The Best Technique of all

by GK on May 14, 2011 · 10 comments

I’ve been thinking lately about two legendary coaches from different worlds, and how their success owes not to teaching technique or strategy, but to understanding the person within.

I just watched “The King’s Speech” for the first time. It’s warm and mushy the way an Oscar-winning film is supposed to be, and I can tolerate that. But as you might expect, I pay particular attention to coach-student relationships, and I found the real-life one between Lionel Logue and the Duke of York/King George VI to reflect the relationships I’ve had when I was at my best with students.  

The Duke had failed at curing his frustrating stammer with all sorts of credentialed therapists using all sorts of techniques that had worked on others. Then along came Logue, who wasn’t credentialed at all but had built a reptuation for curing speech impediments with “unorthodox” methods.

I was impressed by how Geoffrey Rush, who plays Logue,  lays down the foundation with the Duke in their first meeting. Before he teaches a single concept, he looks to establish a trust between the two where they are equals, which is no small task considering his student is royalty.

Rather than bombard his student with techniques right away, Logue starts out by asking the Duke about his childhood, trying to learn the stutter’s origins. The Duke resists mightily at first, wishing only to fix his mechanical difficulties. But Logue insists, and eventually we see that the Duke’s stutter stems from his fear of his father and brother, and his inadequacy about possibly being king someday.

Logue does teach the Duke helpful techniques, but he does so not for technique’s sake, but for the reasons he states in the above clip: “My job was to give them faith in their own voice, and let them know that a friend was listening.”

Call it confidence. Call it inner game. Call it anything. But it’s just one more example of why the best lines, the best clothes and the best social proof don’t mean a thing if a guy doesn’t believe in himself. My job, and I think I’ve done it damn well, was to help guys find that initial spark of self-faith, and let them do the rest.

By the way, there was one funny scene from “The King’s Speech” that ties into my recent post on attraction, and how the non-verbal matters more than the verbal. It’s when the new king is watching footage of Hitler speaking forcefully in public, and his daughter asks him what Hitler is saying. “I don’t know,” says the king, “but he seems to be saying it well.”

(To clarify, this does not mean I encourage anyone to be a bloodthirsty dictator who starts a world war. Just saying he was an effective speaker.)

The second coach on my mind, Phil Jackson, probably coached his last basketball game as of last week. I despise the Lakers and I never liked the Bulls either, but I have nothing but respect for the 11 championships he won, and for how he won them.

Jackson was known for his Triangle Offense, and he was more than competent as a coach. But he was also known as the Zen Master for speaking to his players in a language that went beyond strategy. He was known to show them movies or give them books in the hopes of teaching concepts about teamwork and respect.

Bill Simmons of ESPN.com just published an excellent column about Jackson, and here’s a paragraph that captures what I’m talking about:

“Steve Kerr told me once that what made Jackson special … was that he cared about his twelfth guy as much as his best guy. He spent time with his players, bought them gifts, thought about what made them tick. He connected with them, sold them on the concept of a team, stuck up for them when they needed him. His actual coaching — calling plays, working refs, figuring out lineups and everything else that we see — was a smaller piece of a much bigger picture. His players competed for him for many reasons, but mainly because they truly believed Jackson cared about them. Which he definitely did.”

I may not be social-coaching regularly anymore, but I still believe in it, and I know what a difference the right one can make. If you’re considering finding one, I suggest you avoid the ones promising fancy techniques and pick one who has a little Lionel or Phil in him.

{ 10 comments }

1 Barry O'Herlihy May 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Well put Greg. I need your (or anyone else’s willing to offer) advice on something though. So excuse me for this!
Ever since I got into this Game I’ve been very self-conscious with non-verbal communication as you put it. Especially eye contact/body language etc and perhaps those early days of forums and Neil Strauss have led to this problem but I’d rather think it’s a lack of confidence thing and having been shy since my teens. Maybe it’s from the fact I have suffered from acne since 13 (I’m now 23) but I always am reluctant to approach unless I’m totally confident she likes me. So, for example, I can’t just “let go” and chat that girl on the bus up because I worry “Is my body language right” or “what will others think if I fail”. I know it’s cynical to think like this but it stops me from going for it and I was wondering could you or any reader give me advice as to how I can fix these issues? Can anyone offer advice/help?

Ps: Sorry for going completely off the topic of your ideal coaches! It just struck a cord with needing confidence!

2 GK May 16, 2011 at 12:09 am

Hey Barry. It’s tough to fully address your particular fears of approaching on a forum such as this. Your anxiety will probably never go away completely — it still hasn’t for me — but I would say that it helps to minimize whatever insecurities you have. Acne is treatable, so if it’s about that, take care of it. If you’re more comfortable striking up conversations at pubs than the bus, start with the pubs. As for body language, find someone you trust to evaluate how you’re coming across. Your mistakes may be all in your head.

And be aware that if you’re waiting to approach a girl only if you’re totally sure she likes you, that’s going to be a long wait! Just have fun and accept whatever the outcome is. Even make a goal of failure. It’s the only way to succeed.

3 Barry O'Herlihy May 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Greg thanks for the reply. I reflected today on my issues and realised the problem I gave isn’t justifiable. To be honest blaming my acne (which isn’t that bad nowadays) is a weak defence. I liked your point on still being scared because it’s something I can relate to. Take day-game for example; a primary, perhaps silly fear of mine there that prevents me from approaching is the concern of whether she’s underage and how to handle such a situation. The significant reason this worries me is because as I mentioned previously what will others think when they see me chat someone up who turns out to be younger than I expected. Perhaps I’m being premature with my judgements and criticism of myself however? Have you any advice in dealing with approaching underage women and how to save face, by the way? Sure I could just stick to night-game but that’s not why I became interested in game. I have always wanted to be the guy who has the confidence to approach anyone anywhere.
Regarding eye contact and body language should I focus more on these initially when meeting someone? While I’m not great with giving eye contact throughout a conversation (I could talk for Ireland) and while I tend to put my hands on my head and in my pockets when uncomfortable or nervous I do feel positive that I notice myself doing such things and attempt to stop myself. Ironically I read that post on “a healthy way to face failure earlier today” and it’s something I agree with you I need to work at. As Oasis put it, “true perfection has to be imperfect!”

Anyway, if you can help regarding the underage issue I have that would be great! Sorry for being the emotional tampon. More than likely, I just need to grow a pair! :)

4 GK May 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

In a nutshell, yes, you need to grow a pair. :)

I have indeed accidentally approached underage girls — in front of my students, no less. How do you deal with it? Laugh it off. You WILL mess up one way or another with any girl, so that’s just another way.

If you feel your body language is bad, then sure, focus on that and try to get some objective opinions. But again, don’t be a perfectionist.

5 Barry O'Herlihy May 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Ya, thanks for your input.
I feel this talk has opened my eyes to not being perfect.
Irish women beware! :)

6 Tom May 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm

I can relate to Barry’s struggle. I have had a receding hairline that has plagued my confidence for a while, and to be honest I don’t even know for certain if it is an issue when I approach someone, but of course in my head, its the only thing I think people see when I am talking to them 😛
My strategy so far has be to just try to forget about whatever shortcomings I think I have and being myself when I put myself out there, and if I get rejected I just have to dust myself off and try again. The hardest part for me is shutting down my negative inner voice because I will often talk myself out of making an approach and then after the woman walks away I hear the old saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” in my head.
Good luck Barry!!

7 Erich May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Erich here, checking into the old (Thirty) balding farts club. :) If people can think actors like Ed Harris, William Hurt, and Bruce Willis are attractive bald dudes then I think I’ll be alright.

8 Sal May 18, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I don’t want to make this into a thread about hair, but I started losing my hair when I was 18. At first, it really bugged me, and I started shaving my head when I was 22. I gotta say, I’ve had more than one girl start a conversation with me by running her hands along the stubble on my head. Often times I’m the only guy at the bar or a club with that look. It’s happened enough times that I don’t think it’s a big deal at all to be young and bald.

9 GK May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for the comments guys, even if we’re turning this blog into the Hair Club for Men! :)

I just wanted to add that my buddy Tre Tre has receding hair, and he’s 5-foot-8 to boot. But he has absolutely no trouble attracting women. We do call him Tre Tre for a reason.

10 Barry O'Herlihy May 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Christ, so little hair and so much talk of it! :)
Thanks for the comment Tom. Ultimately (I guess) it comes down to accepting your imperfections as much as possible. Even when they make you vulnerable. Again, I don’t want to be the emotional tampon so it’s time to go sort this shit out 8)

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