Monday, November 30, 2009


Last week in this 5 part series of "The Best Advice I Ever Got," the title was, "Your Fired," and featured some of the best advice I ever got with regards to personal development.

This week features "The best advice I ever got" regarding attitude.


Source: The two greatest role models a person could ever have, my parents, Dave and Willa Higuera.

Why I consider this some of the "Best Advice I Ever Had": Your attitude is all about your perception. It is about how you size up and look at a situation or circumstance. I was taught that you always look for the best and do the best in any circumstance. I have learned through observing my parents that when you look for the good in a situation you always seem to find it. I have also learned from many other sources that the opposite is also true.

Coach John Wooden puts it as, "Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way that things turn out." John Maxwell says, "Who and where you are today is a result of your attitude."

When it comes down to it, it is all about the thoughts you allow to enter, dwell, and live in your mind. You have developed each of these thoughts over time based on your experiences, beliefs, family, education, and association with others. It is the sum of these thoughts that constitute your overall attitude towards everything.

"Always Do Your Best": My mother went back to school and became a nurse when she was in her thirties. With three kids in a small apartment, holding a part time job, and being a mother, that is no easy task. Because my family really only had one income at the time, we struggled. Her advice of "always do your best" was exemplified as she received almost all straight A's through nursing school while never making my two younger siblings and I feel like we were not the most important priorities in her life. She "always did her best," in everything she committed too.

I'll never forget the advice my mother gave me when I displayed a bad attitude towards something or there was something I did not want to do (especially chores around the house, or things at school). She would remind me of the bible verse, Colossians 4:23-24, "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you receive the reward of inheritance." In other words, always do your best, it's bigger than you.

"Never Quit": My dad has always been the biggest advocate of this. He would tell me that if I quit once, I would be able to quit things the rest of my life. He taught me that when you make a commitment, no matter what it is, no matter how hard it is, no matter how painful it may be, you go through with it.

I've seen this in two main things with my dad: First, with the commitment and love he has for my mother and his family, and second, his commitment to fighting for his life. My father survived a heart attack and lost over 100lbs. And just recently, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent surgery and hormone treatments, but still the cancer persisted. He then had to undergo radiation.

In text messages sent between us, he would say things like, "I'm going to beat this," "I survived too many things, to let this beat me." He never quit. And about a month ago, when his tests came back, he was cancer free. He never quit.

"Always Be a Champion No Matter How Everyone Else Is": For some reason I tend to be pretty ruthless. I am a competitor. And I hate losing. I have great tendencies to think about myself before I think of others. A lot of these qualities make you think you're acting like a champion, but you're really acting like a jerk.

I was taught by my parents to treat people the right way. To this day they continue to help others and give to others who, I think, don't deserve it. This infuriates me, because my parents, who do not have much money, continue to give and support people who don't deserve it. They would give the shirt off of their back to anyone that needed it. I used to look at this as people taking advantage of them (and it's probably true), but now I understand it's a decision by them to help anyone who is in need.

It's a quality that most will never understand, and one that I am still trying to. Ultimately it's acting like a champion. A champion gives everything they have for the greater good, even if it causes suffering and pain. It's the highest level of living, and I happen to have two great role models who have showed me what this is.

As I have always seen it as them getting the shaft. Their reward is joy. The joy of the ability to give to others without thinking about getting anything in return. The joy of knowing that you are a steward of all you have been blessed with, and it is your duty to use these blessings to bless the lives of others. While most people will make themselves miserable trying to attain happiness and hold onto the things they have. My parents have taught me it's not what you get, it's what you give that brings true joy and happiness to your life.

How I Apply These Concepts to My Own Life:
1. I Try to Fill My Mind with Great Thoughts: I learned that once I stopped listening to the unrated versions of rap music, I got a little less angry. I learned that when I started reading about great minds and people my thoughts began to improve. And I learned that when I continued to put thoughts of doing my best, persevering, and acting like a champion, my life began to improve on many levels. I'm reminded of another Bible (Philippians 4:8-9) verse my mother used to talk to me about all the time, "Whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things."

2. I Don't Shy Away From Difficult Things: In fact, my absolute favorite place to be is with my back against the wall and no way out. I have tended to put myself in these positions just to see if I could get my way out of it. This is good and bad. I learned there's a time when you don't need to sabotage your life or situations, just to challenge your ability to fight. But I look at adversity as a friend, and invite it. I like to say you have to the develop the ability to look at "fear in the face and smile." I don't mind getting out of my comfort zone. Because I learned that as soon as I'm feeling comfortable, something bad is usually around the corner. You could say I'm uncomfortable with being comfortable.

3. I Try to Be an Example of What I Want to Instill In Others: Jim Rohn affirmed, "You cannot speak that which you do not know. You cannot share that which you do not feel. You cannot translate that which you do not have. And you cannot give that which you do not possess. To give it and to share it, and for it to be effective, you first need to have it."

Talking is so easy. Doing is not. The definition of integrity is walking your talk. The foundation of leadership is your example. Leadership has simply been called influence. Thus, it impossible to instill in and lead others if you lack integrity. I understand that in order to make a difference in the lives of others I need to live a life of integrity. At this point in time I am a "B" in this. If I can get to become an "A+" in this, I know that my life will really start to significantly impact and change the lives of those around me.

This past week was Thanksgiving. I would like to give my thanks to my parents for everything that they have not only told me, but showed me. They are people of integrity. They continue to help and change the lives of others because of simply who they are. They have never written any books, they aren't celebrities, they aren't in politics, and they don't have lots of money, and they've never tried to be something they are not. They simply always do their best, never quit, and always act like champions. They will leave a legacy on this earth because of what they gave, not what they got. If I can achieve anything close to them, I my mind, I will have been a success.

I'll close with a piece from Tony Dungy's newest book, Uncommon:

"You won't always rise to the level of expectations you have for yourself, but you will never be able to rise above the imaginary ceiling you construct in your mind."

Ask Yourself this Week:

1) What areas of my life do I need to change my attitude in: My family? My team? My work? My school work? My coach? My boss? My parents? My circumstances? My work ethic?

2) What commitments do I need to practice this "Never Quit" attitude: My family? My team? My work? My health? My finances?

3) What areas in my life can I start to act like a champion, no matter how anyone else around me is acting: At home? At work? At school? At practice? My excellence? My work ethic?

Monday, November 23, 2009


I recently listened to an audio lesson called, "The Best Advice I Ever Got," by world renown leadership expert John Maxwell. As I listened to the lesson, I began to write down some of the statement that sum up the best advice I ever got. And decided to make it into my Monday Morning Motivation.

This week is a start of a five part series of five of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received.

Starting from a list of about twenty, the five I will share with you over the next few weeks have given me my greatest "aha" moments. Each one of these concepts I have taken and applied with great commitment. Each application has unquestionably delivered great things into my life.

I hope you may look back at this one day and consider it some of the best advice you ever gotten.


Source: Ken Blanchard, Management Expert

Where I Learned it: Read it, but not sure what book I read it from.

Why I consider this some of the "Best Advice" I ever received: I started my personal growth plan in 2004 after reading, John Maxwell's, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In this book I began to live and apply the statement, "a leader develops daily, not in a day."

Before this, I was focusing getting better as a performance coach. But after this advice, I realized I needed come up with a daily, thought out, personal growth plan, which encompassed not only learning about my craft, but also learning about becoming a better leader, coach, and ultimately productive and serving citizen.

I specifically consider the following statement, "The only job security you have today is your commitment to personal improvement," some of the best advice of ever had. Because no other advice has given me more of a fearless mindset.

My level of knowledge, expertise, and trained skill set gives me the confidence that I will always have job security. Which is essentially the ability to get paid for a service you provide.

What Are the Other Byproducts of a Personal Growth Plan: The number one byproduct is confidence. The more prepared you are to do what you do, the more confidence you will naturally have.

Intuition: The more you skilled you become in what you do, the greater intuition you will have within it. You will be able to see things happen before others do. You will be able to read trends. You will constantly be blazing a trail in what you do.

Influence: Influence = Character plus Competence. Training daily and staying committed to a personal growth plan will give you competence in your field. If you are person who makes good decisions, you will ultimately be an influential person. The higher your influence potential, the higher you success potential becomes.

How I Apply This Concept of Personal Growth into My Life: Six years ago, I made a commitment to becoming one of the best at what I do. I knew in order to do that I would have to learn the skills and become fundamentally grounded in the my Spiritual Life, Personal Life, and Professional Life. There has been nothing that has been more impactful to my career, my family, my relationships, and my finances. Below I share with you my spiritual, personal and professional growth plan:

-Spiritual Development:
-15-30 minutes reading the Bible each day
-Read 1 Spiritual Growth book per month.
-Attend Church each week (I'm not gonna lie, I haven't been really consistent at this one over the past year)
-Record and write down, in a systematic fashion, the most important lessons I've learned.

-Personal Development (Leadership/Teamwork/Business):

-30 minutes every other day reading/reflecting/listening or watching personal development material).
-Read 1 book per month.
-One audio lesson per month.
-Build a relationship with at least one highly influential leader each year.
-Record and write down, in a systematic fashion, the most important lessons I've learned from the material.

-Professional Development (Exercise Physiology, Biomechanics, Sports Nutrition, Sports Psychology, Etc.):
-30 Minutes every other day reading/reflecting/listening or watching professional development material
-Read 1 article per week
-Build a relationship with at least one highly influential leader each year.
-Watch 1 video per month
-Go to one conference per year
-Record and write down, in a systematic fashion, the most important lessons and concepts I've learned from the material.

Ask yourself, what would happen if I lost my job today? What would happen if I was no longer needed on my team? Would my past commitment to preparation and to getting better at what I do A) Leave me with no fearful with no job security? or B) Leave me fearless and ready to move on to bigger and better things?

Monday, November 16, 2009


Three weeks ago I wrote a piece about Tiger Woods. The intent was to suggest Tiger's reign as one of the greatest golfers of all time is not because he was born with a divine talent to play golf, but because he was trained to be one of golf's greatest performers.

Tiger's article was a suggestion that we too, through deliberate practice, can be shaped and created to outperform others in whatever we do.

To become great at what we do, we obviously need hours and hours of practice. But this next point is crucial: The earlier you can identify what we want to master, followed by beginning a regimented, daily, deliberate practice schedule, the greater chance we will have at achieving the highest level of what we do.

A lot of time we think of practice as an event we have to show up for. We treat practice as if it is something that we go through because we have to. We often spend more time conserving energy than actually using it to get better.

The concept of deliberate practice is quite opposite of how most of us practice. It is something we want to show up to but hate it at the same time. It is something that constantly pushes us out of our comfort zone. Each of our thoughts, emotions, and actions are scrutinized and given feedback. It is repetitive, working on the same thing over and over and over until we perfect it. And it challenges our mental capacity and our ability to persevere when we don't want to go anymore. It is much more than showing up.


Just showing up didn't work for the citizens of the city state of Sparta of ancient Greece. Examination of your ability to contribute to the state began at birth. Elders of the state examined each new born for physical deformities and mental deficiencies. If you were deemed unfit to contribute to the state, you were taken to a mountain and dropped off a cliff. Obviously they took their recruiting process seriously. So when training started, just showing up wouldn't get you very far.

Deliberate Practice,
defined by Geoff Colvin in the book Talent is Overrated, has five perpetual traits:

1. It is Designed Specifically to Constantly Improve Performance

2. It Can Be Repeated Over and Over Again

3. It Continuously Offers Feedback On Results

4. It is Highly Demanding Mentally

5. It Is Not Fun

Putting the strange and downright troubling cultural practices aside, let's examine what the Spartans did get right with regards to 5 traits of deliberate practice. For the purposes of this article we will look at the training of children from the ages of seven to twelve, and how this training program prepared these young boys to be the fiercest and deadliest warriors in their world.


The Spartan Training Program or Agoge, was designed with one thing in mind. To build elite, fierce, fearless, and loyal warriors to protect the independent state city state of Ancient Greece, Sparta.

Their culture was one of great pride and their citizens held the state above themselves. Each and everything that was done in the Spartan culture was designed and executed for that purpose.

They are said to be the first "professionals" of their time; professional warriors. Each practice was done with a purpose to improve military prowess. They learned by practicing and perfecting their skills over and over again. They received continuous feedback from older mentors called Eirena's. Their training was over-bearing, focusing on physical and mental toughness.

The military training program or the Agoge began at age 7 for Spartan men. The Spartans believed that by this age the coddling was over and that Spartan boys were ready to begin their training as warriors of the state.

Up until the age of twelve the Spartan boys were placed in groups and lived in barracks. Here they were mentored and supervised by an older boy
. Most of the training in the beginning was to achieve high levels of physical and mental toughness through intense physical training and mental abuse.

Here are some of the interesting tactics Spartans in the Agoge to create Spartan warriors.

1. Basic Education: Reading and writing were taught at a very basic level and with the purpose of only singing and writing war poetry. Math was taught only at the level to be able to count how many soldiers were in a formation.

2. Physical Education: Spartan boys were put on rigorous strength and endurance programs, most of the time through the training in track and field type events (sprinting, throwing, jumping, long-distance running). As they grew older they were made to walk and do these events in bare feet.

3. Body Toughening: When the Spartan boys turned 12 they no longer wore tunics, but received only one cloak per year. They did not use soap or lotions. They slept in packs on beds that they had to make themselves with their bare hands.

4. Mental Toughening: They would purposefully starve the young boys, which would force them to steal from other boys. But if they were caught, they were whipped severely, not because they stole, but because they stole, "carelessly and unskillfully."

Another practice was to tie the young boys to posts in the middle of the city and flog (whip) them repeatedly. This brutal event was attended by their families and other Spartan citizens. Their pre-pubescent children bloodied and whipped, these proud parents cheered them on encouraging them to take more and more. Why? Because the one who endured the most pain, who took the most punishment, without crying, or screaming, was applauded and honored. For a parent, it was a great honor that your child could take a beating like that without showing any signs of weakness.

Say what you want about the Spartans, they understood one of the greatest, if not the greatest factor of elite performance: The power for deliberate practice.

They understood that they could shape each and every person in their culture to be warriors. There were no SAT's, personality tests, or placement tests. There was only training their children to be warriors. There was only training their young to be loyal and fierce defenders of their culture and their state.


Are you deliberately practicing your sport or your profession?

Have you designed or had a highly skilled or esteemed professional specifically design for you a path or program to help you continuously improve in your sport or profession?

Does this program have aspects that are progressive and focus on skill work that can be repeated over and over and over again?

Do you receive, ask for, or seek out continuous feedback, from a coach or mentor on the repeated results of your practice?

Is your daily practice regimen highly mentally demanding? In other words, are you constantly working outside of your comfort zone in your sport or profession?

Would you consider practicing for your profession challenging, stimulating, yet not exactly fun?

If you can answer all of these with a yes, they you may be enjoying (or not enjoying) the act of deliberate practice. If not, you may just be showing up.

In my estimation it is only the top 10% of people in their field that have made a commitment to years of exhausting and intensive deliberate practice.

So if you want to be the best at what you do, if you want to be in the top 10%, deliberate practice isn't a choice, it's a requirement and it's not easy. Deliberate practice is not just difficult because of the intense physical and mental demands, but because of the sacrifices you must make. Top performers often sacrifice elite performance for their social life and other things that are conveniently enjoyed by the other 90% of the population.

And as long as you are doing what the other 90% do, no matter how talented or skilled you are, you will eventually be devoured by someone who practices like a warrior. A person who trains like a Spartan.

And when you meet....

You will lose...

Watch King Leonidas show his confidence in his deliberately trained 300 Spartans in the link below:


Monday, November 2, 2009


A friend of mine once told me something I'll never forget. I considered it one of those "ah-ha" moments. He said, "Jeff, no matter what you have done up to this point, no matter how many mistakes you've made, no matter how many dumb things you have done, no matter who you are or what you've made yourself up to this point; at this particular moment in time, you have the choice to change."

Wow...really. No matter what I've done?

It sounds simple, and you may think I'm an idiot because I was so taken by this eureka moment. But I believe most of us are caught in a mind-set that we are who we are. That there is nothing that we can do to change who we are. I struggled with this early on in my spiritual life. I remember telling my Mother, "My personality doesn't fit with being a Christian, I'm too bad."

I also believe about 100% of us have something in our life that we want to change. And most of us having something that we know if we do not change will soon breed serious consequences. I believe the most intelligent people recognize, identify, and change these self-destructive thoughts, actions, and patterns before they take a hold and cause major problems in their life.

In the book, 25 Ways to Win with People, leadership expert John Maxwell writes about what he calls "change indicators" in peoples lives:

"There are certain times in people's lives when they are most likely to change:
1) When they hurt enough they have to.
2) When they learn enough they want to.
3) When they receive enough that they are able to."

If anything, I hope this little article will motivate you to change something in your life. The best way to start change is to go back to the basics, back to the drawing board. The basics are simply the fundamentals. In most of our trips toward success we tend to try to jump, hurdle, or go around the tough things that make a success possible.

When we do this we are only fooling ourselves. Sooner or later you are going to end up back at the same spot you tried to skip before.

Here are a some of the fundamentals that I have to get back to the basics with. These are the most fundamental and important things in my life. But they are also things I tend to overlook and go around.

1. My Faith--Focus on serving more than just learning
2. My Family--Focus on the quality of my time, rather than just the quantity of my time with them.
3. My Relationships--Focus more on giving rather than taking.
4. My Health--Focus on the basics, 5 healthy meals per day, 5 days a week of 30 minutes of exercise, 8 glasses of water per day, 8 hours of sleep, 1 day completely off.
5. My Growth--Focus on the fundamentals of Leadership
6. My Craft--Focus on the fundamentals, seek mastery through diligent practice, keeping an open mind, and learning from the best.
7. My Legacy--Focus on how I make people feel. Encourage, appreciate, and make sure they leave me feeling better then they did before.

It is always a great day to change. Or simply, just go back to what you know is good, true, and works. Do not be afraid to unload all the garbage you have been letting sit and incubate in your head. Do not let your past define you. It's called the future because it's waitng to be experienced. And it's called the past because it's over and done with. Sometimes when an athlete of mine performs an set of an exercise and they do it all wrong, I tell them, "forget that ever happened and do it like this."

You can never rid the scars of some of the poor decisions you have made. But once you have decided to change that aspect of your life, they are simply war wounds in the fight to getting to your God given potential.

Where do you need to make an important decision to change today? Your family, your career, your work ethic, your personal growth, your thought life, the people you associate with, your attitude?

You may be thinking you are taking a step back. But in all actuality, you are just returning to a step you never really learned.

This week get back to the fundamentals. It's time to head back to the old drawing board.