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Monday, July 02, 2012

Dennis Gaddy: Five Keys to a Gameplan that wins 

The Clarion Content had the opportunity this weekend to listen to renown personal development and leadership trainer Dennis Gaddy speak. Mr. Gaddy came on a Saturday on his own time, like three folks have before him and four more will after him,1 to address a group of nearly a hundred young men.

These men participate in the DBL, a free Durham youth basketball league, the brainchild of local community organizer, Otis Lyons. Regular readers are familiar with this story, the twelve to sixteen year-old ballers in this league have to attend these educational workshops or they don't play in that week's games.

Mr. Gaddy dished out some knowledge to these young souls, who whether they are know are not, are facing a reality that says it is extremely unlikely that even one of them earns their living playing basketball professionally. While Mr. Gaddy used some basketball analogies to reach them, it was patently clear to this observer that he knew this hard truth. The five keys to a gameplan that wins were applicable to a far bigger stage than the basketball court.

1) You will become what you think about

Sounds simple enough. But what if you play violent videogames on the console all day and watch the latest viral hits on Youtube all night? What if you listen to music with dehumanizing, abrasive, negative lyrics and stereotypes for hours on end?

What is your mind dwelling on?

Mr. Gaddy coached these men that the mind is a garden and one reaps what one sows.

It makes perfect sense to your Clarion Content correspondent, how does one become a good basketball player (beyond pre-existing talents) or how does one hone one's skills at anything one loves from woodworking to playing the violin to writing iambic pentameter sonnets?? By living, breathing, and thinking on it all day.

Mr. Gaddy, his voice dropping another register, warned the impressionable minds, "It is happening all the time. You will become what you think about, what you surround yourself with, regardless of your intentions, you will reap what you have sown."

We believe, Mr. Gaddy. We believe.

2) A set of goals

Have a vision. Write it down. Literally.2 Say it every day. Aloud. Those familiar with mantras will understand the formulation. Express the change you wish to be.

Aye, Mr. Gaddy, we believe. We believe.

3) Have a good attitude

A positive mental attitude goes a long way, further than one even realizes, would be the summary here. Your correspondent also already subscribes to this one. This is interrelated with the first key, as Mr. Gaddy noted. If you are what you think about; you are positive or negative in corresponding measure.

It rains a lot? Are you going to be down every time it does? Who can you call about the weather is one of the Clarion Content's favorite old saws... Mr. Gaddy noted, continuing his garden analogy, what you plant in other people is what they give back. Treat them as a default option like they are somebody and they are more likely return that grace and respect.3

Mr. Gaddy, playing to his audience, did a quick segue through the importance of politeness and the signifiers thereof, on his Yes list; please, excuse me, my fault, thank you, you're welcome... on the No list; yeah, uh-huh, what and um. Call us old-fashioned if you will, but we believe, Mr. Gaddy, it serves young people well to hear this explicitly.

4) Have character and integrity

Seemingly tricky concepts to sum up for a group of adolescents, Mr. Gaddy boiled it down to 'who are you when nobody is looking.' If you are true to yourself and your word, you only have to remember one story, the truth. Do what you say you are going to, he continued, have accountability, pairing the concept and the definition neatly. This means follow-through, again, even if if nobody is watching at the moment it happens, do it anyway. Do what you said you would. The little things get noticed.

Here Mr. Gaddy brought the boys back to basketball, do you know who does the little things on the court on your team, he asked, presumably meaning running back on defense, getting hands in the passing lane, making the extra pass.

Do you know who else does?

He reminded these young men about their coaches. How come they know your game, he queried. He talked about the importance of mentors and what it means to be too close to one's self and the process to sometimes see what one is doing. He explained how one has to be open to it to have a mentor and one has to actively respect a teacher to best learn from them. He articulated how those observers and those leaders can help mold people, if we listen, if we approach with the right attitude; with positivity and integrity, his hands chopping the air with passion.

Believers, your correspondent and the young men present, nodded and murmured.

5) Read

It sounds simple enough, but as Mr. Gaddy noted, fewer and fewer people are reading these days. Your correspondent had just heard the very same thing days earlier, about no less a select group than NC State engineering students.

But Mr. Gaddy would not hear of it. (pun intended)

Readers are leaders, he told the group. He said that in the modern world the single most likely characteristic that people who make it to the "top" share was a predilection for reading. Reading might not guarantee achieving, but a lack of reading skills could spell disaster. Mr. Gaddy told us that less than 3% of people literally write out their goals.

If you simply take your goals, your plans and put pen to paper, you are a top three percenter, he said.

It was the optimal mix of inspiring stuff and useful knowledge poured into these young minds. We were glad to be there to witness it.

Dennis Gaddy is the Executive Director of the Community Success Initiative (CSI), a non profit organization that was created out of a desire to fill a need to see personal growth and development, and leadership principles become a recognized strategy for achieving success in the lives of everyday people, with an emphasis on men and women who are transitioning from prison and jail.


1The speakers at these workshops so far have included, Superior Court Judge Ellen Bushfan, on "The Law and You." Principal Martina Dumsford aka Coach "D" delivered the message "Education is not Optional" and league founder Otis Lyons spoke on gangs and gang violence.

2If you have been to the Clarion Content offices, you know we already subscribe to this one. We are animals too, like the horse with the carrot, post your goals and dreams within your sight and look at them every day, it will drive you. (Possibly we got this one from Mr. Gilbreth?)

3While a cynic might call b.s. here, all but the most hardened Hobbesian, would have to concede the contrapositive: treating people disrespectfully, like they are less than somebody, makes them likely to return that treatment in kind. Or as one might say, in the vernacular, "If you wants some, bring it on, Muthableeper."

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