Bring It to Better It

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Earlier this week, I was in a meeting (not unusual). The presenter was well-prepared, but I was distracted and somewhat disengaged. I didn't get a lot out of it.

I know better than to let that happen.

Especially because, just days before, when I was the presenter, I'd had exactly the opposite experience.

I offered Ed Mulitalo, the head football coach at Southern Virginia University, to speak to the football team. SVU is where my husband teaches, and our daughter goes to school. The Mulitalos are family friends. I'm invested in their success.

My initial impulse was to be of service––teaching the team principles and ideas that I wish I had learned in college, such as disrupting our mindset, how to rewire our brains, and that the game, any game, gets played between the goal posts of our ears first.

I didn't expect the team to be of service to me.

Typically, when I do a facilitated session, I talk about 100% responsibility –– in the words of Jocko Willink, “extreme ownership.” It's a reminder I use, thanks in part to my mentor Marshall Goldsmith and Disruption Advisors colleague Ralph Campbell, that the success of a speech or a session is only partly dependent on what the speaker does. It is also, to a not insignificant degree, attributable to what the audience or participants bring.

To date, this was one of my best speeches. It wasn't because of what I brought. It was what the team members brought.

We were in a relatively small room with 105 football players aged 18-25. They were rowdy, respectful, participative, and all-in.

When I asked questions, they spoke up. When I told them that I had to disrupt self-limiting beliefs that kept me from asking Pixar's Ed Catmull onto the podcast, these young athletes remonstrated with me.

And, when I asked them to commit to disrupting their mindset, they brought the house down with ferocity; the sound was deafening and exhilarating. Maximum intensity in a chorus of “Yes, I will do this.”

They participated, and because of their participation, the speech was better, and I was better. Now you understand why I shouldn't have been a distracted participant mere days later.

As a footnote, it reminds me of a recent interview with Michelle McKenna, who is, ironically, also in football—the CIO of the NFL. She said she often learns from the junior people on her team—the people in their 20s. At the time, I didn't really identify with her experience. But this week, I got it. I understood the discipline, eagerness, and integrity, all part of a committed desire to learn and be better.

When have you had an experience where the audience or group truly showed up? What can you do to better show up yourself? And when have you recently been around the next generation (whoever and wherever that is for you!)? How did they inspire you?

Our podcast guest this week is Steve Bullock, a money manager at Fidelity Investments. But that's not why we're chatting. He's also the author of Out of the Box Golf, where he analyzes a ton of data to upend conventional wisdom about the sport. Think of it as Moneyball for golf.

Steve has some bold predictions for the future of golf and provides important insights on overcoming the challenges of jumping to new S Curves.

We will make five copies of his book available. Hit reply and say, “My S Curve is Out of the Box.”

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,
Whitney

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