Iron Sharpens Iron: Difficult Beyond Comprehension

Times are certainly difficult. How about that for the understatement of the year? With a pandemic, racial tensions, and social injustice in the headlines for months on end, it seems as though the whole world is sitting on a proverbial powder keg. 

Focusing on daily responsibilities and duties can be difficult – many times, they can seem to be difficult beyond comprehension. It’s as if you have to wake up every morning with a fist-fight mentality to merely get through the day. It really boils down to the fact that life does not offer us any guarantees. And it really doesn’t matter how much or little you have to begin with, but it certainly matters what you do with what you have. If nothing else, you at least have the day – and you’ll need to come to the realization that it is yours to use as you wish. A truly “use it or lose it” proposition. 

difficultA little self-reflection can go a long way. Call it what you want, but in essence, it is a self-showdown … a reckoning with yourself. Reevaluate your goals, be as clear as possible on what is really important to you, understand that it will not be easy, be willing to make some sacrifices (and investments) along the way. And when things get really tough, try to put a smile on your face, be grateful for the challenges, and do everything in your power to push through them. 

Hey, great things may be just around the corner! 

You’re a coach … make the most of it on a minute-to-minute basis! If you haven’t done so already, you need to come to the realization that you should be passionate about what you do. Most of all, passionate about making a difference in the lives of others – and most importantly, those kids who stand before you daily. Before you can inspire, however, you must become inspired. Before you can motivate, you must be motivated. And motivation should be in your DNA, it should not be something that you have to search for and muster up every day. It should come naturally. What if it doesn’t for some reason? That’s OK … like anything else, keep working on it, and it will eventually come around. Don’t quit on motivation – it has a way of growing and nurturing with time. 

Remember this through all of the hardships, negative news, and seemingly endless tough times we seem to be going through: You are involved in something, i.e., coaching, that has a tremendous impact on more people than you will ever know. It transcends the young athletes you work with to a vast extent. It shoots up and trickles down to people you may never personally meet, but who certainly have heard about you and all that you bring to the table in terms of positivity and improving lives simply with your presence. 

So, what have we established thus far? Well, before you can effectively challenge others, you must challenge yourself. And then, do what it takes to meet that challenge. Every single day, attempt to push yourself beyond what is normally your comfort zone. Get out of that comfortable, familiar place, and look with anticipation to something that brings meaning and purpose to everyone’s life. 

Difficult beyond comprehension? It all depends on how you look at it. Keep others in mind, and it gets a lot easier. I once heard the phrase “get out of yourself, and into the team (others).” 

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And don’t be concerned if every effort and attempt isn’t a slam dunk. After all, things are going to fall short every now and then for a variety of unforeseen and unalterable reasons. However, you can take this to the bank – no effort is wasted when you put everything into it. 

Is there a better place and time than now to put those words into effect? 

Stay strong, stay in the fight, and keep making an impact on young people! 

Ken Mannie is the former head strength and conditioning coach for Michigan State University. He worked in the position for 25 years, and following his 45-year tenure, Mannie retired in March 2020.