Be A, Not A (Part 1)

When I was developing content in my role as a High School Football Coach and Character Coach, I built about 50 separate lessons around the “Be A, Not A” concept. If I ever write a second book, it will be entirely based on these lessons. I have been holding onto this content for years while doing my blog. With a self-imposed limit of about 1000 words for blog posts (yes, I am aware I often exceed that limit) it will take 10+ blog posts to cover them all. I decided that now is as good a time as any, to start sharing. This is Part 1, my favorite three lessons.

Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

This is a lesson about ownership. A thermometer tells us the temperature of a room. A thermostat sets the temperature of a room. There is a significant difference. We need more thermostats who take ownership of the temperature as opposed to thermometers who just report it. I used this analogy with high school players to own their path and not just follow the pack. It also follows one of my main tenets that we “Do or Do Not, there is no try” which has us own the outcome and the result, just to ‘try’ shirks ownership. A thermostat is accountable for the outcome, determining if the room is hot or cold. Same as in business, sports, and other aspects of life, we need people focused on results.

When we moved into our home, we had a personal experience of a faulty thermostat. It operated backwards, heating when it should have cooling and vice versa. It couldn’t be rewired, a bad thermostat needs replaced. That is accountability. I was touched to learn years ago that after giving this talk to a middle school girls’ basketball team, they started calling themselves ‘The Thermostats.’

This is exactly what St. Paul was talking about In Roman’s 12:2, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” In other words, be thermostats. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he urges the same, “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

Be a compass, not a map.

There are symbolic choices that refer to what guides our life – a compass, a map, or even a clock. The question is, are we guided by a purpose, a direction, or ruled by time? A compass always points north no matter what the situation, it is a natural law. A map provides a description of a place which may be dated and inaccurate. We could have a map of Detroit but be lost in Chicago. Letting a clock rule our life means we may get things done quickly and succeed in a timely manner, but are the results what matters most? A compass is leadership, while the map and clock are management tools.

Since a compass always points north, we must decide what ‘True North’ is on our compass. Having a true north allows us to evaluate our journey against it. Author Stephen Covey talks about being in a rush to climb the ladder of success, only to find that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

While coaching youth soccer at the earliest age, I started with the map philosophy in that I wanted them to kick the ball at least in the right direction. As they got older and more skilled, it was a progression to kicking the ball with purpose, e.g., passes, plays to open space, or planned clearing attempts. I advocate the same thing with our daily life. Don’t just live and exist, content with the direction we are headed; have a purpose.

The best example from the Bible of this adage is when Abraham was called by God to leave his country, “The LORD said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). He wasn’t given a map or destination. Trusting God was his compass.

Often with God we are want a map or a clock. However, He has given us a compass. In Ecclesiastes (3:11) we are told, “God has made everything appropriate to its time but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.’” God sees no need to provide us with a map nor a clock, those are man-made. What He reveals to us is His character, His values, and His heart.

Be a climber, not a camper.

Climbers work to get to new heights; they know it’s about the climb and not just the view. Climbers understand there’s risk involved. They risk experiencing failure and are willing to adapt their techniques for fresh approaches. Campers are key workers but can become comfortable or settle into roles; they tend to avoid risk. Campers will never experience the mountain top. Business and organizations look for climbers, people who aspire to continually evolving goals, strivers.

The message I gave my teams was that the enemy of being great is being good. Why settle for good, keep climbing. This was Kennedy’s vision for the space program in the 1960s. Choosing to go to the moon was a challenge goal. However, it “measured the best of our energies and skills.”

The apostle Paul was a climber. Consider that he wrote his letter to the Philippians from a Roman prison cell and used the word “rejoice” thirteen times, despite the adversity he was facing. Paul was devoted to the continual climb to be as Christlike as possible.

I have become quite the admirer of Nehemiah in his mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He is a Biblical example that embodies all three of these qualities. He is a thermostat, a compass, and a climber. Nowhere in the story do we read that Nehemiah is acting on God’s word for this project. He has prayed and he’s a Godly-enough man to know the right thing to do. He takes ownership and sets the temperature. He is dedicated to a true north, the welfare of his people, to rebuild the wall and reclaim Jerusalem. Nehemiah climbs past risk and fear that causes others to want to be campers.

We need to be like Nehemiah and Paul. Be bold, know our way, don’t settle while we struggle to climb on our journey towards salvation. Be Christ-like. Not world-like.

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