Tag Archives: goals

Olympic Lessons and Too Much Television

As expected, there has been a lot of “tv time” over the last two weeks.  Sleep patterns are off, productivity is down, and I really want a kayak and my own white water slalom course.  But above all, it is the lessons the two weeks of athletic competition teach and remind us of that is the real benefit.  Now the geography and cultural lessons are not a bad benefit either.

So, what have we all learned?

– If you are going to be involved in something where there are winners and losers, rankings and awards, do NOT do it in a field that is judged.  Utter committment to something to have your fate determined by others – no thank you.  Give me points scored, targets hit, times recorded, or whatever quantifiable scoring system you wish, but not judges.

– Clearly, Ryan Lochte wanted to beat Michael Phelps in a head-to-head race in the Olympics. Once he did it, he never raced as well.  Motivation and goals are funny things.  It was interesting how much better Michael Phelps swam after loosing a few races.

– Hope Solo, and really anyone who struggles to control their emotions, needs to stay off Twitter. Though it will rarely if ever make you millions, I am confident Twitter can cost you millions.

– It does not matter what you have done. It only matters what you do in the moment. #1 ranking, reigning World Champion, world record holder, being the favorite – none of that matters when you are in the moment.

– The general public LOVES to be spoon fed their entertainment. Tape delay, knowing the results, sappy back stories and profiles – it has all been consumed at an unprecedented level. Easy and prepackaged – it’s what people want.

– There is now, and probably always has been, just a certain percentage of folks who will never be happy.   They just have to snipe at things.  The irony is that all of the snarky comments and criticisms are usually delivered while the person is doing the thing they are criticizing.  The bashing of the Olympics was done as folks were sitting and watching.  Really?

– Misty and Kerri.  First off, when you can go by one name, you have truly “made it”.  But it is that reminder that loving what you do, and with whom you do it, is the key to greatness.

– Just be nice – it makes such a huge difference.  Gabby Douglas will be the face, well certainly the smile, of these games.  Not only did she perform when it mattered most, but she did it all with a smile.  Everyone likes the positive, warm and just plain likeable person…especially when they win.

– The corollary to the above is also true – not everyone will like the arrogant and cocky person, but they will certainly respect them IF they deliver.  Say what you will about Usain Bolt, but there is no doubt that guy delivers.  Flat out amazing.

– Yet again, it is proven that everyone loves Canada.  Who, other than the host country, always gets the loudest ovation at the Opening Ceremonies?  Canada.

For all the obscure events, sappy stories, P&G commercials, and endless pitches for NBC’s fall programing line-up (Matthew Perry anyone?) it has been a great two weeks.  Yes it was all tape delayed, but it is still an amazing thing to see absolute perfection in motion.  The way Bolt runs, Phelps swims, and Douglas flies, or any of the other folks who toil in total anonymity, it is an amazing thing to see.   Thanks for sharing.


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Committed? – The G N’ R Test

As shocking as it might seem, out of that crucible of debauchery known as Guns N’ Roses emerged not just one talented writer, but also a great lesson.  Okay, let’s call it safe that there were several lessons to be learned from the Guns N’ Roses saga.  Megalomania, addiction, personality conflicts, management issues and other classic issues of rock stardom aside, there lies one amazing story of committment, focus and dedication.

It’s So Easy: and other lies by Duff McKagan is actually a really good read.  It is not some self-centered, money grabbing tale of another washed up rock and roller (or politician, executive, sports hero, or whatever) that is out to pad or rebuild their bank account. Of course it is a lot of stories, but what lingered is one incredible story about the conviction and vision it takes to make it to the very pinnacle of your field.  Duff McKagan is more than just the former bass player and current columnist for ESPN, he is also the one that realized and drove home the point that if the band was to really make it, they had to be committed.  Every member had to put the band above everything.  And he relays a great tale of how early on they determined who really had that level of committment.

Now granted, we are talking about a group of guys in the mid 80’s with absolutely nothing to lose.  They were in their early 20’s, living a life without responsibilities, and frankly enjoying all that a city like LA would have to offer someone who embraced the “rock and roll lifestyle”.  But what is interesting is that even in that environment, they had members who were hesitant, who were not willing to take the chance.  When the idea was floated that the band should go on the road for a totally shoe-string, seat of the pants, pile 5 guys in a car west coast tour, 2 of the 5 members hesitated.  The level of risk, the level of committment required was just too much.  2 guys baulked.  Actually 2 guys walked out; they quit rather than stick it out.  2 other guys stepped forward to fill the void…a guy named Steven and a guy named Slash.  And the rest as they say is history.

Amazing really – even with literally everything to gain and nothing to lose, some folks still cannot commit.  It is not a bad thing, everyone has their reasons.  However, when you are putting together a team with the intention of winning, of being the best, of rising to the top of your field, you need folks who share the vision.  You need folks who are committed.  It is not about having folks say they are committed, it is about finding folks who have demonstrated real committment.  Use the G N’ R test – call the verbal bluff and see who will go on the road with you.  Just try to keep all the other rock star issues out of it!

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Lessons of the Fall Classic

Yes its cliché, yes it is a story line that has been over played, but just minutes away from the first pitch, it is a lesson that is worth remembering. And yes, even worth repeating…never give up, never quit, and above all never give up hope. One last tip of the hat to the Cardinals – what a season.

Granted, they have been playing on house money since the end of August, but there is something to be said for that devil-may-care attitude that comes when there is nothing left to lose.  Then again, a franchise with as rich a history as the St. Louis Cardinals knows that they had done it before.  Granted it was 1964, but after closing a 9 1/2 game deficit in September to win the pennant, they bested the vaunted Yankees of Berra, Maris and Mantel in the World Series.  Lessons and confidence, faith and hope can be drawn from what has been done in the past.  It might not have been you, but the success of those that have gone before can be an inspiration; even a validation.

Like many I bash baseball for being a slow game mired in a marathon of a season.  But come the playoffs the boyhood love of the game returns.  And now more than ever I embrace the beauty of the game as it relates to life.  There is no clock, quarters, or arbitrarily imposed limitations.  Each team has an equal number of opportunities.  Each hitter a clean slate when he walks to the plate.  Opportunity abounds.  There are literally no limits to what can be achieved…as long as the game is being played.  It is the ultimate in individual competition and team play.  It takes a team to win, but the batter stands alone.  Squander the opportunity, and you are out.  It is binary, and it is reality.

So thanks to one class organization, one amazing team, a great leader like Larussa, and individuals like David Freese for showing us all what it means to never say die.  Last night was a horrible 7 innings of sloppy baseball, but an epic last 4 innings. And one great call and tribute from Joe Buck…gotta love this video…

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Goals Met, Visions Lost

Beyond Tang, it is hard to say how much manned space flight has really meant to the progress of science, technology, society and the overall human experience. However, it is tough to deny, there was something amazing about the idea of putting men on the moon. I mean really, think that through next time you are outside looking at the night sky. For many a trip to the store is a journey. Driving to Disney is a high point in family memories. Going to Europe – big stuff.  NASA has been putting people in space and safely returning them to earth now for almost 50 years…staggering.

It all ends in a few days. With the landing of Atlantis later this week, the United States and NASA are officially out of the manned space flight business. Who knows what the final tally in cost really is, and there is absolutely no way to calculate a return on the investment made.  Regardless, it is the end of an era. However one might feel about NASA, space flight, budgets and cost, it is the end of something that was special. It was without question a massive success, a source of pride to millions, and one hell of an example for goal setting and achievement.

Goals are a peculiar thing – some folks write them down, some post them on facebook, and now and again a President lays them out for everyone to hear. Public expressions of goals are scary – you literally put yourself on the hook – everyone will know if you succeed or fail. There is no cover and no excuses.  When focus and committment are required, make the goal public.

The converse of the above also holds – not having goals leads to lack of focus, committment and vision.  When a person or organization has nothing to aim for, when there is no goal, it is an absolute certainty that morale, productivity and pride will all suffer.  It has to be tough for NASA, to have accomplished so much, to have achieved such goals, to have been at the forefront of innovation, and know the end is literally just a few days away.  Imagine what could be if only there was a goal.

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Leadership and Vision

To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership — not only on the movie set where I learned it, but everywhere.
— Ronald Reagan

If there is one thing everyone could agree on when it came to Ronald Reagan, the man had vision.  There is no question he had a vision in every leadership role he ever held.  In the Screen Actors Guild, as Governor of California, and as President the man always had a vision of where he was going, and he held to that vision.  As a leader, no one ever questioned his vision.  Obviously many questioned the wisdom of the vision, the wisdom of the journey, the course he had chosen, but no one ever wondered if he had an objective.

Leaders have to be able to translate vision into action.  Not their own action, but action from those they are leading.  Communicating the vision in a way that results in true buy-in is a critical element.  Many leaders can communicate, but it is a special few who can actually hold on to that vision AND see it become a reality.  Selling the idea is one thing; having others take action is an entirely different issue.

As a leader, Reagan was undeniably gifted at outlining his vision and sharing that vision with others.  At its core, the vision never changed.  It was direct, concise, and easily defined.  He had a very unique ability to envision a goal and communicate that vision to a very broad, diverse, and often splintered audience in such a way that his vision became theirs.  He was able to gain buy-in – sometimes very cautious, begrudging buy-in, but buy-in nonetheless.

While grasping and holding a vision is easy in theory, it becomes much harder in the face of adversity.  And that is a fundamental requirement of great leaders – they must hold on to their vision.  Never waver, and never doubt.  It is interesting in a way, the other great leaders of the Reagan Presidency, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, also never wavered; they never doubted.  Opinion pools, protests, challenges, tough times – nothing shook their core vision.  And yet their ability to lead was complimented by their ability to work with others, to build relationships and partners, to find a path that was acceptable to all.

It has been refreshing to hear the stories and read of the celebrations of what would have been President Reagan’s 100th birthday.  Time seems to heal many wounds and temper grudges, even in politics.  Having a vision, holding that vision, and communicating that vision to others – call it the Ronald Reagan gift for all leaders.


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But Everybody Else Is Doing It

Ah, the ultimate in deflection and justification. The stuff of childhood and apparently an accepted part of adulthood in some circles.  Granted there is an ethical piece to going with that excuse, but to many it seems the question is more “will the excuse hold water”?  Will it buy the shadow of a doubt, the sympathy or the forgiveness one seeks?  Or better yet, does it justify the behavior in question, does it make the wrong decision a bit less wrong?  An ethical roll of the dice maybe?  Like any roll of the dice, the unknown is in the outcome.

I could not help but think of that wonderful excuse of childhood when I read the below quote from Floyd Landis:

“But there was no scenario in my mind where I was ever going to get the chance to race the Tour de France and win clean. There was no good scenario. It was either cheat or get cheated. And I’d rather not be the guy getting cheated.”

Granted the Floyd Landis journey has been “interesting”, but I have to admit, his quote in the recent Paul Kimmage interview is telling on a host of levels.  Truth be told, as much as I have never been a fan of the “everybody else is doing it” line of reasoning, I did feel for the guy when I reflected on the above.  On some very real level he has a point.  However, it is the life lesson in that quote that it would be wise of us all to remember.

How much of what is going on around us is really a case of “cheat or get cheated” thinking? Clearly Floyd Landis gave us the example of cycling, but might there be a bit of that in the “financial crisis”? Bankers, lenders, borrowers, brokers…maybe a touch of “but everybody else is doing it” floating around there in the roaring market just a few years back.  And take a moment Sunday when everyone is gathered around that classic American event, the Super Bowl. Might there be one or two guys on that field who have faced that debate of “cheat or get cheated” when it comes to steroids…maybe.

The challenge we all face, as leaders, as parents, and as people, is to ensure we are never creating situations of “cheat or get cheated”. It is not easy. It is sometimes not easy to recognize when we have created such an environment, and it is certainly not easy to acknowledge it when we have. Especially in those cases where everything seems to be moving along nicely. Let’s face it, when revenues are up, times are good, the kids are getting good grades, the money is flowing, who really wants to ask the hard “why”.

As much as any of us hate that classic excuse of a child, the Super Bowl will be one of the most watched events of the year. Are we sanctioning the behaviour and justification of “well everyone else is doing it” by our watching the game? Who knows, but to some degree I will be watching. Unless of course the weather is decent, in which case I will be out on the bike.

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New Days, Not New Years

So here it is, a week into a new year, and the constants of life are everywhere.  The gym is overrun with the “resolutionites”, companies are neck-deep in “kick-off” meetings and conferences, and the annual game of bonus payout and potential job shuffle is in full swing.  Give it six weeks, the gym will clear out, companies will be doing much the same as they did last year, and most folks will have the same jobs in spite of all the dancing.  New Years is such an odd time.  A faux holiday if there ever was one.

Call it a benefit of the holidays and family visitors – the TV was on a bit more than usual.  Not a ton, but a bit.  It does not hurt that it is College Football Bowl season, and NFL playoff time, but that is a side issue.  One of the great benefits of the last few weeks has been catching a rather unique and in a way inspiring commercial from Genworth Financial.  For a holiday that always struck me as a bit odd, the below commercial really brought things into focus.

New Years Day, for all the hoopla, all the parties, all the resolutions and promises, all the hope and the belief that the coming year will be different, is really nothing more than just another day.  But there in lies the beauty of the faux holiday.  I finally get it thanks to Genworth Financial, or at least their ad agency.  All those silly ideals and hopes, dreams and promises I have scoffed at while watching the silliness that is the New Years holiday, is not limited to that day.  It is, in reality, the beauty of every single new day.  Opportunity is everywhere, everyday.

There are 364, and every four years 365, chances to make a change, to start anew.  Waiting for an arbitrary turn of the calendar is foolish.

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It’s a Long Way To The Top…

…if ya wanna Rock and Roll.  Or so said Bon Scott and the boys from Australia.  We often hear from folks who are “ready for something more”, who are “looking to move on to a better role”, to “go to the next level”, and we are huge supporters of growing professionally.  Truth be told – our business depends on it.  However, what is often forgotten is that “moving up” tends to require sacrifice – longer hours, greater demands, relocation, more education, more training, taking the “tough jobs” – paying your dues and delivering results.

Yet again the shuffle option on iTunes served up a mid-day classic.  It is a fun, dated, and basic video and song of the seventies.  In a way it is a timeless reminder of a very real lesson – success takes work.  A lot of work, sweat equity, focus, committment, sacrifice, dedication, and yes even luck.  Even AC/DC can offer up some lyrical wisdom.

You have to be willing to pay the price to reach the goal – whatever the goal might be.  There are no short cuts to the top.  Bagpipes are optional.

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The Dichotomy of Lennon

You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth.
John Lennon

Interesting – we all think of Oprah, The Beatles, and all the other wildly successful entertainers, musicians and artist in the way that they wish to be thought of – benevolent and kind, caring and giving.  However, what we often overlook is that they all posses an unbridled passion to succeed.  To “make it” as John Lennon would say.  And what they ask us to forget is the bastard part.  In doing so a valuable lesson is lost.  Success requires relentless work, focus and drive, as well as a healthy dose of reality – the reality that to a degree you “have to be a bastard to make it”.  Remember – this is John “Give Peace a Chance” Lennon talking.

It is not a contradiction.  In athletes the “killer instinct” is praised.  Michael Jordan was known as the ultimate closer; Kobi Bryant “the assassin”; Lance Armstrong the perfectionist.  We demand it of our athletic champions, yet we do not want to see it or even acknowledge that it just might exist in our entertainers, business leaders and even political leaders.  Dare I say Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for all their public posturing about donating their estates have and had massive reserves of drive and a fair degree of “bastard” in them when it came to their business dealings.

It is not a bad thing having the drive and focus to succeed coupled with the ability to sacrifice and to make the tough, unpopular decisions.  That is the “bastard” trait John Lennon was speaking of from his days with The Beatles.  They had to make tough, cutting, real world business decisions – they had to sacrifice, to work literally thousands of hours, to pour in all they had to become what they became.  It did not make them bad people.  It was business.  Sometimes business and leadership, entertainment and sports, success and achievement requires a bit of the bastard in all of us.  It is not a bad thing.  It is reality.  It is sort of hard to believe – that “bastard” would have been 70 tomorrow.

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The Spirit of St. Louis…Success

Charles Lindbergh, Lucky Lindy, the Spirit of St. Louis. It seems more the stuff of myth than history.  Especially so in our world of instant communication, just in time inventory and air travel for the masses. However, in 1927 the very idea of flying over the Atlantic was fraught with danger.  It had never been done; was considered impossible by many. One man, alone, in a single engine plane did the impossible.  He did it with less than 6 months of planning.  He found financial backers in a midwest town.  Engaged an unknown firm to design and build the plane. Had little to no press coverage, a relatively minimal budget, and no marquee names involved.  It was an absolutely astonishing achievement and an outstanding lesson in business and life.

So what can we learn from a flight that was done over 80 years ago, from a book that was published almost 60 years ago?  Foremost, keep it simple.  Lindbergh’s project checklist was in effect 5 items – a reliable engine, enough gas to get there, a plane that could lift the engine and fuel, a course to steer, and financial backers. Done.  Incredible, and so telling. Think about bringing that thought process back. Everything is so over analyzed. Lindbergh kept it simple, focused on what really mattered, and quite literally scrapped the rest.  No extraneous noise, no distractions.

And the team – what a perfect group.  Lindbergh was the pilot – he dealt with all the plane stuff – make the decisions based on what was required to do the flight. The business leaders and backers in St. Louis, they raised the money and trusted in Lindbergh.  So amazingly simple and so effective.  Trust those on the team to do their job.   And contrast that with the other teams who were competing to be the first to fly the Atlantic.  They built behemoth albatrosses for planes and organizations that were highly political and driven by committees and egos who all fought for credit.  They all failed.

The Spirit of St. Louis” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and is considered a classic tale of aviation and adventure; that alone make it a must read.  However, it is above all a tale of what a person can achieve when they have a dream, a plan, a team, and focus.  It is a lesson for everyone in business, for anyone that has a project to manage, a team to lead, a goal to achieve.  In the end it is a reminder to keep it simple.  Focus on what matters.  Ignore the nay sayers and doubters, the so-called experts and their egos.  Surround yourself with good people – people you trust and who trust you.  Basic, simple, tried and true lessons – lessons for business and lessons for life.

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