Okay, I admit it. I’m a volleyball geek. I’ve played volleyball my entire adult life. I love the game, the athleticism, and the strategy. And of course, for the last week I’ve been glued to the television set, watching volleyball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
So, if you don’t know the guy in the photo – that’s Karch Kiraly. Karch was a member of the men’s U.S. National Volleyball Team that won gold at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. He then went on to win a gold medal when sand volleyball was first introduced as an Olympics sport in 1996. And today? He’s the head coach of the United States women’s National Volleyball team. So yes, he’s a volleyball rockstar!
The U.S. women’s team has been the hands-down favorite to win gold in Tokyo. And as of this morning, that “automatic win” is in doubt. Two of the U.S. team’s top offensive players have gone down with severally sprained ankles.
Well, Karch prepared the team for that. Not necessarily for THIS specific problem… But for any problem. You see, Karch Kiraly knows that %$@*& is going to happen. It always does. And that concentrating on trying to keep %$@*& from happening is futile. It’s a waste of excellence. So Karch teaches his athletes how to shift perspectives. Instead of concentrating on what’s wrong, he teaches them to go into problem solving mode.
It starts with curiosity: “What could we do to overcome this adversity?” Notice the breadth of this question. The team is not looking for one perfect answer. They are looking for a series of small answers. Small things that EACH INDIVDUAL can do, that when ADDED TOGETHER have a BIG impact.
Now, it’s about experimentation. More than likely, there are still a lot of side outs left in the game. That means they don’t have to do things perfectly the first time. They can try on those small solutions, experiment, and learn. What’s working? What’s not working? What else could we do?
The final piece of the pie is about embracing the experience. Win, lose, or draw – there is a great story in there. And the journey itself is worth remembering. The journey builds skill sets for tomorrow. The journey develops resiliency. And the journey can intensify our confidence.
I don’t know if Karch and his team can problem solve their way to a gold medal. What I do know is that when we shift our thinking from what’s wrong (and all of the negative emotions around it) to problem solving – we take control of our lives. We’re not bemoaning our bad luck or complaining about our circumstances. We’re tackling the issue. We’re embracing the adversity. We’re purposefully setting our minds on what we CAN DO to solve the problem. And as we take these steps – we’re actually moving forward – towards the win.
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