Just Keep Swinging
Our team retreat prior to the start of our season is always one of the experiences our players cite as the most memorable of their high school careers. Though it lasts less than 24 hours, its impact often lasts a lifetime.
We do several things on the retreat including setting our team goal for the season, a grueling partner workout, capture the flag in the woods, and even some paintball to finish things off. However, the most anticipated activity is none of those. It's also the most impactful.
For the past 12 years each player at the retreat has chopped down a tree. Most of our players have never held an ax, much less used one to chop down a dead tree in the middle of the woods. They all look forward to it, but they are clearly out of their comfort zones.
All of our players approach it in different ways. The guys that have played baseball rare back and take huge hacks, attempting to demonstrate their beautiful home run swing that’s sure to knock the tree over in just a few swings. We have the smart guys that carefully negotiate for the sharpest ax then calculate every swing to be sure they’re striking the tree in just the right sport. And, we usually end up with at least one guy that’s so uncomfortable with the ax in his hands that he chokes halfway up the handle to insure more control, lightning the blows but double the frequency.
The best part of the whole experience is that they all end up in the same place. After about ten minutes of consistent swinging, shedding a layer of clothing, adjusting their strategy a few times, and making virtually now significant progress, they all begin looking around at their coaches and teammates.
And, they ask, “What do I do now?”
The answer, though clear, is not what they want to hear.
Why Should We Care?
The more I read and study leadership and personal development, the more I realize the value of consistency. Show up over and over and over, and eventually - poof, you’re better. It doesn’t feel much like magic though.
The truth is, most people quit. Maybe for good reasons, maybe for bad ones, but most people tap out. It becomes too uncomfortable or inconvenient. It doesn’t produce significant results quickly enough. The repetitive nature of the consistent action becomes boring. Who knows?
There are certainly times to change course. All the time is not the time.
If we are willing to take an in depth look at excellence, in ourselves and others, what we will realize is that every single area of excellence was founded on consistency. Some may start further ahead than others but consistency is required regardless. There are no exceptions.
If we just consider the players chopping down trees, the same is true. Regardless of their experience, approach, and strength all of the players get to the same point of contemplation and begin asking themselves questions.
What do I need to do differently? How can I make this go faster? Am I doing something wrong?
Is there a best form and approach for chopping down a tree? Sure. Is there a best way to hold the ax, plant your feet, and extend your arms? Sure. Would that speed up the process? Sure.
But, so often we spend too much time trying to figure out the best way and lose sight of the only way we will ever get the tree to the ground … by continuing to swing.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Maintaining a focus on consistency is not easy. Everything around us tells us to jump ship and choose the flavor of the month. Nonetheless, consistency is always a significant part of the answer. Here are a few ways to double down on consistency.
No matter how large the tree or small the swings, the tree always comes down. It’s the consistency of hundreds of swings that makes the difference, not the power of any single one. The same is true for us. It may seem like today’s actions don’t matter. In truth, they’re the only ones that do.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.