I went to a military school where we wore black socks and black shoes every day. After military school, I was in the army and we all wore black socks with our uniforms. After I got out of the army, I wore black socks with everything except sneakers – until I turned 50 then I started wearing black socks with shorts and sneakers whenever I cut the grass – yes, I turned into that guy. 

As a matter of fact if you were to look in my sock drawer, there are 20 pairs of black socks, most of them have a gold embroidered thread sewn across the toe. It is clear to me why I wore black socks when I had to but, I left the military more than 25 years ago, so why did I choose to still only wear black socks?

Core Thoughts

My core thought was that I had to wear black socks because it made me feel safe and would not draw attention to me. What would happen if I had a different core thought? I was at a lunch meeting and a business owner that I have a tremendous amount of respect for was wearing these outrageous socks that looked really cool. What would happen if I wore socks that weren’t black? My core thought changed from “I have to wear black socks” to “socks can be any color I want them to be”. And, cool funky socks would be fun. I changed my core thought which made me free to wear socks that weren’t solid black. 

I started slow. At first I wore socks that were dark but had a colored pattern on them. Then I moved on to socks with pink flamingos and then I went crazy with lifesaver candy wrapper colored socks that were filled with all kinds of bright colors. 

Eventually, I started to get compliments on my socks and they became a source of conversation. When asked, I tell people that I still have a drawer full of 20 pairs of stretched out and well worn black socks – just in case – but I don’t wear them. Then, I get to talk with people about challenging core thoughts and beliefs in order to make a change.

I have upped my sock game significantly over the last three years. I would go out on a limb and say that I have a very strong sock game. Socks for me are a metaphor that speaks to our ability to change. Whether the change is about the color of socks, an opinion, a viewpoint, a work situation or a relationship – challenging and changing our core thoughts can open our minds to an entirely new world of possibilities.  

What are the black socks in your life? What would it look like to try something different? For me, that is the beauty of being a coach. I help people look at their own circumstances and see all of the amazing possibilities that exist through a different lens and then support them as they develop plans to live their best life. 

Wes Becton is the Co-founder and CEO of George Washington Street Partnerswhich is an executive leadership, career, and performance coaching and consulting company. Wes is a former Infantry Officer and graduate of the Army’s Ranger School. Wes has extensive executive leadership and governance experience in a wide range of industries including banking, education and healthcare. Wes is the former Board Chair of Northeastern Illinois University and currently serves on the Boards of Elmhurst College and Pan American Bank. Wes earned degrees from George Washington University (BA International Affairs) and Lewis University (MBA Health Care Administration). Wes is also a member of the International Coach Federation. Wes is a frequent speaker and lecturer on the topics of leadership and diversity.