by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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In my coaching career at ASU, I estimate that I ate about a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I did this because my schedule of my day job and my commitment for coaching the team two nights a week, nine months a year for fifteen years.  And I didn’t mind one bit…

I started out thinking I would do a one-hour general coaching session for the existing team at Arizona State University.  One of the players on the team was a very high level player on the local scene, and he and I competed frequently.  He asked me to help the club players, as he was not a great role model in terms proper technique.  I agreed, thinking that I could certainly spare an hour of my time to help out.  The Student Rec Center at ASU was one of the premiere facilities in the country, and I loved playing tournaments there.  The first time I walked in, I felt at home.  I wanted to help out the team, but little did I know what it would turn into.  This one hour “clinic” that I planned to offer turned into a two-nights a week, nine months a year for fifteen years as a volunteer coach.  It turned out to be the most personally rewarding thing I have ever done.  I would pack my “dinner” every Tuesday and Thursday morning before I left for work, and I would go straight from my office to the campus.  I got there a little bit early to clean the courts before practice started and then scarf down my PB&J sandwich before I would get things started.  I was there three hours a night, two nights a week, and some Saturdays as well.

Here is the thing, when I read this back, or I share these details with someone, it seems crazy.  Who in their right mind would spend so much time, away from my wife a couple of nights, missing other life events, and all for no compensation?  I was, and there were a few other people crazy enough to do the same.  The coaches at the other schools we competed against fell into this same definition of crazy.  We did it because we loved it, and we loved the kids that we worked with.  It was a labor of love, and I miss it now that I have stepped away.  But I learned so much in my 15 years in this role, and have had an impact on about 500 kids directly in my role as Head Coach.

My question for you is…what lights your fire enough to get a similar type of commitment out of you? 

Have you found it yet?  If so, have you acted on it?  If you haven’t, are you looking?

Allow me to let you in on a little secret…this is what life is all about.  I truly believe that the secret sauce to leading a happy life.  When you find something that you really want to do, you will:

  • Work harder
  • Worker longer
  • Fight tougher

I loved being the coach of the team.  There were struggles at times, of course.  I would go through periods of mild burn out, overwhelm with this plus everything else in my life happening, etc.  But the pay off when making a breakthrough with a kid on the court, or off the court, made it all worth while.  The trophies were nice, the Collegiate Coach of the Year awards were much appreciated, but the real pay off was watching someone get a big win, make it to Collegiate All-American status or learn a life lesson that will stick with them forever.  I have laughed and cried and bled with most of them over the course of our time together.  I was willing to eat roughly a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to do the work all year long for these brief moments.  Why was I willing to do this?  One simple reason:

Your soul does not measure time, it only measures growth.

It was the most personally rewarding thing I have ever done, so the PB&J sammies are just an afterthought.  But I’ll give you a similar example that my wife did not too long ago, and this changed our lives.  She decided to go to nursing school.  Here in Phoenix where we live, there was an 18 month wait list to get into a program.  So, she applied and got into a program on their waitlist.  In the meantime, she applied to be a 911 operator for PHX Fire.  She had to go through the training, do some internship type stuff and then was able to work the phones.  She did great at it; but this was a tough gig.  Not very well paying of a job, less than ideal hours, and of course, stressful.  But she made it work, and we made it work for us, because there was an end goal in sight.  She toughed it out for 18 months, and we squirreled away that money to help pay bills when she wasn’t working during the nursing program.  Once she got into the RN program, she had to tighten up her schedule to make sure she was putting her best effort into it.  She went out and bought 100 food storage containers, and she got to work.  She made 50 breakfasts and 50 lunches, and put them in the freezer, so that each day she had food ready to go.  She set herself up for success and removed as much friction to the process as possible.

Every morning she got up at 3:45am went to the gym that was sort of on the way to school and worked out.  Then by 6AM she was a a McDonald’s near campus where she bought a $1.00 coffee and used their free wifi to study before school.  She did this until 7:45, when she went to campus and started class.  These are the traits of someone that wants to succeed.  She never needed from me a hint or a suggest, or any real encouragement to keep going throughout the time of her nursing program.  She committed to this, and was going to see it through to the end, no matter what.  That’s my wife, and one of the many things I love about her.  She qualified to do an accelerated finish, and she along with a select few other classmates were afforded the chance to move through the program faster.  And she did, and not only that but she finished as one of the top students in that class.  Upon graduation, she landed a job to get things started with her new career.  It wasn’t perfect, as she had to work at night and was not given much training.  But she persevered and after about six months felt like she was ready to move on.  Next stop, a floor nursing position in a hospital.  She got into a good hospital chain here in AZ and did three years in this role until she decided to take on the challenge of being an ER nurse.  I have no doubt she will excel in this role as well.  She found her own passion, and fought like Hell to make it a reality.

So again, when you lock into something that really lights you up, you will fight harder, longer and with more tenacity than for something that you are lukewarm about.   And finding something that brings out the best in you is a quest all of us should be on; it is one of the things that make life fulfilling and truly worth living.  I encourage you to keep trying things until you find yours.  It doesn’t need to pay anything financially to be a worthwhile pursuit.  Your soul doesn’t cash checks, and it does not measure time, only growth.

Go find yours…

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