Lessons From 2022

2022 was an interesting year. It started off really well as I had the chance to play some tournaments and travel with a small team of athletes for a few tournaments, but something happened in between that turned everything upside down. Therefore, I’m moving back to Canada at the end of this month.

1) You cannot help everyone. Nor should you try.

As a (kind of) young coach, you want to do many things. You want to show that you care and you want to prove to others that you are a good coach. This isn’t different from any occupation, but maybe things have changed as people seem more entitled than ever. I wouldn’t really know, because that’s their thing. I just want to be the best I can be.

But I hate to say it… you can’t help some people. It’s like they are choosing to work against you. They are so lost in their own world that nothing you do or say will get through to them. They are not ready yet. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you care, it will not matter if they are not ready.

It’s hard because sometimes it feels like you’re the only one willing to try. Perhaps there is a reason nobody else wants to help. This leads to the next lesson.

2) Don’t put yourself at a risk where you can blow yourself up.

This comes from gambling or investing (arguably the same thing). Don’t take risks that can take you out of the game (i.e. blowing up the account). Low risk is still a risk, and black swan events are unknown unknowns.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much good you can do, because one bad thing will erase everything you’ve done or tried to do. The scary part is that it can simply be an allegation; it doesn’t even need to be true.

I usually advise my students to learn from their mistakes and failures, but now I include this exception because a wrong mistake can take them entirely out of the game.

What should they look out for?

3) Don’t believe what people say if they act differently.

You can try being a better listener, but you also need to learn how to filter out the lies. There are risks when you empathize with people that aren’t telling the truth. Sometimes, they are lying to themselves too, like...

  • “Let’s create a high performance program to entice international athletes to come train.”

  • “I want to compete in the Olympics someday!”

I hear the last one a lot. I don’t want to be a downer, but let’s have some personal accountability here. The worst is when you call out people for words THEY said, and they get upset about it. And if you need to find someone to mediate a resolution, there’s one type of person to avoid...

4) Don’t expect help from people if they have too much to lose.

Some people are in a comfortable position, and doing anything that might risk that position would be irrational. Fair enough. Robert Greene cautions that it’s better to appeal to people’s self-interest instead of their mercy or gratitude. Therefore, it’s better for these people to ignore you for self-preservation.

The only way they would take action is if the reward was so great that they go all-in. However, how often does that happen?

Maybe you need third-party advice?

5) There’s nothing wrong with therapy. But maybe there’s nothing wrong with you either.

I started therapy for the first time because I felt depressed. I even went to my doctor to talk about it and he recommended therapy before I try antidepressants, likely SSRIs. It’s funny because there were moments in that phase where people said I was being “un-Stoic”. And they were right, because I tried to see it the other way and really feel my emotions. I tried to spend time with negative emotions as much as positive ones.

That was my biggest mistake. Fortunately, something brought me back to reality. I may have said some things I never meant, but it was serious enough that people were genuinely concerned. That created frustration, not at them, but at myself for letting things get out of control. That frustration also motivated me to get back on track. Things started moving back to normal, but then I really got tested when I lost my job.

Fortunately, I started therapy around that time. After a few sessions, I knew I was in a good place. I’m happy I figured thing out because therapy is a lot more expensive when it comes out of your own pocket. When your health insurance is tied to your employment, you’ll quickly understand that your mental health is in your own hands.

I went back to my Stoic practices and continued to learn, adapt, and grow. I saw the opportunities in the obstacles and I took action. I refused to accept it as a traumatic experience, but only a series of unfortunate events.


6) It’s better to learn from the mistakes of others than to repeat their mistakes.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes. That’s why I’m making an effort to write about them. It’s better to spend 5 minutes skimming through this if you come across it than hours or days of suffering from repeating a similar mistake.

Young people rarely heed this advice, but that’s okay. That’s how we develop experience. However, isn’t it better to learn from others until you’re at the forefront of something? Then you’ll go through trial and error so we can learn from you.

How about older people? They aren’t always right because I know I make mistakes too. I would never want someone to listen to what I say just because I’m older. That’s something we see in the Asian culture, but what price do we pay if they are wrong?

Things are constantly changing, and perhaps it’s best to consider what someone says based on how well they know the subject. If the advice given comes from expertise and personal experiences, then maybe it’s a good idea to consider it. If it’s based on hearsay or a personal interpretation of what everyone else does, then I probably wouldn’t take that advice.

But on the other hand...

7) You don’t need to be an influencer to influence people. With power comes great responsibility.

Yes, and the reverse is also true: with great responsibility comes great power. The more accountable we are to ourselves, the greater the personal power we have. When we stop blaming others for our circumstances, we grow in power.

And that’s why having a “position of power” is incredibly arbitrary. Why give up power to other people when you can be accountable to yourself and develop your own personal power? That kind of power is yours to keep as you’d focus on the things within your control.

It’s too easy nowadays to play the victim and blame other people. Am I a victim in my situation? Yes and no. Yes, I was the person who took the fall, but no, I learned that I’m better off somewhere else instead. There are new opportunities and people that may better benefit from what I can do. That is why I move forward.

That’s why I stay strong, because…

8) It takes strength to be kind. Without strength, it’s just cowardice.

It’s just blame, getting offended, making something out of nothing, or making something more than it actually is. Some people are weak. They can only tear down others because they don’t want to be left behind. Some people refuse to build strength. They want the easy way out.

Strength is a grind, much like lifting weights. Things barely seem to move, but if you commit to the lift, it will usually move slowly but surely. Don’t lift more than you can handle, but sometimes you’ll still have spotters to help you through.

Safety is imperative, including…

9) Safe Sport is a good thing, but, like many things, can be misused.

I think Safe Sport is a good thing, especially for situations of sexual and physical abuse. Don’t do those things (obviously!). But for psychological abuse and neglect? That’s a bit of a grey area. The biggest problem with Safe Sport and topics like inclusivity is that things often contradict themselves.

Inclusivity and Safe Sport are already at odds. Safe Sport tries to keep bad people away from sport environments. Agreed, but that’s not very inclusive. You are choosing not to include the bad people. High performance and inclusivity also don’t work together. You are selectively choosing your best athletes. Inclusivity does not apply once again.

I’m tired of people in sport complaining about the lack of female athletes, or the lack of funding, because when you fund a female athlete so they’re included in tournaments with the rest of the team, you get accused of playing favourites, or even something like grooming. What can you do?

It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? In hindsight, it would’ve been better to not include certain athletes. We can tell ourselves that they wouldn’t have made it anyway to feel better, and then the cycle repeats. Because nobody takes the risk to do something, things will never change.

We are closing ourselves into a corner, and coaches have little room to work with. If an athlete acts out, how can you discipline them? If you say the wrong thing, they will take offense and allege psychological abuse. If you ignore them, they can allege neglect.

They can report you anonymously, and depending on your employer, Safe Sport allegations against you may have you out of a job even before the investigation clears. In some places, this is totally legal. Is Safe Sport really protecting athletes? Yes. Are they also protecting coaches? No, absolutely not.

However, the most important lesson of the year is:

10) Despite bad people, don’t forget the good people that look out for you.

Sometimes we don’t really know where people stand until bad things happen. Some I thought would support me didn’t, but some stood on my side that I didn’t expect either.

It’s difficult to know who is good or bad for you because some people may be bad for you, but good for others. That’s out of your control, so why not just appreciate those who are good to you and pay your actions forward?

Be good to others because it’s the right thing to do. Be good to others because you are strong enough to. And let’s revisit the “silver rule”: don’t do things to others that you don’t want them to do to you.

Given the silver rule, holding grudges is something I wouldn’t want others to do to me, so making amends should always be possible. Things will never be what they used to be, and that’s expected, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be different opportunities in the future.

Thank you to everyone who supported me, especially through these tougher times… you know who you are! I hope to move forward and find purpose in the things I want to do, help those I can, and inspire others to do the same.

All the best to everyone in 2023 and beyond!

Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat.

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