“Wait a minute, what did you say?” I said, wondering if a punch line was just around the corner.

“We want you to be our head coach,” repeated Susan, nodding as she spoke. Susan and two other members of the women’s soccer team had stopped by my apartment.

I know I heard the words and even saw her lips move but somehow the message just didn’t sink in. “You want what?”

“You heard us,” cried out Cathy, the captain of the women’s soccer team. “We want you to be our coach for next year. Will you do it?”

I looked around to make sure this wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. “You want me? Really? Why? I mean, don’t get me wrong…” Unfortunately the more I talked the dumber I sounded.

Susan gave me a playful push. “Just think about, okay? We think you’d be great.”

I smiled and waved goodbye as the women got into their car, thinking the whole time how crazy this was. You see, I wasn’t exactly the take responsibility type of guy. Here I was, wrapping up my sophomore year at Western State College with a 2.0 GPA and nothing to show for it. Why, my idea of a productive evening was drinking beer with my buddies, eating Ritz crackers, and watching Johnny Carson. Seriously, I couldn’t see past my nose as far as ambition or vision goes.

I did enjoy playing soccer however and was one of the better players on the men’s team. Yet despite that, I never led the team nor had any intention of ever leading them in the future. Essentially, I was along for the ride, if you know what I mean.

And then something odd happened…

As I was showering later that night, still replaying the conversation with the women over and over again in my mind, I heard these words pop out of my mouth… What do they see in me that I don’t?

It was as if a lightning bolt shot through the house and struck me in the head. My quest to be ordinary…to be under the radar of life…to follow and go unnoticed…was being challenged. For the first time that I can remember, I was being called to action. Better yet, I was being asked to lead.

Clearly I had a decision to make. Actually, I had a defining moment decision to make…let’s be honest. I could turn down the request, keep doing what I’m doing and continue to get what I’m getting. Or, I could accept the position, change what I’m doing and generate different results.

Then it hit me. I’m being given an incredible opportunity here with nothing to lose. Why wouldn’t I step up and take this on! These women can see my potential, why can’t I?

“Yes, yes, and yes!” were my words to Cathy the next morning. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into but I knew it was time for a change!

Fast forward two years…

Although giving the graduation speech was pretty cool and all, it was not as cool as being the student body president my senior year. That was an experience. Oh, and I still managed to coach both the women’s and men’s soccer team my last two years as well. Did I mention that I also founded the Psychology Club, wrote columns in the weekly college newspaper and managed to find time to be a Freshman Peer Counselor? Yep, add those to the list. And here’s the best part, I graduated with a 2.95 GPA. I know, still not great but think about it what it would require to go from a 2.0 to a 2.95 in two years; almost all A’s.

Are you starting to see why my decision to become the women’s soccer coach was such a big one? It changed my life. It allowed me to change a pattern that wasn’t working for me. More importantly, it allowed me to believe in myself and actually see the same leader in the mirror that everyone else was seeing in person.

I call it the difference between content and context. Content is all the things we do in the moment or out of habit that either doesn’t serve us or simply doesn’t take us anywhere. My whole view of college, let alone the coursework, was something to do merely to get it over with. College never meant anything to me…at least those first two years. And it’s because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, let alone my degree, that caused this lack of focus, direction, and commitment.

Yet everything changed instantly when I agreed to coach the women’s soccer team. I had to step up to the plate and become responsible and learn to lead. Essentially, I took back control of my life. This is what I mean by context. I suddenly had a sense of purpose. As a result, I raised my expectations of myself, my education, and how I spent my time. Gone were the classes that meant nothing or time spent unproductively. I now had a context for living and it was time to get on with becoming the leader I was meant to be.

We do a defining moments activity the first evening in the Leading From Within program where everyone shares their own defining moments. As you might expect, I share this story along with a couple of other significant moments that made me who I am today. Needless to say, it’s a pretty powerful evening.

How about you?


    • Judy
    • August 13th, 2012

    Greg – you are a superb writer and your life is very interesting, it sounds like you have had many doors opened and each one has a positive outcome, many blessings have come your way and I hope they continue. Thank you for the Monday morning inspiration. : )

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