Be A, Not A (Part 2)

When I was developing content for 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, I may base it entirely on these lessons. Occasionally, I will post some of these lessons. This is Part 2, to see part 1, click here.

Just like running and lifting we can condition ourselves around mental, social, and spiritual development.  The more we practice the better we become. The opposite also holds true, the less we practice, the worse we become. This practice does not happen in a gym or controlled environment.  It happens in life. We learn along our journey. If we allow ourselves to get lazy and not own our journey, then it becomes more commonplace to just go through life letting others, circumstances, and poor choices control us.

Be a coach, not a critic.

As I have written before, God wired me to be a coach. I choose to be a light, shining a path for others, not a judge who see other’s shortcomings; a model for others to emulate, not a critic who improves their standing by lowering the standing of others. I root for others to succeed. Knowing that studies have shown that an individual’s success is mostly based on whether one believes one will succeed, I welcome the opportunity to believe in others. “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care” is an often-cited coaching principle. John Wooden, arguably the best team coach said, “Young people need models, not critics.”

An effective coach chooses to be positive when dealing with others. I strive to be “calling up” as opposed to “calling out” or worse “cancelling out”, looking to build but not coddle. Be positive, think successfully, treat others from that framework.

The greatest model for coaching is Jesus. The New Testament shows that Jesus was an incredible coach and facilitator for the Apostles. When Jesus recruited his first disciples he said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t offer to teach them; he was going to transform them. Jesus guides us along His plan for our lives for eternity.

Be an eagle, not a duck.

This comparison between an eagle and a duck has been shared by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Ken Blanchard, and Harvey McKay. Eagles are large, regal, and resolute birds that stand as our national symbol and an emblem of strength, freedom, independence, and self-actualization. Ducks are small, noisy, and ambiguous birds that are used as cartoon characters like Donald and Daffy.

Eagles soar and when a storm hits, the eagle sets its wings so that the wind lifts it higher and above the fray. Ducks are nice birds, but when startled or disturbed, they gather and quack. While I was compiling this blog, I stopped in a coffee shop where a group of guys were sitting around a table complaining about their wives with each trying to better the other’s stories – I could not help to look at them and think they were acting as a group of ducks quacking.

In life, it can be easier to cluster, quack and complain. I have had more experience with ducks in customer service situations that tell me why it cannot be done, than the eagle who stands alone and solves the problem. There is a Native American writing, “Eagle is reminding you to take heart and gather your courage, for the universe is presenting you with an opportunity to soar above the mundane levels of your life.” In Peter Gabriel’s song, “Solsbury Hill,” he references the “eagle flew out of night.” Despite urban legend, the eagle was not Bruce Springsteen, however it was the inspiration to let go and soar above a bad situation.

In Isaiah 40:31, “They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

The eagle is considered the artistic symbol of the Gospel of St. John, in part because its text is lofty in its theological perspective. The eagle is also one of the four animal symbols seen by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10). Christian tradition associates the four faces which represent animate creation with the four evangelists: the lion (wild animal) with Mark, the ox (domesticated livestock) with Luke, the eagle (birds) with John, and the man (human beings) with Matthew.

Be the tree, not the shadow.

Here I go with another tree reference. This quick statement comes from a favorite Abraham Lincoln quote of mine, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Then add in this African Proverb, “When the shadow of a tree is bent, straighten the tree, not the shadow.” Focus on the tree, the shadow takes care of itself.

To quote John Wooden for the second time in this blog, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Shadows fade or shine depending on outside conditions, but the tree is the sum of its attributes and traits. Shadows have no substance, but the tree is a solid entity with fullness of life. It can be cold and lonely in the shadow of a tree, yet at that same moment the tree can be in the light and warmth.

Like Coach Wooden, Thomas Paine said, “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” St. Paul was concerned with being a tree and not the shadow. He focused on taking care of his character, knowing his reputation will take care of itself.

Matthew 7:18-20 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” Just as you can identify the character of a tree by its fruit, so you can identify the character of people by their actions.

What will we choose to be?

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