So, we Americans are a competitive bunch; I contend this is good. It drives us, it compels us, it motivates us, and in turn results in undeniable success. Just think, in a mere 240 years, with just 5 percent of the world’s population, we represent the world’s largest economy, some 80 percent larger than second place China, three times larger than Japan, three and one-half times larger than Germany, and five times larger than the United Kingdom. We deliver 25 percent of the world’s GDP, enjoy one of the world’s greatest qualities of life, and abundant opportunity.
Further, we are recognized (although underappreciated) as the world’s most charitable nation on earth. Our success has enabled us to make a difference for not only ourselves but also, to a very great extent, many less fortunate throughout the world.
We’ve all been through leadership training, with the discussion of various leadership styles: the ever so popular MBO (Management by Objectives) or the MWA (Management by Walking Around). While not taught in business schools, some have experienced those all too frustrating, so-called leaders, who default to, and later perfect, MBG (Management by Gotcha). Those not so inspirational leaders, who cloak themselves in the veneer of relevancy while rising each day to “catch ya.” I call this drive-by leadership where the gotcha serves the purpose of somehow, at least in their own mind, validating their leadership value.
The media, in particular, has perfected the gotcha skill. Careers are made on these ambush interviews. They self-describe that they are the truth seekers, and while they believe they communicate with complete objectivity, they are anything but. One need not read too closely to “out” the bias of the author, or worse yet, the broadcast commentator. Granted, I myself am biased, and write my strong opinions on things affecting the business world, or in particular, our industry. But then again, I am not a journalist. I happily defend our industry, as many business owners and leaders in our space now carry the condescending label of being “1 percenters”, I embrace the caution of Art Laffer who said, “You can’t love job creation and hate the job creators.”
Notwithstanding our nation’s competitive drive, this year’s Olympics did not produce the dominance or medal count we so craved and expected. Of course, we must expect to win, and if you are not showing up to go for the gold, don’t apply. However, we did return a bit of purity to the “amateur athlete” foundation of the Olympics. The U.S. hockey team, for example, returned to minor leagues or collegiate players as opposed to the hall-of-famers from the NHL. Perhaps the reduced medal count was the price paid for upping the integrity of the games.
With this foundation, I offer an observation: Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, CURLING was what your sister did to her hair. I knew nothing of curling the ice sport. I must say I have never tried it, don’t understand the rules, but find myself increasingly captivated with growing interest. I played baseball, football, wrestled and boxed. Are those the only real sports? If one sets an athletic goal that requires commitment, practice, skill and ultimately perfection, does that not qualify as a real sport? A gold medal performance, in any sport, confirming that you are the best in the world at something is a BIG DEAL! To achieve such while representing your home nation makes it all the better! However, the morning after the curling gold, there it was; our five-man team from Duluth, Minnesota and surrounding areas being interviewed live on NBC Today. The teammates, all with day jobs, sat there beaming with justifiable pride being interviewed on national TV which, arguably, was one of the highlights of their life. Early in this short (2-minute, 51-seconds) interview, co-anchor Craig Melvin elects to point out that some of them were cut from previous teams and formed their own who were known as the Rejects. Hmm…now if that was their self-anointed title fine, but otherwise what is the point? Correspondent, Sheinelle Jones, is allocated two questions in the limited time she must share with her co-anchor. Here is our national pride, pure amateurs, gold medal winners, at the pinnacle of their achievement and what is the drive-by gotcha question she elected to pose: “Joe – what do you say to those people who say what you do isn’t a real sport?” I mean really! Did you get a high five in the lunchroom from your colleagues for your probative investigative skills? I mean wow…was that your super cool high-water mark to further your own brand? Did you look in the mirror and give yourself a thumbs up with the refrain “nailed it!?”
I wish Joe and his teammates would have responded by saying, “I don’t know Sheinelle, help me here: What do you say to those people who ask, ‘Is reading the news from a teleprompter real journalism?’” Never thought a guy from Chicago’s Southside, who grew up playing in open fire hydrants, would be defending a group from somewhere near the North Pole (okay, I know, I know it’s North and South shore), but guys we are damn proud of you and your real sport. Thank you for bringing home, to our country, a gold medal. And oh, by the way, Ms. Jones, shame on you! As my father, from a farm community, used to say to us growing up when we were tattling on a sibling in an attempt to throw them under the bus, “Our candle burns no brighter by blowing someone else’s out.”
“One chance is all you need”
- Jesse Owens