I love the A Song of Ice and Fire series (probably better known as Game of Thrones)! Love it!!! I know I know I am 19 years behind the trend, but give me a break I was three when the first book was published and I have been a bit busy for the last twenty years of my life. I finally had the opportunity to start the series, which has been on my kindle wish list since I got the kindle for christmas three years ago, and ended up reading the first four books in less than a month.
It's an awesome high fantasy with incredible plot twists, dynamic characters, and out of this world story telling. Not to mention the author, George R.R. Martin, is a master at world building. You really do feel as if you are escaping into a whole other world every time you open the book or turn on your kindle.
My wife loves the television adaptation of the books, which from what she tells me deviates a bit from the book in a few areas but I guess that is to be expected. I still though recommend reading the books before diving into the television series. In my experience nothing ever matches the experience you get from reading the actual story instead of just watching it.
There are currently five books in the series and still more to come however I am a bit concerned that in George R.R. Martin's current physical condition he may not get to finish the story completely. That being said if you ever read this post Mr. Martin I am offering you free personal training in-person or online for life! The only condition being that I get to see what becomes of the Seven Kingdoms.
Anyways I am done flying my nerd flag (who am I kidding you really can't ever stop flying that thing).
The reason why I share this deep love for this particular series of books is because I want to tell you about a character from this book series named Eddard Stark.
He is one of the larger characters in the series, particularly in the first book. I know some of you have not read these novels so I am not going to give away any large pieces of the plot here so don't be worried about that.
I want to tell you about Eddard because I think he demonstrates three really important characteristics that a lot of great coaches possess, inside and outside the fitness industry.
1. Eddard Stark lead by example.
I am very much a believer that actions speak louder than words. In my experience our words often speak our intentions, but our actions show our true priorities. I am not saying that having good intentions is a terrible thing, but I am also cognizant of the old adage "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." You don't get credit for something because you say you are going to do something you get credit for actually doing it.
Great leaders (read coaches) understand this and while some may also talk the talk they all make sure to walk the walk. In Eddard's case there is a fantastic example of him living this out when a deserter from the wall (once you read the books you'll understand) is caught and must be punished based on the laws of the land. Most men of Eddard's stature would have a "Hand of Justice" or a headsman who would do the delivering of "justice" to the law-breakers, but Eddard and his fathers before him believed that the man who passes judgement should also be the man who delivers the punishment. While Eddard could have just spoke those words and enforced them on others while having someone else do his own dirty work he chose instead to live up to the same standards he set for everyone else.
This is how Eddard allows his actions to speak louder than his words or at the very least back up he says.
As coaches and trainers (read leaders) we must do the same. If we want people to listen to us, take our advice to heart, and follow us we must walk the walk and talk the talk. We should not ask something of someone else that we have not done previously or would never do. I am not saying that to be a great fat loss coach you need to have a six-pack and I am not saying to be a great football coach you need to have played in the NFL. What I am saying is that to be a great fat loss coach you should have some experience cutting weight, eating for fat loss, and training for it and to be a great football coach you should have at least at some point in your life stepped on to the gridiron.
In other words you should always let your actions speak louder than your words and at all cost make sure they align as much as possible.
2. Eddard Stark embodied stoicism.
Eddard is a man one might describe as calm. He is not quick to anger, but also rarely overcome with excitement or joy. It isn't that he is unfeeling or cold hearted, but in my opinion he is simply stoic.
Stoic in the most classic sense. This meaning that Eddard recognizes that there is really one thing he can truly control in his life and that is his own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Outcomes are not within his control, but the effort he puts forth in a task, the attitude he carries, and the way he treats others all are and he can use them to influence the outcomes of events to the best of his abilities.
He does not get caught up on problems or the actions of others, but instead focuses on solutions to the problems and what he can do to have a positive impact.
As a coach you have to do the same both for yourself and for those who you are coaching. You have to emphasize the need to focus on the process and journey and not on the outcome or destination because truly they are not in our control the way many of us believe they are. Sometimes a client will gain weight and sometimes a running back will fumble the ball, but the important thing is to reframe the negative as a positive by placing the focus back on the good things that have been done thus far and working on improving the next play or week.
It's the coaches job to stay calm, even, and collected. A coach can not become emotional and allow those emotions to dictate his choices or game plan and unsettle those who rely on him to lead.
3. Eddard Stark practiced servant leadership.
Servant leadership was a term first coined by Robert Greenleaf. It describes a bottoms up approach to leadership that is less about keeping people underneath you and more about elevating those around you. It's about supporting and empowering others to become more autonomous.
Eddard Stark does a fantastic job of this as a father and lord. He is always pouring into his sons and particularly his oldest and heir to his seat. He makes sure to take every opportunity he can to teach his eldest son about being a just and fair leader. He is always trying to give his son opportunities to develop the skills he will need when he becomes his own man.
It is through this kind of continued service to his son which will allow him to grow up to be a better man and a great leader which is what will be required of him.
Eddard could have been selfish with his time and been distant to his children passing the task of educating them to another person in order to fulfill his own responsibilities, but a servant leader recognizes that his first priority is to pass along his knowledge and skills to those around him and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop.
As coaches we must do the same. We must pour back into our clients, players, and athletes even our fellow coaches.
We don't have to be fatherly or motherly figures, but we can be mentors and friends. We can give them guidance, accountability, and support whenever they need it.
We can encourage them to continually gain more autonomy and give them the skills and knowledge to do so. We can empower them to change.
We should derive our position as a leader through caring for and helping others be better not by some position or title that we must fight desperately to maintain.
I know some of this may not make sense to a lot of you especially if you haven't read the books I referenced, but I promise these three things that Eddard does are common across many of the best coaches and I would encourage you to continue working on developing them in yourself.
Lead by example. Practice stoicism. And be a Servant Leader.
Happy moving and heavy lifting
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