Sunday seasoning

Sunday is a good day to simmer something slowly in the crock pot. With judicious seasoning, the aroma permeates the house until dinner time. Now that I made you hungry for pot roast or stew, here are a few seasonings to sample.

It is nice to see Tiger Woods competing for The Open Championship at the northern most venue in the world at Carnoustie in Scotland. For more than a decade, Woods was more successful than any other golfer in history. Unfortunately, injuries and personal issues derailed him from more major victories that would help him overtake the impressive record of Jack Nicklaus. It is good to see him back on the leaderboard.

The unraveling continues with the US President. Not only did he bully his allies, he appeared very weak in the face of Vladimir Putin. What should not be lost is by throwing his intelligence people and country under the bus, he has made even more Americans believe he may be compromised by the Russians. It has been reported that we may see some more departures from his White House, as it is quite apparent, he will throw anyone under the bus to save face.

The best feel good story of the year has been the rescue of the Thai youth soccer team. What should not be understated is the significant amount of cross country collaboration and reliance on people who had expertise to figure out the best path forward. To me, this is an exemplar as the antithesis of Donald Trump’s “go-it-alone and I-know-best” approach. Collaboration is hard work, but when nurtured and seasoned can do wondrous things.

In this same vein, another large ego, Elon Musk, showed his disappointment that the Thai rescue crew did not use Musk’s expensive technology based idea. To his credit, Musk has done wonderful things for the world and wanted to help. Yet, I mention this as the most elegant solution is not always the most sophisticated one. The term “elegant” is used in computer programming to mean the easiest and most effective solution. In this case, the safest solution was arrived at after much debate by people on the ground who were more knowledgeable of the risks.

This reminds me of the story of the child who solved a problem with a delivery truck that was just a tad to tall for an overpass it tried to go under. Everyone was stymied at what to do. After much discussion, a child who had been watching opined that they should let enough air out of the tires to lower the truck and they could drive it out. Now, that is elegant. It also worked.

Sex is not the issue – it is your poor judgment

Now that former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford has been elected to Congress (a poor move by voters in that state) and Anthony Weiner and Elliott Spitzer are running for political offices again, the thought that is lost on them is obvious to many. We are asking you to be a leader representing our interests. How can we expect you to make good decisions on our behalf when you exercise such poor judgment on misdeeds and then try to rationalize or make excuses? We are all human and make mistakes. Yet, a key test for many is what kind of mistake was it, did you fess up and did you stop doing the misdeeds? If Tiger Woods was running for office, we would be asking him these same kinds of questions, as he had a girl in every port, while a married father.

I know some people say what someone does in his personal life should matter less to whether they would be a good politician. In some respects, that is true. Yet, when you misuse our time, our money and our trust while doing it, that should be fair game for inclusion in the debate over your veracity. You showed poor judgment. Sanford was reelected to his former Congressional seat after leaving the governor’s office. As many recall, he walked the Appalachian Trail (his story) while he was flying back and forth to Argentina to see his mistress. There were reports of where is the governor as he was missing in action for periods of time with no public knowledge. Yet, since he stayed with his mistress after his divorce, that seemed to make it all better. As an aside, I believe his greatest mistake as governor was not accepting stimulus money to boost his state’s economy when his state is one of the most impoverished and unhealthy states in the country. He declined out of principle, yet it was obvious later, he had no principles.

Weiner, whose name is more than symbolic of his ongoing willingness to reveal more than he should, is guilty of extremely poor judgment. And, it appears he continued to exercise this poor judgment for several months following his departure from Congress. In this day and age where we tell our children anything you put online can be seen by anyone, how can we expect Wiener to make important decisions for us when he does not act like an adult? My strong advice to Mr. Weiner is stop wasting our time. His wife, who has a tremendous track record in her own right, has stood by him after his misdeeds. Yet, I am not sure she knew his online sexual trysts continued long after his first mea culpa.

Spitzer deserved some credit for taking on Wall Street as the New York Attorney General. He may have been overzealous at times, yet he was directionally correct even when he was a tad zealous. The New York voters gave him due credit and elected him governor. So, why would someone who had done all of that, exercise such repeated poor judgment in frequenting a high-end prostitute on state time and expense? This was not one paid tryst, but was a routine of misbehavior. His wife’s stance is somewhere in between that of Weiner and Sanford’s. Jenny Sanford kicked her husband to the curb. I think it was the “soul mate” reference he made about his Argentine lover.

Spitzer’s wife lives away from her husband, but is still married to him. She has not been part of his campaign and has not condoned his earlier actions. I also feel sorry for his kids, when it is hard for dad to explain his improprieties. Spitzer is probably more deserving of office given his track record, but if I lived in New York, I would most likely not vote for him. I do know his judgment would be in question if I had to make that choice. The voters in SC weighed that choice and, in fact, the national Republican Party distanced themselves from Sanford and he had to win on his own. He probably benefitted from his then mistress being is now fiance. Yet, most of the traditional GOP voters who elected him in as the majority from his district, were less in tune with his poor decision on not accepting federal stimulus dollars which SC so badly needed.

Finally, there is the story of the serial groper, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner (these names are not made up). Filner has a hugging, squeezing and groping problem among other offensive behaviors. The problem on the former is a growing number of women are coming out of the woodwork to claim sexual harassment against Mr. Filner. He is going to counseling, but I think most Americans liken this to what Tiger Woods did when his numerous trysts came out – “I have an addiction to sex.” Please. Unlike Woods who is a private citizen, we expect more of a mayor, so he needs to protect what little dignity he has and resign. The citizens of San Diego deserve more than being a punch line to a joke. It does not do a lot for your credibility when husbands and fathers tell their wives and daughters to stay out of arm’s length of the mayor.

So, note to Weiner and Spitzer. You should likely call it a day and not run. Filner, you need to ride off into the sunset. Like Sanford, Spitzer might win, but we shall see what the future holds. So, politicians, please remember, what you do in your bedroom is your business, unless you make it ours by showing incredibly poor judgment and misuse our dollars, time and trust. What Filner is doing is out in the open, so his judgment cannot be contained in the bedroom. If what you do makes headlines, then it is something that should be considered in future voting decisions. It is your choice, but it later will be ours.

I succeed because I’ve failed

A key lesson for all of us is we will fail at some point in our lives and we may fail more than once. The key to success is what do you do when you fail. I was struck by this quote from Michael Jordan’s whose basketball prowess and effort should be admired – “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots…I’ve lost almost 300 games…I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And, that is why I succeed.”

With all of his talent, Jordan worked harder than anyone to succeed. He also encouraged others to do the same, so he helped his teammates become better. People that know him say he was one of the more driven people they have ever met. Like many athletes, they are driven to avoid failure, to avoid losing. Jordan also worked at the less popular parts of the game – his defense. As my basketball coach said often, you can have an off night on offense, but you can never have an off night on defense. Defense wins games in almost any team sport.

In my senior year of high school, I was demoted from the first team to the second team. That hurt as there is pride involved with starting. So, I remembered my brother being a terrific sixth man. For those who do not follow basketball, the sixth man is usually the first person off the bench to spell the starters and gets about as much playing time as a starter. So, what did I do about it? I worked my fanny off in practice to be that one person the coach would call upon. I was a good defender, but I worked hard at being a better one covering our best big player in practice every day. I told myself I am going to prevent him from scoring in our team drills today. And, I would go do it.

Two things happened. We were better because he got better as I made him work harder for the ball. Bill Walton, one of the greatest college (and a great pro) players ever to play the game, used to say the best player he played against was his teammate, Swen Nater who made Walton better every day. Nater also became a pretty good pro player. The point to both Nater and my story is we both failed to start, but we did not let that bother us. We worked hard, got playing time and helped our teams win the best way we could. Although it is a different sport, I recall the great golfer Gary Player’s quote when answering a question about a “lucky shot.” Player said “I find the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

One of my sons did not do his best recently and he failed to achieve the success he wanted. He has since righted the ship and is doing what he is capable of doing, but when we were having a conversation about next steps, I told him a story from Coach K, the legendary Duke University coach. I shared with him when I had failed, but added this quote as it is pertinent. Early in Coach K’s tenure at Duke, their season ended with a drubbing from Virginia in the ACC tournament, something like 109-66. At the team party, a booster toasted “Here is to forgetting about this game.” Coach K quickly corrected him, “Here is to NEVER forgetting about this game.” I told my son never to forget this feeling as you need to do your best to avoid feeling this way in the future.

Failure is the best teacher. We should learn from it as it not fun. Life will knock you down, so dust yourself and get back up. But, remember why you got knocked down. The only thing you can control is you. So, make yourself better. There are two key lessons here. Winston Churchill is the greatest leader of the 20th century and the world owes him and his fellow Britains a great thank you for standing up against Hitler. His message was very clear – “Never, ever give up.” If he had, the US would be a very different place today. So, first and foremost, do not give up.

The other lesson is to learn from your mistakes. I have written a blog about my favorite business book – “Built to Last” – which looks at the common traits of highly successful companies. One of the traits is “good enough never is.” Many of these companies actually failed in their first efforts, but did not let that stop them. But, even when they had success, they never stopped improving. There is an old business change line that it is easier to change a company with a burning platform. It is harder to change one that has success. So, when you fail at something, learn from why you failed. Did you not study enough? Were you not prepared enough? But, also after you have success, do not forget to look for ways to improve. Do what it takes to not fail.

Let me close with one final piece of advice – don’t be afraid to fail. Jim Furyk, the great golfer with the unusual swing is noted to be as tough as nails as a competitor. One reason is he is not afraid to fail. He described a story as a very good basketball player on a good team. He wanted to take the last shot even when the other team knew he would. He told the coach the reason is he could handle the failure of missing better than his teammates. Jordan was like that as well.  So, don’t give up, learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid to fail.

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PS – I have added a postscript to this as I want to reference a marvelous piece written this morning by Hugh Curtler at www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com on “Contrasting Heroes.” Please read the post and the wonderful comments. I admire Jordan and Tiger Woods greatly for their athletic achievements. They are very similar in talent, temperament and work ethic. Yet, they are also similar in another way as is pointed out in Hugh’s post and comments. Both have failed to use their notoriety to speak out for those who are disenfranchised in this world. I would love for them to remedy this failure and mirror their athletic achievements.

There are three people I mention in my comments to Hugh’s post who did not shirk their responsibilities. Jim Brown, the football great, and Bill Russell, the basketball great, both spoke out against racial inequity and abetted the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. But, a real hero is Harry Belafonte, the singer/ actor who used his notoriety to make a huge difference in the US, South Africa and around the world on helping those in need. There is an excellent documentary on HBO that shares the heroic life of Belafonte.