November 06, 2023

Authors of “The Champion Teammate: Timeless Lessons to Connect, Compete and Lead in Sports and Life”

Dana Bernardino

1Huddle Podcast Episode #111

On this episode of the Bring It In podcast, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder, Sam Caucci, sat down with Jerry Lynch and John O’Sullivan, authors of The Champion Teammate: Timeless Lessons to Connect, Compete and Lead in Sports and Life. John O’Sullivan has coached for over 30 years to the youth, high school, and collegiate levels. He is the founder of Changing the Game Project Dr. Jerry Lynch is the founder and director of Way of Champions. In the past 35 years, Dr. Lynch’s impact on sports teams have led to more than 118 world national conferences and state championships. 

Jerry and John’s book, The Champion Teammate: Timeless Lessons to Connect, Compete and Lead in Sports and Life provides insight on how playing on a sports team and coaching a sports team, can improve the culture at work. The future of work, according to the two authors, must consist of working as a team and how to be better teammates for one another.

Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.


Below are some of the insights Jerry and John shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.

  • Being a great teammate is all about selflessness. It’s about giving to others.” – Jerry
  • If your team sees that you’re only in it for yourself, they’re going to check out” – John 
  • “We have to stop being afraid to fail. Failure is our greatest teacher.” – Jerry 

Sam Caucci: John, I’d love to start with you. First question out of the gate. Why the champion teammates? 

John O’Sullivan: Well, Jerry’s giggling too because we wrote the book with very little disagreement or we were just sort of– it just came out of us. We’re like, yes, but like coming up with a title and a cover? We had so much back and forth and disagreements, probably even a tough word.

But I mean, Jerry, I don’t know how many, how many different titles that we went through.

Jerry Lynch: Definitely thousands.

John O’Sullivan: Yeah to come up with a descriptor, right? We wanted to write a book about being a great teammate. And we wanted to help people understand that sometimes in your season, the things that you do, right, you can do everything right and still not end up with a medal around your neck, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not a champion.

It doesn’t mean that you didn’t maximize your potential as an individual and as a team. And so we take time in the introduction of the book to really define, like, what do we mean by champion? You know, doing the best that you can do with the tools that you have in the moment and that it’s not something that you become, right? It’s something that you are. It’s something that you do and act and you be every single day. And you loop enough of those days together and you’re going to maximize your potential. And so, yeah, we went back and forth and back and forth on this title. But really, as the book came together and we sort of put the finishing touches on the content, we kind of said, hey, this is what it is.

And in spite of all the championships that teams that especially Jerry has, and I’ve worked with, most teams don’t end up winning a national title at the end of the year, or even a conference title, but they can still have a phenomenal season and a phenomenal bond and deep love and mutual respect for each other.

And so I think that’s really what’s behind the whole title of the book. 

Jerry Lynch: Yeah, let me, let me, can I just jump on that Sam? 

Sam Caucci: Go ahead.

Jerry Lynch: I think what’s really important for our listeners here today, I’m interpreting this, you know, John really laid it out there really well. And I’m just totally aware after 45 years, how important this topic is and there are, and how little is written about it or spoken about it and how all those coaches that I’ve worked with thousands of coaches and athletes, nobody knows how to go about doing this. 

This being creating a culture, a strong culture where people get along and people really love each other and like each other and willing to work for each other. For a higher cause for something bigger than any one individual. What a concept and being connected as you are Sam with the business sector of the world, you know how important that is how people getting together to create something much bigger than each one individual is so joyful and so filled with connection and caring.

And that’s why we put that on the title timeless lessons to connect to compete and to lead in sports in life. So this is an important book, if nothing else, that there’s not much written about it. And these coaches, I can attest, come to me and they say, ‘Jerry and John, I know you’ve had the same coaches approaching you’.

Yeah, that’s great. We want that. But how do we go about doing this? And so we’ve laid out a plan. One practical, powerful, profound plan, to help coaches to get the team that are working together. 

Sam Caucci: John, you cover, I mean, I think the book is easy in so far as it’s not intimidating to navigate. There’s action steps that coaches will love because they can pick up and start to really reflect and think, you know, at the same time, there’s a lot of great stories. You talk to a lot of people, it seems like, that have fed insights that you all, you and Jerry have processed to put into this work.

Can you talk a little bit about, you know, who are some of the people that had an effect on the writing of The Champion Teammate

John O’Sullivan: I mean, sure, right? This is decades of different teams that Jerry and I have both worked with, but also been a part of. And I think that’s one of really the main things here, Sam, is like, you’re going to be part of teams your entire life.

It’s not just in sports, right? You’re going to be part of a work team, church, community, your family is a team. And people who are great teammates, people who elevate those around them who lift people up are fantastic and always in demand. And so, sport, especially when you’re a kid, is a great place to learn how to do this, but you can learn about it anywhere.

You know, I know your listeners, you have a lot of people in retail and restaurant business. I mean, I think about when I graduated college, I decided to split my time between playing some pro soccer and being a ski bum in Vail, Colorado. And I worked in a restaurant for five years, right. And I think about the teams of the front of the house and the back of the house.

And I think about how the kitchen had to work together. And I think about how the front had to work together. And, you know, I just think about like, what’s funny is that this restaurant that I worked at in the late nineties, there’s still four people who still work there, right? There was something about that team that was great. 

And even when I moved and left, they used to bring me back for like Christmas just to be part of the team for two weeks, and things like that. So I think we draw upon, we start with their own experience. And what does it feel like to be part of a great team? And what does it feel like to be part of a team that sometimes has a lot of talent, but doesn’t function very well. And that’s not a good feeling at all. 

So, you know, this is based on direct work. This is based on conversation. I mean, Jerry and I have done 300 and almost 330 podcasts at this point and talking with people like Steve Kerr, Brad Stevens, Quin Snyder as NBA, World Cup winning coaches, Anson Dorrance, Tony DiCicco, I mean, Tara Vanderveer, women’s basketball.

I mean, we’ve gotta be close to 200 NCAA championships, at least, Jerry, right on. The coaches that we’ve interviewed, and then we sort of supplement it with psychologists and leadership experts and people who have written books about performance and leadership and team culture and things like that.

And so we’ve really gotten to talk to a who’s who of high performance and then tried to distill it down and ask them what’s a great teammate? Who’s someone that you think of when you think of a great teammate? And then distill it down into these different components of the book. There’s almost 30 little, like you said, short chapters that lay out you know, it’s a short chapter with a story and a lesson and then how do you, how do you implement this?

What are the discussion questions as an individual or for your team? And you know, so this is something that you just use, like, you know, you read it as a summer reading, you read it as a weekly thing, you read it as, you know?

I was just talking to a friend who, you know, manages, he’s part of a giant car dealership family.

Right? He’s like, oh, we’re going to use this book, all right, for this, because we’re all teammates. We all have to work together. And so yeah, but we learn from everyone and, but I think it always starts with our own teams.

Sam Caucci: Okay, I got the first curveball coming for you, John. Then, Jerry, you’re up next. So you gotta act like you’re–, you know. You’re going to riff anyway. 

Jerry Lynch: I’m going to be in the baddest.

Sam Caucci: You’re on the, you’re on, you’re on that clock. It might feel like a changeup. I don’t know. Let’s see if it feels like a curve on it. 

You know, there’s so many things about the word coaching. You look around, if you were to just search coaching in Google, I mean, it’s not the thousand searches that come up. I mean, millions of searches come up on how to be a coach, how to be a great coach, thinking about how to, you know this framework. And I want to ask you, when you wrote Champion Teammate, what do you think is the biggest challenge that exists today, that players are subscribing to?

And I brought up coaches because this may be because of coaches that may be coaching a certain way or a certain style that doesn’t work anymore or they may be misaligned. What do you think is the biggest obstacle or challenge that exists to becoming a champion teammate that we should all be aware of as leaders?

John O’Sullivan: The curve balls coming at me first?

Sam Caucci: Yes, sir. 

John O’Sullivan: I can never hit the curveball. That was the problem. So, you know, what I would say is I just think about the world that we live in– and so let me think about my own kids and I have teenagers. And, you know, they’re in high school and we have an entire world that influences our kids through music and pop culture and certainly social media and everything where everything says, ‘look at me’. ‘Look at me, get mine, get my money, get my fame, get my likes, get my looks, right? And kids are told over and over and over, you know, what’s the number one desired career for you know, teenagers these days? Be an influencer, which is all about selfishness. And yet being a great teammate is all about selflessness.

It’s about giving to others. Servant leadership or service leadership, serving others, asking what I can, you know, give to the group instead of what can I get from the group. And so I think the biggest obstacle as a coach is working with athletes or people because they’re just human beings, right? They just happen to play a sport.

Working with people who are bombarded all day with the message of it’s all about you. It’s all about you. Get yourself. And then I have to get a group of all about yous to say it’s all about us. And that’s the biggest challenge. And, you know, I get that 90 minutes a day or whatever. You know, you get that 8 hour shift at work and then they leave and they, you know, get 16 hours of getting hammered with a different message.

And, and so I think that, I mean, Jerry might disagree, but I think that’s the biggest challenge that I see, especially I see it in the daily lives of the kids that I coach and my own children.

Sam Caucci: Disagree Jerry.

Jerry Lynch: You’re gonna throw another one at me? 

Sam Caucci: It’s over to you. Yeah. 

Jerry Lynch: Oh, over to me. Okay. There’s so much to unpack here. The question is brilliant and, and I unlike John, I love curve balls. I’m a left-handed hitter, and I could always go into that ball very easily. But having said that, I think, John, you know, I want to echo everything John said because he’s right on.

If I were asked the question first, I would’ve gone down that route. But I wanna elaborate a little bit more on it, John and Sam. And, and that is, you know, we are in a society that coaches are facing, that is really challenging when, when these young people are coming and asking the question, what can I get here?

You know, can I get more playing time? Can I get more minutes? Can I get more notoriety, more attention? Can I get, get, get, get, and, and really what this book is about, if I had to sum it up, it’s about learning. Learning how to be a good teammate is learning how to be a good human being. You know, being kind, being thoughtful, being caring, being giving, being selfless.

And when you’re being that way, all the other things fall into place like a miracle. And so, you know, this book is simple, but it’s not easy. The not easy part is coaches need to understand that it’s going to take a little time. And, and some coaches say, well, I don’t have time for that. And I’m saying to them, you don’t have time not to do that.

You know, you can’t afford to not take the time to do it. And so, this whole concept that John’s talking about, you know, I think about, you know, let’s dig the well before you’re thirsty, you know, dig that well before you’re thirsty, because it’s going to happen. You’re going to have teammates, every single championship team that I’ve been a part of and it’d been over a hundred of them.

Every single one has had a bad apple. Every single one of them has had a cancer that grows on the athletic soul. And over a period of a season, you can completely destroy everything you’ve built in terms of your culture because of that one teammate. And how does a coach deal with that? Well, if you build, if you dig the well before you’re thirsty, what you’re doing is you’re winning the game before it even takes place.

And so this book, The Champion Athlete, helps coaches to see and head off at the past potential problems by building a community, a community that cares for each other and where people are willing, they’re successful because they’re servants. So you don’t come to get things, you come to give things.

Come to my team and give. What are you going to give? How are you going to serve? And that requires certain characteristics like kindness. And you know, kindness, being vulnerable, having courage you know, be being who you are. And so, you know, to me it’s easy, but it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

And the simplicity of it is brought out in this book. And so all the listeners here, we have a game plan for you and it’s ahead of time. And so you can dive in deeply. And come out with ways that that team will function. As a family who care for each other and are willing to go the distance and do everything that’s required that you’re asking them to do.

And that’s really what we all want, whether we’re in a church group, the military, or we’re in a restaurant. I like the analogy with the restaurant, John, that was, awesome. And I’ll just make a comment about that. 

Go to a good restaurant. You know what? People come out and say, ‘why was that a good restaurant?’

Well, of course the food’s good. You know, you wouldn’t go in if the food weren’t good. But the comments are always, God, the waiters, the waitresses, the servers, everyone was so good, so attentive, so on it. Working together as a team. And that’s what this book is all about. 

Sam Caucci: One of the things I kept thinking about as I was going through it, between both of you, with your podcast series and your many books and John’s Every Moment Matters, the thing I kept coming to as I thought about what it may–, you know, it was reflective. How am I as a teammate, even me as a coach? How am I as a teammate, even as a coach, we could probably talk about that. Coaches are teammates too.

I was thinking about, you know, we live in a world where everything is so outcome based and you both talk about this a lot, you know. Focusing on the behavior over the outcome. But I was thinking about how that was relevant as well. When you, when the goal is to be a good teammate.

Because the outcome isn’t just about, to your point John, just getting mine, in a relationship. It has to be focused on the behaviors that go into it. I don’t know if you have any other coaching up on top of that, but I kept coming back to this parallel between when you’re trying to get a team focused on behaviors over outcomes it feels like there’s a lot of similarity, between when you’re trying to think about how are you being a good teammate to the people all around you every day, whether it’s on a team or inside of a company?

John O’Sullivan: Is that for Jerry first or for me?

Jerry Lynch: Well, I can.

John O’Sullivan: Jerry, you go first this time.

Jerry Lynch: I’ll jump on that one. And I know you have some, some different thoughts on this or parallel thoughts. But you can’t do it every day. We’re human beings. And I think that’s one of the thing that the book brings out, you know, it’s not like you read this book and all of a sudden you’re going to have it nailed, you’re going to crush it, you’re going to go out there and every day you’re going to be the great teammate, the exceptional, the extraordinary teammate.

That’s not going to happen. What’s going to happen is the perfect teammate is 100%. We never reach perfection. And what this book does is it brings you maybe, maybe right now you’re, you’re 30%. A good teammate 30 percent of the time, three out of seven, three out of 10 days. What this book will do is it will raise that percentage.

And what we’re trying to do is help people to understand that we can go forward incrementally, slowly. This is not like you read the book and all of a sudden, bam, okay, now I’m ready. No, it could take years. I mean, I’m only halfway there. In my leadership in my teammate ability, and I’m increasing that percentage of time where I’m able to function at that higher level.

And what I want to say is, is this thing about control, you know. Control outcomes, like, even if you take on the, all right, let’s say you take on as a goal, I’m going to be the best teammate. You know, you can’t control being something. I mean, you can’t control an outcome, but you can control those things that allow you to be.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. So if I want to be kind, I can control being kind. You can’t stop me from being kind. If I want to control being courageous, if I want to control being selfless. You can’t stop me from from being that way, but if you want to try to control the outcome by me being a good teammate that we’re going to now all of a sudden win games and we’re going to have a better organization and our restaurant is going to be voted number one in the city of Portland, Oregon, or whatever it happens to be.

You can’t do that. You can just take on the little things, the little things that make a huge difference from little streams come big rivers. This book is about the little things. And the little things, the chapters are little, they’re two pages, but they’re very expansive and they expand your world and we do it one step at a time. 

John, I see you chomping at the bit there. You want to add?

John O’Sullivan: Yeah. I mean, I just think, what you said at the end there sums it up that we control behaviors and when you feel in control, you have agency, you have autonomy, you feel like you have an right, whether I’m on a sports team or if I’m on a sales team, a sales team could do everything right and still not get, still not close the deal because someone else had a better product or a better offer.

But we could still do everything right. And so what we, what we can look at then is what were all the behaviors? What were all the things that went into our presentation? Why didn’t it work? What can we optimize or maximize next time and, and do this again? And if we get the behaviors right over and over and over, and we’re selling a decent product, we’re going to eventually win.

And if we get the behaviors right on a sports team, and we do it day after day, after day, we’re eventually going to give ourselves the best chance of being successful. Now, you know what? You could be on a coach in a high school team that’s, you know, in a division with a bunch of behemoths and you’re just not going to win, right?

Because talent matters eventually. But I think when we’re in the human development business, when we teach people what they can control and we focus on their behaviors that are within their control and we hold them accountable to a standard of behavior, we’re developing better people, better human beings, and I think as a youth sport coach, that’s my job.

And I just use soccer or lacrosse or tennis as a vehicle. And I think as a boss in work, it’s the same thing. I’m trying to develop better people. And you know what, like the, I think the hardest thing about being a great coach who develops people is that your good people will move on. The hardest thing about building a great company is if you hire the right people, they’ll eventually have a chance to move on.

But then you have to learn to celebrate that and take pride in the fact that your influence is growing because of what you’ve poured into them. And so, yeah, but it all goes back to agency and ownership and what I control. And if I do that, I feel like I, you know, there’s this word, I was just listening to this really interesting concept that they say is more powerful than grit, which is hardiness, right?

And, and the idea of hardiness is this combination of commitment, control, and challenge. And I thought that was really, really interesting because people with hardiness are also adaptable, whereas people with grit just keep banging their head against the same wall. But hardiness sometimes is that ability to pivot and switch and move. And I don’t know, I just found that to be a very interesting concept that I’ve been contemplating a lot today.

Jerry Lynch: Wow, that’s, that’s powerful, John. Thanks for sharing it. That’s great. 

John O’Sullivan: Yeah. 

Jerry Lynch: Can I add one thing to that, Sam? You know, a lot of people on teams again, restaurant, churches, military, athletics, whatever it is, family, a lot of times they’re struggling athletes. You know, I’m on a team and I’m really having a hard time.

And I’m wondering how am I going to get out of that? And what most people do is they try to really force the issue of positioning themselves to get more, so they feel better. You know, it’s like going on a shopping spree when you’re depressed, you know? You’re gonna get all that stuff, and you’re gonna feel better.

But it doesn’t work that way. That’s not the way the psyche is set up, and that’s not how to be successful. When that happens, it’s so important that we build up others. So, whenever I’m feeling, if I’m feeling blue, or I’m feeling down, or I’m feeling like, you know what, life just isn’t working out today, it’s a tough day, or maybe, maybe I’m feeling down, you know, I lost a dear buddy, a dear friend, you know, they’re no longer with us, what I’ve got to do is, I’ve got to build up others.

I’ve got to build relationships. And one of the things that we do in this book is we talk about how to do that. And one of the things practically that I’ll pass out to give people a glimpse of what they’re, they’re going to get in this book is I talk about, we talk about the river effect and the river effect is very powerful.

It’s an acronym. And it’s, we call it a “Jackcronym”. It’s a John Jerry acronym. And what we do is what we talk about R being relevant. It is important, V is valued, uh, E is to empower, and R is respected. So that’s R.I.V.E.R., R-I-V-E-R. 

So what I say to you people who are listening, all you coaches out there, and entrepreneurs, and whoever you are, you know, when you are not feeling good yourself, if you can, if you can do things to help others feel valued, feel important, feeling relevant, feeling empowered, feeling respected, what’s going to happen is, you’re gonna light up their day.

When their day gets lit up, everyone starts to feel better, including yourself. And everyone wants to give back to you. So the very thing that you need, you’re not getting directly, you’re getting it indirectly, by going out and dousing others. I call it marinating others in the river. You know, let them douse themselves in the river, make people feel good.

So I pick up my cell phone the other day, right? I pick up my cell phone and I type a text to my son, Brennan. And I said, ‘Brennan, I know I don’t say this enough to you. But you’re an awesome son. And I don’t know what my life would be without you. You’re, you’re wonderful. I love you’. And in a matter of like minutes, he happened to have his cell phone with him.

He got back to me, says, ‘Dad, I love you too. And that really meant a lot to me’. I made his day. I wasn’t feeling so good that day. I had just lost a friend. And I was thinking about myself all day and finally I got that, you know, I had to go to the book, you know, I read that part. Well, the thing is, I really didn’t go to the book.

I knew it ahead of time. But anyway, that’s why this book is so powerful. It’s very practical. In the moment, as John said, right there, happening as you need it.

Sam Caucci: I’ve struggled to put the words together as I feel, but what you just said triggered it, both of you. Is the coach kind of the ultimate teammate?

Do they have to be the ultimate teammate? I mean, can a coach be a bad teammate? 

John O’Sullivan: Oh, for sure. 

Sam Caucci: What do you think? 

John O’Sullivan: Yeah, I mean, I think I like the idea of a coach or a leader is not someone who shines the spotlight, but someone who’s the torch bearer, right? Who walks the journey and shows people the way and lights the way, but you’re on the journey with your people.

I think coaches or bosses who tell people to do things that they’re not willing to do themselves, who say you need to be more respectful and don’t show respect. Who, who say you need to listen better and don’t listen. Who say you need to be more organized and are unorganized. They’re not authentic.

And people see through that, right? It doesn’t matter what your resume says very quickly. If people on a team think you’re not in it for me, you’re just in it for yourself, they’re out. They check out, right? And in professional sports, they ask for a trade, right? And in collegiate sports, they hit the transfer portal, right?

And in high school sports, they just kind of check out, right? And so I think this is that a coach is, you know, you have to have that level of separation because you’re the ultimate decision maker, right? You’re not being someone’s teammate doesn’t mean you’re their best buddy, right? But you have to live within the standards and the values of that team.

And if you’re a coach who personifies and exudes them, then people will follow you because at least you’re authentic.

Sam Caucci: Yeah just to follow up to you real quick on this one, John. And one second, Jerry. I wanna ask, the one thing you say in the book, both of you talk about standards versus rules, I think I recall.

A rule was like a guideline. Like you had to do it. It felt like exactly what you just said. This is a rule and if we follow that logic, the boss, the manager, the type of coach that doesn’t maybe get the best live traffic in rules and regulations, you know, more consistently than standards, which you talked about being, like a tier of quality or a quality that the team subscribes to.

That is very different, am I correct? 

John O’Sullivan: I mean, rules are bumpers, right? And, you know, we need rules in certain places, right? We need rules for surgeons that they follow a certain protocol, like, please wash your hands, right? Something like that. Like, these are rules that are really important.

But standards are things that we aspire to, right? And teams that have lots of rules will find those rules being broken all those times. Teams that have high standards and have the right group of people, you know, aspiring to them and pulling others along with them can operate without a lot of rules.

And I think the most highly functioning teams often have high standards. They only have the amount of standards that they’re willing to hold people accountable to so having 22 of them is kind of silly because no one knows what they are, but having three or four or five really high standards, and then very few rules.

And those seem to be the most highly functioning teams that I’ve been a part of because when you have high standards, you don’t really need a lot of rules. 

Jerry Lynch: Yeah, I always come back to the idea that you only need one rule, John and Sam. And that one rule is do the right thing. And I dare anyone out there to say ‘I don’t know what the right thing is’.

You all know what the right thing is. We all know that unless you’re kind of a bit on the spectrum and, and you’re out there on the right side or the left side on the extreme and you haven’t really functioned at a high level. But most people, even the worst coach or the worst teammate, know what’s right.

Like you don’t go out on a Friday night and party when you have a championship game on a Saturday or Sunday. You know that’s not the right thing to do. And, and so when I give that idea to a coach, they get rid of all their rules and they have one rule. And it is a standard. The standard is knowing what that right thing is to do.

And so at the end of the day, when someone does something that’s not right, you go over as a coach and all you do is ask one question. Help me understand why going out drinking last night was the right thing to do, please. I want enough. I mean, I want to learn something. And they’re there and they’re just like, ‘I don’t know, coach, you’re right’.

Right. So what would you do if you were in my situation about you and that behavior? So you give them ownership, you give them responsibility, accountability, just by having that one standard or that one rule. And you know, I don’t know standards, I like the differentiation that you make, John, because it really is elevating to me, you know. A standard is an elevation.

I worked with Stanford University athletic program for many years, still have a consultancy with some of them. But we always talked about the Stanford standard and the standard was very high. It’s a championship culture. And what does that mean? Well, as we say in this book, a champion is one who is right now being.

Living what that rule is, what that standard is, doing the right thing, and also communicating with each other and picking up after yourself. We have a chapter in this book which was instigated or motivated by the All Blacks rugby team from New Zealand, and it’s called Sweep the Shed and OMG, right?

I mean, sweep the Shed who. All the athletes? No. All the teammates. And who is one of those teammates? The head coach. And if the head coach goes by and sees some stuff on the playing field that really doesn’t belong there, he doesn’t go into the locker room and say, hey, get out there and clean that field.

And that  the head, iconic, servant, leader, coach, goes out and picks up whatever he wanted to pick up. And you know what? That happens. And when an athlete sees a coach do that, what’s the message that’s being sent when the top of the ladder can do the things on the bottom, the little things, you see what I’m saying?

Sam, you were gonna jump in there. 

Sam Caucci: Yeah, I mean you’re on the money. The one thing that I circled in the book that was really true today, you know, living in a time when–John talked about this a little bit– there’s just so much coming at us. 

You know, social media, part of that get mine culture that may emerge comes from being too invested in, you know, social media platform or what somebody has to say, or wherever that may come up, whether digital or not.

And as I thought about the part of the book that impacted me the most, there was a chapter in it called “Fly in a Chair.” And that element of being able to pause, visualize, and think ahead  amidst all of the chaos that typically may happen was something that, you know, I circled in my book.

And I come back to it as a coach with my teammates trying to think about how we create the right environment. It’s not necessarily being positive, but to me, I interpret it as thinking forward.

So I wanted to ask–that’s my interpretation–I want to ask both of you, I’ll start with John, what chapter in the book was maybe your favorite? The one you find yourself coming back to most, you know, at the end, the one that you maybe edited over and over again, simply because you wanted it to be right, you wanted it to be perfect. You know, the one that you felt the most invested in, what was that for you in the book?

John O’Sullivan: It’s funny, you know, usually for me the chapters that I like the best are the ones that really just come out because they’re coming from some place like they’re coming from your heart and it just spills, it spills out of you. That’s my experience in writing that. And oftentimes like when I’ve done books, I write the chapters that I find easier first.

Then I slog my way through the other ones, you know. Like I know when we came up with the topics for this book and we split them up and, you know, Jerry’s like, ‘Well, I’ll take these ones and you take these ones’ and whatever. And I think we probably both had some on our list that were like, ‘Oh God, do I really have to write that one?’

You know, and, and not because it’s not important. It’s just like, you always have a story in mind, or you always have an idea in mind that really, just resonates. So, I mean and a lot of the stuff we’ve both written about before. In other books or and certainly for me on my blog posts and stuff like that.

So this concept of sweep the shed is one that’s really, really sticky with me. And it’s one that, you know, someone doesn’t have to be 15 to understand this. You know, I coach a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds and we talk about this story. And we talk about, you know, how important humility is for getting better and how important, you know, that selflessness and, and that idea of leaving the shirt in a better place, how important that is, you know.

I think, you know, we talk a lot about character and developing character, but sport, it might naturally develop what we would call performance character, right? Grit and hard work and determination. But it doesn’t develop moral character unless the coach and the parents and the adults in the room intentionally talk about it and teach it, right? So I coach a bunch of eight and nine year olds.

If the only thing I do is teach them soccer, what a waste of a year. Right? But if I can teach them about being better citizens and better human beings, and sport is that vehicle, well, great. And that “Sweep the Shed” story is a huge one, because a lot of kids walk through the world waiting for someone to pick up after them, right?

But if the best, most high performing sports team in the world, never expects that no one has to clean their locker room. No one takes care of the all blacks, the all blacks take care of themselves. Well, that’s a powerful thing. And so I, you know, so that’s one of my favorite chapters and favorite messages to get across to the college teams.

I work with the high school teams, I work with the little kids, right. That, you know, be humble. If you see a piece of garbage, pick it up. Right? Pump up your soccer ball, wear the right uniform, things like that. It all matters.

Sam Caucci: What about you, Jerry? 

John O’Sullivan: It’s yours. 

Jerry Lynch: There are so many chapters in here that I absolutely love. Not because John and I have written them, but because we’ve written them because the topic is so important. I guess if I had to pinpoint one, and what do we have, John, about 30 of these? Little chapters. 

John O’Sullivan: Sure.

Jerry Lynch: Something like that. Who’s counting? The one that stands out to me is “Win the day.” And “Win the Day” is like reading this book. It to me is winning the day. It’s something you can control and something you can be and you can be a champion teammate right now. This is not about becoming a champion teammate as well.

Being it, that’s winning the day. And the way I came up with this idea is I was at Middlebury college one year and working with the tennis program. And I got into the room with the athletes and the coaches, the staff, and everyone was like all upset that they had lost the championship the year before, and they were determined to win it again this year.

And they’re all chanting and, oh, ‘We’re gonna win,’ you know, ‘We’re gonna crush them, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that.’ And I’m saying, you know, how about let’s just start with today? How can we win the day? I just sort of came up with that idea. And they looked at me puzzly and they said, ‘You know, what do you mean ‘win the day?’’

I mean, what can we do today? What can we control today? You can’t control that you’re gonna go into May of this coming year, you know, and win the national championship. There’s no way you can do that. But I’ll tell you this, if you do focus on that, then what’s going to do to you, it’s going to make you tight, tense,tentative, stressed, anxious. Why? Because we can’t control. And anything we cannot control, we tend to get tense and tight and tentative about it. So I said, if you win the day, what that really means is, let’s focus in on what we can’t control. The little things, showing up on time, as John says, wear the right uniform.

Another thing is, you know, clean up after yourselves, make sure that your home is clean and tidy. What else can you control? I can control my warm ups. I can control my mental preparation. I can control how I work with my teammates to be a better teammate. So, “Win the Day” encompasses all of this. And, and so what we do when we win the day is we focus only on those little things.

And if you focus on the little things each day, when I get up in the morning, I think about what I have to do and I’ll have a list of things and I visualize, I imagine how I’m going to go about the day and I just give about three minutes of attention to how I’m going to win the day. Because when I put my head on the pillow at night, I want to look back and say, ‘That was a great day.’

‘That was a masterpiece or not.’ Then I’ll go back to the drawing board and try to win the next day. What I can’t do is I can’t win your love. I can’t win. I can’t come on this show, Sam and win in the sense of everyone’s going to like me. I had no control over that. But what I can control is who I am being myself, being authentic and genuine, being vulnerable, you know, copying to the fact that, you know, I blew that one.

I don’t, you know, I guess I didn’t know what to say to you with that question. And if I’m being a certain way, I’m winning the day. And so these athletes end of the story is they bought into it. I subsequently wrote a book which is called Win the Day and it has all those concepts in it and what we did was we focused on a game plan for the day all the way up to the championship day and on the championship day winning the day they had on their shirts, “Win the day.”

As a reminder, it was not about winning the national championship. Their opponent came to win the national championship and boy did they get tight and they got tentative and tense. We showed up to do all the little things, empower each other, make each other feel important, you know, follow each shot, do this, do that.

We won the national championship. Easily. And it was such a thrill. It just imprinted in my mind and heart how important it is to focus on that one item, winning the day. 

Sam Caucci: Jerry, I like the story in the book about your dad on “Grab the Hose.” There’s a story in the book, which we won’t give away. People got to check it out for it.

But the message of grabbing the hose that you saw, you know, dad being a firefighter, my question, you know, we’ll start with you, Jerry. For the coaches that are listening, the managers that are listening, when they, you know, folks that buy and read The Champion Teammate, what advice, you know, what’s your one piece of advice for them to implement this?

Because, you know, you guys make this look easy and you make it sound easy. And then the book, you guys, the river is flowing with content. And for managers out there in the world, you know what they’re going to say? They’re going to say, you know, I work in an environment where the company only pays so much, I can only do so much.

You know, like I didn’t hire this person. Now they got to work with me. Oh, we have customers that, you know, customers today, there’s all this stuff in the world and as a coach that is a manager, a leader trying to implement some of these, what advice do you have speaking directly to them that may be listening on how to implement this?

Jerry Lynch: Yeah, well, great question. Penetrating for sure. The advice that I have is advice that I’d gotten from others, which is often the case. I go back to Gandhi who said be the change you want to see. So if I’m in a work environment, you get back to “Grabbing the Hose.” You know, my father jumps out of a chief’s car. 

And wants the–I’ll call them the athletes–they’re the firefighters. He wants them to be a certain way. And they’re not being that way. Rather than shout orders and tell people, you show them the way, you know, be the change you want to see. 

So, I mean, he, I won’t tell the story, but when he jumps out of the car and if they’re not running into that burning building with the hose to put out the fire, he’s going to lead them and he’s going to grab that hose and say, ‘Hey, follow me. I’m going to show you how to do this and I’m going to be what you need to be.’ And then come out of the fire and then give you directors from there.

 But being the change you want to see is so important to me. Like, for instance, even in my relationship with the woman I’m married to, Jan, You know, she’s a very capable person to do a lot of things on, on her own. But I get into that habit of wanting to fix things, or maybe even tell her certain things, and I wish she were a certain way, sometimes, you know, I wish she were better at doing what I do, you know. I wish she were more like me, you know, why can’t you be more like me?

I’m the right way, no, that’s not the case. But if I want something from her, and I want her to be a certain way, all I have to do is start being that myself, and as if I turned on a switch, she’s already being that way. 

So imagine being a teammate, and imagine you want your teammates to be a certain way.

Stop telling them what to do. You do it. You grab the hose. You run out on that field and you be the way you want them to be. 

What about the coach? The same thing. It’s no different. My father was a New York City battalion chief, you know. It only goes maybe one step higher or so. He was a leader of men.

And he didn’t have to do that. But he wanted his men to do it. So he was being the change he wanted to see. And it works all the time. Simple suggestion. We could all implement it very easily.

Sam Caucci: John?

John O’Sullivan: Yeah, I mean, I’ll just echo what Jerry was going to say, you know. How do you implement this, right? Just. a little bit at a time, right? Whether it’s a book read, it’s a study, it’s, hey, once a week, we’re going to read a chapter and spend 10 minutes discussing the topics and how this relates to our team and what we’re doing.

Like, it’s not like you have to bite off huge, huge chunks. And then I think, you know, if I’m a leader listening to this, well, how much control do I have over my team? Right? So like, I think a lot of people, when they hire people, don’t think about why they fire people. And usually it’s not because of knowledge, right?

You usually hire someone, and we hire on their resume and their knowledge, but we fire them because they can’t work with other people, and they can’t communicate, and you know, they treat people poorly. So, do better hiring. And then, for those of us who are, you know, customer facing businesses, you know, you don’t have to be everything to everyone. Develop great customers to train your customers.

I mean, I think this is an important thing. This is a lesson I learned from my own brother who runs a very successful business—he happens to be a fisherman in New York. And I remember 20 something years ago when he was starting his business, he didn’t have two pennies to put together. And I said, ‘Hey, I’ll come help you out.’

I was between jobs. I was moving. I said, ‘I got about six weeks. I’ll come be your deckhand for six weeks and you don’t have to pay me. And we’ll help get this up and running.’ And so he runs, you know, a big, you know, party boat that can take out, you know, 50, 60, at this point, you know, 80 people. But this was just in the beginning and he had a little boat that was kind of barely held together by strong gum.

And, you know, he was just trying to make it work. And I remember one day we had seven or eight people, you know, ready to go and we hadn’t sailed in a while. And I’m looking at like, wow, there’s your fuel for the week. Thank God. And we’re on the dock before and this guy’s already probably drunk and he’s just acting like an idiot. And I watched my brother go and, and, and kick him off.

And he kicks him off and I went up to my brother–his name’s Dez–and I’m like, Dez, like, how are you telling them to go home? Like, you need every penny, man. Like, how are you going to pay for gas this week? And he says to me, he’s like, ‘John, you know what? If I’m going to build this business, I want great customers. I don’t want people like that. If in order to be successful, l need to put up with people like that every single day, then I’d rather not be successful. I’d rather the business go under.’

And that’s always stuck with me, that story. And I remember my brother just being persistent and sticking to that idea.

And I remember that first year, whatever he did in gross revenue, he does in a week right now. Because he built a business around great customers that other people want to want to come and be a part of as well. And so I think that when you’re building a sports club, when you’re hiring a work team, right, bring in people and sell to people and serve people that want what you’re offering.

And, and be perfectly okay with the fact that I’m not, you know, that this isn’t for everyone. Um, and I think that’s a really important, just quality and I don’t know if it answered your question, but I just thought it was an appropriate story. 

Jerry Lynch: Great story. 

Sam Caucci: Yeah. Standards. Standards. Standards. Standards.

Gentlemen, last question. In the book at the end of chapters, you come back to this concept of things you should start, things you should stop, and things you should keep doing. I’ve asked both of you in some cases multiple times, my final question is always, what’s your hope for the future of work?

I’m going to change that. First time we’ve changed it. I just can’t keep asking you guys your hopes for the future of work. So, I want to ask you, your question back. What do you think we should start, stop, and keep doing when it comes to work? What is your hope for the things that we should start, stop and keep doing in work today?

I’ll start with you, John. 

John O’Sullivan: For me, you know, I think this depends on your work because everyone is doing something differently well, or not so well. So what I would say is that regardless of the business you’re in, it’s probably a people business, either the people you work with or the people you serve.

So, you know, you should always start or keep being great at relationships or stop breaking them and ruining them. And then I think one of the most important things is just start being more intentional about the things that you do. Be more intentional about your team, how you interact and work with each other, your standards, your culture, and how you lead.

I think, you know, if you focus on being intentional on the things that matter, you’re always going to be better at work. And if you just leave them to chance every once in a while, you might knock one out of the park, but you’re probably gonna strike out more than you like. 

Jerry Lynch: Well, let me, yeah, let me, thanks for giving me this, the opportunity after John, because it gave me some time to think about this. John, you’ve got a hot seat so much more than I have today. 

But it’s real clear to me what we have to stop being, is we have to stop being afraid to fail. Failure is our greatest teacher.

Let’s know that anybody that’s listening, whatever you’re good at, you’re good at it because you have failed so much. I am one of the world’s biggest failures and, and it’s not on my resume, but I am. And my resume was established from failing to the tenth power, what I’ve succeeded doing. So how do we do that?

Why focusing more on what we’re learning and move ahead with that. So let’s stop being so afraid of failing. What we want to start being is we want to start being more loving to each other. And by loving I don’t mean romantic love. Come on. That’s reserved for a very special few people.

I’m talking about loving each other as human beings, because we’re human beings. Like I love you and John, I love both of you guys because you’re human beings who are being so helpful to the rest of the world. I mean, I love that about you guys. And so what we need to start being is more loving.

Phil Jackson, you know, the coach of the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers, 11 rings, and on and on. That guy’s been one of the most successful leaders that sports has ever known. He once said that there are many ingredients to build an NBA championship. And, you know, talent, of course, was one, grit was another, and on and on. So he had this long list and he said, but there’s one ingredient that without which, if it’s not included, everything else is worthless.

And that was love. Every one of my championships had a lot of love on the team. And you might not like somebody some days, but you love them basically because they’re human beings. They have pure intention. They mean well. They want what you want. Coaches stop fighting your athletes. They want what you want.

If they’re not giving it to you, it’s because they’re insecure or they’re afraid, and you can help with that. So let’s start to give more love. Let’s start to have less fear. And how about what I want to keep is I want everyone out there to keep being yourself. This is not about changing who you are.

This is about adding to who you are. You are good enough right now. You don’t have to go out there and read this book to become a better person. What you can do is read this book and have people see the greatness about yourself and who you are, because you’re using ways to communicate to people. And to get to a place where people are going to come into their own as well.

So just be yourself, be authentic and genuine. 

Sam Caucci: John, Jerry, you guys make great teammates. I must say, I appreciate you taking the time. Thank you. 

Jerry Lynch: Well, wait, let’s not end it there. Hold on. Yeah. We’re great teammates. And John and I, we’ve had this conversation a few times. It’s kind of ironic in a way.

John, this book was probably other than the title, and whatever, the cover. It was probably one of the easiest books you’ve ever written. 

John O’Sullivan: Oh, for sure. 

Jerry Lynch: Right? And for me, it’s been one of the easiest books I’ve ever written. And one of the more joyful experiences of my writing life, and I’ve written 17 books, right? Okay. What am I saying here?

We were teammates. We didn’t think about this at all until the book was done, but everything in this book, we were being with each other. You know, John would grab the hose some days, or I would grab the hose someday, you know. We were being kind to each other. We’re being flexible, understanding, and we were listening to each other. 

So being a teammate, writing this book was so essential to make this a wonderful experience. And I want to reach out to everyone and say, when you have a team filled with champion teammate behavior, you’re going to have that same experience. The outcomes will be reflected, and will be a mere reflection of that teammate experience that you’ve had.

Sam Caucci: And on that John and Jerry, thank you again. 

John O’Sullivan: Thank you, Sam. 

Jerry Lynch: Thank you, Sam. So much fun.

Topics Discussed: Future of Work, Skills, Work, Coaches, Management, Leadership, Training

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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