Tag Archives: owning your decisions

Lance and Big Mac

What an interesting and telling day.   Nike severs ties with (read that as stops paying) Lance Armstrong; Lance steps down from LiveStrong; National League Championship Series comes to St. Louis for a three game stretch. There in lies the irony: sitting on the Cardinals bench as their hitting coach – Mark McQwire.

I so love irony. It just flat-out makes my day.  With the game on in the background, I could not help but smile again about Big Mac being with the Cardinals, not to mention back in baseball. I remember well a few years ago when he joined the team as the hitting coach (clearly he is good at hitting – look at his career and the teams production since 2010 – impressive numbers both). It was a painful press conference as he admitted to using steroids during his career.  Yet, after a few weeks the story of his return to baseball faded and is now not even noticed.

There are things I will remember well, as in “I was there when” or “you should have seen it” national or world event sort of things.  Moments that live in our collective memory.  And two of them are certainly the 1998 home run race and the 1999-2005 Tours.  Yep, what Mark McQwire and Sammy Sosa did for baseball, Lance did for cycling.  It was an absolute blast to watch it happen.  I was entertained and enjoyed every moment of those events.  It was fun and I would not trade any of it; they were moments in time that were just amazing to experience.

Both guys, by the every definition of the word, cheated.  They lied, were evasive, took advantage of banned substances, and generally did things that were against the rules.  They were also insanely gifted, focused, talented and above all students of their craft.  They practiced and trained.  They literally dedicated themselves to being the best at what they did, and it showed.  Lastly, but above all else, they were athletes and entertainers.

If one expects iron-clad perfection and ethical purity from entertainers, politicians, athletes or pitchmen, then they are living in a fantasy world.  There is no such thing as a perfect person, and certainly not when it comes to public figures.  Those guys were fun to watch do what they do.  I am grateful to them. I paid to watch, and they delivered.

There was a saying we had back in my Navy days:  “choose your rate, choose your fate”.  I often think of that as it applies to life in general, and to careers specifically: “choose your profession, choose your concession”.  Mark McQwire said “I wish I had never played in the steroid era“.  I do not know Lance, but I can see him sharing a similar thought when reflecting on his career…someday.  Maybe.

You see, they both made for themselves, their families, their sponsors, their teams, their peers, their industries and even their foundations, a ton of money.  They were literally responsible for the economic well-being of hundreds, if not thousands of others.  The culture of steroids in baseball and dope in cycling was real, known and ignored.  No one said a word, yet we expect something special from an athlete?

Speeding, office supplies, “helping” with your kids homework, chatting at the water cooler; white lies, victimless crimes, corner-cutting.  It literally happens everywhere, all the time.  There is no perfection.  Humans are naturally imperfect.  Embrace what is real, realize the faults in all, and accept that nothing is as it appears in public.  Family and friends are one thing, but realize no one every really sees behind the curtain, and frankly most never really want to anyway.  Athletes are entertainers, not role models.

Doing what everybody else is doing does not make something right, but when it is all around, especially in your professional world; in the place that generates your income, well it has to be hard to take the absolutely pure high road.  All I do know is that I am enjoying the Cardinals playing in another post season series, that I rode my bike earlier today, and that I will watch cycling again in the spring.  It is all just entertainment.

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Making Choices

Citizenship.  The Swearing In Ceremony.  The Oath.  It really is something everyone should see.  Especially those of us who by the fate of birth found ourself a citizen of the United States.  It is a stark and humbling reminder of the lengths people will go to earn what is for many of us a “birth right”.   Above all, it is a room full of people making a choice – a very public and life altering choice.  A choice that is the capstone of an entire life journey full of choices.  The stories in that room had to be amazing.  You could literally see it on the faces – pride, relief, joy, accomplishment.  It was all there.

Something that is taken for granted by so many is so coveted and treasured by others.  It is the stuff of timeless tales.  It is also a much-needed reminder of the gift I was given by my birth, as well as the choices I made every single time I raised my hand to take an oath to serve.  Maybe it is the wisdom that comes with age, but it seems to mean more now.  I am grateful for the reminder to not take things for granted…especially this time of year.

Several generations back some ancestors of mine made a choice – a hard and gut wrenching choice to quite literally bet it all.  They left behind all that was known and jump into the abyss of uncertainty.  But that choice was made based on the promise of what could be, and a core belief that they would make it.  They chose a course…they did not rely on a course that was chosen for them.

I was extremely fortunate to witness some great friends taking their oath of citizenship recently, and I am better for it.  I was reminded of the great fortune to be born a citizen of this country, to have the opportunities afforded me by being a citizen, and above all the freedom to choose.  Those people taking the oath chose to be there.  They loved their choice.  They wanted to be there.  The chance to make choices is arguably one of the greatest gifts granted by freedom.  Making choices, owning those choices, and just having the chance to choose – amazing gifts that are all too often taken for granted – and all too often squandered.

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Leadership and Decision Making

Politics and personal feelings aside, there is no question George W. Bush’s Decision Points is worth reading. Yes, a sentence with something positive and “W” together – not something that was seen too terribly often over the last several years.  It is frankly “easy to read”.  It covers a period which we all have quite vivid memories of while addressing some very real events – 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, Afghanistan, the elections of 2000 and 2004 and a variety of other topics.  It does not preach, defend or pontificate – it just is.  However, at its core the book is about making decisions.

Making decisions is absolutely one of the key components of leadership, yet it is something that is all too often overlooked. There are countless books, seminars, training programs and experts who espouse on such catchy leadership themes as “empowering”, “inspiring”, or “mentoring” yet very few ever discuss the reality that leaders must make decisions.   There is no stopping events…things as they say, will happen with or without decisions being made.  By their very nature, decisions are quite often difficult, divisive, and leave at least someone feeling left out or disregarded.  But make no mistake – leaders have to make decisions.

Decision Points is actually an easy read – it flows, it does not get bogged down in wordy prose or an attempt to polish history. It discusses in often frank terms the reality of making decisions. Decisions often based on less than perfect information, in a very stressful situation, in which there is no easy answer. Yet decisions had to be made, and in the end only one person could make the decision. That one person happened to be the President.  He was, like it or not, the leader.

It is a harsh and true reminder to all – leaders have to make decisions.  It will not be easy, not everyone will be happy, the information will not be perfect, and the results will likely not be exactly what you want, but decisions have to be made.  They can be avoided, made by committee, put-off, or maybe even delegated, but in the end a decision will be made.  Events will continue to evolve.  Leadership is about a lot of things, and one of them is decision-making.  And like many of the facets of leadership, decision-making is a lonely thing.  Leaders own their decisions, and even their lack of decisions…ultimately.

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The Perfect Call

By now everyone has heard the story – the blown call on the final out of the perfect game. Armando Galarraga had faced and retired 26 batters. No walks, no hits. Perfection. Bottom of the ninth, 2 outs and a routine ground ball and a flip to first – it was done – only the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  Then First Base Umpire Jim Joyce made the call as he saw it – the runner was safe and the perfect game gone.

We live in a world of instant feedback, of constant information, of second guessing and 20/20 hindsight.  It is an instant replay world, and instant replay told the story Wednesday night – a young man had his perfect game taken from him.  Make no mistake, Jim Joyce blew it.  However, from that moment forward, we have seen the best of human nature in both Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.

Neither denied what happened, nor did they shy away from the issue.  Armando Galarraga took the high road right off – he accepted the call and moved forward.  He retired the next batter and won the game.  No theatrics, no fits, no drama.  The Tigers won the game, Galarraga notched another victory and everyone moved forward.  He did not attack Jim Joyce for doing his job and making a call as he saw it.  He was mature and professional.  He was also disappointed, but never did he lose his composure.

Thank you Jim Joyce.  You stepped up, owned the call, and more importantly owned the mistake that was made.  Above all you did the hardest thing – you sought out Armando Galarraga and delivered your apology in person, with contrition and heartfelt sincerity.  Jim Joyce went from villan to hero in 24 hours.  There is a massive lesson there for all of us.

They have both been an example of perfection in an imperfect world.  Maybe the game will not go down as a perfect game, but rest assured the behaviour of Jim Joyce and Armando Galaraga will.

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