Moving Forward or Falling Back

Shinpo ProgressThe Japanese have a saying, or at least when I was in Japan years ago a Japanese individual told me they have a saying that goes like this, “Shinpo shiite inai kagari dairaku shiite imasu”.  Now over the years my Japanese has faded a bit and I’ve spelled it the way I remember but the translation is relatively simple, “to the degree we are not progressing, we are falling back”.  There is no such thing in this life as standing still.  Even if standing still is measured as an opportunity lost.

Joe Paterno wrote, “Every kid who has ever played for me has heard me say this a thousand times: ‘You either get better or you get worse.’ You never stay the same.  You get better as a person or you get worse as a person.  You do something every day to make yourself a better person.  You go by and pick up a piece of paper and put it in the garbage can.  That makes you a better person.  The same is true for football (or any other sport or activity) When you go out to the practice field, you are not the same player you were the day before.  You are better or worse.  That is life.  If you go out and practice poorly, you start to go down.  Make the effort to be a better football player.  Do not just go out and practice.  Think about the practice.” (Browning, 2001, p. 168)

These words expand upon the Japanese concept and Coach Paterno provides a sad reminder that the words hold true for our entire lives.  A great career can be significantly, and to some extent irreparably, blighted when you fail to continue to progress and hold the character ground you’ve attained.  Looking the other way when what is called for is action, big or small, to ensure the right thing is done is, at an individual level, getting worse as a person.  We must work to have the courage to own our actions and our inactions.

What am I doing today that is helping me improve?

How do I react to the suggestion that I need to know more about something, or that I may be wrong in my understanding?

Is there something calling for action on my part that I’ve resisted acting upon?  What can I do to change that in the next hour, day or weeks ahead?


Browning, E. (Ed.) (2001). Coaching beyond the x’s and o’s: By the experts. Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.

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