Pete Carroll and Yogi Roth Target World Maximization

the soccer stadium with the bright lights
Isaac is 11-years-old. He has been up playing the XBox for a few hours before I wake up. I walk by his room and notice he hasn’t made his bed.

“Good morning, bud,” I say in a thin attempt to start off nicely. “Good morning, Dad,” he answers. Then, it begins.

“Hey, can you come upstairs and make your bed,” I ask.

“Right now?” he says.

“Yes,” I respond. Then I notice he peed all over the toilet seat, “And please clean up the toilet seat. How many times do I need to ask you to lift up the seat? Come on, man.”

Isaac lets out an exasperated sigh. I clench my teeth, frustrated that I’m the bad guy for reminding him to do things we have agreed to multiple times. I just want him to be a good person when he grows up. I was convinced a long time ago that the greatest contribution any person can make to the world is a well-raised child. Yet, I spend most of the time wondering if anything I’m saying is getting through to him. Am I impacting him at all, or is he just on his preset genetic course? Judging by the amount of times I have to correct him, I might as well be attempting inception.

The truth is, Isaac is making his bed more often now than he used to. He lifts the toilet seat most of the time. I am stuck in a rut of catching him in error instead of catching him in success. Any good behavioral psychologist will tell you that positive reinforcement is considerably more effective than negative correction. In fact, the recommended ratio is five positive interactions for every correction. Hit the instant replay button on the morning.

I walk by Isaac’s room and notice the unmade bed, but I also notice that he has put his laundry away. I also realize he made his own breakfast quietly without waking anyone up, and did not leave a mess in the kitchen.

“Good morning, Isaac,” I say. “Good morning, Dad,” he answers.

“Nice job putting your laundry away this morning,” I say. “You are getting better about that.”

He murmurs a “thanks.” I let a little time go by, and then offer, “I noticed you made breakfast quietly this morning without making a mess. Nice work!” He is clearly pleased. I spend some time focused on finding a few other things to reinforce, and then pick my correction when he is upstairs.

“Hey bud, you have a little clean-up to do in the bathroom,” I say. “Nobody likes a sticky, smelly, dirty toilet. Try to remember to lift the seat, and you won’t have any cleaning to do next time.”

This is parenting. It is a continuous chance to shape the life of a person. Every parent has a vision for what their child can become. Great parents find a way to coax the best out of their children, to make them more than they believe they can be. Great parents instill confidence in their children so that when that boy becomes a man, he can operate independently. A child that maximizes their potential is something any parent would be proud of.

Pete Carroll and Yogi Roth did not spend much time speaking about parenting at their Win Forever event at the VMAC in Renton Thursday night. They were focused on helping football coaches lead their teams. Their message about self-discovery, discipline and maximizing the talent around you applies far more broadly than the football field. It is about parenting, leadership, organizational development, mentoring, change management, and performance management.

Carroll, Roth, and the rest of their Win Forever team spent the better part of two hours breaking down how coaches can get the most out of themselves and the people around them. Roughly 150 local coaches were in attendance in what was an interactive session. It is rare to have that many coaches in one place without a single discussion about how to play the game.

Attendees were encouraged to participate in mental drills to start them down the path to figuring out what their personal core philosophy is. Carroll spoke about the importance of having a vision for what every player can be, and how it can more than what the player even sees for himself.  He sees his main job as a coach to be putting that player in a position to become that vision. He builds his practices around it. He shapes his communication around it. He relentlessly looks for ways to maximize the talent of his players.

One of the mental drills they asked participants to do was to draw a line and put three names above the line that have had a positive impact on their life, and three names below the line that have had a negative impact. Take a second to do it. Now, ask yourself what your relationship was with the people on either side of that line. What kind of expectations did those people have for you? How did they communicate with you? Many people below the line tend to have either had limited expectations or a critical communication style. Your expectations of people affects what they give you.

Carroll and Roth have added a performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, to their team in an effort to better guide people down this path. Gervais spent time talking about optimizing on-field performance by reaching a state of calm intensity. Peak performance, he said, comes when a player properly balances intensity with preparation. A player who is too hyped before a game will try too hard and their performance will suffer. A player that is not intense enough will rarely give the effort necessary to be their best. Carroll talked about the mistake coaches make when they ask their players to “play better than they ever have before,” or emphasize one game over another (e.g., your rivals). Carroll asks his players to play to their capabilities, not be more or less than who they have prepared to be.

Roth and Carroll spoke privately later in the evening about where Win Forever goes from here. They both recognize the program has applicability beyond coaches.

“Anyone in transition is really who we are going after,” Roth said. He mentioned athletes transitioning to life after sport as a place they would likely go next.

The Win Forever program is a business, but with a philanthropic goal. Roth and Carroll worked together on the A Better L.A.–and now A Better Seattle–non-profits that help at-risk youths, especially as it relates to violence. Writing their Win Forever book, and now building the business around it is aimed at providing a continuous stream of funding for those charities.

“Instead of Pete and I going around to corporations asking for money, we generate it,” Roth said. “We were able to fund A Better L.A. and A Better Seattle.”

It is easy to play the cynic with Carroll. He is every bit that Marin County dreamer who takes self-help philosophies seriously. He will talk about Maslow’s hierarchy. He will stay relentlessly optimistic. The difference between Carroll and the stereotypical flaky Californian is that he backs up his flowery talk with sincerity, commitment and results. He is not unaware of the pain he had to go through to reach this point of clarity.

“There were times in New England where I thought I had [my philosophy],” Carroll said. “You know I have been beaten down pretty good, and I was pretty pissed off about it. But it took me until nine or ten months later to find it. I needed to be kicked around a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with getting your butt kicked, it’s just how you respond to it that counts.”

Carroll and Roth may not realize how close they are to organizational and management philosophies for business. Carol Dweck is a psychologist who has promoted concepts around fixed and growth mindsets that separate people who think achievement is based on natural talent versus those that believe achievement can be acquired through effort and repetition. Daniel Pink has written a book called Drive that studies the flawed societal beliefs around what motivates people. His TED talk is a must-see. Marrying the Win Forever philosophy around competition with motivational philosophies like those of Pink and Dweck would make a potent combination.

In the meantime, the tools and lessons being put forth by the Win Forever program show promise in being able to help people from all walks of life find confidence in themselves and ways to instill that confidence in those around them. They would be wise to be more open about where the money generated by Win Forever goes. Most self-help programs end up being schemes to make someone rich off of other people’s insecurities. Like Carroll, this program is sincere in not only trying to help participants, but use the money generated to help others. That’s worth being loud and proud about.

Future Win Forever events will be coming soon. Many will be accessible through the web. Take the time to watch one. The message is worth hearing.