Mistakes happen – focus on tasks at hand

Sometimes sports stories offer good examples for daily life. Four stories shed light on putting mistakes behind you, so you can focus on the tasks at hand.

Orel Hershisher was a successful pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While he looks more like a Sunday school teacher, this devout man was as tough a competitor as you could find. He had a knack for not letting mistakes get to him. He said in his biography he set out to throw a perfect game and after the first hit, he would try to throw a one-hitter and so on. One of his more significant achievements is setting a record for not allowing a run for 59 consecutive innings of play.

Years before the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series breaking a 108 year drought, they stood on the brink of going to the series with one more playoff victory. With their opponent, the Florida Marlins, rallying in game six of their 2003 playoff, the hitter hit a foul fly ball that was just inside the stands. The left fielder had a chance to catch the ball by reaching into the stands. A fan did what many do and tried to catch it, so he prevented the Cubs player from catching it. The player demonstratively berated the fan, the crowd booed and the Cubs pitcher and players came unglued and they lost their cool and the game. It carried over and they went on to lose the next game losing the playoff series.

The New York Yankees had a pitcher by the name of Allie Reynolds, who the players called the Big Chief as he was he was a stoic and fierce competitor. He was throwing a no-hitter and the famous Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters ever, was possibly the final out. Williams popped up a pitch and Hall of Famer catcher Yogi Berra settled underneath the foul ball…and then dropped it and fell down. Helping Berra to his feet, a tired and anxious Reynolds was kind: “Don’t worry Yogi, we’ll get him next time.” Williams popped up the next pitch and Berra squeezed it for the final out.

How you react to mistakes or a crisis is important. A great leader can be judged by how he or she handles a crisis. The leader’s calm and reassuring demeanor can make the difference as others will follow suit. Reynolds and Hershisher understood that. The Cubs pitcher and players did not and affected their behavior.

After mistakes happen, the best we can do is to focus on the tasks at hand. Preparation and practice helps a great deal in handling stress. The great basketball coach Bobby Knight was asked why he did not call time out at the end of a close game his team won. He said he knew his team was more prepared, so he did not want to give the other team a chance to do so. In one national championship game, one of his players Keith Smart hit the final basket after their opponent, Syracuse missed a free throw, and Knight just let his team play without a timeout.

So, following their lead, prepare and practice for tests, speeches, meetings, interviews, etc. Mistakes will happen, so don’t react too negatively and focus on the tasks at hand. And, thank goodness for erasers and delete keys.

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Great leaders make everyone around them better

Thomas Friedman, the award winning author (“The World is Flat” and “That Used to be Us”), made an important observation in an interview with Charlie Rose. A great leader makes everyone around them better – think Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky or, if you are older, Bill Russell. Donald Trump makes everyone around him worse.

This is a powerful observation. Defending this immoral man requires his people to go to a bad place in their nature. They must lower themselves and lie like he does. General Kelly harmed his reputation by lying about a Congresswoman. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders is not worth listening to as she defends the indefensible with inconsistent and nonsensical statements.

Trump values loyalty over competence, so the tendency to become a sycophant is rewarded. While he does have some competent people, they are fewer in number and the depth of talent is not as much as needed. Many experienced people could have helped him, but they either did not pass the loyalty test or chose not to work with such a narcissistic man. His team is not deep and they are very distracted trying to keep Trump between the white lines, so they cannot focus on global trends, issues and strategy.

On the flip side, I think of great leaders like Paul O’Neill, who turned around Alcoa by opening communication channels which improved productivity and safety. I think about my former boss whose mantra was hire good people and have them go see our clients. He kept senior leadership off your back and empowered you to work with others to serve.

Let me close with a story about Bill Russell, the NBA Hall of Famer with the Boston Celtics. He did all the heavy lifting (rebounding, defense, passing, blocked shots) letting his teammates do most of the scoring. His Celtics won eleven championships, his college team won two NCAA championships and he was on a Gold Medal Olympic team.

Great leaders make everyone around them better.

Push-ups, Sit-ups and Sprints

When Herschel Walker was asked at the University of Georgia about his weightlifting routine, he had a curious response. He said he had never lifted a weight in his life. For those of you who do not remember Walker, he was an extremely well muscled and fast running back for the Bulldog football team in the early 80’s.

When he was asked how he got so big and fast, he responded “Push-ups, sit-ups and sprints.” He went on to say when he was a scrawny young kid of about ten, he asked a gym coach how to get bigger, stronger and faster and the coach responded with the same answer as above.

What he did not tell the young Walker is how many. So, while watching TV, Walker would do push-ups or sit-ups during the commercials. He said it got to where he was doing about 1,000 of each routine every day. Then, he would go out and do sprints until he dropped.

Walker may have been the finest high school and college football ever to play a down. When I lived in Atlanta, I saw footage of Walker in high school. It is not an exaggeration to say the majority of times he touched the ball, he scored a touchdown, often playing only 1/2 the game as the score was so lopsided. The Hall of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton, said in a guest sports news appearance, wherever Walker decides to go to college, the team will be an “immediate contender for the national title.” Georgia won the national title in Walker’s freshman year and he won the Heisman Trophy for the best collegiate football player.

Walker’s pro career was successful, but he did not stand out as much as he did in high school and college. I think he came up against equally talented athletes, so the margin was smaller. His positives were his strength and speed, but pro football longevity is predicated on elusiveness as well, which he did not need as much in the amateur levels.

Nonetheless, he was a significant player. He was also very humble and polite. Let me leave you with one telling story. After his career was over, a couple was stuck in their car as it was wrecked and rolled over with smoke coming out of the hood. This large African-American man was jogging by, so he immediately went over, realized the dilemma and ripped the door open helping the couple to safety. Then he ran on once he knew they were OK.

He never said a word to anyone what he had done, until a reporter asked him about his role in helping the couple. He shyly admitted he had helped them. He was called Superman by the couple and press.

Push-ups, sit-ups and sprints. We can always better ourselves. I am not saying do 1,000 of each, but a few each day would not hurt. The key metaphor is we have the power to make ourselves better, be it through physical or mental activity. It can be as easy as doing a few push-ups or sit-ups with each commercial.

Four true stories per my friend Bobby

This weekend, I was reminded of an old friend Bobby. I was a client and friend of Bobby and his team. Four poignant stories come to mind about him or his team. I should mention Bobby was a good golfer. I once witnessed him make five birdies in a row en route to a seven under par 65. But, that is not one of the stories.

Bobby told me of the time he was playing in his club championship. Telling the story, he was down two holes heading into the 16th hole. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie and then stood on the 18th tee. He then proceeded ls to top his shot into the lake. One friend shouts and accepts money from another saying “I knew he was going to do that.” Yet, the story becomes funnier when he over heard his caddy relate the story about how  “we birdied the 16th and 17th to tie, then ‘he’ hits it into the lake.”

On a more serious note, a tragedy ended well for his friend and colleague. Bobby received a call at night that his colleague’s 54 seat plane had crashed and there were only four survivors. Bobby got the call as the ticket was purchased by his firm. He called all of the hospitals and learned his friend was one of the four. He called his friend’s wife to let her know there had been a crash, but her husband had survived, was hurt but OK.

The friend said he survived because he was calm and followed instruction while others went beserk. Although not an overly religious man, he made his peace. He said the crash was more violent than he could possibly describe and afterward he smelled jet fuel and crawled toward the cold January breeze. He said he felt like he crawled 100 feet, when it turned out to be only twenty.

Then, there is the story about another colleague who was driving along I-85, when a car veered across the median and hit him head on. This was before the wired fence-like structures were erected in the median to prevent such occurrences. They both walked away from the accident as both cars had driver side air bags. Bobby’s colleague suffered only broken knee caps.

Finally, on a more humorous note, another  colleague was working in their office in Greensboro. A friend called him and asked him what he was doing that day. He said he was working and his friend said he needed to play golf. To his “no” response, his friend said you need to play because you are the only member of this club and I have someone who wants to play with you. It turned out to be Michael Jordan. Jordan, eventually played 54 holes of golf, but Bobby’s friend begged off after a very tiring 36 holes.

Thanks for indulging my memories. I actually have a few more Bobby stories, but this will give you a good taste. These remembrances made me smile.

 

Skiing is a dangerous sport

Having grown up in Florida, I have snow skied exactly one time. Being tall, I resembled a tree falling over again and again. The first thing one should do in learning to ski is to lie on the side of a hill and get up, as that will be a frequent exercise.

I am writing this as a second child has been caught dangling from the ski lift when their backpack got caught on the chair. Fortunately, both survived without injury, just the fear of such. I imagine signs will be placed on all future lifts to be wary of your backpacks.

This reminds me of the time a former client ended up in traction merely by exiting a ski lift. His two sons were messing around near the jump off point and when he was asking them to be safe, lost sight of his own safety and skied into the fence near the drop off and tore his leg up.

Back to my own situation, my wife and I went skiing with her brother and his first wife, who were both good skiers. Note to new skiers, skiing is best learned as a child before your bones get harder and take longer to heal and you know these facts. As I am lying on the hill for the umpteenth time, my sister-in-law skied over to me and looked down and said, “You don’t look like you are having any fun.”

My response was simple, “No, I am not.” I spent the rest of the afternoon by the fire inside nursing my soreness and ego. Skiing will make you sore, but falling will make you more so.

Having watched the movie “Eddie the Eagle,” about the courageous Brit who deified odds and limitations on his abilities and flew as a ski jumper in the Olympics in Calgary, Canada, I recognized how crumpled I would be after crashing like he did in training. Coming in last was irrelevant because he did what few of us can do. I wish I had his courage to keep at it, but he was more committed to his cause.

So, I must recognize I will never be an Eddie the Eagle, nor do I wish to be. Because I would be more like Fallen Limbs.

Walking, Water and Weighing

Since we are the most obese country in the world per the World Health Organization, I was seeking some alliteration to serve as a reminder of three things we each could do. Walking, Water and Weighing. Each of these things would not be difficult to do, but could make a difference.

Walking to better health has been discussed for years. As a former jogger with an up and down history of such, I have resorted to walking and hiking. It is far easier on the joints and can accomplish  many of the same benefits – weight loss, cardio-vascular work, better digestion and improved psyche by being outdoors. And, when you miss walking for a few days, it is much easier to pick back up than jogging.

Drinking more water is the one of the best diet techniques around. I am not advocating drinking water all the time, but try to drink at least a couple of glasses a day. In addition to zero calories, drinking water helps flush out your kidneys and lessens the risk of kidney stones. Plus, staying hydrated is beneficial to good health. Lastly, if you are on a budget, drinking water in restaurants and fast food places is a big saver.

Finally, know your numbers, a key one of which is weight. Weighing once a week is good to know your progress and will encourage you to get that extra walk in or avoid more fried food, bread or desserts the next week. Yet, weighing is a metaphor for knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol counts. These are two examples that can be treated with prescription drugs and better regimen.

I recognize these three things are not earth shattering revelations. But, they are three habits that can easily be implemented and will provide some benefit. Please check with your doctor, if you feel you must, and start slow with the walking.

 

 

 

 

Forty years later after high school

Last weekend, I attended my 40th high school reunion. We have been holding them religiously every five years, with a 55th birthday celebration thrown in. I have attended five of the reunions over the years. Let me give credit to Karen and Tanya as our stellar reunion coordinators, who have made it all happen.

At the Saturday dinner and dance, the alumni wore tags with our senior picture and names. The married females who changed their names had maiden names highlighted for our memory banks. The guy in my picture had far more and darker hair and a thinner face. The unseen torso was thinner as well.

Frank and Glenn, two of my three best friends, were there and made it more special. John is not a reunion afficionado. Yet, seeing other good friends, acquaintances and classmates was fun. We learned of children, grandchildren, illnesses and recoveries, and some who are struggling. There are several of us who can trace our histories back to the same elementary school, which adds more seasoning to our collective stew.

The music was vintage 1970s with a little 1980s thrown in. We graduated in the disco age, which may not be the greatest lyrical music, but does lend itself to dancing. Even us oldies can move if the inspiration is supplied. That inspiration  would include The Commodores, The Spinners, KC and the Sunshine Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Donna Summer and The Bee Gees to name a few.

The stories were plentiful. Here are a few remembrances from years past:

  • Cheryl  could never keep a rear view mirror on her car, as it kept breaking off as she and her friend kept shifting it to put on lipstick and make-up.
  • Jimmy could shoot a basketball from such long-range, he once made one from downtown, but the referee waived it off because he stepped out of bounds.
  • Randy would be seen running when we went to the beach and we would see him still running when we came back.
  • Our biology teacher called everyone Professor, so we would refer to each other in the halls and in class in that manner.
  • Returning from a baseball games still in uniform, we came up to a toll bridge. We realized our money was in the trunk, so a quick run was needed to get the quarter (yes, a quarter).
  • We used to wear these ugly leisure suits with wide collared floral patterns. The first time I wore mine, my girlfriend burned a hole in it with her cigarette while dancing.
  • Our German teacher looked like Mr. Clean. When we perplexed him, he would pull at his bushy eyebrows. Alternatively, he would rub his eyes with the palms of his hands.
  • My best basketball game was when I had to borrow Frank’s shoes. Frank, of course, attributes my new scoring touch with his shoes.
  • The older bully who tormented our class is now a high school principal. Our class life of the party is now a minister. You just never know where your journey will take you.
  • Becky, one of our talented gymnastics and dancers, just retired from teaching arts and dance.
  • Frank became the sports reporter he planned to be and now has a sports talk show. Sherri, Glenn’s wife, laughs and teases Frank about being paid to talk the way he always talks.
  • Speaking of Glenn and Sherri, they met at our high school and remain married to this day. Jimmy and Rhonda are as well. That is unusual in this day and age.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, it is nice to have this foundation of people and memories. I hope we will continue.