Season Returns

Snow covering rolling hills. Flowers blooming in green fields. Sun shining brightly on sand. Leaves falling from maple trees.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. What’s your favorite time of the year?

Mine lasts longer than those… starting the first weekend in September and ending right around 11 p.m. on the second Monday in January. Just thinking about it brings back so much.

Vivid memories of my younger years. The Big Shootout. Whoa Nellie. Woody vs. Bo.

My first career. Pony Express. Liberty Bowls. Midnight Yell Practice.

Wonderful moments. The Play. Hail Flutie. VY in the Rose Bowl (twice).

Today officially begins a new college football season… my 54th as a diehard fan.

There used to be one game broadcast each week – and a team could only be televised a few times each year. Now there are games on most every night Wednesday through Saturday… and sometimes, following three hours of College Game Day, I have three TV’s going plus a couple more clashes streaming on my iPad and iPhone.

Unless of course, I’m in the stadium. Which is where I’ll be at exactly 3:30 p.m. CDT today… following our regular tailgate meal. Look for me. I’m in burnt orange.

That One

In the early days of this coaching business, I gave a lot of talks: Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, good friend’s buddy’s nephew’s classmate’s daughter’s company. Crafting that skill led to opportunities to speak for pay. After each of those the hiring organization sent out surveys to attendees – and my scores were always at the higher end of the scale.

At one event, I spoke to more than 300 people… and 78 turned in their comments. (That was a good response rate in the pre-Survey Monkey era.) The average score was 4.8 out of 5, which the person who hired me said was their best in at least five years. 

Reading through them, I saw a lot of nice platitudes that suggested I had an impact on the audience. Then I came to that one person who gave me a 1… the lowest possible score. Their comments were brutal: “irrelevant topic”… “not related to our business”… “too much sports”… “need to hire professional speakers.” Ouch!

Rather than celebrate all the kind words, I spent at least a month dwelling on this one person’s critique… and I mean dwelling – like taking up residence in the down in the dumps, embarrassed, I’m totally inept hotel. Finally, Kathy said: “You need to let it go. That’s one opinion. Think about all the others who liked you. Move on.”

Feedback is a gift. When you ask for views about your performance, it’s important to receive it openly – without judgment – and, especially, to avoid attempting to counter the other person’s perspective.

While I’m much more mature now than 15 years ago when that one person got under my skin, it still stings to think I’m not always 100 percent a 5. Why just this week, someone shared a comment that made me lean forward and say, “Well, actually…” before catching myself, nodding, and saying: “Thank you.”

Powerful Note

Powerful Note

For the ninth year in a row, I returned to my television roots this month and produced the general sessions and awards celebration for a franchising company. The keynote speaker was Alan Stein, Jr., who works with NBA and college athletes. Here are the highlights of his 60-minute talk – delivered without a single PowerPoint slide!

Full Commitment: Alan asked Kobe Bryant to put him through his typical workout. Kobe: “Sure, we start at 4.” Alan: “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”  Kobe: “4 a.m.” Alan arrived 15 minutes early to make a strong impression. Kobe was already dripping with sweat, having spent 90 minutes warming up. “Kobe wasn’t the greatest player of his era just because of talent. He outworked everyone and never got bored with the basics.”

Strong Habits: Forty-two percent of everything we do is auto-pilot. “We do things either ‘because of’ or ‘in spite of’ our habits.”

Flexibility: “If you’re not agile, you’re fragile.”

WIN: “What’s Important Now.” Stay in the present moment, let go of what just happened and refocus on what’s next. “Always choose a response that moves forward and improves a situation.”

Motivation: Steve Nash was a two-time MVP – and while an exciting offensive player, those skills might not be his greatest contributions to his teams. The Hall of Famer led the League multiple times in ‘emotional deposits’ – high fives, fist bumps, pats on the backside. “Those are just as important to success as scoring and assists.”

Leadership: Put 10 rubber bands on your wrist each morning. Every time you compliment a team member, move one to the other hand. At the end of every day, all of them should have switched positions.

Developing Trust: “It’s not about me. It’s about you… and how I make you feel.” Alan said he met legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski for a few minutes at a practice. Several days later an envelope arrived at his home. It was a thank you note from Coach K. Toward the end of his talk, Alan took a note card out of his jacket and said, “This is that note. It made a tremendous impact on my life.”

When the session finished, Alan handed me a pair of basketball-themed dress socks and a note card: “David: Thank you so much for your amazing help and support… and for being so awesome to work with! Let these socks remind you to ‘be where your feet are’ and live in the present moment. I appreciate you.” That felt really good.

Later I told him that our son had played high school basketball and watched many of his videos. Alan asked for his address. Within a week, Kyle received a similar pair of socks, a hand-written note card and a copy of Alan’s book.

Dream Escape

As I write this, I’m staring at my copy of ‘The Iowa Baseball Confederacy,’ written by W.P. Kinsella in 1986. You might be more familiar with his other novel – ‘Shoeless Joe’ from 1982 – which was inspiration for the film released seven years later: Field of Dreams. Tonight, Major League Baseball plays a game on a new ballpark built adjacent to the historic field.

Perhaps you recall Kevin Costner’s main character, Ray Kinsella, and his unending devotion to following the voices arising out of his cornfield: “If you build it, he will come” and “Go the distance” and “Ease his pain.”

Perhaps you remember his pursuit of the elusive writer Terrence Mann – played by James Earl Jones – and the scene beneath the Fenway Park stands where Ray says “What do you want?” and Mann rants about “I want them to stop looking to me for answers” and several other frustrations before realizing Ray is asking about food from the concession stand.

Perhaps you remember the ‘ghosts’ of Shoeless Joe Jackson and teammates on the Black Sox walking through the outfield corn wall and playing, 70 years after their scandal shook the sports world.

Perhaps you remember Mann’s speech: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Perhaps you remember the ending, when Ray’s young-again father asks, “Is this heaven?” and Ray answers, “It’s Iowa,” then says, “Dad, you want to have a catch?”

What I remember is walking out of the theater and not saying anything the next 15 minutes in the car. For on that hot summer day Field of Dreams became the only movie I ever saw with my father.

Risk Takers

Entrepreneurs who become billionaires took a lot of risks, found huge success, and acquired fortunes that should last for generations. Some people take issue with those roughly 800 Americans (0.0000024 of the population) – pointing out how much greater compensated they are than the employees who actually do the work.

They have a point, as the $112 trillion held by billionaires is more than twice the total wealth of the bottom 50 percent of households combined. Ownership of professional sports teams, $200 million yachts and private island playgrounds reinforce the image of the overpaid, spoiled, out of touch, mostly male, 99% white, elite.

Often, though, those same billionaires do plenty of good for the rest of us: giving to the arts, sponsoring university buildings, funding medical research, contributing locally and nationally to those in need.

Many signed The Giving Pledge to contribute a majority of their wealth to charities upon death, including Warren Buffett, who will (eventually) give away 99% of his net worth. Heck, the cofounder of Duty Free Shoppers – now 90-year-old Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney – took it a step further, giving it all away while living, donating more than $8 billion, which left he and his wife $2 million in their retirement nest egg.

Then there are the three dreamers who envision a new frontier… colonization of faraway places. Richard Branson soared to an altitude of 53 miles on July 11. Jeff Bezos took it further this morning… past the Karman line that divides earth’s atmosphere and space. Elon Musk put down a deposit on Branson’s Virgin Galactic – although he’s said to be staying grounded, focused on reducing space transportation costs.

Exploration is expensive. Columbus’s journey would cost $40 million in today’s dollars. The Mercury-Apollo program totaled $280 billion in 2021 dollars. The U.S. spends $3 billion yearly to support the International Space Station. Yet, exploration may be etched into the core of humanity… dating to the first caveman who decided to cross that flowing stream and see what was on the other side of the hill.

On July 20, 1969 – 52 years ago today – Neil Armstrong took his ‘one giant leap for mankind.’ Years later, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Walter Schirra, who was seated next to Walter Cronkite on CBS for that historic event, wrote: “Moon and back. We did confirm a round trip from the very beginning. And ‘moonandback’ is one word. No hyphens. No commas.”

I know where I was that Sunday at 9:56 p.m. Texas time. Something tells me my yet-to-be-born great grandchildren will watch even more amazing achievements in space.