March Madness. Lessons for Life.
It’s here, the big dance. It already started with the play-in games, and it will be exciting to watch next week’s progress. The NCAA did something different this year – they held the Men’s and Women’s selection programs on the SAME night at the SAME time. A little daunting if you wanted to try and keep up with both and the excitement of each team’s anticipation, but it worked, and the tournaments are set. Going to be a really fun run.
There’s a certain purity to sports that I really like. You can’t fake your way through an interview. You can’t over inflate your resume. And, regardless of how many connections you have, you don’t play if you don’t perform. There’s not a coach in the tournament who will gamble putting their team’s success at risk simply because of a player’s parent’s influence or because of an alumni’s major contribution implication. Perhaps a few here or there, but my guess is the performance of the team is THE most important. And the collegiate athlete who chose not to put the time and effort into their craft won’t see time on the court. In that regard, there is a strong correlation to business success and each of our lives, both personally and professionally.
A long time ago while competing in collegiate sports, I was blessed to play with two exceptional teammates – Bobby Delach and Brian Smith. I played with them when the team was teetering on collapse. Both of these guys began their sports journey from the time they were very young and honed their skills for many years. They were responsible for lifting our team at Saint Vincent College and likely cemented future success. Their hard work and performance demonstrated that what was originally a group of bad new bears could be transformed into something better. So much so that within a couple of years, a few of the new high school recruits who came and watched them play became All-Americans and the team even made it to the national tournament. Without Bobby and Brian, it is probable the school would have folded the sport. Bobby went off and has launched his own CFO consulting business while Brian became a bank president. Not bad for a couple of schmucks from ‘the pitch’. We lost Brian a few months ago after a very long and debilitating illness. But his leadership, hard work and commitment to excellence paid off. His memory and legacy will live on as the turning point led by an incredible dedication to skill and continuous improvement in the face of insurmountable odds.
Those lessons learned in sports roll over to success in life and business. There seems to be more chaos these days which I believe is grounded in just the slightest twist of the full-truth as some cloud those foundational principles. However, I believe the Italian economist from the 1800’s was onto something when he theorized the Pareto Principle -- the infamous 80/20 rule. I believe 80 percent of the world around us realizes the full-truth being proffered by the 20 percent. There is only so much truth any individual or group can cloud, and, just like sports, the reality – or truth – will show itself. Have faith, it may not happen immediately, but eventually it will.
The concept of hard work, honesty, professional values, having a plan and the dedication to constant learning will always result in long-term success. There are some who need mentors and coaches that they can emulate. I think this is especially true with kids. In the end, great role models result in great generations. As Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
Be the helper and the hero because that responsibility and leadership WILL change the world through you.
I wish you well,