4 Reasons I Can Never Run For President (And How That Makes Me A Better Coach)
I have always been a political junkie. When I was fourteen years old, in 1992, I was absolutely obsessed with the Presidential elections - the fight between Bush, Sr. and Clinton. I watched political elections the way other kids watched football.
Don't get me wrong; I have my own political and philosophical ideas and ideals as anyone else has. There are causes I believe in. But I try to separate those things out from the reality of the political system, as it exists. What we have is a large game, a spectacle full of crazy characters who rarely, if ever, truly represent you and I in the truest sense.
In a very real way, most politicians are nothing like you or me. The experiences they had are nothing like the ones we had. They didn't make similar choices. They didn't make similar mistakes. And their ability to relate to us in fundamental human ways will always be less than optimal.
As much as I loved the game of politics, I never wanted to be president the way other kids did. And thank God! Because I'd never get elected - not in a million years.
But what is funny is the reasons I would have a hard time winning an election actually help me as a coach. Teaching anything well requires a substantial amount of empathy. If you don't understand the person you are trying to explain something to, you will fail to explain it well.
I would make a horrible Presidential candidate. But I'm a decent coach. And the reasons for both are roughly the same. Here are four of them:
One: I Took Way Too Many Drugs Growing Up
The statistics are true. And I was one of them. The first time I smoked weed I was twelve. The first time I dropped acid I was thirteen. By the time I lived in a dorm in college I was bored to tears with drugs. I'd been through most of them. And by the time I was twenty-two, I had pretty much stopped all drug intake. And drinking became purely social and mellow. Hell, by that age it had been a decade of use.
I never could relate to these candidates who say they never even TRIED to smoke a joint before. I always figured they were either lying or someone I'd have a hard time talking to.
I coach a club in Portland, Oregon of all places. Enough said. (If you don't understand, watch any episode of Portlandia.)
POINT - I lived a real life doing the kind of stuff "normal" people do. I may have gone a bit overboard, sure. But I am far from the goodie-goodie trainer who refuses to eat ice cream because he needs to save his precious abs.
Two: I Sucked At Sports
I am rather athletic now. And I always had potential. But, I was tiny as a kid. In the sixth grade, we did a height chart, and it turned out that I was the shortest kid in the entire sixth grade in the school. Except for one small Asian girl.
I was always picked last for every sport.
And because of this, I learned to dislike them, preferring the arts instead, where I excelled regardless of being small. By the time I ended up in high school, I had basically decided sports sucked and jocks were punks.
Ironically, that is when I started lifting weights and becoming obsessed with the gym - an obsession that has led me here.
POINT - I know what it means to be really crappy at athletics, get picked last, and feel like people who do sports are mean and elitist. I go out of my way to make sure people who come in my gym don't feel this way.
Three: I Sucked At School
When I was in the sixth grade I brought home a report card and gave it to my mother. She cried when she saw it. She cried tears of joy because it had only one F on it. That was a big improvement.
I graduated high school with a GPA below 2.0 and wouldn't have gotten into the small state college I went to without a combination of decent SAT scores and the large number of extra curricular activities I engaged in.
I was a music major my first few years in college, and so my excessive background in theater, music, and the arts helped me. But the fact I had to work so hard to get accepted to a school that let nearly anyone in their doors says something.
I got horrible grades because I could care less about them. I liked learning. And I have always worked hard at things I find fascinating. But I never understood, as a kid, why I should work hard to prove to others that I was smart or work hard to do homework that I already understood, just because that was what was "required."
As I got older, I begrudgingly accepted that to get ahead in certain areas of life, you have to do busy work and play by stupid rules. But, as a kid this was beyond me, and I refused.
POINT - I make sure to avoid arbitrary rules and let contests and the barbell be the true measures of progress in my gym. The point is not to impress ME in the gym, or gather up as many participation points as you can. The point is to add weight to the bar and lift big in a contest. We stick to that.
Four: I'm WAY Too Honest - In Public
As if you can't tell, I'm way too honest about my flaws in public. Political candidates can't get away with that. But coaches and teachers will do better if they let their athletes/students know all the ways they messed up along the way.
POINT - I'm a better coach because I know what it means to really suck at weightlifting and do everything wrong for a lot of years. I can help my lifters avoid the stupid mistakes I made. And I can also reassure them that no matter how hard they think they have it, it took me longer.
If you are like me, and you have lived a real life (and continue to), then running for office may not be realistic. But the things that seem like flaws in one profession turn out to be the foundation of success in another.
I'm asked a lot what it takes to be a good coach. The only real answer is: empathize and sympathize and don't be an elitist punk.
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