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Three Steps to A Winning 2018

Three Steps to A Winning 2018


Happy New Year!  2018 is so full of promise and making it an amazing year just requires a theme or mission to keep you on track.

May I suggest that your theme or mission this year be- to live in the offensive?

Let me clarify.  I don’t mean to “be” offensive, as in rude, but to be ready to take action.

Many of us have been in the defense mode and this is not a fun place to be.  The word “defense” means to respond to someone else’s actions.   In other words, to wait.  If you have been waiting around for someone else to decide your direction, give you permission to do something, or fulfill you, then it’s time to stop living in the defense and switch to the offense.

Offense is about action.  Offense gives you choice.  It is a mindset that offers hope for your future.

Where do you start?

First, let’s address the myth that is the big elephant in the room.  The room is our current culture.    There seems to be a lot of concern these days about knowing our purpose.  It seems that knowing your purpose has become a prerequisite to action.  I mean, what if you make a move and it doesn’t align with your purpose?  Won’t you have wasted a lot of time?

Let me tell you from experience that the answer to that is NO.  You won’t waste time if you are learning something and being productive.   All action teaches us about our next move.   Then we make an “adjustment” and go on.

The fear of doing something wrong has gripped us somehow.  Why are we so afraid to make a mistake?   Mistakes happen and they are ok.  Failure is ok.  I have learned some of my best lessons from mistakes and failure and even though it was uncomfortable, it was the most motivating teacher I could have had.   Being uncomfortable is ok too.  It’s usually not forever, but for a short time and we get so much from that discomfort that to wish it out of our lives is not productive or smart.

Second, do something.  After you read this, close your device and go talk to someone you’ve been meaning to talk to.  Go out for a walk.  Or go sign up for that class you’ve been waiting on.

Finally,  keep doing it.  Every day.   Close your device and take action.  It’s what living in the offense feels like.  It’s not always clear, it’s not always simple, but it builds the kind of confidence you can’t get any other way.  If you do it every day, you will be amazed at the changes in your life.

If you’ve been playing defense in 2017, switch to offense this year.

It’s the only way to really score goals, which allow you to win.

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Five Ways to Have a Smoother International Experience

Five Ways to Have a Smoother International Experience

“This is your host family”


I remember those words as clearly today as I did back then. As a foreign exchange student I remember feeling the thrill of the adventure as I stepped aboard the plane on the day the trip came. All the months of talking and planning was finally here. Now suddenly we landed and I was getting my host family assignment. It hit me- I was going to live with 4 complete strangers.

I was 17 years old, in a program sponsored by my school to study in a local university in Mexico City. Even though I already knew Spanish, I still suddenly felt extremely unprepared for this. It felt unfamiliar, unnatural and well, lonely. I felt alone in a home with strangers, even though they were very nice people. Similar to how young international baseball players feel every summer.

This was my first international experience with transition, but already it was preparing me for the work I currently do to help athletes transition to the highest level of sport.

Back then, we had no internet (can you imagine??!), so there was no Facebook or Instagram to see what these people looked or lived like. You just had to trust that the people who put this whole thing together did it well and hope for the best. It was like that. No turning back.

Transition is a funny thing. As people we crave the familiar, no matter how adventurous we are. New situations are uncomfortable because we have no frame of reference- no memory to help us figure it out. The transition of going from the familiar, to the unfamiliar, then making it familiar, is a cognitive exercise. The brain has to adjust everything (stress hormones, emotions, executive functions, etc.) in order to survive and thrive. This process can be fast or slow, painful or not, depending on the support system and preparations made ahead of time.

So if you decide to travel or live internationally, you may benefit from knowing these five things to help you with a smooth transition;

  1. Prepare with the right mindset

It’s one thing to pack the right clothes, but completely another to pack the right mindset. The right mindset is one of positivity, flexibility and imperfection. Know that you will be off balance for a few days or few weeks. Make a list before you go of the things you will need to help you feel “normal” and map those out the first few days you are there. For example, if your daily routine includes going to the store and the gym, find a store and a gym near you as soon as you get to your destination. Food, routine and the independence that you are used to are key to feeling good about your stay so make sure you take those in to consideration when planning.

  1. Trust in people

You will most likely find a time when you won’t know how to do something. You will have to ask for help. Learn to read people and trust that someone will help you. Learn how to say please and thank you and use them often. It’s also a great idea to learn one or two slang phrases- it is the glue in the puzzle that connects people.

  1. Embrace the culture

Some of the best experiences I ever had internationally came from locals who offered to provide a meal at their house or show me something special about their country. These nuggets are what make up the culture so don’t bypass it if given the opportunity. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your own culture, it just means staying flexible when you are standing in the middle of a new one.

  1. Do something good

When you help someone else you forget your own troubles. Try offering a hand of help or support when you feel off balance- it takes the focus off of you and allows you to be a better ambassador of your native country, family and humanity itself.

  1. Educate yourself

If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, learn about it. Learn how things work, how to communicate, how to work effectively, what the values are, etc. This will help make things less unknown and give you a greater sense of familiarity.

As you read through these points, you will see that they can apply to any type of transition, not just an international one. Transitioning to a new school, job, home, or new family dynamic is a part of life and we can eliminate mountains of stress when we lean into the change rather than push back against it.

When my studies were over and I came back to the United States, I knew I had changed. The grass looked greener, the trees looked more beautiful and the people I loved were like celebrities to me. Why? Because now I had another filter to see through. That’s what transition does for us. It gives us more of an understanding of who we are. It makes the old sweeter and the new an ornament of confidence.

Even though it’s not easy, we need transition in order to meet our full potential and for us to open up and allow strangers to become friends.

Only then can we really participate in the fullness of life.

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The Secret to Excellence

The Secret to Excellence

Linda Wawrzyniak, President of Higher Standards Academy, LLC


Often times when you hear the word “standards”, rigidity and rules come to mind. It even makes some people cringe because it implies perfection. But standards can also refer to doing things well, like the idea of excellence.

I remember my first job out of college when my boss put a stack of books on my desk. Looking up I asked him, “What’s this”? He smiled and said, “Standards. Read through these and show us how to put them into practice”.

“Okkkkkkk” I thought.

I worked as an Engineer for a Fortune 5 company at the time and guess what we were doing? Designing and manufacturing automobile assemblies that were critical to a driver’s life and death. They had to be right. Period.

The standards were unbelievably complex. There were layers and layers of expectations, tight tolerances, tests and end results that had to happen. It took me months just to understand them, let alone create the systems that would carry them out.

Luckily, I had a team and together we took each one apart, piece by piece. We were an international company so we had to make sure the systems that we created would be understood by many cultures and languages. Not an easy task, which is why it took us almost a year.

Finally, when the “office thinking” was done, we had to test and retest, then put them into practice. This was one of the greatest challenges yet because we had to teach everyone involved (easily over 20 people) how to execute these systems. Most of the workers had English as a second language(ESL), not their primary language, which added to the challenge.

I grew up bilingual and bicultural and teaching people how to operate in English was part of my fabric. This came in handy when I needed people to understand that what they were building could save someone’s life.  It was here that I learned the importance of  world class standards.

Consulting with one of biggest accounting firms in the country led to my next run in with standards. I had to help their clients, from various industries (healthcare, logistics, aerospace, finance) and locations (US, Latin America and Europe), implement quality systems in every part of their business. It was here I noticed that with every standard expectation and system implementation came the need for education. So, I became “educated on education” and made a point to use this knowledge in curriculum development.

This served me well when the Department of Education needed some help with an ESL STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program for local manufacturers.  I worked with their statewide education standards (which were much easier than engineering standards!) and helped them develop new curriculums to get people communicating about the things that mattered. This program was a success and soon I was asked to share some of my curriculum methods at the state level. What an honor that was.

Today, the work Higher Standards Academy, LLC does in transitioning international minor league baseball players to the major leagues has everything to do with world class standards. You can’t get to where you want to go without a goal, standards and curriculums to get there. But you have to know what standards are the best and which ones to choose because those are the key to success. If they don’t exist, you have to create them. We currently use a combination of some that exist and some we’ve had to create in our work with the transition of young professionals. What a thrill to be part of the World Series Championship team in 2016!

Being exposed to the best standards in the world was one of the best gifts I received at the beginning of my career. Once you know what excellence looks like, you don’t settle for less. Great standards are the beginning of results. You don’t have them just to fill up paper or create files. You have them to create consistency and communicate what is and isn’t acceptable.  Basically, they tell you what success looks like, which helps an organization achieve excellence. In fact, they are one of the secrets to excellence.

I have noticed that professional athletes who make it to the highest level of sport have their own personal standards. These are what keep them going. This is the true driver of “grit”, which is a popular term today that refers to mental toughness.  Toughness is only achieved by simply staying the course of a high standard of thinking.  Standards are executed by sound strategies, which are always “tweaked” through mental flexibility (i.e. adjustment). Without standards, strategies and adjustment alone have to work much harder. Standards are the key, but they must also be realistic and appropriate and part of daily work.

When I board a plane, fill a prescription, eat in a restaurant or educate a young baseball player from another country, I am grateful for the knowledge and understanding of how standards keep us safe, innovative, communicating and performing at the highest level of excellence possible.