SUPER BUST: Nine reasons to shut off the TV & reclaim Super Sunday

24 Jan


Successful people learn to say no.  They recognize their time is a finite commodity and invest it accordingly.   The worst Super Bowl matchup in history presents a great opportunity for you to follow their lead.

Nine reasons these teams and this league don’t deserve your support.

The Seahawks are patent trolls
Not since Al Gore bragged about inventing the internet has such a tenuous line of attribution been fabricated.  First the Seahawks claimed that they invented the “12th man”.  This proved to be a croc –Texas A&M owns it and now charges them a usage fee.  And this week it was announced that they filed papers trying to claim legal ownership of the phrase “go hawks”.   This is a slap in the face to all Iowans.  This is ours!  Not that we’ve been able to proudly exclaim it lately, but so what.  Boycott.

Roger’s gotta learn
To watch the game means to further line the pockets of a commish who already makes $44 million a year, but has no accountability to anyone.  Player health, domestic abuse, deflated footballs, criminal players, there is really no issue he can’t stonewall.  A CEO who hides from us deserves fans who hide from his product. Until they fire the empty suit, we should fire their product.

Win at all costs is no way to live
The Patriots are cheaters.  Past performance does predict future results.  You know these two incidents are likely only the beginning.  Can you imagine what they might have done over the years and gotten away with already?  It will all come out some day.

My money is on Gronk being a cyborg.


Cyborg Gronk. Not a huge stretch as you can already clearly see his mechanical arm.

Seahawk tradition
In a word, there is none.

This team is younger than any fan that can afford a ticket to watch them play.  This teenager of a franchise started in 1976 and yet has already flipped from AFC to NFC and re-engineered its color scheme 10 times.  Nice legacy. What are the official colors anyway? Green?  Neon?  Desperation?   All of this tweaking of tones has netted nothing, their current jerseys look like they were designed by Liberace on acid.  With these jerseys they’d be laughed off the field in the Arena League– which is exactly where this team belongs.

You are older than Bieber
Pop music pixie Katy Perry will be the lead act for halftime on Sunday and will be “joined by“ Lenny Kravitz.  Who set this lineup?  How is Lenny an also-ran and not a headliner?  That is an insult to anyone over 12 years old.  I have news for the NFL, none of the pre-pubescent crowd that cares about Katy has the attention span to make it past the first quarter to actually see her perform.  Total NFaiL.

Good old fashioned envy
Brady is a good-looking athletic multimillionaire who happens to be married to a supermodel.  I’m not a big fan of the class warfare that has arisen these past few years but this guy is clearly in the 1%…. OF EVERYTHING.  Forget him.

The Seahawk stars are sketch
This Seahawks squad includes a running back who celebrates TDs via crotch-grab and an obnoxious self-promoting braggart cornerback who belittles his foes.  What are they modeling to our kids? Russell Wilson may seem like a class act, but so did Cosby.

Belichick seems angry but repressed
It’s clear that Bill has anger management issues, but his press conferences are so controlled and Pollyanna lately that it is troubling.  I prefer not to enable this repression of his true feelings.  Maybe a little less attention and some poor Super Bowl ratings will get him out of his shell.  Coaching rants are half of the fun of the NFL.  He’s denying us our birthright. Scream angry little man, scream!

The venue is fake
University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of this year’s game is a monument to a virtual school.  Virtual means fake.  If you “went” there, you got duped.  Putting that school on your resume tells a prospective employer all he needs to know about you as a candidate.  Harsh but true.  On the bright side, if you did attend (whatever that means) you can claim Lil Wayne and Shaq as fellow alums.  Look for them at the virtual tailgates… hammering cyber beers and eBrats.

Answering Critics with Grace: MLK’s Lessons from Birmingham

18 Jan


In 2015, everyone wants the index card version of everything.

We don’t have time for the full story; we desire only the broad strokes, preferably 140 characters at a time.  Long form is considered anything over two pages, and it better contain an infographic and an executive summary.   We consume and quickly move on to what is next.

Some stories are worth much more.  The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s is one of those stories.  To many children (and far too many adults) his life is largely summed up by one speech and martyrdom.   We know conceptually that the man led a nonviolent revolution, but few of us can appreciate the sacrifice and vision.  Nor are we capable of grasping the reality of that historical place and time.

On the eve of the observation of Dr. King’s birthday I spent my Sunday afternoon re-reading “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”– King’s answer to his critics and call to action.

This open letter still applies to us today, and gives a glimpse into history as well as some thoughts on our future.  Just a few of the subjects covered include

  • The source of moral authority
  • The danger and impotence of appeasement strategies and moderates
  • The threat of violent extremists

I’d tell you more, but an executive summary won’t tell this tale.   You can’t tweet greatness.  You owe it to yourself to find 15 minutes to reacquaint yourself with a true freedom fighter, in historical context, in own his words.  Dr King’s legacy isn’t in a textbook, and it isn’t a speech.  It is the resonance and application of his words, even today.

Hijacking your Annual Review

6 Jan
Self Assessment

Self Assessment

It’s a new year and that can mean only one thing.  It’s annual review time at work; the one and only time that Corporate America gets introspective.

Kind of…

The familiar process involves employees completing self-evaluations and sending them to their managers who use those insights and other feedback to write up a formal review doc to justify promotions, compensation adjustments and bonuses.   It is a long process and a lot of work to get to numbers that you could just as easily have started with (and honestly your boss likely did).

This intense period of activity crescendos in March, when employees excitedly file into their manager’s office with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.  Here managers carpet bomb superlatives upon the employees who aren’t listening to a word of it, their singular focus on the compensation side of the equation.  Eventually the food pellets are distributed and we all head back to our cages in time for a few more spins on our wheels.

What is sorely missing from the annual review process, is the very part that used to be the main focus– actual feedback and dare I say…. growth? (!<gasp>!)   Somewhere along the line, we scrapped these components, preferring “attaboys” and “good-jobs” to meaningful feedback.

And why not?  As an employee, it seems foolish to assess yourself honestly and share that with a manager, and as a manager you are equally incented to water-down or completely bury feedback.  So on and on it goes.  This happens because we live in the era of participation trophies, easily hurt feelings, and lawsuits.  This trifecta of twaddle has led us to neutered performance reviews, and in turn transformed us into stagnant employees.

So where does that leave us?  How can we improve if our managers only seek to reinforce the status quo and avoid confrontation?

It’s time we took control of our own development.  To do this we must divorce it from the annual performance review process and make it a discipline.  That requires a focus on three things.

Honest level setting.  External feedback is rarely honest or without agenda.  Self-analysis is often the harshest and most difficult, but also the most valuable.  You need to define where you are today before you can map a course to get where you are headed. To do this, take a moment to imagine your dream job. Then think critically about the daily tasks that job entails.  Finally, assess your aptitude for each.

Which of these could you do today? Which would be a struggle? What do you hate to do, but may be required? Confront each category head on.  At work and in your free time, consciously put yourself in situations to do the very things that challenge you most. Get some reps and fail. Remember growth is often uncomfortable.  You don’t need all of your weaknesses eliminated, but strive to make your F’s into a B-‘s by working them.


Making development an ongoing thing. Annual performance reviews are a joke not only because the exercise is empty, but also because they are so infrequent. Would you weigh yourself only once a year? Why should you treat your career goals any different? You need to define the key metrics that will help you fill your gaps and then build in regular checkpoints that are much more frequent. How often are you assessing yourself and marking growth? Set a process and manage it.


Finding Accountability. Last but not least is a familiar one. Share your assessment and plan with someone you trust. Be that a therapist, a bible study group, a personal trainer or mentor, you need an external party to help you monitor your progress. There is a reason people lose weight before vacation or buff up before a high school reunion. We see ourselves differently when forced to do it through another’s eyes. Accountability to a support group, or support person can make all the difference. Pick one who is honest and persistent and give him/her permission to be critical.


We all know people who ‘get by’ or coast at their jobs.  In fact many of us have been those very people at one time or another.  The sad reality is that every one of them gets a decent annual review at work, likely not that much different than yours.  So what?

We need to ignore the performance review process and chart our own path.  True leaders are always growing.   That growth has to be fueled from within by level setting, developing over time and holding ourselves accountable.  Complacency is the enemy.  If you are standing still, you are falling behind.

Surely your dream is worth more than a few food pellets.

Breaking: Benjamin Franklin to Mentor Manziel

29 Dec

“It’s about being accountable, and doing what I say I’m going to do, instead of looking like a jackass.

Either I’m going to learn, or I’m going to be finding something else to do.”

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel  12/28/2014


Humiliated & humbled.

Then injured, fined and suspended.

It has been an interesting year for the #22 pick in the NFL draft, Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel. One that ends with the same question that preceded it.

Who can protect Johnny Football from himself?

His talent is other-worldly. His game day instincts are off the chart. Believe it or not the leadership is even there in spades. But none of it is remotely useful without the preparation and the cultivation of his gifts.

So what is the issue?

Based on the above quote, it doesn’t appear to be a lack of self-awareness. He knows he keeps messing up and has a short rope. What he needs a roadmap to fill the gaps and get serious. He needs discipline.

Manziel Money

Ironically, the answer has been there all along.  A guy who loves money so much as to have incorporated it into his on-field celebration, would do well to examine his currency more closely while off of it. Specifically the $100 bill and the picture on the front.

Benjamin Franklin had the accountability that Johnny desires. A disciplined man with an incredible work ethic, he too was self-aware. He knew that left to his own devices, he’d never meet his full potential either. But rather than wallow in his faults, make excuses, or meaningless pronouncements at press conferences, he made a system.

Franklin knew that to figure out where you are going, you first need to understand what matters. At the ripe old age of 20, Franklin laid out each of the measures of a man calling them his “13 Virtues”.

  1. Temperance
  2. Silence
  3. Order
  4. Resolution
  5. Frugality
  6. Industry
  7. Sincerity
  8. Justice
  9. Moderation
  10. Cleanliness
  11. Tranquillity
  12. Chastity
  13. Humility

After Franklin made his list, he took an inventory of where he landed on each of them.  Every journey begins with a starting point and his was an honest assessment.  Next he took the insight he gained and humbly sought self-improvement by focusing on improving one and only one virtue per week.  Thirteen weeks later he recalibrated and started over.  His system fueled a lifetime of refinement, building a man of virtue.

Experts tell us that Ben was ahead of his time.  While today we may desire dramatic change and miracle solutions, it doesn’t really work like that. New Year’s Resolutions fail because they are all about goals.  Experts say we need to be like Franklin and focused on a system instead. Taking a behavioral-based focus instead of an outcome-based focus can make all the difference.

Franklin shared his 13 Virtues “system” via his memoirs which outline this systematic journey to a better self, attained one week at a time and executed over and over again.

It remains just as valid heading into 2015 as it did in the 1700’s.  This year, we should consider ditching the New Year’s Resolutions, and getting a system like Franklin’s.  It can make all the difference in promoting lasting change.

Coincidentally, there are 13 Friday’s between now and the start of Cleveland Browns’ minicamp.  Just enough time to begin to turn a self-proclaimed “jackass” into a man of virtue.




Johnnies Football: Just Do It… Right.

22 Dec

Just Do It.

It is truly brilliant in its simplicity.  The advertising slogan is as well-known today as when it was conceived 26 years ago.  It reinforces the intuitive notion that if you want to get good at anything you need to get in the game and go.  It is the same mentality that has helped fuel the rise of youth sports over the past 25 years, the expansion of AAU, sport specialization and year-round play.

People buy the shoes and they buy the motto.  Unfortunately, an extension of this mentality has also led to a dearth of fundamentals, defense and selfless play.

Because no matter how many games you play, or how much you “Just Do It” you are missing a large part of sports.  Games and scrimmages have their place, but they are very little help in preparation.

Says who?


Says 489 wins.  Specifically the 489 wins collected by the most successful football coach in the history of the game.

Hall of fame coach John Gagliardi specifically, the man who led Minnesota’s St. John’s football team to 27 conference titles and four national titles over 60 years.  Retiring in 2012, the winningest coach in all of football did it all with a singular focus — Execution.  If you hope to play for Gagliardi you must prepare diligently, drill on fundamentals, concentrate, know your job and work on executing it flawlessly.

So wrapped up in fundamentals was Gagliardi that he didn’t even allow full contact at practice.  Players at St. John’s wore shorts to practice and drilled on execution up the point of the tackle and then stopped.    Drilling over and over again until it was second nature.  No full-contact scrimmaging, just reps. Enough reps that it probably couldn’t have worked if done full contact, lest they hire extra trainers.

The point was to learn sound fundamentals then get down and do it again and again, until you get it right.  By saving hits for Saturday, you ended up not only prepared, but hungry.  Gagliardi broke the mold in terms of how he won. But win he did.  To show his range, the guy even dabbled as the school’s hockey and track coach for a few seasons, also winning titles in each.

The implications of the “Gagliardi Method” go well beyond sports however.  They point to the fact that there is a mental side to every task we do.  There are always fundamentals and always skills to practice.  If you want to be successful in any task, business, relationship or life itself, it takes work.

You can’t just wing it.

Preparation is the key.  The best public speakers do a ton of public speaking, but they also put in their time honing their craft giving speeches to empty rooms and elevator speeches to their dog.  Even successful pastors still do daily devotionals and entrepreneurs invest hours in ideas that die. You gotta get your reps in.  No matter your craft, you need to define your weaknesses and drill on them.

Quantity breeds quality.

It is all about building fundamentals, so that when your “game day” comes, you are ready.  Woody Allen once famously said “80% of life is just showing up”. If you want to end up like Woody Allen, I suggest you to follow his advice.  If you want to end up like Gagliardi, I suggest this alternative approach.

Waterboarding Adrian Peterson

15 Dec

Late last week two seemingly unrelated stories broke.

The first was the announcement of a final ruling from an “independent” arbitrator on Adrian Peterson’s appeal of his suspension from the NFL for domestic violence. The arbitrator, an NFL plant who was hand-picked by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, upheld the original ruling. As a result, Peterson will remain suspended through at least the remainder of the 2014 season.



In the second, the feds released an exhaustive study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. The study (at a cost of $40 million !!!) outlined a controversial program that was shielded from presidential and congressional oversight and ended the life of several enemy combatants.

What was striking about both stories was the public reaction to them. For Peterson, aside from the most rabid fans, it was accepted. “He got what he deserved, who cares, he’s a child abuser”. For the CIA case, the narrative was largely a debate. “Did we get actionable intelligence from these techniques?” and “did we save American lives?”.

Completely lacking from each discussion was any focus on the real story. Corruption due to a lack of oversight.

In one, you have Goodell the dictator, a committee of one, arbitrarily and capriciously wielding power. Under the old model, if you didn’t like his verdict you could appeal to… him. Following his bungled Ray Rice verdict, your appeal is no longer heard by him, but a lackey he appoints– a lackey who happens to be on his payroll and under his supervision. It is truly a distinction without a difference.

If the NFL ever wises up and fires Godell, he’d do well to consider a career in the CIA. There they are equally adept at making it up as they go. In the field, their operatives alone define the line they can’t cross and then revisit that decision once they reach that line. The good news is that unlike the NFL, the CIA eventually gets to transparency, albeit at a cost of $40 million bucks.

Is my point that I think Peterson is a neat guy, or that we aren’t better off from having water-boarded a few terrorists? Of course not.

My point is that the reaction to both stories is more evidence that our national consciousness has landed on a “means justifying the ends” mentality. People are overly focused on the outcomes and missing the real issue here.

Process and accountability still matter. We all need to be accountable to someone or something and lacking that, just like Godell or the CIA, we will always get into trouble. It works the same for government or private business as it does for morals or even entrepreneurship.



The reason you haven’t started your own business isn’t because you don’t have the time, or the finances. You haven’t worked on it because you have no process and no accountability.

Consider John. He’s an acquaintance of mine who always wanted to open a brewery. For years he thought about it. It was always “what he was going to do someday” and never “what he was doing”.

You know what finally got him off the schneid?

He finally shared the idea with two buddies. Only then did his dream take on action. Together they helped him chunk out the tasks and begin to live his dream. Today they are partners in a small business. John is working long days and busting his butt, but he’s also living his dream.

There is a saying about taking on a large task. They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I’d add that an even better way is to follow John’s lead. Find someone you trust and share your intent. Confide in them, define the steps to get to your goal and empower that person to hold you accountable.

Only by working a process and checking ourselves regularly, can we begin to become our best selves. We do this best in groups. Surround yourself with yes men who never challenge you and you will end up soft. We need some accountability and a process. If we pursue both, together we can collaborate, build support systems and finally start consuming those pachyderms.

On Conquering Adversity: Millenials, meet Michael

5 Dec

Coaching matters, but barely.

Genetics are nice, but optional.

Practicing 10,000 hours can only help.

But one factor rises above all others in determining athletic prowess.


I have seen it firsthand.  From the third grade girl with the wicked jump shot to the middle-school soccer player with the sick moves, the best players in youth sports have all been driven to excellence.

More interesting than the outcome however, is the source of that drive.  They didn’t get it from a parent that coaches,  better equipment or a spot on the select team.  They weren’t even born with it.  They earned it through struggle.

The best kids share a common trait.  They all have older siblings who also play.  It is the lone source of grit for kids these days and this alone has set them up to succeed.  You see at some point they were in a pickup game and realized that they had a choice.  Either quit, learn to play better, or continue to get your butt kicked daily.

Their failures + their struggles + their challenges =  their fuel

Have you ever heard Michael Jordan’s hall of fame induction speech?  It’s like none other.  Most of these Hall of Fame guys are all but finished with life.  They hobble up to the podium on induction day and recount all the great things that ever happened to them.  Broken and gray, they tear up about what used to be, they thank people and they leave. In short, they give a nice speech.

Michael has no time for nice, he’s still burning.

“I got two brothers – James and Larry –They gave me all I could ever ask for in terms of competition. My brother Larry dude fought me every single day. You guys sit there asking where is my competition or where did my competitive nature come from? It came from them. They started the fire in me.  And as I moved on in my career people added wood to that fire…”– Michael Jordan

He continues in the speech to recount every disappointment and every slight.  Three thousand six hundred and nine words about setbacks.  He names names.

From players who bested him, to GMs who doubted him, to opponents who questioned him, each is called out as a log.  Logs, lobbed onto a fire, fuel for his drive, building the inferno that is Michael Jordan.


The bottom line is that successful people all have logs.  They are driven by past failures, competition and fear.  Despite this, we’ve built a society that shields our kids from all of this.  We have crafted a generation fueled by carseats, helmets, band-aids and bactine. Helicopter parents demand meetings with coaches about playing time, fighting all of their kid’s battles for them on the way toward countless participation trophies.

We’ve lost them.

In the course of sheltering our kids from failure, we have stunted their drive and neutered their effort.  The results are exactly what you’d expect. Kids who never fail grow up to be adults who can’t compete.  It becomes easier to pick up a picket sign than a job application.  Blame and finger-pointing replace self-reflection and accountability.

So how do we get them back?  The advice is simple:  Let them fail.

The next time you see a life lesson coming your kid’s way stand down, don’t step in.  Have them try out for the travel team and let them feel the sting of getting cut.  The ensuing pit in their stomach is the same one someone allowed you to get once.  That pit will grow, it will fester and it will ultimately build them into a leader.

It could even become their first log.




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