Lessons Learned from My Favorite Coaches
Life, sports and business mirror and parallel themselves in many ways. 11/26/2019 | Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, Cliff's Notes
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Life, sports and business mirror and parallel themselves in many ways. During my life, and being involved in both sports and business, I have learned many a lesson, positive and negative the coaches I have been associated with.  The simple reality is to take away the positive lessons and emulate those, make them your own; and from the negative, learn what to avoid.

I have been involved in sports my entire life playing basketball, Taekwondo, lacrosse, tennis and swimming to name a few; a couple of which I rose to very high levels. As I’ve aged, I now see things through a more mature lens, not clouded with the cockiness of youth, but the lens of experience. My coaches worked hard to encourage me to be the best I could be – and how those lessons have helped me prepare for my business and personal life. They also prepared me to be a more empathetic and patient coach. I am not without fault, I fail regularly, however I do my very best to learn from those failures in an effort to become better. When facing a failure, I always remember the words of Michael Jordan, “I fail every day of my life, and that’s what makes me great!” Acknowledging, being self-accountable, learning the lesson, changing and pressing on. Here are a few anecdotal lessons which have served me well; hopefully they’ll give you some help and encouragement as you move forward with your career.  

I’d like to get this point out of the way. You may have had a coach or business mentor that was not kind, in fact they may have been mean-spirited and degrading – there is no place for that in any form of business or life situation…you can learn from these folks as well – don’t gravitate to that level, maintain a positive attitude you will get so much more from people when you do. I’ve had clients, bosses and coaches that felt intimidation was their only method of teaching or communicating; for me like many of you, it did the exact opposite, it created barriers of resentment and distaste – not motivation. I heard a quote once that resonated so well, and drives this point home;

“Rather than lighting the fire underneath someone, it is better to light fire INSIDE them”

Never Forget the Basics – my Taekwondo instructor was dear to me, always poised and in control, patient and tolerant. According to him, I am one of his best students, I respect him immensely. Late ne afternoon, while training for the U.S. Olympic Trial Meet in California my teacher Grand Master Cha came up to me and asked me to do a series of basic kicks: front kick, back kick, side kick etc. After executing the kicks as instructed, he said, “…do one thousand times more with each leg, then you can go home!” He walked out of the dojang and into his office and watched from the one-way mirror as I proceeded to execute kicks for the next two hours. Afterwards, while changing from my uniform, he walked in the locker room and said, “Are you angry with me?” I said “no, but I don’t understand , according to you, I am one of your best students, you have seen me perform those kicks to perfection for the past sixteen years, I just don’t understand why you would have me do those so many times?”

His response will live with me until I die. In his very thick Korean accent he said; “When you learned to write could you just sit down and write a story?” “No, sir” I responded. “That’s right, you practiced the letters, then learned the words, then sentences, paragraphs and you developed the story. And each time you wrote a story you practiced the letters…the letters, like kicks and punches, are the basics, always practice and never forget the basics.” He then left the locker room.  As I write this it takes me back to that day, I remember him saying this to me like as if five minutes ago. Calmly, patiently and with respect…it was a test and a lesson but done in such a powerful way. I will always be indebted for that lesson.

Show Up Every Time – on a trip to Florida with my wife, I scheduled a tennis camp for us and it was the experience of a lifetime, not only for the tennis instruction but the amazing coaching that went on at the facility. We were met the first morning by an upbeat coach named Roger who was fifty-one years old and had been at the facility since he was sixteen. Roger was first a student theirs and now works as one of the tennis pros. From the first handshake, he knew our names, listened, looked us in the eye and EVERY minute he was encouraging, teaching us lessons with each swat at the ball. After day one, and four continuous hours of drills, I was drained, sore and didn’t want to come back for day two…before I left he said; ‘eighty percent of winning is just showing up’. I’ve heard that before, but that day, in that moment, he knew what to say to encourage me to come back. That evening, while lying in bed, I couldn’t get that out of my head. The next morning, still aching and tired, I got up, made the effort and we had an incredible class. Roger, ever positive, looked at me knowing what condition I was in said, “Cliffy, you’re a winner.”  I will never forget that experience and will do everything I can to be just like Roger with the folks that I coach professionally – kind, upbeat and motivating.

Be Coachable – my track coach in college was an amazing guy, slow to anger, firm and managed to get EVERY bit from each of my teammates…we were good and it was because of his teaching and coaching methods. His techniques caused us to gel, become a unit, and become the very best. I remember him saying over and over, “Listen and try it, there is nothing you can’t accomplish” and when we failed he never became irrational, arrogant or got in anyone’s face and screamed…no belittlement - he gave so much respect and commanded it back ten-fold.

As I move through life, I am blessed with the opportunity to teach others, learn from others; I never take that for granted. I love sharing, I love giving back and sharing the lessons I have learned from others. I remember both of my amazing children asking me what it takes to be successful in sports while in college; I gave them both the same answer; “…be eligible first and be coachable…” There’s not a college coach anywhere, who wants an academic headache on his or her hands and furthermore they don’t want a know-it-all on the team either.

Go to class, be respectful of your teachers and get the assigned work done. NO EXCUSES. When you go to practice, be open, absorb and learn all you can, ask questions to gain an better understanding, but never question their final decision…be coachable! I am proud to say that both of my children were exceptional athletes and great students. Today my daughter Cait works for a top defense contractor and is moving up the ranks swiftly. My son Alex, a US NAVY Officer and hopefully this May, a winged Naval Aviator… so proud of them.

I admire the people who have given me positive feedback in the past, those who have allowed me to fail and grow at the same time, my master teacher, Master Cha, my track coach, Joe Harriston and my tennis coach Roger. They taught me valuable lessons which I continue to carry with me – hopefully I am doing them proud by sharing those same lessons.

What about you, how will you lead?

I am confident you will lead by being encouraging, respectful and authentic.

Until next month…continued good selling and lead with respect of others.

Cliff is the Director of Marketing for iPROMOTEu, additionally and for over 30 years, Cliff has been speaking, training and consulting internationally to associations and national business groups on more effective ways to market themselves, their products and services, as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid award 27 times and the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times in three years. He has also received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he also was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100," as having a significant influence in education. He has also been recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content in 2016. In December, Cliff will be launching his third book, 30 Seconds to Greatness along with a workbook. Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cquicksell@ipromoteu.com.

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