Blog Post: Relax and Lean In

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You can buy a box of 12 bamboo finger traps on Amazon for $5. They are also available in vending machines across the country, often for as little as twenty-five cents.

You are probably wondering, why would I ever need to know this? 

Here is my hot take — having one makes you a better coach.

I say this from personal experience. I have been coaching for a little over a year now. I am currently wrapping up my CCLC with the goal of applying for my ACC before the end of the year.

Last October, I reached out to Brian Miller with a question about which hours I could count towards my ICF certification. Without getting too much into the specifics of my question, it came from feelings of inadequacy. I began to ask myself, have I had enough training to begin counting hours, or should I only count hours after a specific point in my training?

I will never forget his response:

“Brady, you’re overthinking. Count ALL the hours. You’ve got what it takes to do this. Relax and lean in.”

I was so thankful for his encouragement and affirmation. Specifically, I was drawn to those last four words — “relax and lean in.” What does that look like? What could that mean for my coaching? More importantly, what could that mean for how I show up in every aspect of my life?

As I thought more about that phrase, I was reminded of bamboo finger traps. Do you remember those? They were one of the prizes you could claim at the arcade or Chuck-E-Cheese with only a few tickets, which mattered to me, because I was too impatient to save my tickets for a bigger prize. I also owned my fair share of slap bracelets, bouncy balls, and plastic poppers.

The premise of a bamboo finger trap is simple: you place one finger in each side, and if you try to pull out your fingers to get unstuck, the finger trap will tighten. However, if you instead push both fingers inwards, the tension will ease, and your fingers will be released.

While it felt a little strange, I went on Amazon that day and purchased a box of 12 finger traps. I started keeping them on my desk at home, where I could see them during coaching calls and Zoom meetings. Occasionally, if I had an in-person meeting, I would bring one with me and keep it in my pocket. Eventually, the first one began to break apart, so I replaced it with another one.

Every time I would see or hold that finger trap, the message was simple: “Relax and lean in.”

While the message has special significance for me because it is personal, there are lessons here for everybody — especially for coaches.

  1. You are not the only one who sometimes feels inadequate. While it can be the most isolating feeling in the world, we all sometimes struggle with imposter syndrome. We wonder if we are skilled enough, smart enough, or qualified enough. A friend once told me that it is easy to walk into a room and think that everybody is focused on your insecurities when, in reality, they are too busy thinking about their own. The solution is not to try and hide your weaknesses. A better approach is to embrace vulnerability as a means of connection while believing about yourself the same thing we believe about our clients — that you are creative, resourceful, and whole.  
  1. Physical symbols cement new awareness. If I had simply saved Brian’s email in a special folder, or written it on a piece of paper, it would have had some value. But the real impact came when I created a physical reminder of his encouragement. If you are interested in making new thoughts or ideas stick with a physical symbol, I recommend reading Chapter 10 of Soundtracks by Jon Acuff.  
  1. Your presence always matters. Whether you are coaching, sitting with a church member going through a difficult season, or just having lunch with a friend, your presence is powerful. For me, my best presence happens when I stop thinking too much about what I will say or how I say it and simply give the other person the attention they deserve. In other words, I show up best when I relax and lean in. This has been a growing edge in my coaching for a while, and I am thankful for the way a silly symbol brings me back to what matters most in my coaching – giving my undivided attention to my client.

I will end with one more thought that is relevant regardless of whether you coach or not. The ability to “relax and lean in” is not something you have to earn. As one of God’s beloved children, you have value simply because of who you are. Trust that you are worthy of love and acceptance, even when it does not feel true. Once you do that, it will be easier to show up in a way that makes others feel like they matter.

Hopefully you can find a bamboo finger trap near you. Or if you ever come through Oklahoma City, let’s meet up and I will give you one of mine.

Brady Ross lives near Oklahoma City, OK with his wife and two young children.  Through his coaching practice, Teleios Coaching, he helps church leaders live healthier lives and lead stronger ministries.  You can learn more about Brady on his website at teleioscoaching.com.

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