25
Mar
15

Why we do what we do (My lunch with Ed.)

I had lunch with my old friend Ed the other day. We coached together over 20 years ago, I coached 2 of his daughters and in fact met my wife at one of his daughter’s wedding. The best part about reconnecting with an old friend is how you re-validate who you are, or possible the converse of that, maybe you realize how much you have changed. In the case of our lunch, I found re-connection to a kindred soul and met myself again in the conversation.

Ed told me how he ran into a young woman that we coached so many years ago. They spoke for some time while in a store. As her children grew antsy waiting for the grown-ups to stop talking she shared with Ed how her life had some rough spots and that there was a time when she was very nearly homeless. At the time she was out of work and her first child was due soon. It was stressful for her but she overcame it; she worked tirelessly to finish her education, get a new position and establish some security.  The baby was born, 7 years ago, healthy and happy. She explained to Ed that she was so happy now and has a family of 3, a great job, a loving husband and a truly fortunate life. Ed, as any of us would, felt so happy for her that he got a little misty eyed even when relaying the story to me weeks after it happened. As they separated and went off to finish shopping, Ed had a fleeting thought. He called her back and explained to her that he was no longer coaching and was retired from his career job as well. Left to ourselves, guys like Ed and I, could wander into a belief of self-doubt that we ever had an impact, or a belief that we did when we didn’t. Introspective people like us are always seeking a sign of validation.  He wondered, again, as we all do, if he ever made a difference for her. Was there anything that he taught her that she found of value?  She responded, I’m sure with a smile, “Of course coach, you taught me to set goals and keep my eyes on them. Without that lesson I would have never made it through those hard years.”

When Ed shared this story with me we both had tears in our eyes because it’s short stories like this that remind us that gymnastics is only a vehicle that we can provide that gives these children valuable life skills. They learn so much from us aside from cartwheels and somersaults. I think that every once and awhile we need to check our perspective and remember why we have this job. We teach perseverance, determination, focus, and goal setting. We bring skills, strength, flexibility and healthy lifestyles to children. We teach physics, anatomy, bio-mechanics and psychology. Gymnastics is merely an activity that allows these lessons to be presented.

I’ve had champion gymnasts and champion teams, but the things I brag about most often are the wonderful children that turned into strong and healthy adults. I’ve coached scientists, therapists, business people, doctors, moms and all points between. I can confidently say that gymnastics; that I provided, helped them, one and all, be who they are; successful and healthy people. This is what fuels my day. What does it for you?

11
Mar
15

Failing to succeed or succeeding by failure: your call

A while ago I had a coach rebuke me for telling a gymnast that “they were practicing how to fail” as opposed to, by inference, practicing for success. I agreed that out of context the statement was very negative and could be seen as discouraging.

The full story, however, involved a prior discussion with the athlete that was had outside the presence of the visiting coach, where I explained that success comes when the gymnast makes changes to a performance. When we repeatedly do the same error it perfects the error and makes it the “way” the skill is done. Without adjustments, corrections and changes the performance will continue to be done “wrong.” They will be, in essence, perfectingfail-forward failure. The product of having made changes is how one arrives at success. To sum up: if we always do what we’ve always done, we will always get what we’ve always got.

But how bad is it to fail? At Gymfinity we have a philosophy of “sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” If you are, in fact, learning from failing then every effort is victorious.

The problem comes in when we (I say we because we all fall victim to this) define ourselves by our failures. When we internally reprimand ourselves because we are not doing things right we often label ourselves as the failure. But that only applies to us if we allow it. Things may not turn out as we expected or as we hoped, but that is not the end of our story. We evaluate our performance and assess what needs to be done differently in order to improve. That is, after all the only way that we can progress.  We should then be grateful for the occasional failure or set back, because it allows us to value victory, improvement and effort.

When I told the gymnast that she was practicing to fail, it was referencing that she was not making the effort, not stepping outside of her comfort zone, and not processing corrections. She was giving up, pouting, and defining herself as a failure. By doing that she was allowing herself to stop trying and she was molding herself to be a perfect failure.

I expressed to her that she could decide to give up and just be another kid who tried gymnastics, had a little success, but couldn’t move past fear and stress: or she could be the story that everyone tells about the girl who wouldn’t quit. The girl who was determined to succeed, the one who wouldn’t let the frustration define her. She could be that success story, and all it would take would be a minor correction.  After all, she is a master at Robert-Kiyosaki-Success-Picture-Quoteovercoming fear, on beating back doubts, and on succeeding even when it’s difficult because she had done it all before; it’s how she got to where she was. She was in the perfect place to be successful, she just needed to stop the practice of perfecting failure.  So within context, “practicing failure” was not demeaning or demoralizing, it was, in fact, a reminder that her focus needed to be on attaining success (improving one small thing at a time). I am happy to report, a year later, that she chose to be successful. She learned the skill, advanced herself and is positioned to be a real team leader.

I am often very proud of my team kids, but never so much as when they become successful; not only over skills, but over themselves, and they do it by using struggle as a tool and a motivator. That personal strength is what makes me most proud of my team and so very proud of our Grayce.

25
Feb
15

The benefits of ol’ Sol

Oy, I’m tired of winter. I need a little sunshine and fresh air that doesn’t hurt to breathe in. I brought up my feeling of missing the sun with a few friends and I was surprised that 2 of them said they would rather remain inside, even during warmer weather. What?  They believed that the sun could be so damaging that it wasn’t worth the risk. What?helenkeller120988

Helen Keller was blind and even she spoke about the benefits of the big happy light in the sky. In fact, there are even medical reasons TO go out in the sun.

Did you know that the sun was used to treat several skin disorders as well as having a benefit to strengthening the skins ability to be a barrier against germs and disease?

Did you know that before antibiotics it was the treatment for tuberculosis, and it’s still used to treat jaundice?

How about the fact that it treats Seasonal Affective Disorder? (yeah, I got that).  It helps regulate your body temperature, enhances biorhythms, and may be a treatment in treating T Cell Lymphoma. It may even help fight cavities. Really.

Click here to read more about the value of the sun from a post by Dr. Joseph Mercola.

So let’s hurry up to summer and get some rays. Are you all ready for a warm up?

11
Feb
15

Reality television is nothing like reality

This weekend the series Coaching Bad premiered on Spike TV. I had to watch it.

download (1)In a nutshell, several coaches from various sports are brought together to work with an anger counselor. This is all done under watchful former NFL player and current motivational speaker Ray Lewis. There were some real characters: a speed coach that races his athletes and berates them when they can’t keep up, a volleyball coach who got fired because of her abusive actions, a hockey coach/referee that hit a child with a stick when the child pushed him, a football coach that routinely wrestles his players (under 12 years old) to the ground, and a few others. They all call their kids names, tell them they are worthless, and dole out punishments for any and every reason, and this is what passes for a TV series?

I take issue with two things in this show and the very premise of it. First, and quite simply, these people will not change that easily; if at all. These people are reinforced when they are abusive, intolerant, dictators and you can’t turn a mess that big around with one show and a few “motivational moments”. Though the show is trying to demonstrate that they have the power to make bad coaches into good, the fact is that these people will likely return to their habits and negative personalities as soon as the cameras are off.

Next, I take issue with presenting coaches that are so far gone that they become caricatures of a stereotypical “bad coach.” They are presented to us as representative of a profession that really should be held to high standards. As parents we want to best for our children. We want the coach that can get the best results out of our children and we want the coaches that helps us raise our children to be successful and strong.  We live in fear that the person working with our child  could be a negative influence on our most precious children. But the fear is easily played on and we are manipulated. The truth is that 99% of coaches are there to encourage children, training the skills but also caring for the child as a person. These television shows that play on our fears lead us to believe that there is a villain, more awful than we can possibly imagine, around every corner. It’s simply not true. I am in the profession and I have seen good coaches and bad, yes they do exist. But we give so much attention to the bad behavior that we make people feel that it is typical. We never spend any energy on praising the good coaches. Where is the series that shows a coach that goes above and beyond for an athlete? Where is the series that glorifies the men and women who spend their weekends working with OUR children? It’s sad to me that these fear tactics always get the most attention and they beget more of the same.

Since Gymfinity opened we have been approached twice by television producers who were pitching a series idea of middle to high level gymnasts training for championships. We were interviewed, screen tested, and had to do video interviews with a few parents to submit for evaluation. Well, to summarize, we were too normal. During the process (from the second company) I was asked to provide a list of parents that are very “engaged” in their child’s performance. I was asked if we had any parents with alcohol concerns. (What?) I was asked how often I raise my voice in the gym and downloadwhat a typical “Punishment” would be if a child didn’t perform well. When all of these red flags went up, I decided to pull the plug on the project. They didn’t want the reality of children working hard, sweating, straining, and dreaming of bigger things. They wanted another Abby from Dance Moms, a villain that an audience would hate. (PS, I have a friend that knows Abby from Dance Moms and she assures me that the show is 90% staged, as Abby is nothing like that in real life).  The upside of providing what they were looking for would be fame and fortune, Abby’s studio is at record enrollment because people are buying into the show’s version of reality. But what does that say about the parents who enroll their children in what they believe is a potentially abusive program? Oy vey, the problem is deeper than a bad coach.

One character on the Coaching Bad show actually says (paraphrased) that this is how football is coached, the parents don’t get that, but the kids love it. That is when my reality meter broke. The kids don’t love it, they live in fear of you. Your reality is distorted and you are a freak. But there was some truth; the parents of his team, in reality, don’t get it. They value the trophy over their child’s happiness. If they don’t get that their own priorities are mixed up then that is a potential new series. But the disclaimer is that those parents, like these coaches, are freaks and are not typical. In order to get the TV folks to stop glorifying these freaks and these fears we need to stop watching what they put in front of us.

 

28
Jan
15

Eating right is hard, but worth it

Lunch with Coach Tracey yesterday. She explained how she is working tirelessly on providing whole-foods for her family as opposed to processed foods.  The FDA classifies processed food as anything canned, cooked, frozen, mixed, added to, altered, dehydrated, or milled. That doesn’t leave a lot to choose from.

Coach Tracey is my inspiration

Coach Tracey is my inspiration

The biggest worry is the “food” that has been altered. Foods with chemical enhancement or alteration are the biggest problem facing consumers concerned with healthy eating.

According the Melanie Warner author of “Pandora’s Lunch Box: How Processed Food Took Over The American Meal” 7 of 10 things we eat are laden with chemicals or include un-natural ingredients.   But these foods are engineered to provide a neurotransmission of dopamine that makes us happy. It is, in a very literal sense, a drug addiction no different than street drugs. We are given it, it makes us feel good and we seek more. The rub is that, that it is so easy to find, and cheap too.  This makes the addiction even harder to break.

The chemicals in processed food can range from the odd (like silicon dioxide, or sand, in Taco meat) to the truly scary (like sodium bisulfite, a toilet bowl cleaner found in potato chips).

What’s worse is that studies published in the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition concluded that virtually ALL chronic diseases are in part caused by our modern diet of engineered foods. Extended out we can surmise that processed food causes disease, disease causes death….therefore….

I am a junk food eater I confess. I have always thought that as long as I exercise that I would remain fairly healthy. However, the National Institute of Health shares that the body needs twice as much (literally) activity to burn the same amount of calories burned after consuming whole foods. So I now know that a Snickers may satisfy but it means burning over 500 calories just to break even.

So, good on you Tracey, you have motivated me to eat better, but it isn’t that we didn’t know these things, it’s just that doing the right thing seems to take so much effort. Wow, I wonder if that axiom applies to anything else in life.

 

14
Jan
15

Losing what’s in hand to reach for more

The following was shared with me by my friend Patti Komara, who owns one of the best gyms in the country. Patti not only runs a great program but she shares her wisdom with neophytes like me on topics of business, teaching, and life in general. I have learned so much by simply being her friend and I gratefully share the following tale that she found in a sub shop, of all places, but wisdom comes wherever you find it. 

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “only a little while.” The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”The fisherman

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this take?” To which the American replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then?”

The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.” “Millions?” asked the fisherman, “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos!” (Author Unknown).

I love this story because it shares something that I feel we often overlook. In our culture we are always looking for the bigger, better thing. Our homes, cars, clothes, and even our friends are constant targets for upgrades. We work harder to get more and never realize that we already have so much. I think that one of the driving forces for disease in our culture is that our society tells us that we are not happy yet. We could be happier and we should not rest until we are. However when we achieve the “more” we still don’t have enough. This constant dissatisfaction causes stress. We all know how stress manifests into any myriad of ailments. Then, when sick, we realize that this disease will slow us down and we will no longer be able to attain the “more”.  That realization either kills us or brings us to a place of peaceful regret.

There are many tales of people on their deathbed who realize that what they had in hand was lost when they reached for more. It’s sad that we often have to be in that tragic position to realize that we are rich beyond measure.

31
Dec
14

Resolve for a better life by moving

Another year and another reason to start working out. Right? Will it be another year where you do it a few times then you hear the siren call of extra sleep, or worse, the beckoning of the couch and TV remote? What you need is a good sound reason. A reason that resonates with you and covers the attraction of the couch’s lure.My son asked me the other day, why I was going for a run when it was so cold outside. Usually not at a loss for words I stumbled around to justify changing clothes, different shoes, and bracing for the cold to and sweat outside until little icicles form on my cap. I think I had a hard time because I too was wondering: “what the heck am I doing?” But now I have had some time to think and a chance to sit inside and warm up a bit: so here are some reasons for you. I am writing them as I should have said them to my son (s). Maybe visualizing talking to your children will help. Find one that motivates you and get yourself moving.Winter runner1. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside?  And I say “Well, you know how sometimes you still feel sleepy when you get to school? After a run, my body is awake and alive. I get so much more done on days when I run.”

In fact, research has shown that people who exercise are more productive than those who are sedentary. Whether you exercise early in the morning, in the mid-day, or even late at night; your body becomes a more efficient machine.

2. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “Sometimes I feel like I need a little time to get myself feeling better. When I exercise I feel good about myself. Sometimes the best cure for feeling down is to get yourself up and workout a little.”

Exercising hold many benefits when it comes to enhancing self-esteem. Being more fit makes you feel good inside. Even if you lose a few pounds or inches, or maybe you don’t; internally hormones are triggered to provide a feeling of happiness. Just like some people find with a beer or a candy bar but this is free and it has a longer lasting positive effect. That’s win-win.

“There are sometimes when I also just need to burn off some steam. Maybe if I had a stressful day or it’s a rough week, it helps me to deal with feeling overwhelmed by stress. I don’t like feeling like I have no time to do everything I need to do, and weirdly enough, when I spend some time exercising it seems to make more time for me during the day. Then I’m not so stressed out.”

Exercise releases endorphins that not only make you feel better, but help your mind prepare for stressors that might arise later. One of the best strategies to alleviate stress is to get up and move. From executives to laborers, exercise outside of normal activity gives you the strength to deal with stress.

3.  Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “You know I have to be sharp. I have a lot to know for my job and sometimes I have to make split second decisions. Plus, being your dad it’s important for me to stay on my toes. I always want to be there for you if you have questions or need help with your homework. When I exercise it keeps my mind functioning well.”

Not only does exercise prevent memory loss but it aids in production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. You could say that exercise not only reduces memory loss, it reverses it. Also, research has shown that your chances of dementia are drastically reduced. Exercise is a “smart” thing to do in more ways than one.

4. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Exercise makes me happy. What do you do to be happy? Maybe your Legos or playing with your friends makes you happy, and running just makes me feel good.

As I mentioned; exercise releases happy juice in your body. This creates a feeling of euphoria and can make you feel pretty good.  When you feel good, your days are better and you get through life with more smiles on your face than frowns. There is great research that shows the correlation of exercise and feeling fulfilled in life.

5. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Well, I want to be healthy so I can be with you a lot longer.  If I make sure my body is healthy and working like it should I won’t get sick as much and I will live a lot longer. Maybe I can be around long enough to see your kids and I’ll get to hear how you answer these kinds of questions.”

Regular exercise is shown to reduce the amount of cellular damage to tissues and organs that lead to many chronic diseases and even many acute sicknesses like colds and flu. A system of regular exercise makes you less likely to have heart disease, Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, and a myriad of other ailments that our US sedentary lifestyles have blessed us with.

There are studies that link extended life expectancy to exercise (This is just one study, there are literally thousands).  So out of all the reasons that I stated here: feeling energized, reducing stress, better self-concept, better brain function, and a happier life, this one may be the most important. Whether you have kids or not, the fact that you could contribute to our world for a longer period of time is paramount to a fulfilled existence.  Knowing that I may someday see grandchildren, or that I will get to see my team kids grown up and be successful, makes the temporary discomfort of a cold weather run well worth it. 30 minutes of exercise and icicles on my hat is a small price to pay to feel good, think better and still be around to play human for another 50 years. Honestly, is it too much of a price for you?  




about.me

Jason Orkowski

Jason Orkowski

A Little about me

Born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, I started gymnastics inthe late 70's and started coaching in 1980 to help offset the expenses of my own participation. I graduated from UW LaCrosse with a BS in Physical Education, then went back and got another BS in Health Education. That was 1989.

Having coached around the country at camps, clubs and clinics I opened my own gym in 1999...Gymfinity. 

In 2010 I was brought on as a consultant to 3rd Level Consulting working with business leaders in the children's acivity center industry, specializing in human resources and marketing as well as setting up business systems. 

I married a wonderful friend and partner in 2001 and Stephanie and I have 2 children; Owen (2004) and Emmett (2008). 

March 2015
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