Modest Proposal

With the nation days away from what President Obama called ‘Economic Armageddon,’ the sides negotiating a solution seem destined to raise the debt ceiling and ‘kick the can down the road’ until after the 2012 election. It appears his request that we ‘eat our peas’ might not happen. (Of course, as the NFL proved yesterday, hard deadlines tend to inspire quick resolutions to challenging disagreements… so stay tuned.)

During a coaching session this morning, a client asked for my thoughts on the deadlock among House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House. “It’s sad we’ve come to this point,” I said. “You would think there would be a sense of statesmanship for finding common ground, giving on some positions and resolving differences.” His reply made me think.

“It’s the fable of the scorpion and the frog playing out,” he said. “Our elected leaders are willing to stand on ideological ground – even if it means catastrophe – then shrug their shoulders and say, ‘What did you expect? You knew we were politicians when you elected us.'”

I believe there is a solution to change that attitude: term limits. Six years for the president, eight years for a senator, four years for a representative. No reelection campaigns. No additional fundraising. Work everyday you’re in office to make things better… and go get a job afterward. That’s how it works for Boards in the charitable world; do your time and move on for fresh ideas and new energy. (Key: Stagger the first few years so everyone doesn’t leave at once, then keep it in place for, say, a few centuries.)

While I’m not a Constitutional Law expert, I’m guessing Congress would have to pass this bill and the president would need to sign it. There’s probably a better chance of them agreeing to tax hikes and deficit reduction in the next seven days than that happening. Of course, every sweeping change throughout history started with someone asking, “Why does it have to be this way?”


Clear Understanding

In 2007, the president of an energy company that engaged me to coach one of their senior executives asked what year we started this business. When I told him 2003, he said, “I believe it takes 10 years to master a craft; you’ve got a ways to go.” At the time I recall thinking he was overstating the education process, or I was far ahead of his learning curve. Now I realize he was right on the mark. I’ve gained more knowledge in the past 18 months about how to best serve clients than I did in the previous six years, let alone the 23 years I spent in other careers.

That’s one reason I spent Memorial Day weekend rewriting our Web site. The first time around in ’03, I created nice prose that sounded pretty good; however, I really didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to explaining the value clients receive from working with us. Three years ago when we updated it the first time, my thoughts were closer to the actual target, although still more style than substance.

I actually committed to this project 13 months ago – and sat down several times to start the process. Yet the words never appeared on my monitor, regardless of how hard I tried to force them… so I set it aside and moved on to things that seemed more urgent. Last week, the inspiration appeared out of nowhere and the words flowed easily from my fingertips.

Three lessons here: 1) If it’s been awhile since your last Web site (or marketing materials) update, you’re likely a lot smarter, so you may want to consider a redux; 2) It takes a decade to become a master, so be patient and keep learning; and, 3) You can’t force things, so when you’re stuck, step aside and ‘wait for it.’


Premature Evaluation

Early this morning the announcement came down that President Obama is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He becomes the fourth U.S. president to be honored with this coveted award. The first two – Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919 – were well into their two terms in the Oval Office prior to receiving such esteemed recognition. Carter, meanwhile, was removed from the White House more than a quarter of a century before being bestowed for a lifetime of achievement in 2002.

The 2009 prize is for accomplishments prior to February 1st, which means Mr. Obama was inaugurated just 11 days beforehand. Thus, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is honoring what he did prior to becoming Commander-in-Chief. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” said committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland.

It is clear that our dynamic president is a powerful speaker who has the ability to engage a global audience. That’s why stadiums filled to capacity wherever he appeared during the campaign – and why the inauguration events were so must-see-TV. It is my hope his decision-making, policy setting and leadership in the next three years live up to the lofty expectations and suddenly glowing recognition.

As someone who spent 15 years working in and around college and professional sports, I’ve seen up close and personal that games aren’t won in the first half or early innings. Being president is a marathon, not a sprint. There are many miles ahead for Mr. Obama, and he needs to start making moves and executing actual initiatives to help our struggling citizens. Only then will he be worthy of all the overwhelming praise.