Your Words Matter. But, Your Relationship Matters More.

In 7th grade I was at the Marshfield YMCA playing pick up basketball with a couple friends. Later on in the day I was able to get into a few games with some high school players even though they were 4–5 years older than me. This was a huge deal to me, especially since these guys were coming off a conference and state championship playing for the high school I’d be attending in less than 18 months.

And, when I got an open look at a three-point shot, took it and missed I heard the words I never forgot my entire basketball career. And, still to this day when I’m demonstrating.

“Why’d you shoot that? You suck.”

Because I am a highly sensitive person, basketball was where I found my self-worth and because the words came from someone that I looked up to as role model — they cut through my soul like a scene from Braveheart. From then on I was constantly worried about my form, and trying to change it almost yearly. Even though, over the years, when I’ve looked back on my form — in 7th grade there wasn’t much for me to fix. I just needed reps and someone believing in me — mainly myself.

“You have to believe in yourself the way you want others to believe in you”

At this time I didn’t know anything about the power of our minds to create our reality. So I did the only thing I knew — I worked and worked. So much that in college I got the nickname “Gunner” because I was constantly on The Gun.

Fast forward to the summer after my freshman year in college. It was a hot, humid and sweaty July day at the Prairie du Chien Perimeter camp and I was demonstrating a 2 Ball Behind the Back Drill for Dave MacArthur who was directing the camp. In front of at least 100 kids, he was pushing me to go faster and be quicker with the ball. And, I lost my handle on one, or both of the balls, several times. He blew the whistle, looked at me and said, “Mike…you suck! You can’t even do that drill!”

How do you think I felt after that?

On a scale of 1–10 my motivation level was at an 11.

Why?

Because I had a relationship with Dave. He took me to games, talked to me about girls, worked me out in the off-season, and took me out to eat. In short, he cared, deeply. So even though the words were virtually the same, they had much different intent. And, I clearly knew this because of the relationship we had developed over the past few years.

If your players, employees or co-workers know you care you can build a foundation for brutal honesty, tough conversations and personal and professional growth.

With our world of constant distractions, one of the best ways you can do this is with your time, your presence and your attention. 5 minutes of looking into someone’s soul versus 30 minutes of partial-attention wins every time. We all just want to be seen, heard and know that we matter.

I cannot tell you enough how much caring matters. And, I know you’re thinking to yourself “Yeah, I know it does. Duh, that’s obvious” But, my question to you is “Are you actually caring? Are you showing up for those people you lead and love?”

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