The second best thing I learned this year (and a funny one, too):
Brain Teaser – There’s a current Broadway musical set during World War I about a horse that serves in the military. Sound familiar? That’s because Steven Spielberg is releasing the movie version on Christmas Day. I’m amazed how an idea suddenly appears in more than one place at the same time. In three novels I read by different fiction writers the plot revolved around a particle that may travel faster than light. If that quantum physics conundrum that could shatter Einstein’s theory of relativity is a mystery to you, the best joke I heard this year won’t be all that funny: “‘We don’t allow neutrinos in here,’ said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.”
Four of my friends from church and I have lunch together once a month, rotating who picks the restaurant. These 90-minute gatherings are simply the ‘in person’ part of what plays out in email between gatherings. During those written discussions we share editorials from various online newspapers, comment on the happenings in the world and trade a lot of friendly barbs – always in good humor and with the purpose of getting each other to think. Sometimes these dialogues may happen frequently on a good news day.
While all of us fall to the right on the political pendulum, I am the one who sits closest to the middle. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as, “The liberal Catholic among us.” One of our recent exchanges was about the budget deficit standoff and who was at fault. The member who leans waaaay toward conservative blamed the president and Democrats for their insistence that a tax hike be included in any new legislation. I assumed my typical role – playing devil’s advocate: “What about those Tea Party members who refuse to budge on any of their tenets, even if it leads to an agreement?” His response: “They’re doing the right things. The other side is wrong.”
To me this is a microcosm of the biggest challenge impacting leadership. Whenever someone takes the position of ‘I think it, so it must be correct,” there is the danger of missing the opportunity to create a better result. It’s only through a willingness to hear other ideas and consider different approaches that true growth occurs. Lines in the sand and one-sided viewpoints don’t lead to change. They simply keep things heading down the same path.
This month it’s my turn to choose where to eat. When I gave two options and said we could decide the morning of lunch, one of my group wrote, “Sounds like you’re kicking the can down the road, just like Congress.” I wrote back: “Actually, I’m trying to model that the art of compromise happens every day in the real world… and usually makes for a more enjoyable meal.”
Since we moved to Houston in 1998, the only local sports highlights were when the Astros played in the National League Championship Series twice and made it to the World Series once. Rockets? One playoff series win in 13 seasons. Texans? Still mired in mediocrity after nine years. Meanwhile, in the past eight months, my hometown – DFW – has seen the Rangers play in the World Series and crowned the Mavericks as NBA Champions. That’s great for my family and friends there… and I’m enjoying it from afar.
Listening to and reading commentary of media experts this morning about what happened to the South Beach dream team – for instance, Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio said, “I honestly thought Miami was better last night with LeBron James on the bench” – it’s clear Dirk Nowitzki and the deepest roster in the league outplayed the Heat’s three highly paid All Stars.
Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron joined together last summer with the goal to win multiple championships. Number one will have to wait another year. As Michael Rosenberg wrote on SI.com: “The self-proclaimed King wanted it to be easy. His company’s logo should be a cart in front of a horse.” LeBron disappeared in the fourth quarter of every game. He’ll have the next four months to develop his post play and figure out how to do more when the basketball is in someone else’s hands
The Heat proved it’s hard to buy your way to success. Its travails serve as a lesson to business leaders that you need everyone on your team working together to become a champion. It took Dirk 13 years to lift that trophy. Time will tell whether the Big Three ever stand on the podium with smiles on their faces… or if this great experiment turns out to be the Big Mistake.
Note: Tomorrow at 1 p.m. EDT, I’ll appear on Insights Live, an Internet radio show, to share how to get everyone on your team pulling in the same direction. Here’s a link if you’d like to join us: http://bit.ly/keUIj4
This is the sixth most important lesson I learned during 2010:
Few Words – In his bestselling book, “Drive,” Daniel Pink tells the story of how in 1962, Claire Booth Luce told President Kennedy, “A great man is one sentence.” Lincoln preserved the union and freed the slaves. FDR lifted us out of a depression and helped win a world war. Ms. Luce was challenging JFK to narrow his initiatives. ‘What’s your sentence?’ is an excellent question to ask yourself to ensure your mission and work are aligned.
My wife and I recently had a discussion about what the younger generation will do in, say 2030, when they look back and realize all the moments of their lives are forever captured by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and whatever arises as the next can’t-keep-away-from-it-must-update technologies du jour. (We also spoke about their ultimate realization of ‘Why did I ever get these tattoos?’ – but that’s another story.)
I’ve decided, however, we’re being unfair to the youth of today – what with adults already setting such embarrassing examples. Take Rick Sanchez who was fired by CNN on October 1st for inappropriate comments about his bosses at CNN and Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart. Sanchez violated the first rule my mother taught me in high school: “In everything you do, act like there is a camera on your shoulder for all the world to see it.” (Keep in mind that was 35 years ago.) How a professional journalist could allow himself to speak such controversial things is mindboggling. Those few sentences Sanchez said on satellite radio will follow him forever.
An episode of ABC’s Modern Family addressed this topic just two weeks ago when Claire Dunphy confessed to her daughter that she wasn’t as pure and wholesome a teenager as she tried to make her children think. Regardless of whether you’re in high school, college or already in the working world, keep in mind what you say and do is subject to someone else discovering it. There are no secrets anymore. Think about that before you post something that might not reflect positively on you down the road.