The day before the Los Angeles Marathon – a different kind of visualization

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Like the old ketchup commercial or Tom Petty, the anticipation or the waiting is the hardest part. Sitting in a Los Angeles hotel room 22 hours before the start of The 2015 Los Angeles Marathon, I find myself oddly at peace, oddly introspective. This will be my 25th marathon and my tenth here in Los Angeles. I’ve had good races and lousy races. In 2013, I stepped off of an airplane on Friday night, after a 30-hour flight from India, and ran a 4:09 on Sunday morning – a good day.

 

2013 LA Marathon

Last year, I ran to mile 16 and was done, walking in the next 10 miles in 80F temperatures. I crossed the finish line in more than five and a half hours, wondering why I ever started the race knowing in advance how hot it was going to be.

2014 marathon finish facebook post

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be worse with record temperatures expected and highs into the low 90F’s. But my mindset is slightly different. I’ve never gone into a race not to run as fast as I can on that day, but in this case, I am going to try NOT to run faster than a 4:30 marathon, because I have no interest in repeating last year’s death march and I don’t want to end up looking like this guy here.

2014  la marathon peson needing emt

So here’s my plan and my thoughts on this day before the 30th running of the Los Angeles Marathon:

1. Stay on East Coast time – this helps me to stay loose and do what I need to do, but keep my bodily functions and sleep patterns aligned to what I need to do to wake up and be out of the house by 2am PT to get to my parking spot in Santa Monica, get on the shuttle and head to the start.

2. Organize what I need and get it done – I picked up my bib yesterday; I avoid going to a marathon expo the day before the race because it is a taxing experience both physically and mentally. My bib is already attached to my race belt and as soon as I finish doing my laundry, I will have my clothes ready to go. Twenty five marathons later, I still get the yips the day before the race but knowing this is going to be more of a survival in the heat experience, I’m at peace with whatever happens tomorrow.

3. Stay relaxed – So what today is really about is just  staying off my feet, maybe doing a light 20-min shakeout run, maybe seeing a matinee movie at the local theater. Today would have been a perfect day to see McFarland, USA but I’ve already seen it, so I’ll find an alternative. My plan is to go to sleep right after it gets dark, probably around 7:30pm local time (10:30pm ET) so that I can get at least 5.5 hours of sleep before I have to wake up at 1am (4am ET). Then it’s simple, I shower, drive to the parking lot, walk to the shuttles and head to Dodger Stadium where I put on some music, lay down and wait for the marathon to begin.

 4. Accept that tomorrow is what it is – It’s going to be hot, I am not going to PR, and this is just one step in a much longer journey of what I want to accomplish this year and I ma blessed to be healthy enough to be able to be out there covering these 26.2 miles.

5. Run in the moment and remember – For me, tomorrow is much more about the course than about the race. This course is a journey through my upbringing and the majority of my life. I know every mile. I know ever yard of every mile. While others may run this as a marathon course, I run this as a validation of who I am and where I came from. The race starts at Dodger Stadium where my parents used to take me as a child; it was probably my first public social experience, with my father yelling in Spanish to then rookie pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. I will remember how I worked downtown for years, just another ambitious suit trying to prove to some unknown entity of power and acknowledgment that I was worthy of being more than a glorified fitness trainer. At mile thirteen, my race and my journey really begins. I run through Sunset Plaza, past where Los Angeles monuments like Tower Records and Licorice Pizza used to stand, turn left down San Vicente and past the now shut down West Hollywood Post Office, my address since the early 1980′s. We run past Rage and everything that made West Hollywood the most energetic and crazy community in Los Angeles, long before anyone ever called it WeHo. With a quick glance to the right up the hill to where I grew up, we turn left down Doheny and run past Ralphs which used to be Hughes Market where I got shot at chasing a thug, and spent probably a thousand nights working night crew and stocking shelves during my four years in college. I remember that across the street was Chasen’s, my mother’s favorite restaurant, where you could get strawberries the size of your fist, and where I celebrated my college graduation with she and my sister. We run through Beverly Hills and past where Jacopo’s Pizza used to be, the place I first saw someone flip and spin pizza dough. We run past Versace, Polo and the other elite fashion stores on Rodeo Drive before turning down little Santa Monica that used to have a railroad track separating it from the larger street and iconic locations like Trader Vics, also now gone. We run past the ghost of Jimmy’s before passing Beverly Hills High School, where I learned to type and head into Century City, where I cut my teeth in the Entertainment practice of PwC. We run past the condo where John and I lived, Cindy and I first met, and where my mother took her last breath. We run the stretch of Santa Monica from Beverly Glen to Sepulveda, the same stretch I used to walk for eighteen months to walk to work at Sports Club/LA because I couldn’t afford a car after mine was stolen. We turn up through the VA Hospital, and exit the west gates that lead to the almost fictional and privileged world of Brentwood, where Teslas, Audi’s and Porsches outnumber Fords and Chevy’s 10:1. It’s at this point that I know I am really home. This is where my life as a runner and a coach really began. Passing Montana, I can reflect back on those first days coaching for APLA, when we had 500 runners coming out every Saturday for our group training runs while preparing for Honolulu. I can begin to smell the ocean breeze as I steadily make my way up the San Vicente grade to 26th Street, the the place I used to park my car and run what I thought back then was a really serious 4-mile run to Ocean and back. I will run those last 3 miles all downhill, knowing that one street over between 7th and 4th are the Santa Monica Stairs where I will likely be on Monday morning. Then we turn left down Ocean, passing the landmark wall where fellow S.M.U.T’s met every week to better our running and our lives. Trying to keep it together as best we can, we’ll head down Ocean, knowing that this last mile will feel like it lasts forever, watching the palm trees swaying and the blue ocean below and off to our right until we cross under the finish line just shy of the Santa Monica Pier and a few blocks over from the 3rd Street Promenade. I have taken this journey all of my life. I have run this course a million times before, and ten times on marathon day. It is both the most exhilarating and the saddest run I will ever do. And that’s why the time doesn’t matter, the heat doesn’t matter, and the medal doesn’t matter. Because even with so many of these Los Angeles landmarks gone, the course still remains, the memories remain; and for the moment, so do I. Good luck out there.

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As if getting people to workout wasn’t hard enough, when people do, they are criticized for doing so.

Outdoor workout 1

The following article For The Hard Core: The Gonzo Grown-Up Playground Workout In 10 Moves was shared with me on facebook by a friend, knowing my enthusiasm for using the outdoor world to inspire me to engage in physical activity. I started reading the article to see how many of the exercises I already do, and would have let it end their with mild interest until I started reading the comments.

The dissenting opinions for doing this type of outdoor activities using the already available public areas included:

Public spaces do be long to the public, but the picnic tables are put there so people can picnic, the benches are put there so people can sit. Exercising on them puts wear on them and doesn’t let them last as long. There are plenty other ways to exercise outside without using these items in ways that could damage them.

1) benches are made for sitting. 2) picnic tables are made for eating. It’s one thing to exercise it’s another thing to be disrespectful of items that don’t belong to you. You jumping on either of these could break them.

I personally live in Japan. My city has a dedicated area at our parks to do basic workouts, our benches are also cement, and can’t remember if picnic tables are provided or not. I do know that here in Japan if you were doing things this person is suggesting you would get stared and frowned at, so this would never happen here. Here my opinion about not using these items for exercise is the majority opinion. You will find no Japanese doing this.

If they don’t belong to me then they don’t belong to the person who is using them improperly and they shouldn’t be abusing them if they don’t own them. When you’re jumping on the tables destroys them to the point of no use and they aren’t replace you know who’s to blame. They are put there with a purpose, that purpose is not being an ignorant selfish fool who can’t afford a $20 gym membership at planet fitness.

Thanks for making picnic food taste and smell like sweaty ass.

Outdoor workout 2

 

These comments were met, as you might expect, with a significant amount of resistance, confusion, and disdain. I would have written it off as the tirades of a troll but then I read this post from a self proclaimed authority:

As a former playground safety inspector I agree with James. The equipment is designed for children and structured for the average weights and heights of children. Additionally, wood picnic tables are subject to the influence of weather, so jumping on to wood tables designed primarily for eating is never a good idea. Wood weakens via the influence of moisture (e.g., rain, snow, dew). There are some benefits for working out in a park, but a 200 lb. man hanging off of children’s monkey bars over the long term doesn’t strike me as a good idea. Sheesh, just join a gym!

That said, I see their point….to a point. And my response is as follows:

Wow! My response is pretty simple, when we get to the point that Americans are filling the parks “misusing” the benches and tables by exercising with them, we will have saved $millions in publicly subsidized healthcare costs and rather than reprimanding or penalizing those from doing so, we should celebrate the reversal of a national crisis. I’m sure a few of those dollars saved can be used for the upkeep of those facilities. And I agree that people should use judgment, avoid jumping on things where people might eat, and don’t jump on anything with dog feces on your shoes, but everything else is fair game. I LOVE those doing Parkour and those who use outdoor facilities for their own health and also as a way to encourage others to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle. I lived in Japan as a child and I understand how people ,might look down on these folks, but that’s the great thing about America. People look down on most anything new, until someone does it the first time, and then someone joins in, and then another and then another, etc. Eventually even Japanese join in. It just takes awhile longer. If nobody took the first step to break a rule, then there would be no innovation.

What’s yours?

 

 

We should be angry

 

Listen, if you didn’t know you’re bein’ scammed, you’re too fuckin’ dumb to keep this job. If you did know, you were in on it. Either way, you’re out. ~ Sam “Ace” Rothstein

 

We should be angry because either our President lied or he didn’t understand his healthcare plan well enough to let us know that many people would lose their current healthcare policies. We should be angry because Republicans offer no solution to the problem, instead they simply say we don’t like what is there or offer half baked proposals so they can say they’ve offered an alternative. We should be angry because the President’s comment that people will now be able to keep their healthcare is also a lie because the only groups that will decide that are the insurance companies themselves and the state insurance regulators. So why are so many breathing a sigh of relief? We should be angry because many people have already either been cancelled or they have bought plans on the exchange for a higher cost because they believe they had no alternative to protect themselves and their families, and the President’s latest comments provide no explanation on what those people are entitled to do at this point. We should be angry because there is still yet another gap in coverage for those in states that decided to not expand Medicaid and for them, there is no viable solution. We should be angry because of all of the facebook posts over the past 3 months that opined one way or the other, and yet NEVER once did I read the facts as they have transpired. And all of this information was available, to all of us. There are no surprises here. All of this is easily known and understood just by reading the act. But I bet none of those who have posted how much they either love or hate the ACA actually read it or asked the simple questions such as, “what happens to current policy holders that hold policies that do not comply with the current ACA?”. That one question was all anyone needed to ask and answer that would have told you that these people would not be able to keep their insurance. But instead we turn now to the President and indignantly exclaim: “You lied to us!” Isn’t it our responsibility to be critical thinkers? Isn’t it our responsibility to find out things for ourselves? I am not defending the President’s actions, I am disgusted by it. To quote the Casino character, Sam “Ace” Rothstein: “Listen, if you didn’t know you’re bein’ scammed, you’re too fuckin’ dumb to keep this job. If you did know, you were in on it. Either way, you’re out.” But it doesn’t change the fact that De Niro’s character took it upon himself to be observant and to find out what was going on for himself. We didn’t do even that. And now we are here pointing fingers. We should be angry. But most of all we should be angry at ourselves. There is still much more to learn before this is all over. It’s up to us to learn it. Nobody else will do this for us.

Sometimes a mea culpa is not enough – Lane Kiffen’s statement to the USC Football Community

We’ve all made mistakes. Who hasn’t? When you do, it’s almost become expected that you will open the kimono and bare your soul to the stakeholders that matter in the “expectation” that they will forgive you and then all will be rosy again. Below is a statement by USC Football Head Coach, Lane Kiffen. The comments below show that sometimes just saying I’m sorry is not enough, especially when you’ve fallen short, not just on outcome performance but moral issues and integrity. My recommendation: if you are going to say “I’m sorry”, make sure you cover two critical imperatives:

1) know what you’re apologizing about, and

2) demonstrate that you are committed to addressing those issues.

If not, don’t even waste your breath saying those two words. Oh by the way, I apologize in advance for some of the language used in the comments included below. See, I covered the first imperative, but blew it already on the second.

 

“Believe me, I understand the pain, and what a loss means to the USC family. It looks like I don’t care, and I get that. But inside I’m suffering just like everyone else.”Lane Kiffin reflects on a season gone wrong: http://lat.ms/VD0Hvk“I also know I owe the USC family something better. And we can do that.”
"Believe me, I understand the pain, and what a loss means to the USC family. It looks like I don't care, and I get that. But inside I'm suffering just like everyone else."</p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Lane Kiffin reflects on a season gone wrong: http://lat.ms/VD0Hvk</p><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>"I also know I owe the USC family something better. And we can do that."
Like · · Share · 33718028 · 31 minutes ago·

ING NYC Marathon Sunday – A medal of a different color

A number of folks have emailed me and messaged me on facebook today saying things similar to this one:

“In spite of all the posturing, promises, and politicizing, the residents of Staten Island are no better off this AM. And we still didn’t have the marathon”.

To them, I can only say that today the NYC community was laser focused on the recovery and the clean up. There were no distractions, no diversions and no celebration for some while others were wondering if they’ll make it through the next night without any heat. It wouldn’t have been that way if the marathon had gone forth.

Additionally, we wouldn’t have had the thousands of runners who volunteered their time today to deliver food, water, blankets and other items to Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, The Rockaways and Staten Island, among others. They donned their marathon shirts and backpacks filled with supplies and drove, rode or even ran out to the homes and residents that needed them. Every year, marathon Sunday in NYC is all about transforming lives and that is exactly what happened today. Are things back to normal? Absolutely not. And they won’t be for some time. There is still a severe lack of fuel, power, shelter and clothing for far too many. But even if it is better today than it was yesterday for just a few people, then it was worth it. When the smiles on the faces of people who are given simple items like toilet paper, or a few apples are equal to the smiles on the faces of the runners distributing them, you know that lives were transformed today and we don’t need someone to slip a medal over our neck to prove it.

The 2012 ING NYC Marathon is Cancelled – What’s Next?

After a see-saw week of: is it on? Is it off? Tuesday it’s on. Friday it’s definitely on, and are you freak’n kidding me? Late Friday afternoon, the NYC Mayor’s Office released an announcement that reversed his previous positions and announced that the 2012 New York City Marathon is cancelled.

“We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.” Bloomberg said.

I still stand by my earlier comments, that if the NYRR and the City could demonstrate conclusively that no resources would be diverted from the recovery efforts, and that includes no excessive burden on the part of FDNY EMS and other emergency workers, and if they could do it in a way that demonstrated that holding the event would actually accelerate and stimulate the response to those in need, avoiding further suffering, then they should hold the race. Barring that, they shouldn’t. They clearly couldn’t do this.

I have to assume that they wanted to do this, but to quote the famous line from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The outpouring of criticism from the community was immense with more than 50,000 fans joining a new facebook page entitled Cancel the 2012 NYC Marathon in less than three days. To put that into perspective, the NYRR’s own facebook page has only 37,000 followers and it’s been up for years.

In the heat of battle, I understand it’s hard to get your ducks in a row, and everyone is gun shy about saying the wrong thing, but decisions were made in a way that made the community feel that it was all being done for financial reasons and worse yet, it was being done in the dark. What the public could see was a mix of rumors and exaggerations and absent any formal statements, aside from “Don’t run in Central Park”, the community saw what they wanted to see, dead bodies still being found in basements, residents of Staten Island without homes and outraged, victims being kicked out of hotels to honor marathoners’ reservations, Borough presidents and other elected officials speaking out against the marathon, portable bathrooms setup and fenced off so locals wouldn’t use them in advance of the marathon, and two shiny new generators being used to support the marathon as opposed to powering up a hospital or darkened homes across NYC.

Generators wait in Central Park for Sunday’s running of the New York City Marathon. (Getty Images)

To me, this was the nail in the coffin of any opportunity to hold this race. The pictures of the two generators were used in online articles, television news coverage and every media outlet available. They became a symbol for the selfishness and lack of sensitivity that the NYRR has for its community, whether true or not. The poor response from a NYRR representative when asked about the generators use while so many people were still without power? These are from a private source and they didn’t take away from any being used for recovery. That statement only made it worse. As I noted earlier, I think the City and the NYRR could have won over the community by matching every action used to support the marathon with one to support the relief. Adding two generators for the marathon? Then donate two generators to the relief. Bringing out thousands of water bottles? Then donate thousands of water bottles to those who don’t have clean drinking water. Giving away race shirts? Then give them to the people who lost all of their belongings. Even after the race was cancelled, aside from notifying runners about the cancelled race, the only message sent out on the NYRR facebook encouraged runners to come to the expo to pick up their race t-shirts and goodie bags and to stop by the vendors booths – presumably to spend more money. I can’t help but feel that they just don’t get it.

As for the runners losing out? I think Olympic medalist and 2009 winner of the ING NYC Marathon Meb Kelflezighi said it best:

“I understand why it cannot be held under the current circumstances. Any inconveniences the cancellation causes me or the thousands of runners who trained and traveled for this race pales in comparison to the challenges faced by people in NYC and its vicinity.”

For the most part, runners understood that, but I was shocked to see so many runners posting comments asking for refunds of not only their fees but compensation for their losses and even one who wanted refunds of the merchandise she bought. Apparently, even the running community isn’t immune to selfish behaviors.

So what about the runners? It lightens my heart to see so many of them already jumping into the relief effort by volunteering in the City. As one runner who drove a truck of supplies this morning, Moffat Frazier posted:

“Back from volunteering this morning in the Rockaways…the devastation we saw on the way back left us speechless…I’m doing my part – donated clothes, food, money and time…make sure you get out there and do your part too…”

According to reports, the NYRR will provide guaranteed entry into the 2013 ING NYC Marathon to those who were registered this year. As for registration fees, the NYRR has a no refund policy, but Mary Wittenberg is on record as saying that they will be reevaluating this. Should you get a refund? In my mind, no. Not because you weren’t impaired, but because so was everybody else. That said, I think the NYRR would go a long way to help their badly tarnished reputation by both increasing the amount of money they donate to the recovery, as well as by providing some relief to those who raced. If 40,000 runners registered at $250 per person, that’s $10 million in fees that were collected by the NYRR for this race. Yes, some funds have already been spent, and yes, the NYRR relies on the revenues from the marathon for their annual operations, but I’m guessing something more than $26.2 per person can be either returned or donated to the relief. If it was me, I’d come up with a number and then give the runner the choice.

But for now, as has been throughout the week, communication from the NYRR is almost non existent and yesterday’s NYRR website full of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the marathon, has now been replaced with a homepage that only displays the image at the top of this post. Once again, communication seems to be lacking.

To the thousands of runners who are still in NYC and anxious to run, go for it. The beauty of running is that we lace up our shoes and walk out the door. We don’t need millions of dollars of support to get that amazing feeling. Spend your New York City experience volunteering and then head out for a run and experience New York City as only runners can. Most importantly, let’s get back to what New Yorkers do best. Getting things running again. You can help. I know you will.

An Open Letter to Mary Wittenberg and Mayor Bloomberg – The ING NYC Marathon – It’s Not Enough!

Mayor Bloomberg and Mary, please let me start off by openly stating that I agree with your decision for the marathon to go on, with a few caveats, namely that you can clearly demonstrate to the citizens of NYC and surrounding areas that resources are not being diverted from recovery efforts, and secondly that you go out of your way to respect and aid those who are still suffering. Mary, you know that I am a person with an opinion and ordinarily I insist on basing these opinions in evidence, but in this case, it’s pretty hard to find.  Transparency has never been one of the strengths of the New York Road Runners. So my opinions are based on what public information is there, as well as from the experience I had during the years I spent coaching and running the marathon training programs for the NYRR as well as my experience of living and working in and around New York City.

I’ve read that this year’s marathon is estimated to bring in more than $300 million in new revenues to the city. It will be a catalyst for spurring a return to tourism faster and it will open small businesses sooner. Getting ready for the marathon will also mean the City will work faster and recovery will occur faster. All of these are good things.

Critics have two major points. The first is that theses marathon efforts are taking valuable resources away from the clean-up and the repairs necessary in hard-hit areas such as Staten Island. The Post this morning and subsequent coverage on NBC cited utilities workers from Staten Island as well as hundreds of police officers being diverted up to Manhattan for the marathon preparations while at the same time hundreds of homes and thousands of people are without homes, food, clean water and the streets are being looted.

Address this point head on. Demonstrate to the public and show the evidence that resources are not being diverted.

Their second point is perhaps more damming. How can you hold a celebration of resiliency when police and fire fighters are still pulling dead bodies out of homes in the borough’s you’ll be running through?

The only thing I can say here is that everyone needs to start acting with a whole lot more empathy and sensitivity. It needs to go beyond appearances on The Today Show. Show through your actions that you value citizenship first. I know you are well intended, now let your actions prove this out as you go about putting on the most magnificent running race in the world. Make this a true RACE TO RECOVER.

You’ve pledged $26.2 for each runner running on Sunday or a minimum of $1 million. The Rudin family is committing an additional $1.1 million and ING Foundation another $500,000. This is $2.6 million dollars being pledged to relief efforts. Unfortunately, Mary, it isn’t enough. Start spending the money that has been brought in from runner fees, from sponsorships and even from your charity program. And let your staff know that good citizenship means that we think about the impact of every decision. Before turning the generators on in Central Park, you should have known that it would be seen as a slap in the face to those without power in Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland County and elsewhere. Just because they were private contractors and not city resources doesn’t make it any less offensive, and Richard Finn’s irritated attitude just goes to show you why so many people are upset and feel that the NYRR is out of touch with their community. Before powering those generators up, could you have paid for having an equal number of generators sent down to Staten Island to power up those homes?  What would it have cost you? Another $100K? Big deal. What else could you have done to actually help people now given your unique position in the NYC community? Here are a few ideas and I’m sure you can come up with many better than mine:

  • Put up a bulletin board on your website so runners this weekend can share rooms together, opening up more rooms for those New Yorkers who are in hotels and will get kicked out to honor runners’ reservations
  • Mayor Bloomberg, make a statement that New Yorker’s health and welfare comes first and hotels will not be penalized for helping people who have lost their homes
  • Every registered marathoner that comes into the City and donates their paid room to a displaced resident gets free entry into the 2013 ING NYC Marathon (You can still be cheap and just say guaranteed entry, they’d be just as thrilled)
  • Every registered marathoner who donates more than 6 hours volunteering gets guaranteed entry into the 2013 ING NYC Marathon – you require aspiring marathoners to volunteer at your races, this is the same but a bit more important
  • Set-up buses to take marathoners who want to volunteer to the areas where they can help
  • Make it simple for marathoners to know how they can help, where they can go, what they can do
  • Any money you are spending on the marathon, spend an equal amount NOW to help those in need.
  • Allow marathoners to have their registration fee donated to the relief effort, not $26.2 when you know they paid more than $200 for the right to run in your race. It’s almost embarrassing.
  • Commit the $500 you charge charities for each charity runner and put that to use immediately, not for elite runner appearances but for the citizens of your city

I know my ideas are based on imperfect or out of date information, and please know that I am writing this understanding how difficult of a position you are in. You both have the power to make things better, not just in the aggregate or at some point in the future, but now to individuals who are currently suffering. I do believe that you feel you are, but it isn’t enough. Make it clear to the marathoners coming into NYC that this year’s marathon is NOT ABOUT HOW FAST YOU RUN! It’s about an event with a national audience that can help to speed recovery, lift spirits, help the economy recover more rapidly and most importantly, can actually help those who need help by productively galvanizing the most able-bodied, fit and inspired community in the world – marathon runners!

This year, a ‘PR’ or Personal Record should have nothing to do with your running time, instead it should be measured by the time and effort you commit to helping those who need it.

I’ve read posts where runners coming into the city are being told, “run for those who can’t run”, and while this is well intended, it won’t actually help those in need. Give these runners an opportunity and the tools to help, really help – starting today! You know they will. Mary, you’ve always wanted the New York Road Runners to be the leader in running across the world. Here’s your chance.

A leader has to make tough decisions and this is a tough situation. You may be far better served to forget less about pomp and circumstances and spend more effort figuring out how you can use the power you have to turn your money, influence and close to 40,000 runner citizens loose on the city in a coordinated way to do what they really want to do – Race with Purpose!

 

Roger Goodell is a genius – Why keeping the NFL Replacement Refs is just good business

Last night ‘s Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks NFL football game ended with a Hail Mary pass by former University of Wisconsin and current Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson calling the wrong play in the huddle before scrambling to heave a near perfect 40-yard ball into the corner of the end zone…to be caught by…..

…..who cares. It didn’t matter who caught the ball because former Golden Domer, Golden Tate shoves the defender in the back with such force he sends him sprawling. Offensive Pass Interference, Easy Call, Game Over….or is it?

The ball flies into the end zone and Green Bay Packers defensive back, Jennings rises high to grab the ball, pull it into his chest along with Golden Tate’s arms, and comes down in the end zone, Interception, Easy Call, Game Over….or is it?

Heck no, the replacement referees can’t figure out what the call is and after missing the obvious pass interference call, decide it is simultaneous possession and award the ball and the touchdown to….Golden Tate. Game over! For real, well sort of, as they had to kick the PAT.

The press has gone wild, the fans and players are incensed and all I could think of was keeping these high school referees in the NFL is pure genius. Record numbers of fans and viewers are watching these games. So what if it isn’t to watch the football? The bottom line is that ratings are surging and the money is flowing in! Advertisers are thrilled! The NFL will be rolling in dough and didn’t have to pay extra to so called professional referees to do it. Brilliant!

This season is football’s reality TV equivalent of Snookie and The Situation and Honey Boo Boo. Even though you know you’re going to see something completely ridiculous and embarrassing, you have to tune in and watch, and that means more money for the league. The outcomes when the perennial best of the NFL plays the perennial doormats are completely in question because with these referees ANYTHING can happen. And people love to watch the unexpected.

So before you jump up screaming about how you want the professional refs to return, think about how boring it will be to see the Patriots, the Packers and Saints winning all of their games again. Everything Roger Goodell has done from the player lockout, to Bounty Gate to the replacement referees has been pure genius. He has done what Al Davis never could, established parity in the league where the outcome is always in questions and the fan is engaged for all 60 minutes…

…plus replays!

Do you want to be right or do you want to do good? The Lance Armstrong saga finally comes to an end. But who really loses?

This morning the top news is that Lance Armstrong is “finished with this nonsense”, he’s finished with the constant investigation and the multi-year “unconstitutional witch hunt” that he has been the victim of from the World and United States Anti-Doping Agency. He continues to say he is innocent, but enough is enough.  He lobbied Congress, the Olympic Committee and who knows how many others to make this stop, but nobody stepped up. The result? He will be stripped from the record books, lose his 7 Tour de France Titles and be a footnote for our children and our children’s children. Thank goodness, the evil doer is finally brought to justice and the Eliott Ness hero gets his man.It’s over. Or is it?

First, why is this a surprise to anyone? Cyclists in Armstrong’s era took drugs. Period. Who are they going to pass his titles down to? With everyone else also taking performance enhancing drugs, some kid pedaling around on a newspaper route is going to be incredibly surprised when someone hands him 7 medals, because he’s probably the only cyclist who wasn’t taking drugs at that time.

And as for the villagers who can now douse the flames of their torches, you may want to reflect on exactly what you succeeded in doing. You have succeeded in proving that water is indeed wet. Seriously, who didn’t believe that he was using performance enhancing drugs? If you didn’t, you can stop clicking your heels together, too. But that’s not the point.

I could care less about titles or accolades or records. Let people have these as they are meant for those who care about tokens and to titillate a culture that still harkens back to celebrity worship. What matters is that Lance used this twisted celebrity to do actual good, or real and permanent good as Andrew Carnegie would say. Does it matter if what drove him was hubris, ego or the guilt that he had cheated and needed to give back to make amends for his actions, to do something that made up for the fact that he was being idolized and didn’t deserve it? How much good makes up for the drug use? How about these very facts that describe the impact in one year that his foundations has had:

  • More than $18.7 million invested in research grants.
  • More than $9.6 million granted towards cancer
    survivorship and testicular cancer research.
  • More than $1.7 million granted invested in the
    development of 5 comprehensive cancer survivorship
    centres across the country.
  • Nearly $1.6 million invested in survivorship education
    and outreach initiatives.
  • More than $2 million invested in 104 community
    program partner initiatives.

According to the 2011 Annual Report, since 1997, The Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million to fight cancer with an exemplary suite of services and programs that has served more than 2.3 million cancer survivors. You like facts? Here’s one major fact. If Lance Armstrong hadn’t doped, he wouldn’t have been able to do any of this and millions of people have benefited because of the way he used this faux power and influence. Countless lives have been saved due to the awareness that was created by his celebrity and his foundation. Is the doping agency right? Probably yes, but we may never know for certain. Let’s say, yes they are. Congratulations, they won an argument. How many of us have met people that “have to be right” even if right hurts people in the end. This is the ridiculousness of this whole escapade. Do I celebrate Lance? As a cyclist, yes as even if he did use performance enhancing drugs, I have to appreciate how ridiculously difficult it is to win one Tour de France when everyone else around you is using whatever they can to win as well, let alone seven. Do I condone what he did? Absolutely not. But then again, I think Pete Rose should be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. My view of humanity is that we all make mistakes and do stupid things that most of us regret later in life, sometimes minutes afterwards. To me, it isn’t about making the mistake, it’s about who or what gets hurt by your action and what you do with the rest of your life to make up for it – to improve the condition of others. In Lance’s case, the main people that were hurt are other doping cyclists and if you evaluate the entire body of his work, and his contributions to society, they far outweigh any silliness of who gets a medal or a television contract or an ESPY. Yes, it’s over. Let’s hope the real and permanent good being done through his name and his foundation isn’t.

Fail More to Succeed – Really?

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. — Michael Jordan

I am so tired of hearing this, seeing it and listening to people say this to me – the inevitable “you have to fail to succeed” quote. This is right up there with “practice makes perfect”. You’re wrong! Practice doesn’t make perfect if you have NO IDEA what you are doing or if you are reinforcing the same mistakes over and over and over again.

I always find it funny when I hear people use their fail to succeed mantra, as if failure is the key ingredient. It isn’t!

There are people who fail and continue to fail and there are people who fail and learn from their mistakes. Why isn’t that part ever included in the motivational quote? Is it too hard? Did you run out of room? Wasn’t it catchy enough? It’s like the “wisdom comes from judgment, and judgment comes from bad decisions, therefore wisdom comes from bad decisions” quote. No, it doesn’t. Wisdom comes from the insights derived from making bad decisions by being intelligent and applying analysis to it so you can identify an alternative path. You know what also comes form bad decisions? Teen pregnancy, getting hit by cars, bungee jumping without tightening your harness, cracking your skull when you roof dive into the pool deck. All of those come from bad decisions and bad judgment, oh yeah, along with wisdom.

Beyond the second step of recognizing you made a mistake and learned from it is doing a self analysis to determine if you have the capabilities to be able to do anything different the next time to achieve a different and hopefully better result. If you don’t have the capabilities, can you gain them? If not, move on. I guess you could say that success comes from failure if you move onto a different activity because you came to the conclusion that you sucked at that one, alternatively choosing one you were better aligned to. I could fail and fail and fail and fail all I want and I will never win an NBA MVP award, no matter how much I learn or how hard I try.  Can I go to the guy who sells the “Fail to Succeed” plaques and ask him for my money back?  Can I tell him that this causal relationship implied may not pass the sufficiency test?

This mantra has now been so embedded into business that we have people that use it as an excuse, especially those coming right out of school, as if failing is something to be proud of. It isn’t. Personally, I want my teams to try new things and they can make a new mistake every day, because it means that they are trying new things and innovating. But let’s be realistic here. I don’t hire idiots and I expect that coming in, they have a certain set of capabilities and the intelligence to know the difference between something that works and something that doesn’t. And let’s also reinforce that I’m talking about a new mistake each day, not saying it’s okay to make the same mistake over and over again. Applying this philosophy and using it as an excuse for someone to make the same mistake over and over and over again shouldn’t be applauded. That just means that they lack awareness of the objectives of the job or they lack self awareness of how their capabilities map to those requirements. Either way, I’m not going to recommend them for a bonus because they tried and failed numerous times, no matter how many times they tell me they are on the path to success nirvana through their actions.  These people  clearly missed the important second phase of this process – learn from that failure/mistake and don’t do it again.

Jordan may have lost more than 9,000 shots, and 300 games, but according to his Wikipedia page he also received acknowledgment for:

We don’t recognize how amazing Jordan is because of the 9,000 shots he missed or the 300 games he lost or the game winning shots he missed. We are in awe of him because he achieved all these awards and honors IN SPITE of this.

 

 

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