Will and Passion

March 31, 2009

Two days ago, 60 Minutes aired an interview between Steve Croft and LeBron James.  Much of the attention before, on promos run during the NCAA March Madness games just prior, and after focused on James sinking a 1-handed shot from half court in one take.  While that was quite remarkable given the apparent ease with which he flipped the shot in, I was struck more by an exchange between Croft and James a few minutes earlier.  Croft asked him what the most important part of his game was.  LeBron’s response: “the way I approach the game mentally.”  This apparently surprised Croft who called it “an unusual answer”.  I would argue that no one should be surprised by that answer: those at the top (in sports but probably most professions) have a talent set way above average, but they also want it more.
Around the same time the 60 Minutes interview was airing, Tiger Woods was coming from behind at Bay Hill to win his first PGA match post-surgery layoff.  Not only winning, but dropping in a long putt on the final hole to do so.  He’s an unbelievably talented golfer, but I think his passion and will to win put him over the top time and again.

In his 60 Minutes interview with the late Ed Bradley in March of 2006, Tiger said “I love to compete.  That’s the essence of who I am.”  Asked to clarify, Tiger explains that if he and Bradley were playing cards “right now”  that he’d “want to kick your butt.”  Bradley asks: “You’d want to win?”  Tiger: “No, I want to kick your butt.  There’s a difference.”

Before there was LeBron, the NBA was dominated by Michael Jordan.  His philosophy: “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.  And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.”   Sound familiar?  Note the use of the word “will”.  Living in Chicago in the late 80’s and 90’s, I saw many key games come down to a remarkable finish with Michael willing his team to victory.

Final sports quote of this post: “You can’t put a limit on anything.  The more you dream, the farther you get.”  This one from another Michael, Phelps – the Golden Boy of the 2008 Summer Games.

While most of us do not have the physical or other gifts that could make us literally #1 in the world in our chosen professions, channeling the will and desire of the very best is what we need to keep in mind.  Find/pursue your passions, keep Michael P’s Big Dreams quote in mind, and don’t limit yourself.


Accentuate the positive!

March 23, 2009

I’ve been following the mainstream media (MSM) news coverage less and less these days.  Too much focus on negativity, celebrity culture, and attack politics.  A few examples from today’s morning lead stories (national):

  1. A plane crash in Montana.
  2. An economic story with a “will any of this really work” tone to the interview questions.
  3. Investigative report on banks using corporate jets, more to follow on longer report tonight (boy, can’t wait for that!)
  4. “Smiley Face” killer story; no update on who it might be, just a revisit of story and interview from nearly a year ago.

(Local):

  1. Fatal crash involving cyclist from last night.
  2. Prison guard on trial for sex crimes.
  3. U of WI and Marquette both lose in NCAA tournament play.

Some positive stories or angles with potential positive spin, that either weren’t covered or were buried several pages in:

  1. UW women’s hockey team wins 3rd national championship in 4 years – is on p. 8 of the local sports pages.
  2. Retief Goosen wins first PGA event in nearly 4 years (p. 8 of sports as well).
  3. Find information and cover companies that are succeeding in tough times.  They’re out there (hint: don’t just follow big business and public firms).
  4. Cover weather when it’s not just storms wreaking havoc.  How about a list of Top 10 picks of places with great 7-day advance forecasts?
  5. Local examples of companies, schools, community services that are making a positive difference.  Again, they’re out there, let’s hear more about them.

Thomas Friedman wrote an op-ed piece in NYT this weekend, “Are We Home Alone?”, where he puts forth a call to action to leaders to inspire more positive energy.  He quotes Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, “Laws tell you what you can do.  Values inspire in you what you should do.  It’s a leader’s job to inspire in us those values.”  We need our leaders, at all levels, to inspire more.

Life is not always a bed of roses and I’m not advocating that we ignore the significant problems and challenges facing us these days.  However, I think we need more leaders with the courage to speak out about what’s working and stop hiding behind attack politics and the blame game.  To me this includes the media.  Much of MSM will likely stay the path of negative, sensationalist stories because they’ve convinced themselves that this sells.  Why don’t some within MSM take it upon themselves to go a different, positive direction – set the lead, stop following!

Finding fault and criticizing others is easy to do.  Figuring out what works, playing to our strengths, and staying on task related to ideals that really matter is harder but worth it in the long run.  All of us can help drive positive change if we start thinking about the positive changes we can affect in the world.  Stop watching and reading the MSM negative stories is a start; read and link others to positive ideas and thoughts online; help and encourage others around you; do some volunteer work; teach a kid a new skill; mentor a new co-worker; etc.

As I type this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks where the barista is greeting customers with “have a marvelous  Monday!” – on a rainy day no less.  We need more of that type of attitude right now.


Focus on What Matters

March 20, 2009

Today Eric Ries posted thoughts on building “companies that matter” on his Lessons Learned blog. This is a specific application of something I think we all need to spend more time on these days: focusing on what matters.  Ultimately we all have to determine what matters most to each of us and there are usually multiple things that matter in different facets of our lives.  However, in this world of information overload, continual mainstream media sensationalism and negativity, “transparency” that blurs the lines between personal and private, and on and on it’s easy to lose track of what matters.

If you get confused or wonder where to start, how about at the end?  That is, what do you want it to say on your gravestone?  I doubt it’s “reads and responds to lots of e-mail”, “great with Twitter”, “writes great ad pieces” . . .  My advice, first think about what you want your family and friends to say about you – would they say what you want?  Then, your co-workers and customers – would they say what you want and more importantly would the customers and co-workers agree?  If you’re getting honest yes answers to these questions, then you’re probably focused on what matters.  If not, restart, recharge, and think more about the big picture.


Quality v Quantity

March 12, 2009

I was going to title this “Best & Worst of Internet are the Same”. In other words, the breadth/quantity of the info at our fingertips these days is amazing but sifting through it for what matters to you (quality as defined by user) can be daunting. Even with the best search tools as your guide. However, I decided that this is also true about more than just the Internet (the first search entry on quality v quantity doesn’t even mention the Internet and sex is high on the list of items discussed).

Part of what prompted my current thought on the topic is trying to keep up with the endless stream of tweets on Twitter (e.g. over 20 in the last hour from at least 13 different people/sources and I’m only “following” 88). While there are great snippets of info & links here, even some of the “thought leaders” have random musings that clutter the feed. That said, I’ll still take the quality of what’s there weighed against the downside of quantity overload. To me it’s about constantly broadening the scope of who, what, and how you’re listening/gathering information and using the continually improving search tools and your own critical thinking skills to refine and go deeper on what adds value for you.

Readers can judge the quality of this post; to stay quantity light, I will end here.