As long as I can remember, my dad was committed to writing a novel and getting it published. A journalist by day, Dad would come home and eat dinner with the family, linger to chat about the day’s affairs, and then retreat to his den to write his books. During…
By Gordon Grant (guest writer) “Last month I spent a week motorcycling back-country roads in Oregon, California and Washington. Unfortunately one of my friends had an accident that broke a few parts on both the bike and the rider. The trip was over for them. The morning after the accident,…
The Tiger Within A pregnant tiger stumbles through the woods, desperately seeking its next meal. With her unborn cub weighing her down, the tiger mama is nearing the end of her rope. If she doesn’t find something to eat soon, she’ll most certainly die. Crawling out to edge of a…
I’ve heard it said that relationships give us a mirror to see ourselves, and boy was that true for me last week at my regular Sunday drop-in volleyball group in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Here’s what happened.
If you travel as much as I do, you know that airports can be pretty boring places—especially when you have a long lay-over. After all, how many frozen yogurts can you consume? (Okay, in my case, quite a few!) So there I was in Orlando International airport last week, killing time between flights, and my path led me into a book store.
I played a lot of sports in my school days – football, basketball and tennis, mostly — and at least once a season, like clockwork, one of my coaches could be relied upon to get up on his soapbox and declare, “There is no ‘I’ in team!” Know-it-alls that we were, my buddies and I would just roll our eyes, thinking, “We get it, already. We’re not dummies! There’s no room for a prima donna in team sports.”
At nearly six-feet tall, 6th grader Jim has always excelled at basketball. Half way through his final season at Meadows Elementary School , however, Jim accidentally steps on another player’s foot and breaks his ankle. The doctor informs Jim that he’ll need to wear a cast for the next 6 weeks, but not to worry. His ankle will be right as rain by the time the big final game rolls around, the one in which all the high school scouts will be in attendance. As the weeks progress, however, Jim ruefully mulls over his prospects. You see, adults have always told him that he has star potential, that the sky’s the limit for a big, coordinated kid like him. But Jim doesn’t see it that way. His internal voice – his “gremlin” — is telling him, “You’re not good enough, Jimbo . You’re slow. You can’t jump. Your shot is flawed. Oh, sure, you’re a big fish here in elementary school, where no one is taller than 5’9”, but in junior and senior high, you’ll be competing against players your own height, or taller. Real athletes, too! Playing against that competition, you’re bound to fail. And what about your family? The only time your parents stop fighting is when they’re in the stands, rooting for you at basketball games.”
The more Jim thinks about it, the less and less he wants to risk playing in the big game (and all that it entails). So when the time comes for him to get his cast off, Jim says, “No thanks, Doctor. I’m keeping it on!”
Back in 2000, the Kevin Space movie Pay it Forward popularized the idea that giving can be viral. In the film, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osmont) receives a school assignment to somehow “change the world”. In response, Trevor comes up with an innovative plan: to encourage people to pay a favor forward…not just once, but three times. The rules of his scheme are:
#1 It (the good deed) has to be something that really helps people.
#2 It must be something they can’t do by themselves.
#3 I (the giver) will do it for them, then they will do a similar deed for three other people.
Although I found the movie at times a bit too saccharine for my taste, I certainly appreciated the sentiment: Giving not only feels good, but it can jump start a contagion of philanthropic behavior.
I first met today’s guest writer, New York jazzman Tim Armacost, in college almost 30 years ago, at a time when both of us were grappling not only with what kind of careers we wanted to pursue, but also with what kind of adults we wanted to become. While I eventually chose team development, training and coaching, Tim has been traveling the globe these last 25 years, pursuing a career as a professional tenor saxophonist — living in such exotic locations as Amsterdam, Delhi, and Tokyo. His CDs, including Live at Smalls, The Wishing Well, and Brightly Dark, have received high praise from the Washington Post and the Jazz Times. Fluent in Japanese, Tim is also a longtime student of Zen Buddhism; his meditation practice infuses his music and contributes strongly to his relaxed yet passionate performance style.
Today I asked Tim to share a few of his thoughts on team leadership from a jazz improv perspective. Here are his insightful comments:
“You’re either a mistake maker or a life learner.”
Given that over 120 million viewers were watching the end of Super Bowl XLIX this past Sunday, the chances are fairly good that at least some (if not most) of you witnessed the puzzling play calling from Seattle Seahawks’ coach, Pete Carroll. Here was the situation. Down by four points with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks have possession of the ball with one yard separating them from the end zone and, most likely, their second consecutive Super Bowl victory. The common-sense call is to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch, a bowling ball of a human being with the nickname “Beast Mode”. Lynch who, on the previous play, pounded ahead for four yards, has already run for over 100 yards in the game, demonstrating time and again that the Patriots can’t mount much resistance when a short gain is required of him. Everyone in the stadium (including this writer) is expecting a safe, off-tackle plunge from Lynch. But then something remarkable happens; the Seahawks’ brilliant young quarterback, Russell Wilson, unexpectedly drops back for a pass and slings the ball over the middle in the direction of wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, knifing towards the goal line. Against all odds, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler steps in front of Lockette and intercepts the ball, essentially ending the game and handing New
England their 4th Super Bowl victory.
What could Pete Carroll have been thinking?