Wednesday, March 30, 2011

4 Stories from the Final 4 - Part 3

I loved the movie, He Got Game. Spike Lee's gritty production, extraordinary basketball knowledge, and the story of reality off the court. The Movie's subject, Jesus Shuttlesworth, grew up in Coney Island, NY. He is a well-trained, pure shooter with discipline to accompany his God given talent. Named after Earl the Pearl Monroe, he did not disappoint his namesake.

He Got Game is a story of growing up amid massive adversity with only one place to escape: The Basketball Court!

UConn's Kemba Walker is the modern day Jesus Shuttlesworth - a well-trained, pure shooter with discipline to accompany his God given talent. Kemba went off in the Big East tournament with the aforementioned film maker at court side. Giving the people of the Bronx a local hero to look up to. His lowest point total in March had been 18 and has been over 30 on 5 occasions this month.

Spike Lee wrote He Got Game for kids like Kemba Walker. He found art amid the madness of the street he grew up on. When the basketball was in the air time froze and everything was OK for 3 seconds. He took the weight of his neighborhood on his shoulders...a man of the people representing them on the world's biggest stage.

So the kids with blunts in their ears hopped back of the A Train after watching Kemba drop 33 on the boys from upstate. Proud as hell because for 3 hours everything was OK. There's a kid out there that they know. Performing on the world's biggest stage....They will look through bar windows in the Bronx to watch Kemba play on Saturday. Prideful of their environment but not beholden to it.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

4 Stories from the Final 4 - Part 2

Mark 'mad dog' Madsen, Tom Tolbert, Bill Laimbeer - we all love the hard driving big man on the basketball court. Not just because of of their contradiction to the more elegant athletes out there, but because they make us feel like we can do it too. Guess what, we can't. The shooters, passers and strategic rebounders all have their designated spot on the roster. If you are a 'garbage man', like the 3 aforementioned clumsy heroes, your job is far more difficult. Get out there, throw some elbows, dive for the loose ball, grab a rebound and intimidate the opponent's star player from taking the big shot. These guys may look inelegant in the process but they can save their team the 6 to 8 points that make the difference in the game.

Introducing Josh Harrellson. The University of Kentucky's rebounding, shot blocking, elbow throwing, clumsy hero! Another inductee into the crazy white guy hall of fame. Against Ohio State, Harrellson busted his eye open and endured. Against North Carolina, He hit the deck hard and got up to charge his opponent. He is unfiltered, raw, and the embodiment of competition.

There are those in life who are naturally gifted. They have an ability that works at a higher level than the rest of us. My guess is that the game of basketball has not come naturally to Josh Harrellson. He worked and worked and continues to work. Where others see their future in the NBA in the court's reflection; Josh Harrellson see his blood, sweat, and tears. It is one thing to come out to the job knowing you are bigger, faster, or stronger than your opponent. It is something much different knowing you do not possess God Given ability...and that you have to make up for it with hard work and determination.

We love amateur athletics because of the spirit the players bring to the game. It is not a job, it is still a labor of love. When Josh Harrellson dives into the stands he does so not to earn points on the NBA scouting report but to earn an opportunity to play another game.

What a appreciate the opportunity and to work hard every day to keep it!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 28, 2011

4 Stories from the Final 4 - Part 1

My wife is elated because there is a mere 3 games left in College Basketball season. (she fails to remember that the NBA playoffs are 2 months long). I always tell her that the game is more than sweaty dudes bumping into each other....every team has a story. So in the week leading up to The Final Four, DFTR will look at 4 stories from those competing this weekend. Forward the stories to your wives, they may be more sympathetic to your cause.

I can roll up on any Basketball court in my town and ask the shorties if they have heard of Dr. James Naismith. Odds are they have not. Basketball has evolved as a super show of athletic grace. The fundamentals and tradition are often left to play second fiddle to the awesome power and expertise of the men and women who have spent their lives practicing for their 'one shining moment'.

In 2011, we have digressed (or progressed). Shaka Smart and and the Virginia Commonwealth University squad have executed basketball in it's most fundamental form. Coach Smart spends every minute of the game on his feet, practically on the court with his players; calling offensive sets and preparing the defense. His players are smaller and less skilled but his system is consistent and reliable.

In a recent UPS commercial Geno Auriemma compares the game of basketball to shipping logistics. Five players moving in separate directions (and a ball moving in another). Coach Auriemma's contention is that we only cheer when the ball goes into the basket. We miss the logistics of what gets the players up the court, the players into position, and the ball up in the air.

Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams wear their logistics are their sleeve. You can see the game taking shape. The team plays together for the purpose of getting the ball in the basket. They Stick to the system, knowing it will produce points. The discipline is hyper-focused. Their bigger, faster, stronger opponents have moments of running them over in a charge to the basket. Over the course of the game, the system wins.

We all love a Cinderella story. There has never been a play-in 11 seed in the Final Four. This is truly the David to any Goliath.

Where the system has helped VCU best the uber-athletic Georgetown and Kansas, they now face the fundamentally sound Butler Bulldogs. Can the system prevail?

No One knew who Shaka Smart was 3 weeks ago. But, you would not know that from the way he has purported himself and his team. He is energetic on the floor, articulate in his interviews, a sharp dresser, and an impassioned leader. You would assume that he has been there before....which is why he is there.

VCU could have taken enough pride in getting their small school into the tournament. They could have marveled at the bright lights and enjoyed a few head turns in tournament town. They chose, however, to cease the opportunity. Knowing this might be a one shot deal, they defied the statistics and relied on the logistics.

Coach Smart came at every team they played with a self-assurance. This is how great things are done in defiance of convention. To practice well, play hard, and find a differentiator. That, and to know no better than to believe IT CAN BE DONE!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, March 24, 2011


"Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude"
- Harvey "Joe" Henderson

This quote resonated with my friends and I as we pumped Public Enemy on our way to our favorite skateboarding spot. It was a Hilti distribution center outside of Detroit, MI - just off Freedom Road.

I've opposed the trend of Generational Diversity because I find it confining. But, I can't seem to get away from it. I guess my hypocrisy keeps life interesting.

Today on the Howard Stern show. The elder statesman host gave a young upstart some advice. John Suscovich is leaving the staff at the greatest show on Earth to ride his bike around the world. Mr. Stern advised the young man that this idea was "ape shit crazy". John being grateful for the sage-like advise from the King of All Media nodded, smiled, and thanked Howard for the opportunity. Well played John!

What Howard doesn't understand is that the world doesn't work the way it did in when he was holed up in a Detroit Motel room waiting for his next radio show. John Suscovich appreciates the opportunity but he is not bound by it. I love the old school work ethic of the baby boomers but the angst comes from generational miscasting. I am of Generation X and even when I got out of college I rushed to the first company that would employ me....grateful for the opportunity, ready to work my way up the ladder.

Times have changed - Deal With It!

There is a pivotal scene in the movie "The Social Network" when the Dean of Harvard advises the Winklevi that at Harvard they create their own careers. That is inspiring advice. I wish someone would have given me that perspective. I didn't know I had the option of creating my own company and selling it to Google. Howard Stern, at the time he graduated BU, simply didn't have that option. So...we look upon the young with a sense of jealously and say - "there is no future in riding a bike".

"It's not about the bike"
- Lance Armstrong

I wonder if my grandfather wishes he didn't spend every day of his working life in the Iron Ore mines of upstate Minnesota? I bet he would have shaken his head at my pink shirt. He probably would have been in disbelief that a social network would be worth 20 billion dollars as well.

We have to be honest with ourselves. If we worked at our own pace, maintained our health, did not have to punch a clock, and made twice as much as we did today ~ that would be awesome! Freedom of schedule and work/life balance are nothing to be envious of. There are something to be admired.

If you ground your hands down to put food on the table, that is something to be proud of. If you came up with an idea and were given a million dollars for it, that is something to be proud of.

We are free to live the life we wish to. Some of us just choose to do the safe thing!

Don't Forget to Remember


Monday, March 21, 2011

Half Nelson

"Once You've Wrestled, Everything in Life is Easy"
- Dan Gable

This weekend, while my brackets were imploding, I turned my attention to the NCAA Wrestling Finals. Having spent a good part of my life in this sport, I can tell you that nothing is harder than wrestling. You use every muscle in your body for seven minutes, conditioning is crucial. Wrestlers also take on a strenuous dieting regiment. Winning a wrestling tournament means facing 3 to 6 opponents in a day ~ tired and under-nourished. There is nothing harder.

In High School just making the state wrestling tournament is a lifetime achievement. If you earn a spot on a college roster, you are among an elite group of top performers from across the world.

So you've conditioned and dieted. You've won a few tournaments as a youth. You best five people just to make a spot on the Varsity team. You wrestle 50 matches a year and need to win 90 percent of them to get a spot at the top of your weight class. The odds of competing at this level in High School are at least 1000 to 1. Once you get to college it is 50 times harder. Imagine the life long dedication of the people on the mat this weekend in Philadelphia. To have sacrificed many of the joys of youth to develop an extraordinary self-discipline. To train until you fall over and to get up and train some more.....then imagine doing this with just one leg?

Arizona State's Anthony Robles won the 125 pound National Championship with just one leg. Anthony was born with just one leg but his Mother never allowed him to think of himself as different. While dunking a basketball or running a 40 yard dash were not an option, wrestling was. So Mrs. Robles allowed her son to find his place in the world and now he has his place in the NCAA Record Book!

As I look back on my wrestling career, I remember wimping out on several occasions. Lacking the dietary discipline, skipping a work out to be with my girlfriend. When you are 16 these things are to be expected. As I have evolved into an adult the default of complaints still loom. I can always find a reason not to do something. Seeing Anthony Robles, conquer one of the world's toughest challenges with just one leg made me feel like a real wimp! How could I ever make an excuse knowing that Anthony is out there, competing at the highest level, without complaint.

There are 2 keys to Anthony's Success:
He Didn't Let Set Backs Define Him
He Found His Thing

1st Choice
Every day, we wake up and choose who to be. The traffic can annoy us. The inbox can intimidate us. A phone call can set us off course. Most of us have the ability to transcend all of that. We just choose not to.

Human Beings process over 10,000 thoughts a day and 80% of them are negative. Why do we choose to defeat ourselves? Anthony Robles, had the set back of being born with just one leg but the advantage of a positive attitude. Because his mother did not allow him to feel sorry for himself he developed an advantage over everyone else. He never developed the ability to complain.

2nd Choice
I once knew a guy who wanted to be a stand up comedian. The problem was he wasn't funny. He dedicated his life to the craft, he worked harder than anyone else in the business, but he didn't possess the essential skill of the craft. If you are not funny, you simply cannot be a comedian.

Most of us are miscast. We choose a career in finance because we are good at math or go into the family business by default. That's why 80% of our thoughts are negative because we are doing things we don't want to do. We cripple ourselves by making safe career choices without considering our passion.

I have been blessed with the competing skill sets of creativity and fierce determination. I have found a career that allows me to celebrate both traits. For this, I consider myself a success. Most people are not lucky enough to have a job that celebrates their strengths. Most people accept a job, they don't create a career. Most people are unhappy because they choose to be.

Anthony Robles had to make a decision based on his limitations and now he's a National Champion.

You don't have to do anything. So why wouldn't you do what you want!

Stop making excuses and start making choices!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 14, 2011

When You Were Young

Last night I watched the Fab Five documentary on ESPN. It was a tear jerker. I went to High School in Michigan during the University of Michigan's greatest recruiting effort. These five basketball players were our age, they were amazingly talented, and they were not taking any BS from anyone. Fresh out of High School they got on to the hard court and beat the crap out of the Seniors who had been on the big stage for 4 years.

For the first time in our lives, My friends and I had comrades who were changing the world. If they could do it, we could too. We, like them, were cocky and full of life! It was an amazing time in my life....young and full of hope!

And so we revisit the Generational Phenomena in the workplace: The tired generalization that Gen Y is an entitled group without discipline. The Fab Five were held to similar stereotypes of Generation Y...Full of Talent, lacking discipline.

I teach Human Relations courses through Dale Carnegie University. My latest group of students includes a Fab Four entrepreneur group in the Computer Programming world. I am enamored by their uncompromising drive to conduct their professional lives by their own rules. They navigate their careers with a chip on their shoulder with the same confidence that the Fab Five had when they took the court. I remember that point in my life and how great it felt to be untethered by the regulations of the 'more senior' workforce.

The questions surface:
Do You Wish to Lead your Millennial Superstars to Success?
Do You Wish to Regulate the Motivation of your Millennial Superstars?

Allowing Awesome
At Harvard, MIT, and other elite educational institutes; the purpose is to create a career not qualify for a job. These institutes have empowered the young upstart geniuses who grew up with their heads in computer monitors. The premise: why would you want to work for someone who you are smarter than? Awesome Question and one that fuels the motivation of the young.

Why not change the world instead of fitting into it?

The Leadership Perspective
Most organizations have a logical formula for success. Put people in positions to navigate a system that will produce results. Makes those who are of the stability mind frame. However, the systematic development model is a prison to the creative minds that will soon run our country. Bless Them!

If you wish to curtail are a Manager not a Leader!

Generation Y is not an entitled generation! They simply have greater potential than we do...end of story! They are less programmed for predictability. This should be celebrated!

Let's Celebrate!
You know if you see the 'new girl' as a threat and she knows that you wish to categorize her motivation..."slow down, your making us look bad". Lame!

When I was young I thought I wanted to climb the corporate ladder. I did what I was told, made my numbers, and completed every task on time....only to receive more tasks. I was miscast in an organization that lacked the ability to utilize my strengths. I wanted to do everything....they wanted me to do nothing. I wish someone, anyone, would have told me to create something instead of advising me to 'slow down'.

I hope I never stop moving forward. I hope the youngsters in this world keep me practicing. I am 100 times more motivated by the young than the old. My direct and extensive experience has given me no reason to think otherwise. Sorry....

Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Hsieh and Blake Mycoskie have shown us that motivation does not need a predetermined system of efficiency. That if we choose to categorize, we limit ourselves. That the gift of creativity is what makes companies great.

The Age of Predictability is Over! Generation Y will take over much quicker than Generation X has. Your position at the negotiating table may change much quicker than you think...

You Better Get on The Bus!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Quick Guide to Communication

I have the pleasure of serving the Dale Carnegie Training Institute as a Graduate Assistant. We help individuals develop their human relations skills through public speaking and interpersonal communication.

There are 3 distinct hurdles to communication:

When introducing a topic it is best to set a scene as if you were a narrator. Paint a picture, tell a story.

Don't start a story or speech with "so...this way, like, 3 years ago...".

Bring us into your painting and walk us through it with graceful elegance.

The need to transition from one idea to another is part of giving a speech, presentation, or simply talking on a conference call. This is called a segue way. As your thought processing shifts you will naturally say " or ahh...".

It is extremely difficult to self-analyze your flow of communication. In Dale Carnegie's Presentation Skill Building, we video tape speakers and help them break down their process. It is understandably painful to watch.

Not everyone has a video camera but try to become aware of your communication process. Navigate your segue ways with a pause...silence is golden!

By eliminating so, um, and instantly enhance your credibility!

Think about the people who have inspired you. They most likely speak with confidence, conviction, and passion. It doesn't matter if you are talking about the culinary arts, fashion or cold fusion. If you have a strong flow of ideas that work in smooth syncopation you will be valued as an expert.

You should take up every opportunity to practice your communication style. You will likely never see the person next to you on the plane again. 20 minutes after take off, strike up a conversation and practice your process.

You should take up every opportunity to speak publicly. Go to toast masters, enroll in a Dale Carnegie course or give your insight at a town hall meeting.

You should arrange a speech by the following process:
Introduction - paint a picture
Body - have bullet points in mind
Conclusion - deliver a moral

It is really important to practice before a speech but deadly to memorize a speech. Never memorize a speech word for word. Know your bullet point topics and talk around them. Think of a speech in terms of a PowerPoint presentation. Segue way from slide to slide with grace and speak to no more than 3 bullet points per slide (sub-topics).

Do not get caught up in detail. Do not get side traked by foot notes. Every audience is a novice to your Mind...allow them a peek without drowning them in your every thought development.

Pocket Guide:
1. Paint a picture (right away)
2. Be aware of your segue ways
3. Eliminate so, um and aaa
4. Deliver your ideas with syncopated passion
5. Rehearse but don't memorize

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 7, 2011

The A Word

"we don't use that word"...the young man across the table from me retorted as if I had insulted his family. This, a response from the Generation Y upstart who had asked me for 'career advice'. His encouragement halted when I told him that he needed to develop a 'system of personal accountability'.

Generational Motivation has been a hot work place topic of late. At times unfair in it's generalized presentation and beaten to oblivion on the conference circuit.

Today we will simplify Generational Diversity down to one word:

Otherwise, know as The A Word....

There are two sides of Accountability:
1. The offense at the binding nature of The A Word
2. The offense at the offense of the distaste of The A Word

We don't like that word...
As our conversation evolved, the young man explained to me that his distaste for the A Word was a result of uninvited entitlement. Since he came into the workforce he had been barraged by company veterans cornering him with advice about 'how things are done around here'. He didn't ask for the advice, he found the nature of the advice to be binding, and he thought those giving the advice were trying to regulate him rather than encourage him.

Can you blame him for having a distaste for the word every elder statesman presented as a right of passage?

Uphill both ways in the snow...
As time endures, facts become more distant and legends grow. Every 'more experienced' team member will tell you one of the following things:
* I was number 1 in the company in (pick a date)
* Back in my day, we didn't choose our benefits, we were thankful to have a job
* You cannot win without having a system of accountability

Everyone gets to a point in their career (and life for that matter) when they want to give back. They see young people and are inspired by their energy and optimism. Often, the advice they choose to give is in an effort to help young people avoid making the mistakes that they did.

Can you blame a 30 year company veteran for wanting to share her knowledge in an effort to extend a legacy?

Are we really so different?
If I hear another speaker tell me that Gen Y is tech savvy and entitled I am going to puke!

Business is evolving through technology. Having a more efficient operating system means we commute less and spend less time at the water cooler. We get things done faster and we have more time to do things we actually enjoy. Because of this we enjoy work more!

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game!

We are all distinctly great at certain things. Our age is not of consequence. What is of consequence is the Corporate Culture that we grew up in. There was a time when micro-managing was more prevalent, employees were held to strict hours and professional attire was not optional. That time has gone and we are no less productive.

The 'kid' who sat across from me listened to my advice. He felt better about asking for it than having it force fed to him. He also knows that his expectations for himself are far greater than those of his company.

In Conclusion:
a. Don't go assuming tenure gives you license to spread your industry knowledge.
b. Humbly accept guidance when it is given.
c. You can be accountable without being threatened (if only to yourself).

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Winning - Part 2

Earlier this week I introduced you to my friend, Charlie, a man of conviction. Charlie is a competitor, a man of purpose, far from a passive observer. He fancies himself a winner!

What's your definition of Winning?

You may have been brought up as an athlete, as I was. We were taught that in order to win we needed to be bigger, faster and stronger. Our preparation coupled with tireless effort would earn us a spot on the medal podium. It's different in work...isn't it?

There are rules in sports: Hurting your opponent is generally frowned upon and sportsmanship is always a code to live by. On a football field, however, you can smash into another human being with reckless abandon. Try that at work and you will be fired.

As professionals, we are forced to navigate a fine line between competition and collaboration with the ultimate goal of Winning! Along with our preparation and effort comes the need for a certain amount of tact. Some call it playing the game, others call it sucking up. I have won a lot of trophies in my day, none for politicking.

So we face the conundrum:
Why Can I Not be Recognized for my Effort Alone?

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just show up, work, and win. Wouldn't it be great if we could just perform, without judgement, and be compensated accordingly. Our need to compete often blurs our genuine intent. We are used to recieving points when we score but if you shoot, score and no one notices...did you really score?

With this in mind, we then seek an audience through which to showcase our effort. We wait to shoot until the boss is looking (a natural human action created by a need for validation). We want to impress our employer and to be patted on the back.

What if that didn't matter?

Picture yourself on a football field with no crowd in the stands. You are sprinting, cutting, catching, and tackling. The only one who can see the scoreboard is YOU. I like that premise. If when you walk into the sunset you have a sense of fulfillment, knowing that you have done all you can to make your company better today, you are a winner!

That's my definition of WINNING! The ability to look in the mirror, look at your children, hug your sweetie, and know that you have served them well today.

When we lose, we traditionally look for someone to blame, but we could always have done more. In reality, work is not a team sport! YOU have to empower yourself to be accountable in defeat and humble in victory. You always have to be the bigger person ~ To give credit to others when you win and to accept blame when you lose. That, my friends, is.....


Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Has this man lost his mind? If he has what does that mean to you?

The verdict is still out...there are those concerned with his well being and others who really want to see him fail. This man with Adonis DNA, Tiger Blood and an addiction to WINNING may be in the throws of a nervous breakdown. He has admitted to smoking multiple rocks of cocaine, devising a plan to build a porno island and paying large sums of money to multiple hookers for the purposes of having a full audience in his home theater to watch Apocalypse Now.

There are uprisings in the Middle East, young Americans dieing, our economy is in the toilet and I have the nerve to write about Charlie Sheen?'re dam right I do!

The Gentleman who romanced Ferris Bueller's sister has managed to do one of two things:
* Fooled the world (if temporarily) that he is clean, sober and addicted to WINNING
* Quit smoking rock cold turkey and has been reborn by his own set of rules

Either way, I find his bravado-filled tyraids equal parts hilarious and inspiring!

"...Categories are far too terrestrial..."
The musings of a mad man or an invalidation of the need for statistical evidence prior to action?

The Celebrity world lives by a process:
1. Success
2. Drugs
3. Rehab Hollywood you are practically a failure if you have reached your 30's without rehab. What if Charlie Sheen is right? Bill W had a disease, he does not...he feels that he cheapens Bill W's cause by pretending to be sorry for having fun.

Do we all have to be at the end of our rope to over-consume in the off season?

There is a man at the local pub that sits at the end of the bar inviting debate. Many label him the Village Idiot. His musing based on countless literary conquests make as much sense as anything I've heard from a corporate CEO. Charlie Sheen's laser focused vision statement makes as much sense as anything Tony Robbins ever said.

Convention ties us up, we are obligated to be polite and we dismiss the insight of a drug addict as insanity....what if we're wrong? What if everything we pretend to know is not knowledge at all? Is being polite an innovative strategy or a cop out? Why be embarrassed to sit with the Village Idiot?

I don't know Emilio's step brother and I am sure I would be creeped out by his self destructive behavior. No one reserves the right to squander their potential! But, I admire his courage - It is difficult to fight the battle every day after 45 years on Earth. He IS a Warrior!

How do you define WINNING?

Don't Forget to Remember!