Football players at the line of scrimmage before a play

Welcome back to the Encouragement Series, we hope you've been enjoying these posts. This time around I'm going to post an excerpt from a book that has provided me some encouragement, entitled Transformed by Tough Times (which in full disclosure was written by my father, Steve Reed). Down below I'm going to mention how you might be able to apply the technique mentioned here in these stressful times that we are living in right now.

The game is on the line. We are behind. Seconds are left on the clock. The coach looks at me and hollers, “Field goal!” I trot onto the field and line up for the kick. If I make it, we win. If I miss, we lose. The next day in the paper my name will be associated with “fame” or “blame.”

As I stand in anticipation—quaking in my cleats—I pray, “Lord, help!” From that point, everything seems to move in slow motion. The center hikes the ball to the holder. The ball spirals like a missile to the holder, who in one motion catches it and brings it down to the flat tee—spinning the ball to get the laces facing the goal. On that launch pad, the football stops spinning for a split second before my foot meets it. For a moment, I am one with the ball. I feel it bend around my foot, and with a thump it lifts off the tee and clears the line of scrimmage.

As I look up to follow the trajectory of the football, I know that I’ve hit it well, but quickly realize that I have pulled it a little to the left. To compensate, I lean hard to the right—hoping that by some invisible force I can coax the ball to correct itself in mid-flight. As the pigskin floats toward the goal, I notice that the ball is headed on a collision course with the left upright. I cringe watching the football spin in a backward motion—locked in on that goal post.

Thoink.

Careening off the left post, it flutters down toward the horizontal post and bounces. Like a dying quail, the ball flops over the goal post and falls to the ground. The kick is good! We win! My heart can start beating again.

That was the happy ending of a western Oklahoma, small town high school football game I played in the late 70’s. No doubt, the celebration was sweet, and I got to be a hero. But looking back, I believe that the real hero was someone who didn’t wear shoulder pads or don a jersey.

The moment before the kick will be forever etched in my mind. My coach put his arms on my shoulders, locked eyes with mine, and with a grin said, “Steve, you’ve made this a million times in practice. Stay loose, and just go out there and nail it.” Then he spun me around and slapped me on the rear and sent me out on the field. My coach’s “go-out-and-nail-it” way of thinking set me up for whatever success I experienced that night on the gridiron, and that same philosophy has served me well in dealing with other more weighty challenges since. 

But let’s contrast this “nail it” mentality with what I call “don’t miss” motivation. Kickers get it all the time from fans and teammates who don’t understand the dynamics of success. People often yell something like, “Hey Steve! We really need this kick, so don’t miss!” Or, “We’re all counting on you, so don’t let us down.” In football language, this is what you would call “icing the kicker.” And believe me, it doesn’t help. To threaten or implore a kicker to “not miss” is a bad set-up.

In fact, whatever negative image we are to avoid actually draws us to it. Parents understand this with their kids when they’re having fun with reverse psychology. I really enjoyed warping my kids’ minds when they were little. “Okay, Zach, whatever you do, do not eat this bite of broccoli. It’s for me. I don’t want you to have it. In fact, I’ll be really sad if you (CHOMP!)…What?! You just ate my broccoli! You better not do that again!”

Why does reverse psychology often work on kids? The same reason it works on you and me. Whatever we focus on will draw us in. “Nail it” thinkers focus on positive results, not on negative possibilities. Athletes who excel demonstrate this all the time. Michael Jordan had a “nail it” mentality when he played basketball. When he took the last shot to win the game, he knew it was going in, and so did everyone else in the arena. More often than not, he nailed those crucial jumpers. How did he get so good? Well, those who played with him talk of his legendary work ethic—being the first on the floor for practice and the last to leave. They talk about his leadership and how he called for the best out of those around him. They talk about how he played entire games in his head, envisioning how he would respond and how he would overcome any adverse situation. By the time Michael Jordan stepped onto the basketball court, he was physically and mentally prepared like few who have ever played the game.

Tiger Woods is another athlete who demonstrates the “nail it” mentality. Granted, off the golf course, he’s had his personal issues and character defects, but on the course he has amazing abilities. When his ball finds a rough lie in the middle of a stand of tall grass or behind some trees, he often comes up with incredible shots to keep him at the top of the leader board. How did he get so good at ad lib shots in tough situations? Tiger explains. “As a kid, I might have been psycho, I guess, but I used to throw golf balls in the trees and try and somehow make par from them. I thought that was fun.”1 Tiger focused on achieving positive results from any position on the golf course, and he had a good time practicing under the worst conditions. 

As helpful as the “nail it” mentality is for athletes, I believe that it is of even greater value to those who face the challenges of life—which can sometimes loom much larger than a steel goal post or a tree in the middle of our fairway. 

What you think about, and how you think about what you think about, can make you or break you. This applies to performance issues. It applies to contentment issues. It applies to relationship issues. And I want to demonstrate in this book that it applies to issues related to how we deal with suffering. Mark this down. Your life will only be meaningful and effective if you view the problem of suffering the way championship level sufferers have seen it.  

And yes, boys and girls, there will be a test! What you believe about suffering will be tested in the crucible of your one and only life. Eventually, no matter who you are, you will face less than ideal circumstances. Eventually, disaster comes and we will come head to head with hardships of some kind or another. No one has to go looking for trouble or difficulties. In time, trouble finds us.

I believe that there is a “nail it” way to look at suffering—to be able to focus on the positive results and not on the negative possibilities. I believe that there is a way to face suffering that can help us do more than just outlast our tough times, but to actually be transformed by our tough times. If you will stick with me, and we keep walking together, I think you’ll find help, strength, encouragement, wisdom, and maybe even a little bit of inspiration on the road to true transformation.

What Does the "Nail It" Mentality Look Like in the Midst of COVID-19-Induced-Changes?

There are changes to our daily lives that are happening, and it all is happening so quickly that it can make our heads spin. We can begin to focus on the negative possibilities rather than the positive results. 

“Nail it” thinkers focus on positive results, not on negative possibilities.

Postive results!? You might be thinking that's not even possible. To some extent you are probably right, as there have most certainly been deaths and tragedies already, even if no more were to happen in the future. However, each and every one of you reading this has some control over your personal situations. You can choose to make the most out of every situation that you face in a given day, with a mentality that you can do everything in your power to take every challenge head-on and do your best for your family, your community, even yourself and your own mental health in spite of it. For atheletes, the moments they are most remembered for is when they push through and do something incredible in the very moments when the "chips are down" and there is seemingly no possibility for success. So together, let's nail it!

The "Nail It" Challenge

Whether you feel it or not, I believe that we've been training for this moment our entire lives. Taking care of our kids? Yep, we've done that before. Doing our best for our employers or our employees? Yeah, that's something that we do normally. Dealing with financial challenges? I'd imagine most of us have faced some sort of financial adversity at some point, and employed some strategies to get through it. Cooking at home? Well, some of us maybe haven't prepared for that, but there's always PB&J sandwiches!

I feel like almost every challenge that we face now is not necessarily an entirely new thing if we look at it critically. In aggregate, it can feel like a lot, though. Yes, this could be the most amplified version of that particular challenge, and it won't be easy. Regardless, a defeatest attitude will not help things.

The other advantage we have at this moment is that you are are not alone in these struggles. We can come together (in a socially-distanced way), to help each other and encourage one another, and we are fortunate that so many businesses and institutions we may look to in order to help get through this are also wanting to help as well—we have certainly experienced that as we've been dealing with our challenges. We are better together, and together we will make it.

Let's collectively decide to nail it! What do we have to lose? Let's get through this, and come out on the other side even better as a result!

So how are Kristin and I trying to nail it in relation to ModernEyes?

  • Making the wisest and most informed decisions for the safety of our employees and patients. These decisions seem to need to be adjusted daily, but every step we take is because we believe that it will be the right thing for those entities that are our utmost priority.
  • Making financial preparations, so that we can do right by our employees, who depend on their income for their families' livelihood. This is our focus at all times, so why should it be any different now? We're a family, and we take care of our family to the very best of our ability.
  • Helping our patients in any way we can, especially with urgent needs, and keeping the environment as sterile as possible as long as we are able to see patients.
  • Setting up means for telemedicine appointments for the situations where it can be effective, again to try to help our patients in any way we can.
  • Communicating with other area eye doctors to help inform our decisions, as well as help other offices with any insights we may have.
  • Encouraging our community with this series of posts. We want to be a net-positive for Millard and Omaha, at all times, and especially now.

There's probably many new things that we will face, even today, but we aim to deal with those challenges head-on too!

Here's a few ideas on more personal things that you (and I!) can do to "Nail It" in this season of life.

  • Love your kids, be attentive to their emotions and needs.
  • Being present and emotionally available to your family.
  • Do your best at cooking with what you have, it doesn't have to be a chef's masterpiece!
  • Have some fun!
  • Teach your kids, this is a great learning opportunity for them in many ways, not just educationally. They are watching you. Show them how to handle stress, how to prioritize, and how to be responsible. At the same time, show them that it's OK to not be perfect.
  • Abide by the constantly-changing regulations and recommendations to the best of your ability. This is how we "nail it" for our community.
  • Forgiving ourselves, when some things don't get executed to perfection.

All of these are pretty much the epitome of "easier said than done," but we can take it one challenge at a time, one day at a time, using all of our "training" to nail it in each area that comes up. Go out and nail it!

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