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Feed the Good Wolf

You may have heard the story of the two wolves, or not. The tale goes that an elder, teaching a little boy about life, explains to him his daily struggle with two wolves; one that is ego and one that is his true or authentic self. The ego wolf is full of pride, self-pity, resentment, and anger whereas the authentic wolf is full of joy, peace, serenity, empathy and happiness. At the end of the tale, the little boy inquires, “Which wolf wins”? The elder replies, “the one you feed”. This story, once I heard it, always resonated with me. In short, I could relate. I wanted to nourish that which cultivated my heart and soul. XIP encourages participants to do the same. Coaches and student-athletes are tasked with the same mission.

But now I wonder, what if I’m not a wolf? What if I am a lion, an otter, a golden retriever, or a beaver? Why these animals, you ask? There is an animal personality test that identifies personality types aligned with these wild things. If you know your animal traits, you might likely predict that lions are dominant and decisive, otters are enthusiastic and encouraging, golden retrievers are considerate and strong team players while beavers are, well, beavers – attentive to detail. (

All this talk of animals provokes thoughts of Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, traversing the yellow brick road with her compadres Tin Man and Scarecrow, the Lion had not arrived yet, proclaiming “Lions, and tigers, and bears, “what’s your why”?; lions, and tiger, and bears, “what’s your why”? I suspect most readers won’t fall for this mis-quote; indeed, Miss Dorothy declared “Oh, my” but for the sake of this article investigating personality tests, feed my ego (pun intended or not).

More about Dorothy and author Simon Sinek in a moment. I digress.

Numerous personality tests exist. I will identify three in this article. Corporations, government, military, and sports organizations use personality tests for team building to produce maximum efficiency and desired outcomes. Coaches and student-athletes could benefit from having an understanding of their staff, themselves, and their student-athletes. If there are five “lions” on the court, you might need five basketballs, not much will be accomplished and there is certainly the potential for much unhealthy conflict. Experienced coaches intuitively recognize these situations and the “wolves” in each athlete, they make the necessary changes to maintain a strong team culture and help their teams find success.

In a course I recently taught, student participants formed groups according to their personality type identified from the DISC personality test. DISC personalities can generally be itemized as follows: D = dominant, I = Inspirational, S= Supportive and C = Cautious. For me, I observed this group project to yield good success. Content presented was clear, concise, and educational. And for me, the eye of the instructor, group participants engaged well together. As a Coach-Teacher, divvying up the students according to their DISC personality profile prevented, for example, having four “cautious” contributors. If this were the case, similar to the lions above, not much would be realized. There would have been too much apprehension in the group to accomplish much, if anything. (

The Enneagram Test is utilized by many life coaches and people seeking self-realization. The history of the Enneagram is beyond the scope of this article or my limited understanding. I encourage the interested reader to investigate Oscar Ichazo and his work. Mr. Ichazo originally identified 108 enneagrams and the test has since been condensed to identify 9 descriptions: reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger, and peacemaker. Each of these traits include a healthy, an average, and an unhealthy element to them and no one trait is better than another – competition denied!

For me, I’m not one immediately disposed to placing myself or others in a “bucket” – what does this make me, an antagonist, a provocateur, a curmudgeon? Indeed, the Enneagram does state that fluctuations in these descriptions exist and for me this resonates – here’s why. We’ll need to return to the Yellow Brick Road for this explanation. At first glance, I identified Oz, The Wizard, as a fraud. There he was hiding behind a curtain wreaking fear and havoc among those on a journey home or you can insert the metaphor here, to their authentic selves (recall, the good wolf). A friend recently advised me that Oz undoubtedly served a purpose.

If it were not for him and his actions, Scarecrow would not have realized his brain, Lion his courage, and Tin Man his heart. In fact, one might contend that these traits (intellect, bravery, compassion) already existed and the Dorothy lead search manifested their existence. Cue the rock and roll analogy here. Lyrics in the 1974 song Tin Many by the band America already stated this: “But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have. Once again, the message is in the music. You want it? “You got it” (Roy Orbison, 1989).

It’s “in there”, enjoy your search! Simon Sinek encourages prospective achievers to answer the question “What’s you why?” In addition, I choose to sit with “What is the next right thing I can do that will move me forward” when I feel stuck or disturbed. I’ll finish with a quote from Kenneth Blanchard who said “none of us is as smart as all of us” and a question – what’s your why or what is the next right thing you can do as you move forward?

Sure, you can fly like an eagle even if you feel like you are surrounded by turkeys, which may be more of a statement about you and not them (keep the focus on yourself) and which by the way are increasing in volume in your Green Mountain State! Don’t be a ham – write on, write on, comments welcomed in the comment section below.

Author: Coach Anthony Sgherza, PhD, ATC, CSCS, SCCC, Head of Reconditioning and Return to Performance Program

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