Friday, July 10, 2015

Life Wisdom Still Current after 2,000 Years

Epictetus (c. 55 – 135) was born a slave in Turkey nearly 2,000 years ago and then lived in Rome until he was banished to Greece.

He was one of the Stoic philosophers. Epictetus taught that philosophy had to be more than theoretical; it had to be the way you lived your life. To him, external events were beyond one's control and we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline.

Here are a dozen of my favorite quotes from Epictetus, taken from "Discourses," by Arrian, who wrote down his master's teachings:

ATTITUDE - “Men are disturbed, not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”

CHARACTER - “Seek not the good in external things; seek it in yourselves.”

CHARACTER - "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."

DECISIVENESS - “In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it.”

INITIATIVE - “First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

OPTIMISM - "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

PATIENCE - "No great thing is created suddenly.”

PATIENCE - “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”

SELF-DEVELOPMENT - “First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

SELF-DEVELOPMENT - “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”

SELF-DISCIPLINE - “No man is free who is not master of himself.”

SELF-DISCIPLINE - “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling the desire.”

These and over 3,000 other personally selected quotes are one of the many personal development resources featured in the many versions of ProStar Coach, the world's premier virtual coaching system. It's worth checking out.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Huge Danger of Interstellar Space Travel That Scientists Rarely Mention

Nine years ago, NASA launched the New Horizons probe to take close-up photos and sensings of the dwarf planet Pluto, which has been the object of scientific curiosity for over a century.

The report said that scientists are concerned about the spacecraft, traveling at 32,500 mph, because the closer it gets to Pluto, the greater the chance it might run into a small particle of space matter. According to officials, "At such speeds, a collision with an object as small as a grain of rice could prove catastrophic."

The reason is that a particle the size of a grain of rice hitting the craft at 32,500 mph would have super-high kinetic energy. If such a rice-size pebble hit your car windshield at only 32 mph, it could leave a crack. Now imagine the damage that tiny object would do if it hit a spacecraft that was travelling 1,000 times as fast.

Check this.

It wasn't easy to get the New Horizons spacecraft to travel at 32,500 mph. But at that speed, it would take 80,000 years to reach the nearest star. Because of the realities of "interstellar" space travel, imaginative engineers are trying to develop faster propulsion systems.

NASA promotes this effort because of the idea that the "human species" needs to be a "two-planet species" to survive a future mass extinction catastrophe. The second planet can't be Mars, because it will never support human life, nor will any other body in our solar system. Hence, scientists also focus on traveling to distant star systems.

To take humans to a distant star will require a spacecraft that travels thousands of times faster than New Horizons. But the faster a craft goes, the higher the kinetic energy if the craft hits a tiny particle, even one as small as a particle of dust. Avoiding such a tiny collision at enormous speed, which would destroy the spacecraft, presents a far greater engineering challenge than building a faster propulsion system.

Remember this the next time you read the next cool article about "two-planet species" or "interstellar travel" or "advanced propulsion system."

Because there's a vast difference between science fact and science fiction.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Modern Classic: Jack Canfield's 2015 edition of "The Success Principles"

During the past century there have been many dozens of books about how to live a happy, successful life. A few examples of the better-known classics:
  • Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
  • The Power of Positive Thinking - Norman Vincent Peale
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People - Stephen Covey
Do you have a favorite?

Now you can add the 10th anniversary edition of Jack Canfield's The Success Principles. Building on ideas that have stood the test of time, this beautifully written book addresses over 65 topics, such as "Decide What You Want," "Believe in Yourself," "Take Action," "Reject Rejection," "Believe in Yourself," and "Embrace Change."

Instead reinventing the wheel or giving old concepts new names, this book is like an encyclopedia of the most effective success strategies. Each chapter nails its topic with Jack Canfield's elegant way of saying things. Take this quote, for example:

Simple but profound. After all, what in life is completely under your control? Canfield is right: your thoughts, your images, and your actions. Few people manage these three aspects of their life well.

If you enjoy reading an occasional book on success, I recommend this one. It's the latest, and one of the best, in a long series of classics.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Create a Coaching Culture

There's a quiet revolution happening in organizations.

Until recently, helping managers and employees improve their ability to perform was the responsibility of HR staff, corporate trainers, consultants, and hired professional coaches. If you asked a supervisor what he or she was doing to help team members be better team members, the typical answer was, "That's not my job."

But why shouldn't a first-line supervisor want to help direct reports get better at what they do? For that matter, why shouldn't team members help each other perform better? It would only make their jobs easier!

The answer is that they don't know how to play that role. They have no confidence in their ability to coach someone who is trying to improve.

The solution presents itself in Thomas G. Crane's book, The Heart of Coaching, 4th Edition. The vision and purpose of the book is to help organizations establish a coaching culture, in which people at all levels take an active role in helping others in the organization work on improving skills.

The Crane's transformational coaching model has three simple phases: Foundation, Feedback, and Forwarding-the-action. Crane is a superb writer, and he clearly describes what's involved in each of these phases. The latter part of the book delivers all the how-to instruction and tips anyone would need to be effective in the coaching role.

Imagine the benefits to an organization if it successfully established a coaching culture! Learning would be so much easier. Performing at a high level would become commonplace. Human interactions would be mutually supportive. Who wouldn't want to work in an environment like that?

If this possibility excites you, I strongly recommend that you read and study The Heart of Coaching, one of the best business books of 2014.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Signs of a Healthy Team

Is your group a strong, healthy team? In this guest post, some insights from Quinn McDowell, a writer who knows a lot about teams.


The key to any healthy relationship is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Teams are a complex web of relationships that must be nurtured and developed. Nothing undermines team chemistry more than deceit and dishonesty. A good coach understands they must communicate on three unique levels: with their team, their players, and the player’s parents. There are literally hundreds of different relationships when you take into account these various levels; players to players, coach to players, players to parents, parents to parents, and coach to parents. These subsets of communication have a huge contribution to the overall culture of the team.

The coach is the most important cog in this communication vortex. Coaches must maintain consistency across this spectrum by setting clear expectations and making a habit of telling the truth. “Truth-telling” often requires the courage to present the reality of difficult situations; although difficult at times, honesty is always the best policy when dealing with tough issues like playing time, tryouts, a players role on the team, etc. Players and parents can choose to disagree with content of the coach’s communication, but if the coach has reliably communicated the truth with all parties involved, then his/her credibility will remain intact and team culture will remain healthy.


A counterfeit will always be exposed. Coaches, players, and parents owe a level of transparency to one another when they make the decision to function as a team. One example of how transparency can undermine trust is when I was part of a team where the coach told us that our captains would be selected by a team vote. After the votes were counted and the captain was named, it was clear that the coach had already decided who was going to be captain and the votes had little input into the decision. The problem is not that coaches shouldn’t pick captains, but that the entire process lacked transparency. If the coach had told us from the outset that he was going to pick the captains, this would have been highly preferable to leading the whole team to believe our votes had an impact in the decision.

Another example for how parents can practice transparency would be communicating with a coach in advance when their child will miss practice or a game because of family obligations. I've seen many parents lie or withhold the truth from the coach in order to protect their child. Then at the last minute the parent will spring a surprise absence on the coach before an important game or week of practice. Transparency builds trust and trust is essential to healthy teams.


Over the course of the season, players must learn to trust in their coach’s leadership and a coach must learn to trust in his/her player’s character. Mutual respect is the bedrock of healthy teams so that when the inevitable storms of a season arrive (i.e. losing games, injuries, gossip, etc) the team is able to survive the challenge because they trust and respect each other.

The deep-seated belief that everyone on the team has the group’s best interest in mind is a powerful sedative against the craziness of a season. The best teams learn to insulate themselves against the outside influences that would seek to destroy their chemistry and pull them apart.

Trust grows out of transparency and truthfulness and is the cement by which healthy teams are built. Sports have the rare ability to expose our deficiencies and grow our character which forces a team to either create a bond of trust or allow personal shortcomings to divide the team. Team togetherness and trust are one of a few things that you have complete control over. The season provides the time and context for teams to learn to trust each other and come together, or splinter as individuals. Trust depends on the character, consistency, and selflessness of everyone involved. The coach sets the tone, but the players and parents build the culture. What type of a culture will your team build?

Quinn McDowell is a writer, trainer and professional athlete. He has played in the NBA D-League, Australia and Spain, following his four-year career at the College of William and Mary. He is the founder of and desires to see coaches and players succeed with excellence. He currently resides in Palencia, Spain, with his wife Lindsey.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2015. Building Personal Strength .