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Thursday, December 01, 2011
Volume 17 | # 397
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If you don't decide what your life is about, it defaults to what you spend your days doing. » Robert Brault

Play Through the Whistle

I was asked to coach my sons’ flag-football team this season. I honestly didn’t want to.

But I was worried about them playing for anyone who was actually gung-ho to coach youth football.

Thankfully, I committed before seeing our roster. In Texas, you can say anything if you “bless hearts” afterward. Well, our team was “challenged”… bless our hearts. 

7 of our 9 team members had never played before. Basic drills at our first practice looked like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Bless our hearts.

We had one kid with speed who couldn’t catch a cold, two with a little speed who could, and only one kid who could hit a barn with a pass beyond 15 yards (if the barn wasn’t moving very fast).

The one thing we did have going for us was that all 9 boys were good kids who listened and gave effort.  But this also added stress. I would not be able to blame the drubbings (which I knew were coming) on a lack of effort or on not paying attention.

I decided that my goals were going to be to work our way up to respectable from terrible and to remain good sports as we were trounced. And, good gracious, were we ever trounced. Bless our hearts.

As our record reached 0-6 (and not a pretty 0-6) my wife marveled at how this group seemed to have better attitudes than the teams beating us. She said our parents on the sidelines were commenting on what a positive experience the kids were having.

I believe my response was, “Huh?” I may have always been “smiles and high-fives” - but with a pit in my stomach. No kid likes going winless. And I could see it bothered some.

After each loss, I’d tell the boys, “Believe me, this team will not want to see us again.” (But, sure they did. Each beat us…twice.) 

Then, in the last game of the regular season, we stopped dropping balls and missing flag-pulls. The boys looked at me like, “You seeing this?” We beat a team that had crushed us before.

I smiled for 2 solid days, figuring this was our kids’ payoff for their efforts.

But, I was wrong. They were done losing.

We swept the playoffs and won the championship.  Bless our hearts.

I smiled ear to ear watching the boys beam while posing with their trophies. My youngest son (true to form) held his up and said, “Zeroes to heroes, baby!”

I found myself hoping that these kids might remember later in their lives that great things can happen if you keep your head up and refuse to quit.

Maybe we should remember that, as well.

Cynicism Isn't Intelligence

I got off a phone call a little while ago with a banking reporter whom I’ve chatted with in the past. She’s a nice young lady who seems to do her best to be accurate and fair in the stories she writes.

(That’s something that I’ve learned over the years to never take for granted.)

She is working on a story about some of the “new strategies” that various banks have touted recently. Specifically, she sent me a link to an article on one particular community bank and asked me to comment on what I thought of its announcement.

This bank is “reinventing” itself and is touting its new branch model that resembles… ta daaaa…. a coffee house.

(Okay, “ta daaaa” is a little mean.)

To be honest, the branch looks nice. It reminds me more of the new Courtyard by Marriott café areas than a Starbucks, but that doesn’t matter. They also have come up with their own “branded” coffee.

(Held off on the ta daaa’s on that one.)

If that sounds familiar, well, it should. It’s been done before many times. And their talk about “changing the way people think about banking” may have started my eyes rolling juuuust a little bit.

But as I discussed my thoughts with the reporter, I laughed and remembered that I don’t want to be “that guy.” “That guy” is the person who tries to sound smart by calling others’ ideas “dumb”.

Being a cynic requires less thinking and creativity than actually, you know, doing something. And while there were more than a few items teed-up by that story to take swings at, I (mostly) held back.

The thing that impressed me most about the bank’s strategy was that it actually had one. And that sounds more sarcastic than I intend it to.

I was impressed by the fact that the bank recognizes that the way they do business going forward will not look like it has in the past. And while some of the changes they are making may not be as productive as they are promoting, well… so what?

Every new (or borrowed) idea doesn’t have to work perfectly to be useful. Simply breaking out of our operational (and intellectual) ruts can be incredibly productive.

Few would argue that business-as-usual is a recipe for success in a rapidly-evolving industry. And yet, many would rather tell you why others’ new ideas are wrong than come up with their own. 

Don’t be that guy.

The future is always beginning now. » Mark Strand

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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