NYO is a premiere athletic program where young people learn life and athletic skills through team sports that emphasize character building, sportsmanship, healthy competition, and positive coaching as part of a family friendly and safe community.
Part 1 of 4 – NYO’s Mission: Character is a Choice
“Talent is a gift, but our character is a choice. Talent is natural ability, our gift from God, but we have the power to determine our character.” – John C. Maxwell
One morning last week, my wife, Alicia and I were having coffee in the kitchen when the topic of “character” came up in the conversation. Alicia said, “You know Tony, good character is a personal choice.” As I began to slump down in my chair, I thought to myself, “Uh oh, what did I do this time?”
You see, none of us are perfect, but Alicia lives a near perfect life. Alicia is up every morning at 4:00 am. She reads her devotional, makes herself breakfast, and heads to CrossFit class at 5:30 am. After CrossFit class, she returns home, showers, and then drives to Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School where she is a fantastic 5th grade teacher. After work, Alicia may head to the grocery store or work in the yard, and then she usually makes dinner for us. Alicia is more productive in a day than most of us are in a week. She takes care of her mind, body, and soul on a daily basis. She is on God’s good side, and the content of her character is nearly flawless. Alicia is honest, loyal, responsible, humble, compassionate, forgiving, and lives her life with integrity every single day.
I, on the other hand, have plenty of flaws. Alicia, my parents, my brother, my players, my colleagues, and my closest friends all can give plenty of examples of boneheaded things that I have done over the years. On most days, people would consider me a really good dude, but there are days when I fall short. I have made my share of poor decisions in my life, and there have been days when my character could be questioned. I own that. Being someone that has built a career on mentoring kids and working with coaches, that is a tough pill to swallow, but it is the truth. On the flip side, my life experiences as a youngster and as an adult (the good, the bad, and the ugly), have given me the ability to empathize and be there for kids, friends, family, and colleagues without ever being judgmental. Many of my buddies are in the same boat. They are GREAT people with beautiful spirits, but occasionally they hit bumps in the road and make decisions where their character could be questioned. I think this could be the case for most people who are 100% honest with themselves (or at least most people that I know).
At Northside Youth Organization, one of our goals is to develop people of character. How do we do that? What does that even mean?
According to Jim Rohn, the six essential traits of good character are integrity, honesty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, accountability, and self-control. I think that is a pretty good start for sure. You can read his piece here: http://www.success.com/article/rohn-6-essential-traits-of-good-character
Unlike a batting average, going four for six or even five for six on these essential traits isn’t good enough. Don’t worry, friends; there is no judgement from me if you are batting .500 right now. At this point in my journey, I’m not batting 1.000 100% of the time either.
We can teach our kids about good character traits until we are blue in the face, but we won’t make real progress until we help them understand that living a life of good character is a personal decision.
Instead of focusing on the end result, we should trust the process. If good character is indeed a personal choice, which I believe it is, then that is the message we should convey to our children. We choose to live our life with integrity or not. That decision is 100% on each of us.
For those of you that are batting 1.000 on the six essential traits of good character, I commend you. You are an inspiration. Keep it up! For the rest of us that need to improve in some areas, the choice is ours: Character is not something you acquire. It is something you build. One decision at a time, one day at a time, brick by brick, until eventually we have a strong foundation of good character that we can be genuinely proud of.
Alicia taught me this at age 37. Our kids at NYO will have a head start on me.
See you at the park!
Tony Watkins serves as Executive Director at Northside Youth Organization