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Huddle Up

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Ever thought about starting your own business and being your own boss? Or perhaps you have always dreamed of running a fortune 500 company and being in charge of hundreds of employees. Regardless of what it is that you would like to get done, you will need a strong supporting cast – a huddle. When I use the term “huddle up” I don’t mean go out to your nearest playground and intrude on the gathering of others. I am talking about finding others around you that have experience in achieving success, relying heavily on their advice, skills, and expertise to help you advance in your goals.

Put simply, a huddle is nothing more than the meeting of intelligent minds in order to achieve one common goal. In this week’s blog, I will offer three important reasons why you should huddle up. Because life is a team sport, gaining success independently is impossible. Accountability, like-mindedness, and constant encouragement from your supporting cast are three very vital elements that you should seek out in every successful huddle.

One of the most motivating factors in successfully completing goals is accountability. Your overall success falls squarely on the shoulders of you taking control of your own destiny. It is important to see your own objectives and goals through to the end. Important factors such as completing deadlines and performing your due diligence on projects should be your responsibility alone. But a supporter of your dreams will help keep you focused and in aligned to the course that you have set. Finding others that care about you enough to hold you accountable to your ambitions are those you should have and keep in your huddle. It is also a way to receive feedback on how well you are living up to your own goals. A strong huddle makes you believe that you are a part of something much larger than yourself. Having those individuals that hold you accountable to that belief is the key ingredient to how well you will accomplish your goals.

Being part of a team in which the dynamics are of like- minded individuals; much can be greatly accomplished. There is true strength in numbers and those numbers should complement one another. One great thing about working with those that share the same mentality is the ability to draw from one another strengths. If you have ever tried to attempt to carry out a certain goal on your own, then you know hard it can be. A strong huddle of individuals that think just as you do with the same common goal can be a competitive advantage like none other.

In achieving your dreams times will certainly get rough. Uncertainty, fear, doubt, and anxiousness are all negative characteristics that could make any individual second guess his or her ability. These are times in which huddling up is indeed necessary. These networks of individuals will aide you in carrying the load of your battles with encouraging words. Having kind words of wisdom shared by others that have already experienced what you are now facing, will offer a haven of hope which can place things in perspective.

Once you find those good members that you trust to be in your huddle, spend time with them on a consistent basis. A good huddle doesn’t require great numbers to operate as a system of support. If you can find one or even two people that are willing to help you strategize a plan to your ultimate success, then you are putting yourself in a winning advantage. Someone that will give you an honest, but constructive opinion about your operation and procedures is someone that you most definitely need on your team. A great huddle will help you find, keep, and maintain your game plan to success. Next time you find yourself hung up on a situation that slows or stops your momentum, just simply huddle up. I’m pretty confident that someone around you that you trust may have been in a similar position. Their advice could shed much light on the issue at hand.

Written by Coach Aaron DeBerry

1 Peter 4:10

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1 Peter 4:10: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

I’ve never had the experience of being locked away in a jail cell before, but I’m sure it’s not a very good feeling.  I love my freedom and have always protected it at all costs.  If I had to guess what the experience would feel like, I would have to say that it is a very lonely place filled with lots of dark emotions. It’s you against the world, and every man for himself. I would also guess that hope runs at an all-time low.  But there is another form of imprisonment that very few people discuss. I call it the prisoner within, and that is when we convince ourselves that we can’t get ahead in life, and that we are stuck where we are.

Thoughts have power. Your thoughts can either build you up or kill your chances of growth and success.  We emotionally and spiritually imprison ourselves with the thoughts we live by.  Thoughts become our reality.  If we tell ourselves that we can’t accomplish something, then that is our reality.  If we tell ourselves that great things can’t happen to us, then the reality is that great things will never happen to us.  Your predominant thoughts have power over your circumstances. I know this first hand because I suffered from a case of self-imprisonment myself. I told myself I was trapped working a job that was not only tough to perform, but that also showed no signs of getting any easier.  Because I told myself this, my attitude enforced my reality.  I felt like I had very few options, and nowhere else to go.

Your real friends always have a vested interest in your battles and struggles in life. I had a really good friend share with me something that will probably serve to be the best advice that I have ever received, and in today’s blog I will share that same message with you. She talked to me and made me realize that everything I needed to change my situation was already in my possession; that God had already given me many talents. When I was feeling trapped, I gave away my power willingly and without an ounce of a fight.  I gave away my power to be creative, to be resourceful, and most importantly the power to dream and to dream big.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for my current job.  I am the youngest defensive coordinator at a great junior college  that plays in a tough and competitive  junior college football conference.  I have coached against some of the countries most talented football players, and I have experienced a good amount of success. I understand most people might say I should be satisfied and content with where I am now, and continue to enjoy my success here. But if you know me, you know I’m always thinking well in advance about the next step in my career, and how I will get there.

The higher you climb in your profession you must understand that employers hire the best qualified candidates for the job. In my profession however, they hire the candidate with the best reputation for results.  In my situation I knew I hadn’t established a strong enough reputation for my abilities, or gained a great deal of respect from the coaches that I wanted to take notice of me. I started thinking of how could I gain the recognition necessary for other doors to be opened.

I thought about how I have a degree in Communications Studies with a concentration in Television Broadcast, so speaking in front of crowds doesn’t intimidate me. I also taught for three years serving special education students, and enjoyed having the opportunity to positively influence them.  I have completed a good portion of my graduate courses in professional counseling and have some experience in that field. And I must admit that I am a great football coach.

I have an assortment of talents, but it’s my responsibility to use them.  I can’t expect new opportunities to come my way if haven’t fully explored the ones that I already possess.  With all that in mind, I organized a plan that would allow me to use my natural gifts to my advantage. I recognized that all of my gifts are geared towards one particular mission, and that’s to inspire and motivate others.  I believe it is my life’s mission to get others to maximize their God given potential.  For many years football was the only thing that I cared about, but God is helping me understand that I must explore my other talents, because they may lead to the doors that I desire to be opened.

Let’s take for instance the Get in the Huddle blog that I post each week.  The majority of the time I never get the chance to see who views my material on a weekly basis, but I’m almost confident that someone one day will read my post, and that will lead to another avenues for me to help more people reach their maximum potential. I also hope that my new video series will help open other opportunities as well, so be on the lookout for Get in the Huddle video series coming in November 2013.

Your own resourcefulness and creativity at times could be your only saving grace.  Don’t be afraid to channel you own abilities and put them to good use. We all want others to take notice of the super great things that we are doing, but you have to ask yourself, do people have a reason to stop doing what they are doing a take notice of your accomplishments?  If you answered no, then you have work to do.  I know I do.  I’m not any more special than the next person suffering from a self- imprisoned mindset.  You have the same ability and power to set yourself free from whatever lie that you are letting run your life.  But you have to make the choice to exercise your powers.  Your strengths are your biggest asset.  Whether it’s making people laugh, caring for the elderly, or just being someone that can and will listen to those you come in contact with, everyone has a gift, and as simple as it may be, you have power in that gift. Take the time to set yourself free.  Exercise your power.  Most of the time the power to be creative will lead you to the answer on how to solve your problems.  You have a gift, if not many.  Why not show the world what they are?

 

Written by Coach Aaron DeBerry

No Pain No Gain: Your Pain is Worth your Progress

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I tend to draw inspiration from wherever I can find it.   A TV commercial, an interview on the radio, or even side conversation in a restaurant can serve as an inspiration.  I am also often inspired through music.  This week’s blog was influenced by an old school, oldie but goodie “No Pain No Gain” by Betty Wright.  As the song concludes she sings a line that I find very profound; she says “In order to gain something, you got to give something. In order to be something, you got to go through something”.  Although Ms. Betty Wright was speaking of pain in terms of a relationship, it still served as a moment of reflection for me.

Every successful person goes through incredible tough times and pain on their journey to become successful.  It’s an inevitable part of life. But there is true value in the experiences that cause us the greatest amount of pain and frustration. I’ve encountered my fair share of dark days in my quest to accomplish goals and dreams.  Not everything works out in your favor.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your goals, but sometimes the process requires you to suffer some uncomfortable circumstances to get to where you desire to be in life.  Today’s blog will explore the topic “Your Pain is worth your Progress.”  Hopefully by the end you will be able to find ways to value the struggles you face on the journey to accomplish your ultimate dreams.

As a former football player I used to hate losing with a passion.  Losing hurts.  There is an invisible black cloud that seems to hang over you with every loss.  The emotional anguish that one experiences in suffering a loss can be tough to handle, and it can take a major toll on your confidence.  But losing plays a major role in your eventual success.  You have to experience loss in order to learn how to win. Losing, as tough as it may seem helps you grow as an individual.  It teaches you the ultimate lesson in humility and it makes you appreciate and cherish the wins as they come.

There are very good lessons to learn while experiencing the pain of tough times.  As a player myself I had to learn how to compete on a high level, how to train to outlast my competition, and learn who I was as a player.  I had to learn how to practice with intensity and enthusiasm, how to follow directions, and how to become a leader.   There was so much that only experience could teach me and being taught those lessons were some of the toughest of times.  Through my growing pains I developed a drive, a focus, and relentlessness that would fuel me to not only to be better than my competition, but to dominate them.  Losing has its ways of changing you; you can either except it, or learn from it and do something about it.  I chose the latter.

Pain, without a doubt, must be part of your process for future success. Not only should you expect some sort of difficulty on your journey to achieve the impossible, but you should welcome it as well, for without pain there is no process, without the process there isn’t growth, and without growth there is no success.  But you must be willing to practice resilience and mental tenacity to withstand the battles of defeat. In order to find true value in your pain you must understand that pain is temporary, but only if faith and strength are permanent.  Only persistence and perseverance to get through each day will be rewarded.  Don’t be a slave to your tough times.  Get up and fight back.  Make a conscious effort to learn something from the challenging times.  There are promising days ahead. I am a product of my very words.  I am nowhere I would like to be in life yet, but I understand that there are tougher and more hurtful experiences just ahead.  But my attitude and my mindset won’t waver one bit.  All I have to do is forge ahead and let the process lead me to my desired destination.  Don’t give up or give in.  Your pain during your journey to the top isn’t meant to discourage you, but meant to only prepare you for the greatest days of your life.

 

Written by Coach Aaron DeBerry

Instilling a Standard of Excellence for Success

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We are a very young team this year.  Much of our roster is pretty much filled with freshmen.  With youth comes immaturity, with immaturity comes ignorance, and any time ignorance is involved you can certainly count on mistakes.  It’s been quoted, “Adversity doesn’t build your character. Adversity reveals your character.” I would definitely have to attest to that quote whole heartedly. However, I can see the potential in what we are currently building, and it gives me the highest confidence for the future.  The only way you see the potential in a group during tough times is with a strong standard of excellence in place. 

Even though the scoreboard doesn’t look pretty at the end of the game, we still continue to press on.  Why? Because when you have a standard of excellence in place, the push for excellence won’t let you live in the past; only the present and the future are what truly matter. It’s my job to help my players understand that there is fruit at the end of their labor, but it is only attainable through positive attitudes and a willingness to come to work every day to get better.  That’s what I’ve challenged them with each day, and it has paid dividends this season.  In today’s blog we will explore six standards of success I  have implemented during this season that have helped me keep my players focused and moving forward.  Hopefully you will read something that will not only inspire you, but that you can also apply to your life as well. 

The first standard is patience. No two groups of players are the same from year to year; therefore extreme patience must be exercised.  Whenever you encounter a group with limited experience, you must understand that very rarely do they understand the process that it takes to achieve your level of greatness.  Furthermore, the standard they think it takes to accomplish greatness seldom comes close to reality of what it really takes to compete on a high level.  For example, ten out of the eleven players on my defense are playing college football for the first time, so during the first couple of weeks of practice with the team, they had no idea of the level intensity that was expected.  Practice intensity and tempo would be very inconsistent from day to day.  When I asked them how they thought they practice, some would give an honest account, but the majority weren’t even in the ball park of understanding the level intensity that it takes to get prepared for a season.  That was evident in their response by telling me that they had a great day’s work.   Good coaches understand that teaching their players championship qualities is a never ending job.  Whether it is tempo, practice intensity, or teaching simple fundamentals of the job, patience should always be your number one approach.

Secondly I realized that repetition is essential, and is a necessary tool of learning standards of excellence.  Repetition also instills confidence in the players as well. Nothing excites a player more than knowing he is gaining the trust of his coach by building a consistent pattern of doing the right things repeatedly.  It is good for the players to make mistakes while practicing, as this allows the players to learn from their mistakes. One great tool that coaches use is filming each drill throughout practice.  I would strongly recommend implementing the same tool in your operation.  Recording your students or players will allow them to observe or hear themselves in action.  This will help enforce the majority of your coaching tips that you provide on a constant basis.  Not only do they get see their mistakes, but also view and hear the consequences of their mistakes.  Encourage your players to make mistakes.  Performing the fundamentals of your job in a repeated fashion is the only way you will learn how to perform your job effectively.

Thirdly I must be firm and consistent.  Nothing spells dysfunction like inconsistent standards.  My players must understand that the system of standards that I have in place are the same today as they were yesterday, and will also be the same tomorrow.  It would be a major disservice if I ignored their wrongdoing, and let them get away with substandard performance without consequences. The players don’t have to agree with my standards, but ultimately as a coach, my challenge in this profession is to take them to a place where athletically they have never been.  I understand what it takes to be great, so anything outside of what I teach is wrong, and must be corrected.  My standard is the only one that applies during this process, because it helps to develop championship habits. 

 

Respect has to be established whenever you work with people. I’ve been coaching long enough to know that players play for those that they have general and mutual respect for.  Even though I am in a role of leadership, it’s my belief that the golden rule still applies.  You must treat people with the same level of respect that you desire. The head coach I work for now coached me when I played football in college.  I desire so much to do a good job for him because I have respect for him.  He saw something great in my ability, and because of that I always perform at my best for him.  I want to help him win.  The same principle applies when you are in leadership; you have to earn a level of respect to the extent that your team will want to help you win.  There are certain players that I have developed a strong dislike for, but that is beside the point.  Whether I like them or not is irrelevant. I try my hardest to give them the same amount of respect that I want in return.    

I must be resilient, and always press forward to enforce my standards even in the face of disappointment. Young people may show their frustration about a particular situation in ways that are not always in the best interest of the team, but even still they want to know that when adversity shows up that their leader will be in the forefront still continuing to lead them.  Regardless of the age or maturity, players want to see their leader battle in the trenches right alongside with them.   Beware of the whispers from those that are outside looking in.  It never fails. When you are winning everybody is happy and satisfied.  When you are losing, like we have this year, everyone has an opinion about what they think you should do.  And at times you may consider a different approach to how you go about your routine.  This is the time to really impress upon your team the importance of resilience.  Stay steadfast on your core beliefs and your standards of excellence.  Any waver in your approach will surely cause doubt and uncertainty among your players.

Your players must always know exactly where they stand.  Their growth as a member of your team as well as a productive member of society is heavily dependent on your honesty.  When I am being honest with my players I have to first make them understand that my feedback is not personal.  My honest critique is to only help them excel at their craft.  I personally had an amazing career as an athlete.  I have had the opportunity to do some amazing things through football, and it has taken me places that I never thought I would go.  I coach my players hard with great passion and plenty of enthusiasm because I want them to experience everything that I have had a chance to experience, and much more.  A large part of that process is being up front and honest about their production.  Without your total honesty they will never be able to grow to their fullest potential.  

In closing I encourage you to keep plugging away. People, especially youth, sometimes struggle seeing the big picture, but that’s where you come in as a coach.  You just keep pushing them every day, showing them piece by piece of what the overall mission is.  In time they will fully understand what your true process what all about.  I would like to leave you with a text that I received from one my former players soon after he graduated.  This young man was one of first players that I coached, and it serves as a reminder of why I believe in what I do, and why I must continue to do all that I do for my team.  I hope you are inspired to continue doing what you do for your team as well. 

“Hey coach.  Last week I had the awesome opportunity to walk across the stage and receive my degree.  I am officially a college graduate.  I would just like to take the time to tell you thank you for all that you are to me because without you much

Staying in your Zone

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I love coaching ambitious players.  They make it an absolute thrill to come to work each and every day knowing that they will give their all in practice and in games, and are willing to do whatever it takes for the benefit of the team.  They come to practice with a great attitude and always put in the work necessary to compete on a high level on game day. 

As the defensive coordinator, it is my job to put together a defensive game plan that puts my players into good position, so they can make good plays and reduce the offense’s chance of scoring.  Every week we work on two phases that will help us get ready to face our opponent each week.  Those two phases are the running game, and the passing game.

In practice we spend a great amount of time working on defending what we think the offense will do in the passing game.  Most often we work zone coverage.  Zone coverage is when everybody except the front defensive line drops to an area of the field to defend the offensive players going out for a pass.  In zone coverage everyone has to work together to defend the whole field.  If one defensive player gets distracted or lured out of his zone, it causes holes in the defense for the offense to take advantage of, and that could mean disaster for the defense.   This is how big pass plays for touchdowns are developed.

Right now I coach a very ambitious player, and he is a joy to work with the majority of the time.  He works hard, and gives me everything he has whenever he is on the field.  But there are times when he is too ambitious.  He illustrates his overt ambition sometimes in the coverage portion of his game, and as a consequence he puts the defense in some very vulnerable positions.  Here is what I mean.  Sometimes he will see a play develop in front of him and aggressively attack what he sees, without considering what is developing around him.  Well that is what the offense wants him to do. Most often, offensive pass plays are designed for the defense to become distracted with the seemingly easy play. The defensive player will leave his zone, allowing the offense to take advantage of an even bigger play in the area in which is now vacant. Most of the time the receiver is wide open because my player has left his zone for something seemingly much more attractive in front of him. The result may be an offensive touchdown. 

Sounds a lot like life doesn’t it?  How many times have you come up with a solid plan to carry out a specific goal?  You start the execution of your plan, things are going well, and then you get side tracked by something right in front of you instead of sticking to the plan.  What do you do?  You jump all over it, but the quarterback throws the ball right behind you into the zone you just left wide open.  Distractions are momentum killers.  Sometimes we hurt ourselves the most by not waiting patiently for what we originally planned for.  In other words, we settle for short term satisfaction instead continuing on with the process that will lead us to our desired destination.     

The majority of the time it is the opportunities that side track us, and sometimes we leave our zone for opportunities that only make us more frustrated than we were in our original position.  Last year I had an opportunity to leave my job for an opportunity to move up the professional ranks of being a football coach.   At first it sounded like a great idea and I accepted.  The new job seemed like an opportunity for me to position myself for better professional advancement. I have a tough job now and all I saw was a chance to leave, but I had to really sit back and evaluate the whole situation.  If I accepted the new job I would take on a much lesser role, make less money, and the job offered no benefits.  I began to feel uncomfortable just thinking about it and I hadn’t even stepped foot on the campus yet.  Most of all, the main factor that caused me to stay is that I knew I deserved much better than what I was being offered.  I understood that I would have brought more value to the position than what I would get in return; I turned the job down and I just stayed in my zone.  I admit I got distracted from my overall goal, but it served as a valuable learning tool for the future.  I’m willing to bet I will thank myself later on in life for not making that decision to leave.  Instead of improving my situation, I know it only would have delayed my original plan from being fulfilled. 

My advice to all of my players is stay in your zone and defend the long ball.  Stay patient and watch everything happening in front of you, so when the quarterback throws the ball you will be in the right position to make a play.  That is my same message to you.  Stay in your zone and watch things develop in front of you.  Trust me. It may seem as if you are not doing very much, but your mere presence in your zone is the key to success.   Eventually the right opportunity will come your way, and then you will be able to capitalize on it. If you get distracted by something that only satisfies your short term, it is impossible to be in position to take advantage of something much greater. You are worthy of the very best things in life, but without patience, the greater things in life are just thoughts. I encourage you to focus on the goal at hand with the full intention of carrying out the full process.  It may take you some time to get where you would like to be, but after you get there, you will definitely have an appreciation for the process.     

 

Written by Coach Aaron DeBerry

 

Windows of Opportunity

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After every practice we finish up the day by doing some conditioning exercises that usually involve some type of running. Half gassers (running from one sideline to other sideline) was the run of choice on this day.  We began running our gassers, and it was very visible that the team was on what I like to call cruise control.  No willingness to compete, no high energy or enthusiasm could be seen anywhere. Being the old school, hot tempered coach that my head coach is, it really doesn’t take much of the team’s below average effort before he gets fired up.  I knew it wouldn’t be long before the explosion would begin and boy did he hold true to his character.  Coach let it be known that with this kind of effort, we were headed in for the fight of our lives on Saturday if we did not pick up the effort and finish the practice strong.  The players responded and picked up the effort and intensity, and finished practice on a strong and positive note.

After conditioning was over he brought the team together and continued to expand on the lack of effort during the post-practice conditioning.  He said something that he very commonly said in the past, but for whatever reason I found it very profound, and I thought it was more than worthy to share with those outside of our team huddle.    He said, and I will paraphrase, the window of opportunity isn’t open forever in this game.  You get very little time to play, and to enjoy it.  It’s up to you to make sure that you take advantage of each opportunity that you get, because the window of opportunity closes a little bit more with each day that goes by.

He was talking to the players, but the message struck a strong chord with me and wheels began to turn in my mind.  “Coachable moment,” I said to myself.    Let me share with you my definition of a coachable moment because this will be a phrase that I will regularly use in my blogs.  A “coachable moment” is any moment in which a player has created an adverse situation by either saying or doing something that causes a reaction, either positive or negative.  The negative reactions serve as much better coachable moments, because usually pain of some kind is the end result, whether physical or emotional.  As you may already know through your own experiences, pain is one of life’s best teachers.  That doesn’t mean positive reactions don’t work just as well, but in my experience with young adults, the negative reactions seem to be a whole lot more frequent, and effective.

To better illustrate coachable moments, let me connect that moment in practice to a actual game.  Our second game of the season was filled with adverse moments.  We started off with very poor execution, and it seemed like we were in a slower gear than our opponent.  We fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter.  I brought the defense together as I always do, and I told them to remember the day they started off slow during conditioning, and our coach had to get on them because they were performing on a much lower level than their capability.  I then said “well this is a direct result of that day”.  And it was true.  Our post-practice conditioning and our game day performance resembled greatly.  I also reminded them that in the same matter in which they were able to finish strong in practice would be the same manner they could turn things around, start playing with a sense of urgency, and win the game.  Surprising enough they responded perfectly. We came from behind, and won the game by a four points.

That’s a coachable moment at its finest; the ability to draw back from adverse moments from the past and taking note of the consequences of that moment, and then connecting it to the future to reverse your current position for a positive outcome.  Moments like this can serve as an essential piece in situations like this in which winning is very possible, but only with a change in mindset.

This same philosophy can be applied to our life’s journey.  Football is considered a young man’s game, because you only get a certain number of years before your body begins to breakdown, and peak performance gets harder and harder to achieve each season.  In sports this is known as your window of opportunity.  Life works in the same manner, and here is a coachable moment for you.  We all have been granted the same amount of greatness; it is stored in the inner most, hidden parts of our being.  So what is the difference between those that exercise their greatness and those that don’t?  I’ll tell you.  Once upon a time that individual had a goal or dream in mind and they capitalized on their window of opportunity.  In the spiritual world there is no such thing as too late.  When God plants an idea, suggestion, or thought in which greatness can be accomplished, the universe God is telling you that this is your window of opportunity to do exactly what you have always dreamed of.  After your moment of revelation, it is now your time to execute that plan or idea.  That is the time specifically set up for you to win.  This is your time set aside for you to do whatever it is that has been laid on your heart.  This again is referred to your window of opportunity.

The law of conservation of energy states that energy is neither lost nor destroyed but transferred from one form of matter to another.  This explains why as time goes by and you have not executed your plan you see it being executed by someone else in the exact way that you thought of it.  Funny isn’t it.  After all, God’s plan will be carried out.  Why don’t you be the instrument to carry out His purpose and reap the benefits of your own thoughts and dreams?

So I urge you, the next time God gives you a hot, fresh, new idea for something, receive it, accept it, and claim it.  Your window of opportunity is now open, but won’t be open forever.  You either use it or lose it.  Now I didn’t say it was going to be easy, but if you keep on your grind you will be indeed rewarded in the end.

 

Written by Aaron DeBerry