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Winning – Don’t understate its value!

December 6, 2010

 I’m a big football fan.  It’s the second greatest team sport next to Rugby in my opinion.   Before I get too far into this blog entry, it is not my intent to alienate the fairer sex or those folks that might not have as great a fervor for sports or its imagery in analogies.

 Regardless of anyone’s favorite players, teams, or sports,  whether you are a die-hard fan or merely ‘jump on the band wagon’ as the respective playoffs wind down at the end of each season, there is an atmosphere of hope, anticipation, a little fear or dread for a letdown, & passion for your team of choice to win!  The same applies for your company when competing for a new major client or project.  There are so many directions to go with this, but Winning is what it is all about! 

 I know many if not most of us teach our children at a young age to share, & play nice.  At the early formative ages it is not if you win or lose but how you play the game.  I have coached my 4 children for over 11 years in many different sports. I’m definitely a frustrated jock that never got past the high school level. But I love sports & I wanted my kids to have that passion too.  Fact is, none of them could care less about sports pursuing sports at the varsity level. They have other passions. I think I went overboard in being a Wade Phillips style coach that is deemed a ‘players coach’, instead of Bobby Knight, (it’s not about the players, it’s not even about winning, it’s about Bobby!).  I’m really not a fan of either extreme.  John Wooden would be a great role model if Winning & character building were the paramounts, if I wasn’t stuck coaching by the parents & ‘town level’ guidelines. Won’t our kids be the leaders of tomorrow?

I don’t think any child likes to lose. Even when you aren’t suppose to be keeping score, the kids aren’t stupid, they know who won & who lost.  I personally think we’re doing them a disservice by saying Winning doesn’t matter.  That doesn’t mean my players don’t mind losing, I just don’t see the same passion for Winning from them or the majority of kids I see today across schools & on fields playing!  If you parents go out to watch your kids play hoops or soccer or baseball, the rules in most ‘town sponsored’ sports are, “Everybody plays, the coaches coach, players play & parents quietly watch”, since the vast majority of these folks don’t volunteer or jump in the game to support their kids & thus have little right to critique when they add no value.   The vast majority of kids will not play competitive varsity sports, where winning definitely takes priority. So when does winning start to matter for everyone else?  Again, will our kids be the leaders or just the workers of tomorrow?

I digress for a moment… to ask those spectator parents… What is it like at home?  Do you let your children do their own thing & hand them a $20 anytime they need money, or take a hands off approach & say “Do it yourself, I’m busy”.  I‘m not a judge, I don’t support either extreme. I also don’t support the parent that needs to fight a teacher on every unacceptable grade given to their child.  There needs to be some ownership on the child’s behalf even at a young age. They are tomorrow’s leaders competing in classes for best grades, often against their own lack of motivation, and expected glad handedness.

So at what age does Winning matter?  How about in 7th or 8th grade when there are only 3 seats in orchestra for violinists with 6 children vying for spots?   What about the 300 kids trying to be accepted at OCSHA (Orange County High School for the Arts), but only 100 slots are filled?  This high school doesn’t have a football team but it’s still highly competitive to get admitted due to the programs offered & quality of education provided.  I don’t know if it is good enough to “try your best”.  What does that mean? Is that not a given!  Once a week practices, or private training sessions & a strong push from parents to ‘win’ that desired slot, seat, position, scholarship…?

I do not believe that the “A’ type personalities have the upper hand over the quieter “B’ types.  I truly think the passion for exceeding or winning is there!  How it is expressed & how parents channel, promote & bring it out of your children is the issue & when to start?  This is in lieu of wiping your kid’s nose for them or giving them an allowance instead of making them earn it, for doing chores.  Let’s go in another direction for a second….Do you push your employees at work?  You want/expect/require the best & most productivity from them, correct?  Are you using the Carrot or the Whip? I’m not suggesting you treat your employees like children, nor vice versa,… But the expectations of all 3 parties, Children, Employees & ‘Parent/Manager’ should share the same ultimate goal & interest. Not just trying your best, but being the Best = Winning!

My parents wanted the best for me!  I in turn, want the best for my children. I know it’s tough today.  Keeping up with the neighbors, making ends meet, giving your family the nice-ities & toys you might not have experienced when you were a kid.  I put myself thru college & had the loans upon graduation to prove it.  I don’t want to shoulder my children with that terrible burden.  But where do the Hand-outs end & Reality step in?  Can you draw the line at work? Can you draw the line at home?

Guess what – I’m not an expert & will not admit to knowing the answer, but I have a theory.  I do know that I want my kids to be compassionate & nice to the shy kid next door & the smaller kid in their class that gets picked on.  That however is just part of being a good neighbor as God wants us be.  God also wants us to be the best we can be & that means Winning!

I try to tell my offspring, the more blessings you have, the more is expected of you. The same should apply at work professionally.  It’s up to us as parents & the kids too – to make the most of themselves.  Non-profit organizations survive not just on pro-bona work  & volunteers, but ‘Winning’ contributions, grants & donations that are literally up for grabs against other equally valid non-profit groups.

I don’t buy the excuses such as “I never had a chance. I wasn’t privileged.  My parents didn’t support me,  I come from a poor family & bad neighborhood,  My dad beat me & my mom was an alcoholic.”   Don’t we hear the same types of excuses at work…“The economy is weak,  The competition is too strong for us to raise prices, Workers don’t have the same work ethic as 20 years ago, We can’t afford to make the investment now in a down market…”  Different lyrics, but the same tune!  How much have we contributed to this by lowering the priority of winning in lieu of folks expecting quick promotions, the sprint up the corporate ladder, because up until now, I’ve always been gotten my way.  True winning takes hard work & is totally earned.

I am aware “that the vast majority of wealth in this country is inherited” & finding jobs is greatly enhanced through networking, hence, “It is not what you know, but who you know that matters.” Both are true statements.  Regardless, I believe if you have the passion for ‘Winning’, for being the best & truly giving it your all, with continued practice, effort & not expecting hand-outs, while keeping the faith in yourself & God, you can succeed! 

So Sports is just 1 medium where we can value & quantify Winning. But it can apply to the Arts, Music, Education, Fighting for animal rights, a Job search, Opening a business, Increasing sales & productivity…  The sooner we commit ourselves & our children to understanding this value & the sweat equity involved in achieving it, the better all our lives will be … with one caveat to remember that many companies & folks in senior management forget in this day & age… ‘with blessings come responsibilities’… Now we’re talking ‘win-win’!

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