Empowerer or enabler? Which one are you?

Demanding the best from people, holding them up to certain standards, not budging on excuses, and exercising discipline in the face of controversy is not an act of cruelty - but one of love.

If you have someone's best interest, you'll take the risk of assuming this type of posture with them even though they might become upset with you.

Perhaps you've experienced this in your own life?

Think about the coaches, instructors, managers or mentors you've had in the past that held you to a certain standard that was held firm, regardless of the circumstances.

They challenged you.

They pushed you to be better.

They told you the truth.

They held their ground when you threw excuses at them.

They prepared you to effectively deal with difficult times.

These are the type of people you look back on and think, "Man, coach Jon never let up. He was always on me. But, he made me better. I'm glad he was a part of my life."

I too, have had these types of people in my life over the years. When I think back, the relationships with these people were difficult - I didn't necessarily enjoy the dynamic of the association. However, I can admit that these bonds were some of the most formative links of my life.

My Pa, the entire coaching staff at Rockfish (AAU basketball team I played for), and coach Breig, my high school basketball coach are the people who come to mind.

They all made me better. They pushed me to go beyond what I thought was possible. They stood their ground when I resisted or made excuses. They let me learn from my experiences rather then helping me avoid failure. They prepared me to handle difficult times.

Fast forward about a decade or so, and I got my chance to be that same person. The one who challenges people to be their best. The one who holds people accountable. The one who wouldn't accept lazy excuses. The one who would run the risk of exercising discipline even when resentment or anger would be the probable outcome.

But I failed.

And I regret it.



When I use to run CrossFit classes, I use to stress to new members that being on time for class was not only important, but imperative.

Our gym even had a "late person" workout designed. Meaning, if you were more than 10 minutes late, you could not join the class. Your only option was to do the late workout on your own and out of the way from the rest of the class who showed up on time.

We had a fellow join our gym. Good dude. He was a friend of a friend.

But the man was chronically late for nearly every single class. And it happened to be that the class he attended the most, was the one I was in charge of coaching.

He was also a wonderful negotiator.

The first few times he came in late, I let it go. I excused him of his tardiness. Then, the lack of punctuality become normal. He had a different reason for being late every time.

There was an internal battle going on in my heart and mind every time he walked in late.

"Should I say something?"

"Should I deny access to the class from him?"

"Does he even care that he's late?"

"Does he not respect me?"

Here's the sad part: I never said anything.

I was an enabler. Instead of challenging him, I perpetuated his habit by letting him get away with it. I was afraid of his reaction. I thought it would upset him if I called him out and made him pay the consequences of being late.

In this context, you might be thinking, "What's the big deal? It's only a fitness class that he's a few minutes late to."

You're right.

That's what it is literally.

The bulk of my regret is not in the fact that he was late to the CrossFit class, but the thought of how my enabling of his behavior might have bleed into other areas of his life is where I struggle.

Did he get fired at his job because he thought he could get away with being late there?

Did he bend the truth on his taxes because he believes can get away with it?

Does he take it too far with the co-worker at happy hour because nobody knows about it?

Does he hop behind the wheel after six drinks because he hasn't gotten caught yet?

I'm not assuming this man has done any of this, these are just the thoughts that run through my mind. In my time of influence with him, I didn't empower him - I enabled him.

I helped him avoid failure which only impeded his behavior.


Mistakes aren't the problem. Repeating the same mistake is the tragedy.

When consecutive mistakes of the same nature are repeated, it reveals one thing: This person has not learned from the first mistake.

And so they keep making the same fault.

Northern Iowa was having a Cinderella journey in the NCAA Men's Basketball tourney this year. Coming off a thrilling buzzer beater shot against Texas the night before, they faced Texas A&M.

They played well up until there was 35 seconds left on the clock and up by 12 points. It's still hard to believe and it was even more painful to watch as they crumbled and eventually lost this game.

What caught my attention was that they threw the ball into the corner several times against a full court press with no time-outs left.

These possessions resulted in turnovers and quick buckets for Texas A&M.

They repeated the same mistake several times which essentially costed them the game.

Here's my question to you (and to myself):

Where are you throwing the ball into the corner against a full-court press with no timeouts left?

For me, it's avoiding confrontation to preserve peace. I tend to be an enabler in this area. This has resulted in many turnovers for me in life and probably costed me more than I like to admit.

I failed in that relationship with that man as his CrossFit coach. But, I'm aware of it. It's my responsibility now to not make that same mistake again.

Failure is only useful when you learn from it.

It's my hope this lesson molds me into an empowerer rather than an enabler.

Empowerer or enabler? Which one are you?