Friday afternoon rolled around and Pat eagerly looked forward to another lesson from Coach Smith. This time they met at the door, each walking into the coffee shop at the same time. Pat noticed Coach was walking a little slower and breathing a little harder than normal.

“Coach, are you okay? You look like you’re laboring a little bit,” she asked.

“It comes with the territory,” he said with a chuckle. “Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.”

As they approached the counter Pat turned to Coach and said, “This one’s on me.” In his gracious manner Coach responded with a sincere, “Thank you Pat.”

They made their way to a table and began with a little small talk about the previous week. After Pat shared about her mistake and recovery with scarcity she asked, “So what’s on the agenda this week?”

Coach started, “Do you recall me telling you and the other player, ‘You learn a lot about life playing this game?’”

“I think we all remember that phrase because we heard it so often,” Pat told him with a chuckle. She continued, “To be honest, in the middle of a hard practice or after a tough loss I don’t think we really understood it. In those moments it just seemed like something nice to say to encourage us.”

“And now what do you think about it?” Coach asked.

“Between our playing days and spending time with you these last few months, I believe I’m starting to get it,” Pat said.

That brought a smile to Coach Smith’s face. He began, “I never really expected my players to ‘get it’ in the moment. It was one of those concepts I was trying to teach that would come back in time to pay dividends because it’s true. It’s no different than raising a child. As a parent you do many things knowing they’re in the best interest of your children, even though they don’t understand it in the moment. Two clear examples of that are making sure your kids get educated and stay healthy. Those two things pay dividends over a lifetime.”

Pat interjected, “I can see that. I’m thankful for the education I received and the discipline I learned playing basketball. I certainly don’t workout like I did when I played for you, but I do make it to the gym three or four days a week and always feel better about having done so.”

Coach began, “What I want to share with you today is a concept called unity. We talked about liking and how important it was to really like your teammates. Unity goes much deeper than that. Unity is about having a shared identity. My clearest example comes from my father who served in the Marines in the Korean War. Every time dad met another Marine there was an instant bond. Dad would’ve done anything for another marine, including giving his life. And other Marines would’ve done the same for him. That’s because of a shared identity that comes through unity. You can define unity this way, ‘it’s easier to say yes to those who are of us, of our band, tribe, family.’ Do you understand what I’m talking about?”

Pat replied, “I think so. I know there are things I’ll do for my family that I wouldn’t do for my closest friends.”

“That’s exactly it.” Coach said in an affirming tone. “When we have unity, helping those that we feel that deep connection with in a very real sense helps us. It may require a great sacrifice but the feeling that we get it knowing we’re helping someone we’re bonded with, and the willingness to sacrifice for them goes beyond anything else I’ve taught you. I equate it to love. When I talk of love, I’m not talking about the intense feelings that we have for certain people or things. I’m talking about the decision to do what’s best for another, even when it may cost us. That’s what I saw with my father, knowing he would’ve sacrificed his life for a fellow Marine during that terrible war.”

Pat asked, “All of the other principles I can see how to apply but I’m not sure how I can apply unity. I don’t have a natural affinity for everyone I meet.”

“Don’t worry,” Coach said in a reassuring tone. “You won’t have unity with everyone you meet. There was only one person who did, but we can slowly tap into unity if we can find things we’re deeply bonded by. It’s much easier to do with a close knit group of people, a team. When you reflect on your playing days, don’t you think you do just about anything to help a former teammate?” 

“I never thought about it Coach, but I think I would,” Pat said.

Coach went on, “That’s because of the time you spent together and the intensity of the experiences you shared. You could look at one another and almost know what the other person was thinking and feeling in the moment. Pat, you have an opportunity to build that with your team. There may not be something like a physically hard practice to bond you but I’m certain you’ll find activities that can help your team. That, and the sheer amount of time that you’re spending can lead to unity. It starts with you as the leader.”

Thinking hard, Pat asked, “I’m not sure how I’ll put this into practice so quickly next week.”

With an encouraging tone Coach said, “I don’t expect you to come back with a report next week of having executed this principle. It will take time. But my advice to you is this Pat; put the needs of your team above yourself. That doesn’t mean always doing what they want, it means doing the kind of things I did when I was coaching all of you. Your goal is to have a high-performing team and the best way to make that happen is by becoming the kind of leader they feel deeply connected to. That comes about when they know that you’re putting their interest above your own.”

Pat sat there in silence, looking up as she contemplated Coach Smith’s wisdom. They continued your conversation for the allotted hour.

As they got up to leave Coach Smith thanked Pat. Pat responded, “No Coach, I need to thank you because you’ve shared so much wisdom with me. It’s been so helpful and will benefit my team and potentially beyond.”

Coach looked at her, with moist eyes, and said, “No Pat, it’s you I have to thank. You’ve allowed me the opportunity to share the things that are deeply important to me. Knowing you from your playing days and our time together here, I have no doubt you will pass along these concepts and will help many people as a result. My legacy will live on through you and others. The unity that I just described, love, that’s what I’m feeling now. You think I helped you but you helped me. I am thankful that you gave me this opportunity.”

Somehow Pat felt deep down that their time together was coming to an end but she brushed it off as just being a little emotional in the moment because of the talk of love. They hugged and she said, “I’ll see you next week Coach.” He didn’t reply but stood there quietly watching her as she walked away. He felt a sense of peace and contentment.


  1. And Now for Something Completely Different
  2. Coach’s Lesson on Liking
  3. Game Time for Pat
  4. Coach’s Lesson on Reciprocity
  5. Tis Better to Give
  6. A Lesson on Peer Pressure
  7. Putting Peer Pressure to Work at Work
  8. A Trusted Expert
  9. Becoming a Respected Leader
  10. Ask, Don’t Tell if You Want Commitment
  11. Less Directive
  12. Wins and Losses
  13. Don’t be a Downer
  14. Self-sacrifice
  15. Pay it Forward


Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!

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