Fear: Game Time

When confronted by fear you really only have two major options. Step up or get out of the way. I am scared of heights and this fall I had the opportunity to supervise a camping and rappelling trip for high school students. There is a lot going on in this video. Encouragement from teenagers, huffing and puffing from a terrified grown man…. a bark. I will expand on it once I learn more about posting videos to wordpress.

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Follow the Leader

Have you ever thought your boss, teacher, coach or friend was wrong? Have you ever had a feeling that something you were doing wasn’t quite as good as it could be? What about the opposite situation. What about when you completely trust your boss? What if you have placed yourself in a team known for high achievement? Before I continue, watch this video…




First of all, these penguins are hilarious. Second, it is a perfect illustration of how we can get tangled up in a culture of blindness. The first penguin did nothing wrong. It took a chance at a possible solution to their problem. It worked, the penguin got beyond the rope, but it certainly wasn’t ideal. Then, all the other penguins did it the same way, almost every one of them fell flat on their face.

One of the situations that this happens to us, as humans, is when a leader or organization has a traditional way of doing something. Most of the followers know it isn’t great, but it’s “the way things are done”. Traditions aren’t necessarily bad, until they start hurting us. Keep your traditions, build new ones. Traditions help build identity for a team. However, never allow yourself to fall to in love with traditions. If you do, then people will become afraid of questioning them. Once you stop questioning, you stop innovating. Once you stop innovating you become stagnant.

The second way this blind following happens is when you have a great leader or organization. I know I have followed people who it is very hard to question. Not because they create a culture of fear, or do not want the criticism, but because they are right all of the time, because I generally agree with them. However, in order to grow and avoid stagnancy we need to question the good people too.

I remember one time I was helping lead a hike. At one point in the hike we were supposed to stop for a swim. We had heard some thunder earlier but the skies were clear. The leader of the hike allowed the students to go for a swim. I was a little uneasy about it but I thought because the leader was ok with it, that everything would be fine. A few minutes into the swim there was a loud crash of thunder and we rushed everyone out of the water. It was pretty scary.

I still trust that leader 100%. I would follow him anywhere. However, I learned a valuable lesson that day. I tend to be a person on a team with contrary ideas. I like to think differently and throw wrenches in other peoples plans in an effort to make them better. If I feel something is wrong I speak up. However, that day I learned that I need to speak up even when everything feels right, even when the person speaking has been right every time previously.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking” – Benjamin Franklin

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What is a Coach

Today I got the news that my high school football coach Rob Martell had passed away. I do not think it has fully sunk in, but my day has been filled with memories. I remember grade 12 fairly well. I thought, at the time, that Coach Martell was an angry old fart. He was hilarious and kind of a jerk. I loved it. I still do. I remember the crazy dress up days and how frustrated he was when i showed up in spandex. He chirped me all practice…. but i looked great. He was speechless the next week when I stole Jenny Zwickers (we had a girl on our provincial championship team) clothes and wore them to practice. 

I remember when I ran a 70 yard touchdown, up the middle of the field, as a fullback. I was pumped, I actually scored 5 touchdowns that game. I got back to the bench after what would end up being the longest touchdown run of my career and all my coach said was “”that was the slowest run I have ever seen. You ate up the entire quarter”… what a turd. 

I remember he used to throw a tackling dummy at me when I was running the ball in practice. it weighed 50 lbs or more. I am actually fairly certain it was a punching bag. This eventually evolved into what became known as “Kill Nathan Day”. Two practices a week were dedicated to the starting defense. I would line up with the backup offense with instructions from my coach to “Run through everyone as hard as you can because they are going to beat the hell out of you, and I want them to do it”. after sharing these three stories, I am not certain if Coach liked me or not. But he knew what I needed.

he knew I needed to be pushed. That in order to achieve greatness on the football field I needed to be run through the dirty, beat up and hammered daily, verbally and physically in order to be able to rise to any occasion. 

I have no natural athletic talent. I have short legs, small hands and I have had a beer gut since before I knew what beer was. I couldn’t catch a pass or sprint to save my own life. My coach used to make me catch 25 passes before every game just to make sure I wouldn’t screw up when the time came to do it in a game (because i dropped every pass that came at me in practice). 

My coach always yelled the words “Mental Toughness” through every single practice. His greatest lesson was about the power of will. Rocky said “It’s not about how hard you can hit. Its about how hard you can get hit and keep on going”. Rob wasn’t a movie star. He spat everywhere when he spoke (he mostly yelled), but he spent a large part of his life teaching, mentoring and working with youth so that they had the opportunity to learn this valuable lesson. 

At the time I thought this lesson was about being tougher than your opponent. Taking all the hits they throw at you and rumbling on anyway. I was good at that, I built a reputation on it. But now that I am older I can appreciate the real lesson my coach was teaching. He wanted us to know that life was Fredericton High School. Life wants to ruin your day. There are people who want to tear you down. You wont always get what you want. You will fail to meet expectations. You will fail. these are harsh realities.

You can’t avoid hardship, hurt and sorrow. Successful people are mentally tough though. they get back up, they hit back. The get over it and rumble over, through or by whatever just knocked them down. 

My coach taught me to win. He taught me to take a hit and give one. He taught the slowest most useless athlete on the team that toughness not only had its place, but could score 13 touchdowns… one of which was through the air. He gave me a role and mentored me to the point where I could look back at my football career and be proud. 

He was my coach.

Coach K.

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Smart People, Stupid Ideas

Have you ever been in a meeting and heard a ridiculously stupid idea? Have you ever worked with a person who never had a good idea? Have you ever put forward an idea, only to feel embarrassed later because of how bad it was? Are you the quite person who never speaks up?

                I would be surprised if there was anyone who says no to all of the above questions. I have been in each of those four situations at different times in my life. There were times when I could say yes to all four at the same time.

                The problem is that we all feel that a person’s ideas are directly linked to not only their ability and talent (which is true) but also to their value as a person (which is not true). Then we also write the people with bad ideas off as useless (or start thinking of ourselves as useless). When we spend time picking apart, applauding or criticising the ideas of others everyone in the room starts valuing the people who “came up with the idea” more than everyone else in the room.

                There is nothing wrong with the process of attacking ideas and working toward the best solution to any problem. It leaves ideas on the cutting floor. Some people’s hard work will just not be good enough. However, the way we think about the process can either kill the process or bring unprecedented innovation.

                Right now, the vast majority of us, are killing the process. We see attacks on ideas as attacks on people. This leads to us either shutting ourselves down because we feel bad when others attack our ideas or shutting other people down when they attack ours.

                As I said before, the process isn’t the problem, it’s the mindset.  We need to think of every idea that is put forward as a way to reach the team goals. We need to allow our pride to take a backseat and realize that when someone else’s idea is chosen it’s not because our idea was stupid, but because the other idea was better for the team.

                We cannot allow ourselves to be shut down. Each “bad idea” that is put forward changes perspectives. Each person involved has something to add, even after their “big idea” was shot down.  We need to be more sensitive to the value of others when we attack ideas. This week’s idiot may be next week’s genius. We also need to be tougher. Don’t take it personally when someone disagrees with you. It’s not because you are stupid, it’s because they think differently, they have a different perspective. 


Coach K

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Who you Aren’t

Have you ever tried to define who you are for somebody? That’s a dumb question, of course you have. You have been interviewed, on a date, met a new person, and wrote a profile bio for a social media site. We define ourselves all the time. We also define ourselves to ourselves constantly. How we talk about ourselves to others and our self talk are incredibly important.

Too often we define ourselves by what we are not, instead of what we are. This usually takes two forms

The first is that we fall into a sad state and talk about the things we do not have or have not accomplished. I can very easily tell myself and others that I haven’t been able to land a teaching job. I could say that I am not in a relationship and I don’t own a home. Even just writing those things is depressing. It ruins my mood as I write this. When I tell these things to other things, the best I can hope to do is get some sympathy from them, but it’s much more likely to make them think I am a failure and I like to whine about it.

The second way we define ourselves by what we aren’t is when we try to tell people how good we are by saying how bad we aren’t. This is easiest to see when “nice guys” complain about being single. “I’m not a jerk, I don’t speak badly about women, I haven’t tried to push her to do anything she doesn’t want to do etc”. We often brag about the things we don’t do. “I don’t speed”, “I don’t smoke”, “I don’t think that” , “I think that is wrong”. This one doesn’t feel as bad as the first negative definition of self but its just as dangerous. If we are constantly avoiding the bad things, and constantly finding things to disagree with, and constantly define ourselves by what we do not do we begin to lose track of the fact that we don’t believe anything, don’t do anything , don’t stand for anything and don’t think anything for ourselves.

If you define yourself by what you aren’t, in either form, no one will know who you are. They don’t care about you because of the things you do not do, they are about the things you do. You will have a much more powerful impact on them by telling them what you stand for than by telling them what you are against.

I am a youth mentor who believes that leadership is the key to positive change. I work with youth organizations in order to develop the leaders of tomorrow. In my spare time I love to hike a fish.

That simple sentence feels better for me to type, which is pretty obvious. However it also sends a different message to anyone reading it.

What type of message are you sending to those around you.



Coach K

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