Getting to Them

There will be a number of conversations and talks throughout your professional career that you will never forget. You will always be able to see the look on the other person’s face, hear the words that were said and remember the thoughts running through your head as things unfolded.

As a college basketball coach, those conversations usually were a result of me talking to a player not about basketball, but about life. Their effort, inner circle, attitude, choices, circumstances, energy level, and the type of teammate they were.

Sometimes you could see the light bulb go on and their eyes light up and other times your words just fell on deaf ears. Regardless, you kept trying to figure out how to get to them.

That is just how I was raised……to understand the honor in the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Especially a young person who may not have been exposed to a positive learning environment. Maybe they have heard what they wanted to instead of what they needed to, maybe they have had experiences that have made them a hard person who does not trust others, circumstances that cause them to lack self-confidence and breaks their will, and maybe…….just maybe….they made a choice or two that created a mess in their life as opposed to driving success.

May 3rd , 2019 was one of those days. I was invited to speak to over 900 Juniors and Seniors at our high school’s pre-prom assembly.

900 Juniors and Seniors, the night before their prom and I was following up a 55-minute presentation on the dangers of impaired driving as well as texting and driving. It was an amazing presentation but not one that was easy to follow. Especially when my plan was to tell them more things they needed to hear and not necessarily what they wanted to hear.

Now, I get to speak to and work with amazing leaders all the time in my line of work. Heck, this past April I shared the stage for a full day with Don Yaeger where we talked about Unleashing Greatness. Regardless of who I speak to or what the event is, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to deliver no matter how I feel or the challenges I face.

However, I am not sure I have ever felt more responsible and a greater sense of duty than I did that morning.


Because for 35 minutes I had the eyes and ears of those kids who had zero idea of what I possibly could say that would mean anything. Truth was, I had a lot to say and I was prepared to entertain and educate.

Something happened though right as I was about to talk and I went to complete default mode and followed my gut.

They didn’t want rehearsed, they wanted substance. Don’t get me wrong, you absolutely can have both. As a matter of fact that is how I make my living by having both. But, not that morning. I was going with my gut and most importantly from my heart.

What we talked about was no different than the things I work with business clients on, just a few different stories.

Our experiences shape us.

Our circumstances do not define us.

The choices we make, make us.

Ed talking to students in gym

I was not standing there in front of them simply trying to motivate them and get them to see how great their lives were if they could just peel away all of the crap. Like us, kids spend an incredible amount of time worried about what they THINK others think about them.

What I wanted to do was to inspire them to take action and make the right choices. Not just the big ones, but the little ones as well. To focus on the what they could control every single day…….attitude, gratitude, where they directed their attention, what things they valued, and their inner circle.

I was shocked when I saw their eyes light up when I talked about the power of a positive attitude and that the attitude they chose to have that day was the first decision they GET to make every day. Even before they decide if, not when, they will get out of bed!

See, a high percentage of them lose the attitude choice as soon as they go to their phone first thing in the morning and look at what is out there on social media. It was as if they had never heard (though I know they have because we have unbelievable people working with these kids every day) that where they direct their attention will dictate their thoughts and those thoughts will determine their beliefs and thus their actions.

I do not envy all that these kids have to deal with today, yet I believe that if we teach them how to grow through that stress and not just get through it then we are preparing them for their journey. That is why I urged them to shift their focus to what they have and away from what they don’t have or what others have that they want. To be grateful for the opportunities ahead of them and away from the circumstances they may allow to control them.

Sound familiar?

Finally, I spent a lot of time on their inner circle and the positive consequences involved in making the choice of surrounding yourself with the right people.


Because at the end of the day in order to be successful what is one of the things that you absolutely have to do…

Don’t you want folks in you inner circle who have your back, who care? Don’t you need folks in your inner circle who will hold you accountable, yet at the same time provide a relationship where it is safe for you to get outside of your comfort zone, fail, and then be supported, encouraged, and pushed to keep going?

Then why let toxic people in your world at all. Heck, I am not saying you need all angels in your inner circle. You need real people, with real work ethics who have similar values.

Would you want you kids to look up to them and grow up to be like them? Do they have your back, would you get in a foxhole with them? If you are laying on your deathbed would you want them to visit, hold your hand and have a conversation? If your back is up against the wall and you called them, would they stop what they are doing and ask how they could help…..and then help?

I explained to them that the habits they accumulate know, the type of relationships they build now, and the attention they make to making the right choices will show up later in life in their careers, regardless of what path they choose. By making positive choices now they will enjoy the benefits later.

Finally, I said that the most important thing for them to understand in all of this is that they are going to leave a legacy everywhere they go to school, every relationship they are in, and eventually everywhere they work.

Serve others. Serve your inner circle. Give, don’t take. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Stay humble and hungry and GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE GREAT. You do not need permission from others to be a massive success, however success looks to you.

My intention was not to simply motivate them, but to inspire them to do the little things as much and as well as they possibly can.

I encourage you, heck I challenge you, to think about how different things would look if you were able to have this conversation with yourself and the people on your team and inside of your organization.

Nothing dramatic, just really significant.


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