March 18, 2023: Daily Discipline Mailbag
What do you do if you want to instill a new culture at your org, but the other decision makers...
“Brian, I've been following you and your methods for quite some time. I was recently forced to resign from my coaching position after 19 years. An angry parent didn't agree with how I spoke to her son and my administration chose not to support me at all, leaving me with an awfully difficult decision, resign or fight? With the uncertainty of what may happen, I resigned. Although they proclaimed to be 'in my corner and have all the respect in the world for my 19 seasons as head coach, I have never been so betrayed by another adult in my 24 years of teaching/coaching.
My question is, how do you deal with the feeling of betrayal and still having to communicate with the people that drastically affected not only my livelihood but much of my family, etc.? I can't quit my teaching position, it would cost me to move to another school with less than 6 years until retirement.” (Dan - 47 - Arizona)
Betrayal is one of the most difficult emotions to process. On one hand, our desire for justice or even vengeance is undeniably strong like a raging fire in our belly. On the other hand, grace and forgiveness pull at our heart to douse the flames anger and give us peace.
I won’t attempt to tell you what to feel or what to do. I’ll just share some thoughts.
We can’t address betrayal if we don’t address responsibility. Before the issue of betrayal there is the issue of your responsibility for the triggering event. I obviously don’t know all the relevant details of the situation, which do matter to the big picture, but your description contained the most important information about this situation.
“An angry parent didn't agree with how I spoke to her son.”
I don’t need to know what you said to the player, how you said it, or where you said it. You are responsible for all of that, including the impact on the player and their parent. I imagine that’s a hard pill to swallow in your position, so let me explain why that’s the case using myself as an example.
I speak in front of groups all the time, often about issues that are deeply personal, somewhat controversial, or subjectively sensitive. Sometimes people don’t like what I have to say, the words I use (I don’t give a shit about “cuss” words – my mom taught me the important lesson that a word has as much power as I choose to give it or deny it, and each person has to make their own decision about that), or how I say it.
Sometimes people feel offended when they hear what I say, the words I use, or how I speak about things. On a few occasions, people have become angry, accused me of things, and even tried to have me removed or fired.
Here’s what I understand when I speak to people personally or professionally:
I am 100% responsible for what I say and how I say it and I am the only one responsible.
I am responsible for the impact of what I say and how I say it, even when that impact is the complete opposite of my intent.
Number one is pretty easy to understand. If I said it, I’m responsible.
Number two is tougher. If the words I used and the manner in which I used them resulted in a negative impact on someone, am I responsible for that? Yes. Even when people misunderstand, misinterpret, or selectively filter my words, I am responsible for the impact of words I chose to say and how I said them.
Now, be careful not to confuse the responsibilities here. I’m responsible for my choices and the impact created from my choices. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s interpretations, perspectives, reactions, or emotional processing. That’s their responsibility.
However, the fact remains that my words create impact. It’s unacceptable for me to express myself and then avoid responsibility when my expression has some impact that I don’t like or agree with. The impact only happened because of my expression, even when other people grossly or willfully misinterpret it. It originated with my expression. I was the initiator. They had nothing to misinterpret or be offended by until I chose to speak. I must take responsibility for that.
Here is how I look at my responsibility when someone is upset with my communication:
Did I mean what I said? Do I still mean it?
Do I stand by my choice of words or was I too undisciplined with them?
Did I deliver my words in the style, tone, and setting I wanted?
Was there a different style, tone, or setting I could have used, though not my personal preference, that might be more effective in situations like this or with people like this?
If I stand by my word choice and manner of communication, do I accept the negative impact it will have on people who choose to be offended by it for their reasons?
It’s difficult to accept 100% responsibility for the impact of our communication when someone misinterprets us, assumes the worst, assigns false intentions, or spins our words to mean something we didn’t intend.
That’s why we need to (1) be crystal clear we mean what we say, (2) own 100% of our word choices, and (3) pay close attention to the style and tone of our communication. If you are disciplined in those three things, what fear do you have over people taking offense to what you say? Nothing to defend. Own it all and stand strong on your choices, even when you pay a price for them. That’s courage, integrity, and character. But if you weren’t as disciplined as you could have been or needed to be, own that too. It’s also courage, integrity, and character.
As for the feelings of betrayal, I find unspoken perspectives and unaddressed tension cause more stress and damage than dealing with it head on. I’m sure that’s influenced some by my personal style, but I’ve also worked through hundred’s of situations with people who carried feelings of betrayal they never addressed with the other people or made peace with within themselves. It never works. It always controls, consumes, and cripples the people who try to carry that weight.
Like I said, I won’t tell you what to do. Here’s how I would address it for myself:
Directly express that I feel betrayed.
Own that as my feeling, not an objective fact. “I feel betrayed” is accurate and demonstrates responsibilty for my emotions. They are responsible for their actions. I am responsible for my feeling of betrayal. “You betrayed me” is an accusation. It’s also an opinion not a fact, and one they’re not likely to agree with because betrayal is entirely subjective. So I’d stay away from that.
Have zero conversation arguing over or interpreting the meaning of what happened. I’m not trying to convince them of anything at all. They see, think, and feel things I don’t. I see, think, and feel things they don’t.
If I discovered, on reflection, that I could have done something better at any point in the process leading to this situation, I would express that directly and with full 100% responsibility.
I would let them know how, if at all, these circumstances affect our relationships moving forward. Nothing ambiguous or fuzzy like, “I just don’t see how we’ll work well together.” That creates more uncertainty and tension. I want to provide clarity so they can respond better to it. “I’ll work well with you on our shared mission, but I have no interest in friendship.” or “Now you know my perspective and how I feel about what you did. I won’t let it affect our work together but the consequence is I don’t have confidence in you anymore. I will never undermine you or share my perspective with our teammates, but you need to know where I stand. Maybe with effort, we can repair our relationship over time.” I would articulate what I am clear about and confident in moving forward. I want to communicate clearly and honestly. I also want to help them respond well to me.
And then, privately to myself, I would forgive them for any wrong I believe they did to me. I would take any energy that went into anger and feeling betrayed, and I would put it into love for my family, effort for my students, or energy towards my purpose and fulfillment.
There is so much more involved in situations like this, and in yours no doubt, that I could honestly write for a couple more hours on it. But what we’ve covered above is heavy enough for now. That’s all real work and a great place to start.
“What are the best ways to train daily discipline?” (Michael - 44 - Seattle, WA)
“How do you train your discipline?” (Mary)
Are you asking for good, reliable ways to train daily discipline or only for the best ways?
I ask because people ask similar style questions on other topics:
What are the best ways to lose weight and get in shape?
What are the best ways to launch a business?
What are the best ways start your morning?
I’m all for exploring and pursuing the best ways of doing something, but not when it creates a delay in action or hesitation to do something reliably good. Far too many people are waiting to do anything until they’re confidence they’ve found the best way to do it. That’s just fancy procrastination pretending to be interested in excellence. Excellence executes and learns.
Don’t hesitate to do something good because you’re waiting to learn how to do it best. Learn the best ways by becoming great at doing all the simple things people overlook.
The best ways to train daily discipline are the most simple. First, make sure you return to the key question: what is discipline?
Choice: you’re in control of the decision.
Purpose: you believe in the reason or goal behind the discipline.
Standards: you have a quality, mark, or expectation to reach.
Effort: you put great energy and willingness into it.
Skill: you aim to do it well, not just to complete, and to get better.
Let me reframe that through the lens of my daily discipline mindset, which works great for anyone who wants to train daily discipline:
“Today is about my choices, my purpose, my standards, my effort, and my skill. I’m not only in control of all those things, I’m the only one capable of controlling them in myself.”
So, training daily discipline is pointing that list at something in your life (the food you eat, for example) and working through the list:
What choices do I need to make today about what I eat and drink and what I don’t?
What is the meaningful purpose driving my choices today?
What are my chosen standards for disciplined decisions and actions with food and drink?
How much effort am I giving to every choice to meet the standards for the purpose I’m pursuing?
What skills am I deploying in my decision making and action to uphold my standards and fulfill my purpose? And what am I learning about how to get even better or faster into disciplined action?
"How do you help athletes find the mental roadblock that keeps them from being all in? Without asking why aren’t you working as hard as your teammates?" (Maurice - 48 - Orlando)
Why can’t you ask that? Why wouldn’t you ask that?
There’s a peculiar behavior pattern I observe in coaches and leaders where they experience frustrating gaps in attitude, action, or discipline from people they lead but don’t want to directly tell those people specifically about those gaps. Are they supposed to just figure it out on their own? Are they supposed to just know it without you having to lead it?
How do you expect people to be aware of their gaps if you, as the leader, don’t explain the gap between how they do it, how it needs to be done, and the reasons their current approach isn’t good enough?
People can’t address what is unclear. Clarity is step one. A lot of leaders hustle past step one because it makes them uncomfortable. They say they don’t want to hurt someone’s feeling, but that’s not the real truth. The real truth is that it’s awkward for the leader. They want to be liked.
As for the mental obstacles, it’s one of these:
It looks and feels too hard
I'm comfortable for now
Fear of failure
Fear of expectations
Fear of embarrassment
Fear of rejection
Fear of criticism
Fear of the unknown
I don’t know how
Indecisive about which direction to commit
I don’t think it’s worth the effort
I want a guarantee before starting
I don’t think I belong
It would create tension in my relationships
I'm waiting for permission
I'm dependent on someone's approval
I'm attached to a sense of belonging in a group that doesn't support that
Work through this list with anyone who has talent and capability, but struggling with willingness and effort. There’s a good chance more than one is at play.
"What is the best way to counter or offset the intense anger & irrational actions we seem to be exposed to in today's world. Are there any "easy" answers to that?" (Dean - 75 - Lewis Center, OH)
The best way to counter intense anger and irrational actions is through love and empathy. The worst way is by responding with more anger and irrationality, which is what happens most of the time.
The easiest answer is incredibly simple and what I do for 99% of the noise out there: ignore it. It doesn’t deserve my attention, time, or energy. Their anger is not my issue or my responsibility. I refuse to be held hostage by someone else’s perspective or emotion.
If you insert or expose yourself to streams of anger and irrationality, you are responsible for that, not them. You turn on the news? That’s your fault. You listen to talk show debates? Your fault.
I don’t expose myself or concern myself with any of that. If I encounter it, I either quickly move it out of my attention or I empathize with love and understanding, especially if I don’t agree. Angry people don’t need accommodated. They need understood so they can decompress that anger and discover an effective way to express and act on what’s important to them.
I don’t want to be an “anger amplifier”. I want to douse the flames of anger, either by denying them oxygen (attention) or by providing enough light (love) where that flame is no longer necessary.
If we didn't answer your question this week, stay tuned, we got A LOT of questions. We will do our best to answer every question at some point.