3 Communication tips from the CSB

Public service has the potential to change lives. Not only those on the receiving side, but those giving. In 2012, I called the California School for the Blind to initiate a campaign to donate several ergs to the school. It wasn’t until I looked back at this community service project, that I began to understand how it changed my life.

1. Words have meaning

When you are communicating with another it is essential that you create and maintain trust. Trust is incremental to gain and quick to lose. If we continuously fulfill this dialogue, trust will be built; however, if we do not fulfill what we say, trust will be diminished, quickly. You’ve probably seen a Hollywood film with a dysfunctional father who continues to promise to attend his son’s sporting events, yet never shows up. Each communication (every small thing that we say to others) is an opportunity to earn trust.


2. Memory is a powerful force.

The students could remember so many things, even items from conversations that we had 6 months prior. Their memories could place and recollect my weekend plans, my colleagues and even my favorite songs. I had to do some serious soul searching when I forgot the name of one of my favorite CSB students. It had been 6 months since I had seen her last, but the look on her face was pure disappointment. I came to understand that I had been failing my own memory. Memory has the capacity to impress or disappoint others. Since volunteering at the CSB, I have focused on finding increased capacity to my own memory.

A few brain games:   

  1. Your brain has more dendrites (10^17) than grains of sand on earth.
  2. Your memory works well with visual imagery and faces. In a study of children and adults across the board, they recognized 98% of faces shown to them 6 weeks prior.


3. Watch, do, listen

There are three primary ways that we learn: visual, haptic and verbal. A blind student only has access to two of these mediums. It means that a good communicator must be very clear about verbal requests and comments. In the world outside the CSB, people can get away without giving their words purpose our clarity (in part due to visual communication.) While teaching at the CSB, I learned that being crystal clear in verbal communication was essential to providing feedback and purpose.

RowClub Athlete Highlight: Mike Osorio

Mike is one of RowClub's regulars, attending the 7:45 am class twice a week! We sat down with him to get a bit of insight into his active life!

Mike's rowing journey began in High School, when he was drawn to the sport because of team aspect, as well as the notion that he whole boat has to work together perfectly to achieve a common goal. 

He attended Duke University undergrad, as well as receiving a Masters in Computational Math from Oxford University in England. At Oxford, he had the privileged of racing for his college in their annual boat race. 

Now, Mike is training for competitive bicycle racing, using RowClub as a means to achieve core stability, the mental focus, and the cross training aspect. The workouts hooked him to the classes, but the instructors are what keep him coming in and getting his butt kicked most mornings. 

Mike is not new to biking- he once rode his bike across America with the Ability Experience group, raising awareness for people with physical and mental disabilities. On their way across America, this group of philanthropic athletes would stop at the various centers for the disabled and host dance parties, miniature bike races, and games nights.

Mike says his favorite song to work out to is 'that really popular Drake song,' his favorite meal is pizza from Il Casaro in Little Italy, and his favorite color is blue/green, and his favorite activity is anything outdoors: hiking, biking, or just experiencing nature. 



On Love and Rowing

by Maggie Simpson

The first time I met Don and Juanita was one of my first classes as a new instructor. I was new to RowClub, new to the cozy studio in the bustling financial district, new to the athletes that would develop their muscles as I developed my coaching skills.

I was nervous until Don and Juanita descended the stairs into the basement studio, bouncing down with more energy than one would expect from anyone at 6:45am on a Wednesday morning. It’s difficult to describe what exactly it was about Juanita’s wide and Don’s wry smiles that made me feel ready to take on the world, but after having the two of them in my class, I knew that RowClub was a perfect fit for me.

Juanita started coming to RowClub almost three years ago, after looking for an indoor rowing workout in the Bay Area. Juanita has lived a very active life, playing volleyball from the 5th grade through college, and since then always finding new ways to move. Juanita has done every type of workout, from free weights to spin classes to marathons, and she currently uses RowClub and Zumba as her main fitness adventures. Juanita dragged Don to RowClub one month after her first class, and the rest was history. Don says playfully to Juanita, “you’re the athlete,” speaking of her constant desire to improve herself.

Don and Juanita have known each other for 30 year; Juanita worked as a police dispatcher and Don as a police officer, and they used to always meet for coffee as they rotated through their jobs. They kept up their friendship through years until Don retired. Don says that getting coffee with Juanita became the part of his day that he most looked forward to, thus revealing a growing love.

Besides taking classes at RowClub, Juanita and Don enjoy people watching. They often find a sitting place in a bustling district and make up stories together about the people that pass, from children running away from their parents to ‘fashion emergencies.’

Don and Juanita say their favorite part of RowClub is the full body workout and the dynamic instructors. They say they like that the instructors are not ‘cookie cutter,’ that each brings their own experience and is dedicated to improving technique. The people at RowClub also become Don and Juanita’s RowBuddies- regulars like Cindy, Paul, and now Alistair, all contribute to the family atmosphere that keep them waking up for the 7am classes.

Core Coaching from Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer is listed among the top college football coaches in the 21st century. Over the past 17 years Meyer has held head coaching positions at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State University.


The heart and work ethic of a college coach in any sport is focused on recruiting 17 and 18 years olds, turning them into responsible young professionals and instilling the belief that a National Championship should be obtained along the way. Regardless of the program or sport, successful coaches will bring talented young recruits to the program. And while recruiting is a valuable asset to any managerial position, equally important is maintaining a distinct organizational culture and development process to turn fresh talent into hardened iron. Coach Meyer discusses his theories, his coaching high’s and low’s, as well as personal and familial experience in recent publication called ‘Above the Line’.


One of the most pertinent ideas to be drawn from Coach Meyer’s experience is the ‘Core Focus Theory.’ Coach Meyer explains that early in his coaching career, he spent a significant amount of time attempting to convince players on the ‘periphery’ to get their act together. Individuals on the ‘periphery’ (expressed as the outside ring below account for roughly 10% of any team) can be described as those who regularly miss assignments, don’t give the team their all, are distracted by ulterior events...The individuals on the periphery may be very talented but just can’t seem to get their act together. In any management or team situation, we’ve experience working with these types of individuals. You can probably even name a few. Most likely you had the same re-action that Coach Meyer had early on in his career: to focus a majority of your efforts trying to get this individuals to see things your way. To take extra time to explain to them why it is so important to show up on time, to share with them your favorite books or management theory and to even lend them personal favors when they are in need…


After reading this article, you should be on the lookout for this exact situation in your line of work. It is actually not the most effective approach to managing your team or organization. Most likely these same individuals will continue to let you and your team down. Although it is hard to neglect these types of individuals, it is time to do just that. Instead focus your energy on the core group that make up your team. In Coach Meyer’s diagram you will notice 3 rings. The middle section is accounts for about 80% of any team. These are your solid B players. They show up on time, have a lot a talent, rarely make mistakes and hold to their assignments. We all love this players and most of us fit right in with this group.

The center, the core of the team made up of the top 10% are the leaders. They show up early for work and stay later than anyone else. They spend their nights and weekends dedicated to getting ahead on projects or preparing for the next breakthrough. These are our straight A students. They set the pace for the rest of team. ‘Core Focus Theory’ is based on turning your B teammates into A’s. Focus your energy on increasing the number of core leaders on your team and the rest of the group will continue to make improvements.

Energy Leadership from Bruce Schneider

Three years ago, my mother recommended an energy assessment technique that she had studied in a coaching course. She handed me a hardback book with a blue cover called "Energy Leadership." The book's lessons have helped make noticeable changes to my own life and I have shared them with many clients, co-workers, friends, classmates and community members. The book is based on the story of a real world business coach (the author, Bruce Schneider) who enters a failing small business to insert his psychological and metaphysical theories. Sales are declining, personnel is unraveling and the entire company is treading on thin ice. Enter Coach Schneider, who works with the principal to alter internal energy levels through validation and visualization techniques.

I have read the book over 7 times and would often use it as a midday break to a busy workday to remind myself of the importance of my own energy levels and the impact they have on my "external" environment. External is placed in quotations because energy leadership theory is based on quantum physics, the premise that the entire universe is not ‘Newtonian’ but rather, as Einstein found it, connected. At any given point an individual’s operating energy levels can be plotted on the chart below. (Take a few minutes to study the chart below. Can you recall a time when you've experience each of these thoughts, feelings and actions?)

The chart is a guide to help understand your own energy levels and the energy levels of others. The weakest energy levels and lowest corresponding power output are depicted within the inner most circles. These inner most circles, and corresponding energy levels, are filled with catabolic emotions such as conflict, anger, defiance, apathy, lethargy, no faith, victim, and needing.

We’ve all had these thoughts before:

"What is wrong with me?"

"Why does this always happen to me?"

"Why is my colleague so stupid!"

In fact, these thoughts are totally normal. (Normal but not necessary!) And the more that we operate from such conflicted emotional states, the more we will attract similar energy levels (Yes, that would mean attracting even more stupid colleagues.)

As one resonates at higher energy levels depicted as the mid to outer-ranges of the diagram, similar energies are attracted and potential output increases. In my own experience identifying and understanding these energy levels is extremely important to leadership and performance potential. Throughout any period of time your energy levels could be expressed like the index of a stock price: the higher the average resonance level, the higher the potential output.

In addition to the general understanding and application of Energy Leadership Theory, I am on the lookout for two distinct signs from myself: 

1) How do I react, if I am confronted with conflict energy? As Energy Leadership would predict, I have a natural inclination to respond with even more conflict. Since learning this about myself, I no longer react immediately. I take my time, relax and think to myself, 'if I were not feeling conflicted, but rather responsible or cooperative or at peace or joyful, how would I respond?'   

2) I am also mindful of how I approach my family, career, education and life. Operating from joy, passion, and synergy leads to a life filled with impressive people and inspirational opportunities. 

I encourage your to pick up a copy of Schneider's book, "Energy Leadership"  and I look forward to any comments on how his teachings have helped your academic, professional or athletic progression.