Tag Archives: improvement

Improving Your Swing

Major James Nesmeth was a golfer.  Not a very good one, mind you.  He shot in the high 90s, which would categorize him as “a hacker” in clubhouse terms.  He stopped playing for seven years, but even without picking up a club, his game somehow improved.  In fact, it didn’t improve just a little.  It improved by an incredible 20 strokes!  During his first game after the seven-year break, he shot a 74!

What makes the story even more remarkable is that Major Nesmeth spent that seven-year break as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.  Shot down over the China Sea on February 3, 1966, he was captured and imprisoned in a 6 ft x 9 ft cement cell.  To prevent himself from losing his mind, he imagined each day that he was playing golf at his favorite course.  In intricate detail, he mentally replayed the familiar scenes hundreds of times – going to the closet to get out his golf bag and shoes, cleaning his shoes in preparation for the day, paying the greens fees, smelling the clean-cut grass, choosing his club, setting his stance, checking his grip, swinging his club, watching the ball as if sailed through the air, walking the course, making the putt…over and over again.

In his mind, Major Nesmeth played every hole perfectly.  He never shot worse than par for seven years.  He imagined every detail, every smell, every sound, every sight.  When he was finally released seven years later, his body responded to the memorized routine.  His body achieved what his mind had rehearsed.

The technique Major Nesmeth used is called visualization, and it’s a powerful tool for reaching your goals.  Visualizing yourself being successful helps to rewrite the scripts in your brain that dictate your self-image.  Your self-image is a powerful force that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in many areas of your life.  When people who have a low self-image experience success, they find it hard to believe.  It doesn’t match their mental scripts.  As a result, they often sabotage their success to retreat back to the comfort of what they believe to be true.

Even if you have a positive self-image overall, there are areas in your life where your confidence is low.  By visualizing yourself doing well in these areas, you can start to redefine your self-limiting beliefs.  The more detailed your visualization, the more powerful it is to your subconscious mind.  It takes practice, but it pays big dividends.

Give it a try in any area where you are experiencing performance that’s, let’s say…..sub par.

(Story Sources – Unknown author, “18 Holes in His Mind.”  Published by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Also – Excellence in Leadership by Richard Tosti)

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Filed under Goals, success

The Waffle Innovation

Bill Bowerman was a legendary track and field coach at the University of Oregon.  He coached 24 NCAA individual champions, four NCAA championship teams, 64 All-Americans and the 1972 U.S. Olympic track and field team.  But what he’s most famous for wasn’t accomplished on the track.  It was accomplished in his garage.

Bowerman was an innovator.  He was always trying to protect his team members from injuries and make them faster.  He encouraged them to wear the lightest clothing possible.  He filmed top athletes and looped the tape so that he and his team could study the athletes’ techniques over and over.  He photographed close finishes and developed the pictures in a dark room he created at the field.  He helped develop the rubberized asphalt material used for track fields, because it was safer than grass, particularly when it rained.

But more than all these things, Bowerman was interested in improvements that could be made in an athlete’s running shoes.  Poorly designed shoes accounted for shin splints, foot sores, leg cramps and aching backs.  In the 1950s, he developed a shoe with a heel wedge, better support and lighter sole, but he couldn’t find a company to make it.  So, he began making shoes in his garage.  When he came up with a new design, he would try it out on his team members.  He experimented with different materials in order to lighten the shoe.  By his own calculations, every ounce of weight removed from the shoe was equal to removing 200 pounds of weight from a runner during a one-mile race.

In 1962, Bowerman started Blue Ribbon Sports with Phil Knight, one of his athletes.  Originally, they imported high-tech, low-cost shoes from Japan, but Bowerman quickly became dissatisfied with their design.  He continued to improve shoe designs in his garage.  Then, one morning in 1971, as his wife cooked waffles for breakfast, Bowerman had a mental breakthrough.  He could pour a combination of latex, leather and glue on the waffle iron, let it cool and create a running shoe much lighter than any other on the market.  Even better, the waffle pattern on the sole would allow for better traction.  It took some work (and forgiveness from his wife, no doubt), but he soon had the prototype worked up.  He showed it to Knight, and within a few years, the “waffle shoe” from their upstart company (now named “Nike”) revolutionized the athletic shoe industry.  A few well-placed marketing dollars later, and Nike is now the largest sports and fitness company in the world.

You might think you aren’t creative – that you can’t innovate like a Bill Bowerman or a Thomas Edison or a Bill Gates – but you can!  Innovation begins with a passion for what you do.  Creativity is important, but passion is essential.  Passion keeps you engaged after frustrating failures and costly setbacks.  Passion keeps you thinking over possibilities even after you’ve set the work down.  Passion keeps the door open for creativity to enter in at the most unexpected moments (like when your wife is making waffles).

You ARE creative!  You are made in the image of a Creator God, and He has put His creative spark in you.  All you have to do is find something you love and concentrate on it long enough for that creativity to emerge.

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Filed under creativity, dedication, innovation, overcoming obstacles

Fake It Till You Make It

Unless we are compelled to do something, most of us live life doing the things we feel like doing.  Happiness, comfort and pleasure are our main motivators during our non-working hours.  This approach keeps us firmly rooted in our comfort zones.

Unfortunately, the tricky thing about comfort zones is that they tend to shrink if they aren’t stretched regularly.  When we aren’t pushing their boundaries, they start to close in on us, and we find ourselves “comfortable” doing less and less.  Before long, all we feel like doing is renting movies from the local video store.

We won’t grow inside our comfort zones.  Growth is beyond their borders, and we have to push through some ugly discomfort to reach it.  Like a rocket leaving the earth’s atmosphere, we will expend most of our fuel getting out of the lower atmosphere of our habits, but there is a payoff – it gets much, much easier once we have made it through.

What this means is that if we are ever going to introduce some positive change into our lives, we are going to have to do what we don’t feel like doing.  We have to exercise when our body screams, “NO!”  We have to apologize when our pride gives us excuses.  We have to take a leap when the fear (spelled F.E.A.R.) cements our feet to the ground.  We’re going to have to fake it until we make it.

In other words, we are going to have to act like we want to do it even when we absolutely don’t want to do it.  But there is a payoff here, too.  It gets easier.  The feelings will follow after we act.  The want to follows the do.

The American psychologist, Jerome Bruner, says,

We are more likely to act ourselves into a feeling than feel ourselves into an action.

When we use our will to take positive action even though we don’t feel like it, the positive feelings will eventually follow as we start to see the benefits of our new behaviors.  Who hasn’t felt better after a long-procrastinated workout, a pride-swallowing resolution to a family conflict or a a fear-conquering leap of faith?

True, the feelings don’t always come right away.  It may take repeated trips out of the comfort zone.  But before too long, our comfort catches up with our new activity and we feel better about ourselves for doing what was difficult.

When our feelings decide our actions, we retreat into our comfort zones, but when our actions lead our feelings, we grow.  Act before you feel like it.  Fake it until you make it.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, comfort zone, delayed gratification, determination, Goals, growth, habits, Instant Gratification, motivation, overcoming obstacles, Persistence

Creating Pearls

Ever wonder where we get pearls?

Interestingly enough, they all start with a grain of sand. The sand finds its way into an oyster and becomes an irritant to it. The oyster reacts to the friction caused by the unwelcome particle by coating it with a layer of nacre. The coated sand is larger now and thus a greater irritant, so it gets coated by another layer of nacre. This process is repeated over and over and over until a finished pearl is formed.

Amazing! Let’s apply it to the human dimension. Your greatest irritants will often produce pearls in your life if you will let them. The friction caused by a difficult situation or a strained relationship should cause you to look for ways to overcome the problem. Before you know it, you’ve grown through the process. You’ve developed new skills and knowledge for coping, and those skills and knowledge can be used in other areas of your life to make you more effective. Think back over your life. I bet you are a product of the difficult times you’ve grown through.

So, try remembering this motto; it will help you make the most of your irritating grains of sand.

If you cannot remove it, try to improve it!

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Filed under acceptance, Change, conflict, determination, Hardship, overcoming obstacles, Persistence, Trials, Valley

Sharpening the Saw

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a large tree.

“What are doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the exhausted reply. “I am cutting down this tree.”

“You look exhausted. How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours now,” he returns, “and I am beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes, and while you’re sitting down, sharpen that saw?” you inquire with concern. “I’m sure that it would go easier.”
“I don’t have time for that,” the man says. “I’m too busy sawing down this tree.”

Sounds ridiculous, right? Everyone knows sharper saws accomplish the task with much less effort.

Not so fast… we are all guilty of failing to sharpen our saws. Your “saw” is your set of resources that you use to be productive. Stephen Covey groups these resources into four categories: Physical, Social/Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. When you fail to sharpen the saw in one of these categories, your productivity will suffer.

For example, when you fail to sharpen your Physical saw by getting enough sleep, you aren’t as “sharp.” It’s harder to think conceptually and make decisions. The longer you go without sharpening this saw, the more mistakes you make.

When you fail to sharpen your Mental saw by attending training, reading books and learning new ways of doing things, you become less effective in your ministry. Others, who have more relevant knowledge, begin to outpace you.

It’s okay to take a break, and it’s okay to invest some time, energy and resources into yourself.  Why not set some daily goals to incorporate a few saw sharpening habits regularly in the coming year?

If the ax is dull,

And one does not sharpen the edge,

Then he must use more strength;

But wisdom brings success.

(Ecclesiastes 10:10)

(S – Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People )

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Filed under growth, habits, learning, planning, Preparation, Productivity, Sharpening the Saw, spiritual disciplines

Yes, But…

For a kernel of wheat to produce more wheat, it has to fall to the ground and die.  If it doesn’t, it stays only a single seed.  But if it dies, it grows and produces many seeds.

For us to grow, there is often a stubborn part of us that must die first.  It’s that part of us that is constantly saying, “yes, but…”

  • Yes, I know I should stop that bad habit, but what you don’t understand is…”
  • Yes, I ought to take a step toward my goal, but I don’t have enough…”
  • Yes, I want to improve in that area, but I have to do (something else) first.”
  • Yes, I should do that, but no one else is doing it.”

While any of these excuses might be convincing reasons for not doing what you need to do, it’s still an excuse.  You might feel better about your inaction, but that won’t move you any closer to your goals.  Don’t give a stubborn excuse more influence than it deserves.  Put it to death quickly and get growing.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, comfort zone, Denial, growth, habits, overcoming obstacles, Persistence, Spiritual Growth

The Amazing Chinese Bamboo Plant

The Chinese Bamboo plant starts from a tiny seed. You plant the seed in the dirt, and you water the seed. Very little seems to happen the first year. Despite your efforts, only a tiny shoot pokes out of the ground.

So…..the second year you water and fertilize and protect the seed…..Nothing happens.

So…..the third year you water and fertilize and protect the seed…..Nothing happens.

So…..the fourth year you water and fertilize and protect the seed…..Nothing happens.

So…..the fifth year you water and fertilize and protect the seed.….Finally, during the fifth year, the Chinese Bamboo plant begins to grow. In fact, it grows 90 feet tall in just 6 weeks!

The question is, did it grow 90 feet in six weeks or in five years? The answer, of course, is that it grew 90 feet in five years. It took five years to grow the root system that would one day support a 90-foot plant.

People are often like the Chinese Bamboo plant. We invest hours and hours trying to develop ourselves or others, and nothing happens.  We spend years discipling our children to follow the Lord, but…..nothing happens.   We hold countless meetings with our staff members to coach them in the development of their strengths and developmental areas, but…….nothing happens. We redouble our efforts to help a friend make better decisions, but…….nothing happens.

If you’re like most people, you will be tempted to give up. Don’t do it! If you give up, the seeds you planted will die. But if you continue to care for the seeds, one day (when you least expect it) the results of your labor will seem to magically appear overnight!

If the Chinese Bamboo plant immediately shot up 90 feet in the first year, one strong wind would blow it down. By growing deep before it grows tall, it gains the strength it needs to withstand the force of heavy winds. Similarly, lasting growth starts on the inside of people. It’s difficult to see that change is taking place, but this is a necessary process. The growing they do on the inside creates strength of character and conviction.

Don’t give up hope! Your efforts will be rewarded!  Once the root system is established, your growth or the growth of those you are coaching will spring up seemingly overnight!


Filed under Change, christianity, expectations, Religion, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Teaching