Be a Goldfish

How long is it healthy to regret your worst error? (I’m working on a streak of about 46 years.) Goldfish have a working memory of about 10 seconds.

In the exceptional new show “Ted Lasso” about a coach and his team, the title character dispenses some Zen-like wisdom to a player who spends all of his energy stewing over his last bad play: “Be a goldfish.”

You may not have heard this advice but what if I told you another non-sequitor:

Do you want to make family time more fun? Start by improving your golf swing.

Even though I haven’t played golf in decades, my friend and top amateur golfer Sam Schuffenecker told me to read “Be a Player” (Nilsson, P., Marriott, L., Reed, S., 2017), a bestseller written by two top coaches.

To be honest, I didn’t know why I should read this book until my friend Danny sat me down to watch “Ted Lasso” last month. (Holy crap!! If you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it enough, especially as a Positive Psychologist.)

When he chooses to step WAY outside of his comfort zone, the lead character demonstrates how we can amplify our performance in any realm we choose. And that includes parenting!

Like the fictional coach, the real-life “Be a Player” authors Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott want you to play your best game on the course, not just on the driving range. It’s easy to obsess over every little part of your swing, just like it’s easy for parents to worry about how every decision will ruin their kid’s chance for a successful future.

If you get caught up in the details, you lose the big picture. Setbacks aren’t failures. They give us the perspective to reach new levels of success. We all have learned a TON from our failures — but as parents, we seem to forget the benefit of a perfect plan disrupted.

According to the authors, it’s this simple: You don’t just want to sing like Adele in the shower. You want to bring her out at karaoke night! To achieve that “performance state,” Nilsson and Marriott found three keys to integrating your physical and technical skills: balance, tension, and tempo.

“Some days your body is tight, and other days it’s more relaxed. Some days you feel sluggish, and other days you’re amped up. These states are never fixed. Balance changes from shot to shot, hour to hour, day to day. Swing tempo changes with pressure or fatigue, or because of a tight lie or deep rough. Likewise, tension can show up in your shoulders or in your grip pressure, even in your jaw.”

According to these authors, what you need to create and maintain high performance is “the ability to listen and fine-tune these states accordingly.”

These golf-swing insights from “Be a Player” also serve to guide our team to support families to laugh more and play together. Relationships have their own tempo, balance, and tension. For instance, kids can do so much more when their parents are less tense.

Too many kids have told me that they spend half of their time worrying about their parents’ stress levels. On the other extreme, parents who create a space to laugh make it safe for their kids to take the risks needed to achieve great heights.

It’s easy to connect physical performance in sports with living in harmony with our partners and our kids. If you are doing either the right way, you will find yourself in a state of play and flow. According to the authors, the “ability to listen and fine tune” your balance, tempo, and tension are the keys to playing like a pro. In a parallel fashion, we work with the keys to a happy family: communication, honoring our relationships, and working together as a team.

Our team loves working with our client families to create a family culture where everyone can loosen up and enjoy the ride. These families will raise the next generation’s super-parents.

Remember the phrase, “Happy wife, happy life”? Our team extends that metaphor: we believe that happy parents make a family that laughs more and yells less. There is no pressure to be happy all the time. This isn’t about faking it until you make it. Our pro-level client families get to laugh more because they practice healthy boundaries, create agreements that get everyone’s buy-in, and make it a priority to hang out and play together.

There are lots of ways to start to develop these skills. These two free resources are easy places you can start: Here is “the one step you can take to become a positive parent.” If you are raising younger children, you will love our free email series to game-ify mindfulness. Use it to learn along with your kids.

If you want to learn how our team can support you in these efforts, DM me. We can set up a time to explore how we can help you to become the family you know you can be.


Nilsson, P., Marriott, L., & Reed, S. (2017). Be a player: A breakthrough approach to playing better on the golf course. Atria.

photo credit: Cici Hung/Unsplash