you are


Like wearing a new sweater

Washed in hot water

Your arms and your chest straining

Against the shrunken fibers

Trying desperately to break free

The wool, like society

Holding you tightly

Squeezing your ambitions

Keeping your dreams under wraps

Lest you infect the masses


Have you ever wanted

To be something more

To change the world

In just a small way

To live your truth without fear

Of being beaten down and silenced

From the pressure of the crowd

Heavy as gravity at sea level


But even as it pushes down upon you

You must push back

Lifting the lid of your complacency

Or worse, compliance

Or the lid will become that of a coffin

Silencing the person you would become


Have you ever pondered

What’s up there

On the mountain or in the sky

Soaring high above the trees

As a spirit in the wind

Or scaling the mountain

To reach the rarefied air

Where the air is always clear and sweet

Waiting for you to fly


To break free of your worlds expectations

Is a most difficult and daring escape

Cutting the ropes, discarding sandbags

Your balloon ascending through enemy fire

Words used as bullets to stop you from yourself

But like the hot-air balloon

You will return to earth

Having seen the world from a higher point

Freedom can be found

Isn’t it time to let go of those ties

Binding you to the ground

And though it’s not painless

The view is worth the climb

So isn’t it time

To be true to yourself

To that wonderful person who lives inside

Why do we go to work?

Why do we go to work?  For the money of course, but why do you go to where you work, to the place where you do your particular job?  Again the flippant answer is, “For the money.”  Is there another reason?

Just for a moment think, what if?  What if you could do any job you wanted?  Would you work harder?  Think if you owned the company.  Would it make any difference in the way you approached your job?

Most employer’s would hope that your answers to both of the previous questions would be no.  More importantly, don’t you think you would hope that your current position would have no bearing on the effort you gave?

Loyalty, opportunities for advancement, fear of being fired and self-pride are all reasons for doing your best.  In the final analysis there is only one reason that really counts, and that’s self-pride.  If you do your best, truly your very best, and you do it for yourself, everything else will take care of itself.  The catch in all of this is that only you know if you are giving all you’ve got.  Your boss, teacher, coach or even your spouse really doesn’t know.  Only you know.

Does this mean that you must be the best?  Of course not.  Everyone’s best effort is different, and some will be better at certain things than others.  But they may not be better every day and not every time.  Keep trying and stay prepared.  You can do it.  You can be the best you can be.

Remember the old cliché, “If it’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing.”  I believe that the cliché is actually a truism.  Whatever it is you do, your job, your play, your life, give it your best shot.  Being alive is a pretty good deal.  It’s better than the alternative for sure.  Don’t let life pass you by.  Be your best for your own self worth. If you do, guess what happens?  You’ll unwittingly pass a wonderful legacy on to your family, friends and co-workers.  You’ll be the positive influence on their lives as well as making the world a better place.

You can do it.  You can do it all by simply giving your best.




Watching the ocean roll in

Wave after wave

After wave after wave

That I can be like the ocean

Always moving forward

Driven by an unseen force

There are no obstacles for the wave

Only side trips

A short detour into life

Over or around

Or sometime through a hole

In the rock that seems impenetrable

The ocean never stops

Shifting slightly to meet its next challenge

Never stopping, always fluid

Adapting to the changing landscape

That lies beneath it

All obstacles are beneath me too

When I am like the ocean

Coming at life in waves

Always moving forward

Wave after wave

Baseball and Fishing are just around the corner

In addition to my Academic Life Coaching business, I am the Head Baseball Coach at Sheldon High School and operate First Time Fishing a guide service geared towards kids and their parents who want a nice day out on the McKenzie River.

The weather here in the Southern Willamette Valley was beautiful today, and as daylight is lasting longer each day my thoughts are turning to the baseball diamond and the river.   I am so fortunate to be able to live my passions of coaching and fishing.  I wish everyone could live their dreams, and I so believe in dreaming.  If you can dream it, you can do it.

I will talk more about that in the days, months and years to come.  Hope you enjoy the ride!

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