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12 Ways to Make an Impact: A Life Skills Guide for Athletes (& Everyone Else!)

Great things come to those who make things happenGreat things come to those who make things happen. I firmly believe this. As I’ve grown through my career, I’ve learned that in order to truly make a positive impact on others one should have a goal-oriented and empathetic mindset, demonstrate a passion for helping, take initiative when appropriate, and think big. As David Schultz noted in his motivational book “The Power of Thinking Big”, no matter who you are, where you are, or what you are, you always have the power to think big. Do you think “big”?  By this, I mean do you give thought to the endless possibilities that exist for growth in yourself and in those you work with while striving towards mastery of your craft? You have that ability. We all do. Embrace the opportunity.

I am extremely excited to announce that all of my “big thinking” and a focus on “making things happen” has paid off in the form of an amazing new professional and personal opportunity. On September 6th, 2014 I embark on my newest journey as Vice President of O-PA! Performance Academy, a new entity awakening this fall in Bernardsville, NJ. Once again, it’s time to make things happen and make an impact. This will be a consistent theme and mantra for all that I will be involved with, embracing O-PA! as a vehicle to make an even bigger impact. The purpose of this particular blog is to share what my overall approach to “making an impact” is (and will be via O-PA!) in hopes that others can also embrace these approaches in their own personal and professional life.  Here are 12 ways to make an impact:

  1. Seek first to understand, then be understood. Once again I must give thanks to Stephen Covey for reminding me of this through his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.  In order to help others, you have to understand their perspective. This doesn’t mean you always have to agree with the other’s perspective, but you must acknowledge and understand it. Through empathy you will see improved connections, improved teamwork, and improved mutual respect. Practical Example: You resolve a disagreement with a teammate by better understanding each other’s perspective, thus leading to a win/win solution.
  2. Be proactive. Think ahead to what else can be done. There are two components to this. First, building off of #1, by understanding others and understanding the dynamics of any given situation you can make choices without being prompted, which can ultimately lead to improved processes and improved outcomes. Second, by looking forward and thinking with the expected end result in mind, you can take steps towards attaining those end results. Practical Example: You know that your co-worker is falling behind in their work responsibilities because of family problems, so you put in some extra effort today to complete your responsibilities in order to free up your schedule the next day to help them catch up.  
  3. Practice self-reflection. nolan thinkingThis may seem like common sense, but you must know yourself better than you know anyone else in order to maximize your ability to make an impact on others. What are your quirks? What is your kryptonite? What kind of person do others see you as?  In other words, what is your personal “brand”? Practical Example: You run into a string of what some may call “bad luck”, so you review your personal processes leading up to these occurrences and discover there were better choices available for you to make – and you learn from this for future use.
  4. Value your strengths and embrace areas you need to enhance. First, through #3 you determine your strengths as well as areas you need to enhance (I hate the word “weakness”, btw). Now, values these. This could be personal aspects and tendencies, or can be about your skill set (such as a fencer knowing his hand speed is excellent but he needs to improve the quickness of his lunge) . Practical Example: You recognize and embrace your commitment level as an athlete, so you work hard with a performance coach to work on improving your strength and stability deficits.
  5. Pursue mastery. True mastery can never really be attained, however, there is a lot of value in still trying to attain it. Mastery means having the ultimate comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment. Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, and Tiger Woods have a mastery-pursuit mindset. They recognize that there is always room for improvement somewhere. Don’t get me wrong – while pursuing mastery you can also enjoy the level of success that you currently have in something. That’s part of the fun!  Appreciate where you’ve gotten to (see #12) while also never ceasing to “sharpen the saw” (another from Stephen Covey!). Practical Example You have a passion for helping others achieve their performance goals, so you make it your mission to continually fine tune your approach to improve your application of that knowledge.
  6. Don’t spill your chocolate milk. I love chocolate milk. Besides being what I consider one of the most delicious beverages in the world, it is a highly effective post-workout recovery drink. What is your “chocolate milk”?  In other words, I am referring to the stuff that you love in life and enjoy on a regular basis (family, friends, faith, passions, cherished possessions). Maintain your stability and fight those outside forces that  come at you so that you can continue to enjoy whatever your “chocolate milk” may be. Practical Example: Fencing for your prestigious club makes you extremely proud, so you avoid going to the party where you know there will be under-age drinking (and thus avoid putting your position on the team in jeopardy).
  7. Embrace your inner child. Embrace your inner child while looking at life unjaded, open-minded, with a genuine eagerness to live, laugh, and learn. For more on this check out my previous blog on the topic, Practical Example: You are coaching a practice session and notice that your players are dragging (both mentally and physically), so you diverge from your practice plan and play a fun game such as a relay through an obstacle course.
  8. Laugh and have fun. A specific component of the 7th “way”, this world is too exciting not to have fun.  It is important to have a good sense of humor, for laughter can be quite the powerful tool in many situations. Sharing laughs and collaborating in some form of play are fantastic ways to build rapport. Improved rapport leads to improved collaboration and improved outcomes. I’m fortunate to have entered into a profession that I see as “play” much more often than I view it as “work”. This is a mindset that I know we are all capable of. Practical Example: You laugh with your friends. Yep, simple as that.
  9. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. There are lots of things in life that occur which we could completely avoid if we had the choice: The arguments, unexpected negative situations, setbacks. Unfortunately, we still have to handle these bumps when they occur.  It’s easy to handle things we are comfortable with, however what truly sets effective people apart is their ability to handle uncomfortable situations in a rational way. Can you remain objective in times when emotions run high in order to still accomplish what needs to be accomplished? Practical Example: You’re a star basketball player who has had an “off” night, going 3 of 15 shooting for the game. You are at the free-throw line with no time remaining with the opportunity to win the game for your team. You re-focus and sink both shots.  
  10. Practice responsible independence and effective interdependence. Having responsible independence means that you can be counted on to be accountable and take care of your responsibilities. Having effective interdependence means that you work well cooperatively with others towards a common goal. Practical Example: You are a college athlete who sticks with your off-season training routine while away from school over the summer, and at the same time you maintain communication with your teammates to help keep them motivated as well so your team’s national championship dream can become a reality.
  11. Be a catalyst. A catalyst is something that leads to a reaction. In order the make an impact,on something/someone, you have to be a catalyst in some way or another. Apply your unique talents and personal traits in ways that not only help you meet your own goals, but also helps others attain theirs. Practical Example: You are a seasoned sports medicine professional with the opportunity to have interns, and you make the most of the mentorship opportunity in order to give back to the profession that you love by helping them develop their tools so they can make an impact on all those they come into contact with in the future.
  12. Be appreciative. Appreciate everything that you have and the opportunities that occur, appreciate others for the value they bring, and above all else appreciate yourself as an amazing person capable of doing amazing things.  Practical Application:  You always say thank you, and mean it.  life is about creating yourself

These “12 Ways” are a practical approach to making a positive impact on/with others in your personal and professional life. While developing the tools needed to be a greater athlete, we will also develop the tools needed to be a greater person. Make things happen and make an impact so that you as well can achieve your goals while helping others achieve theirs. Remember, GREAT things come to those who make things happen.

As always, thanks for reading!




10 Tips For New College Graduates (Healthcare and Wellness Edition)

growth chart

Congratulations! I applaud and welcome you, new college grad! It’s your turn to join the rest of us, here in the professional world, doing great things and making an impact. While this post is intended for the recent college graduate (especially those entering a healthcare or wellness profession), it may also serve as a “reflection point” for those of you who graduated a while ago and those in other “human service” professions. Yea, graduation may mean that you have to start paying back that student loan debt in the near future. Graduation also means you get to start a hopefully very rewarding professional career with endless possibilities.

Me in 2003: Was I SERIOUSLY slow dancing with Spiderman wearing an N*SYNC shirt and jorts?

Me in 2003: Was I SERIOUSLY slow dancing with Spiderman wearing an N*SYNC shirt and jorts?

It’s hard to believe, but it has been almost 11 years since I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from the Penn State University Athletic Training program (WE ARE!). Yeah –> that was me my final semester (feel free to laugh – you’re laughing with me, not at me :-)). I can’t help but laugh at myself when I look back. In some ways though, there’s a feeling of disappointment with the “why the heck did I do that?” self-reflective moments. Yet, I am still very proud of how I’ve developed personally and professionally since those days, learning from my mistakes. While those who know me now still see my “eccentric” side come out when appropriate (yeah, it’s me, and I love being me), it has been 11 years of serious growth that have helped me be proud of the professional (and overall person) I am today.  I’ve learned a lot over my journey, and I hope that sharing with you 10 qualities I’ve learned will help as you travel up your own professional journey of continuous growth.

1. Be proud:  You just accomplished something fantastic in earning your degree. This is a big deal. Celebrate this turning point in your life! As you continue forward on your professional journey, continue to take the opportunity to value your successes and be proud of each new accomplishment (no matter large or small). You’re amazing – remember that.

2. Be a diamond in the rough: We all start out as coal. Henry Kissinger once said, “a diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.” Recognize right now that life will have its difficult moments. Be prepared to take on repeated challenges, difficulties, and roadblocks along your path. Stay the course. When taking on these challenges, remember that shining through every mistake and every challenge is potential for learning and growth.

3. Be a student of yourself: I wish I had learned this earlier. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to correct/fix/change everybody else, and it’s easy to deflect blame. However, self-reflection (and also how you apply that insight) is in my opinion the best approach to problem resolution and growth. Know your strengths. Know your areas in need of enhancement. How do others perceive you? While reflecting, develop your own professional philosophy and mission statement. Accurate self awareness is powerful stuff.

4. Be collaborative: Recognize that the professional domain of healthcare and wellness is very collaborative in nature. Athletic trainers, physicians, physical therapists, fitness professionals, and other allied healthcare professionals working together interdependently maximizes positive outcomes through complimentary skill sets. Facilitating a “turf war” only hurts our professional growth. There’s no shortage of people in need of our services in this world.

5. Be a sponge: Learn from what others do well, while also learning from the mistakes of others. In order to do this, you have to be open to the ideas, suggestions, and feedback of others. Face it – there’s a good chance you may be wrong many times. It is OK (and healthy) to acknowledge this! Absorb info like a sponge, process it, then make the best choices you can given the situation.

6. Be proactive: Simply put, don’t just sit back and wait for things to happen (i.e reactive). Prepare for what is known will happen and plan for what you think might happen. While in some cases it may feel easier to just go with the flow, in the long wrong you’ll spend more energy “fixing on the fly”. Think with the end in mind.

7. Be a dynamic thinker: What we learn in textbooks can seem pretty straight-forward. In reality, it is how we apply that knowledge in actual, ever-changing situations that makes the difference. When I say “dynamic”, I am referring to developing the ability to think outside the box, considering many possible solutions, and always being open to changing your train of thought based on the situation at hand. Tunnel vision won’t get you far. When presented with the problems you face on a daily basis, do what is best given the dynamics of the situation, keeping in mind both short- and long-term results.

8. Be a Master: There are two parts to this. FIrst, I HIGHLY recommend completing your Masters Degree at some point. As challenging as it was, completing my Masters educational program at SUNY New Paltz (Humanistic/Multicultural Education) is my proudest and most valuable professional accomplishment, one that took my sports medicine and interpersonal skill set to a whole new level. Pick a program that very specifically guides you towards where you want to go professionally. I wanted a program that would help me apply my sports medicine knowledge more effectively to those in need of my services, while also fine-tuning the skills needed to be a great leader. This program was my personal turning point.  Second, find your niche, and master it. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it is yet – it will happen if you’re following these 10 recommendations.

9. Be a resource: You are given a great gift, as well as a great responsibility, with all of the knowledge you possess. Put it to good use. Whether it is through blogging, social media, helpful videos, teaching courses, or in your daily interactions, pass on your gift. Bring everyone else along on your journey. When the time comes for you to become the mentor, help your student learn from your own mistakes and successes. Be a resource for others.

10. Be an example: Live your profession. If you work in health and/or wellness, make healthy lifestyle choices that model a good example for your clients, colleagues, and those who rely on you to provide education. If you fall off the bus, work hard to get back on it. Look like you know what you’re talking about, and actually do it. I make it a point to experience any   exercises/workouts that I put my clients through, and be as good as I possibly can at them. As best as you are physically able to, be a model for your profession.

Now, it’s your turn to shine. Be a catalyst, and do great things.