One of the hardest and most valuable lessons you learn in athletics is that doing everything the right way does not always guarantee success. You can have an amazing work ethic, take care of your business on and off the court, be a great teammate, work on the mental part of your game, and endure all the trials and tribulations that come up….often unexpectedly… and still lose. 

It blows, makes zero sense at the time, and can lead you to think that life is just not fair. 

As you age a little and look back, you realize that it was those moments and how you responded that helped shape who you become. 

It reminded me of an old story that I heard a long time ago which has been brought back to life by Jon Gordon. 

Once upon a time, the daughter of an old gardener constantly complained about her life and how difficult it was to continue. She was tired of fighting and did not feel like doing anything. When a problem was solved another one came up and that made her give up and feel defeated.

The gardener asked his daughter to come closer to the kitchen of his cabin and take a seat. Then he filled three containers with water and put them over the fire. When the water began to boil, he put some carrots in one pot, two eggs in the other pot, and poured some coffee beans into the last one. He let them boil without saying a word while his daughter waited impatiently without understanding what her father was doing. After 20 minutes her father turned off the fire. He took the carrots out and put them in a bowl. Pulled the eggs out and put them in another dish. Finally, he ladled the coffee. 

Then, looking at his daughter, he asked, “what do you see?” Annoyed, she said, “carrots, eggs, and coffee.”

He then asked her to move closer and touch the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. Then, he asked her to take the egg and break it. After cracking and removing the shell she felt the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to try the coffee and she enjoyed the sweet aroma and the robust flavor.

Curious, she asked, “What does this mean, Dad?” 

He explained that the three objects had faced the same adversity… boiling water. Yet, they reacted quite differently. 

The carrots went into the water strong and solid, but after some time in the boiling water, they had become soft and weak. The egg had been fragile, its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting it the boiling water, its inside became hardened. 

Then, there was the coffee. The coffee was unique… after being in the boiling water, it had changed the water!

Right now, we are in a defining moment in human history. Every day there is the reality of the devastating loss of life, repercussions of financial fallout, the closings of businesses and industries, and the continued presence of uncertainty. 

As leaders, we are doing our best to make decisions quickly, without all the information, and often no precedent to look to for guidance to do that we need to be at our best. 

A team is a direct reflection of their head coach and it is critical, especially in times like these for the leader to be the face the team needs to see. 

What your people want right now… what they need from you right now are:

  • Trust
  • Compassion
  • Stability
  • Hope

The way you respond, not react, every single day, needs to drive trust, show compassion, provide stability, and give hope. 

So, when the water temp is turned up today, which one will you be?

Will you be the carrot? Will you seem strong, but when pain and adversity strike, do you become soft and weak?

Will you be the egg that starts with a malleable heart? But with unexpected adversity, a rolling ticker of bad news, and challenging circumstances you become hardened.

Or, will you be the coffee bean? The coffee bean changes the water positively.

Keep asking yourself… Am I doing the best I can with what we have to become the best we are capable of becoming?

And… keep doing great things!