Today’s letter is addressed to my friend Mark. Mark was my boss for a time at one of my college coaching positions, during a time period where I felt at my best professionally. We had a great deal of success coaching together, and I will always reflect on my time with Mark fondly.
What I hope you’ll hear in the letter is the importance of finding people who will encourage and allow you to be your best self. These people are invaluable, and rare. If you find a boss, friend, or partner that helps you be authentically you, you should do everything that you can to stay connected to them.
Perhaps even more powerfully, is if you can be this for someone else. Your spouse, your children, your friends, or the people that work for you, need this from you when you can give it to them. There is very little that is more empowering than having someone who believes in YOU, and encourages you, not to change who you are, but to be more of who you are.
Mark did and does that for me, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
I know that you are uncomfortable with public displays of emotion, so I figured I’d just put this letter on my blog where it’s safe. However, it’s now “on the line” so who knows…
Thank you for involving me in your program, when I was nothing more than a hungry young coach, with no resume, little experience, and little to offer other than a willingness to work hard and learn. My time coaching with you continues to be one of the most valuable and meaningful periods of my life, both personally and professionally. I appreciate you giving me my start as a college coach, and helping me along that path.
I have never been a very confident person, or at least, confidence is something that I’ve always struggled with. In coaching, we often hear parents and other coaches say, “He just needs to be more confident”, when talking about their son or daughter, or one of their players. We both know that it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just be more confident. There has to be something that you are confident in. And it can’t just be demanded. If that were the case, everyone would be great at everything, simply by the act of being whatever it is they wanted to be. With that in mind, I’m just going to be more millionaire starting tomorrow. Also, I’m just going to be more intelligent. And, for good measure, I’m just going to be more muscular I just decided all of those things. Please look for a noticeable change in my approach, the snugness of my t-shirt fit, and also in my bank account.
We can’t just decide these things, we have to have something to draw from. And confidence must come from somewhere. There are two wells from which I believe we should draw when it comes to confidence. It comes from believing in the work that we have put in, and it comes from believing in the gifts that we have been blessed with. You were able to bring out both of these things in me while I worked for you.
I was always a hard worker, but you helped further instill the importance of hard work, but more importantly, you helped teach me that after putting in the hard work, I had to value what that meant to me and to those around me. It’s okay to put in the work in the dark, that is where much of the quality work is done. But when we get in the light, we have to live out the work we have done in the dark. Our work doesn’t have much meaning until we go out and share it with others. And you forced me to do that. I could never have imagined leading an offense before coming to to work with, or taking on that level of responsibility. I don’t know that I believe I had it in me. But since leaving that position, I think I’ve been looking for that same level of leadership opportunity in my other professional endeavors.
And you believed in the gifts that I had inside of me. Essentially, you believed in the person that I was. And that is a very powerful thing. You didn’t try to change who I was, or make me believe that I had a great amount of work to do in order to impact the people around me. You showed me that I needed to start living the gifts that I’d been given, I needed to start sharing them, and I needed to quit hiding behind humility as an excuse for not being my best.
For four or five years of my coaching journey, as I was starting out, I didn’t have much of a voice. I encouraged, and I clapped, and I offered insight. But it wasn’t until working for you that I developed a real voice, a rhythm to my coaching and teaching that was mine and mine alone. Some people say that we can’t give confidence to other people, but I’m not so sure that’s true, not after working for you.
I know that you don’t accept this, and I also know that our friendship carries no debts, but there is part of me that will always feel in debt to you for our time coaching together. I am a better person because of it.
I hope that I can bring out the confidence in others that you brought out in me. Particularly in my children. What a great and powerful thing, to value and believe in another human being enough to the point that they value and believe in themselves enough, to go out and attack their challenges with great confidence. Believing in the work they have done and believing in the gifts they have, to the point that they feel like they are the right man for the job. Not the job, but THE job. What if we can do that for our kids, Mark? I think we’d be pretty good parents, I think our kids would know that we loved them, and I think we’d have lived a pretty rich life. And I know you can give that to yours, because you helped give that to me.
This writing thing that I’m doing, comes largely from the encouragement that you’ve given. You told me that I was a writer long before I believed it, and at the very least, it’s been meaningful for me. As I’m writing this now, I’m realizing that I’ve gotten some additional direction for my parenting, perhaps the most important role I’m filling right now, in addition to being a husband, through my writing. I hope that I can show my wife and kids that they are important people, with valuable gifts to share with the world, and get them to believe that, and live it out. I’ve got to get to work on that…
Lastly, perhaps as a takeaway for the others who are reading, I want to remind you, and share a story that I’ll never forget from our time together (there are many others…). I remember when we were first learning the offense that we were going to run, and we had some questions about what to do in some different situations. The guy who created it was a college coach, and had become pretty famous based on his videos, and e-books, and the fact that he had consulted with some big name coaches in sharing his philosophy. You asked me about calling him, and I thought it was ridiculous. Why should we call someone so important? What would he think about us? Would he give us the time of day? Would he reject us? And I’ll never forget what you said,
“He’s not better than us”
And you didn’t mean that we were better than him either, just that, on a fundamental level, as human beings, he wasn’t on any higher plane than we were, regardless of his relative fame or professional position. As someone who had always adhered to some sort of social and professional hierarchy, usually placing myself firmly at the bottom as some sort of expression of humility, this was very powerful for me. I’ve never forgotten that. I don’t always live it as firmly as I should, but I have reminded myself of this often as I’ve approached new people, job interviews, or challenging situations. What’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, I’ll recover.
God has not given me a spirit of fear, and regardless of who I’m approaching, they aren’t better than me, so what does it hurt for me to try?
Thank you, Mark, for your confidence, and now mine. Thank you for your friendship.