Archives For February 2012

We live in a reactionary culture; in church, politics, sports, and just about everything in-between. The firing of ESPN’s headline writer Anthony Federico is the latest example of this.

I am the problem.  Here is why.

After New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin’s first loss as a starter, Federico wrote that there was a “Chink in the chain”.  Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese descent so to me and many others, the headline was cutesy racism that went overboard and it just made me mad. Here was my reaction on twitter the morning after reading (from other media sources) about the ESPN headline issue:

ESPN getting racist on Jeremy Lin last night. Their lesson? Don’t let drunk frat interns update web content.

This was my reaction.  Instead it was just a “reaction to a reaction” because all I did was pay attention to what everyone else was saying, especially the media, civil rights groups, etc. I joined an online mob.

The ESPN headline writer was fired soon that day.  I learned that Headline writers like Frederico have to come up with quick headlines every few minutes.  Federico claimed that it was an “honest mistake”.  Saturday Night Live did a great job with their sketch highlighting the hypocrisy of who can say what about races and get away with it.

Messages like mine are what puts ESPN in a position to fire someone without learning more and listening to all sides about why this happened. ESPN acted in cowardly fear. They were wrong and I was wrong. Who gets hurt? A promising young career is knocked down in the form of Anthony Federico, the 26-year-old who posted this headline.  Anthony Federico issued this incredible apology after he was fired by ESPN. Read it here. I was impressed with his candor, thoughtfulness, regret, but also a helpful explanation about how it happened.  He happens to be a Christian, which is relevant because I understand more about why he did this.  Jeremy Lin is also a prominent Christian, which makes the media firestorm even worse.

After reading Anthony Federico’s response, it caused me to look deep in the mirror. I failed. I reacted. I was lazy and didn’t take the time to understand all sides of this story. I can think of dozens and dozens of instances where I have jumped to conclusion too quickly and people got hurt. Most of the time I was wrong and should know better. What I learned today is that I should have more of the character of Anthony Federico. I’ll leave you with his words:

My solace in this is that ‘all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.’ I praise God equally in the good times and the bad times.

Anthony, I am sorry. You don’t deserve this. We all owe you this apology. Please forgive us all.

Follow Anthony on twitter, he seems like a great guy. @antfeds

The Big Fish Irrational Life

February 23, 2012 — 2 Comments

Recently my friend Nathan Martin shared with me an obituary article about the man John Fairfax. Fairfax lived an extraordinary yet insane life filled with adventures rowing boats across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, being a pirate (yes a pirate), living in the Amazon, and playing professional baccarat like James Bond. The article’s writer said it best, “He crossed the Atlantic because it was there, and the Pacific because it was also there.”  Read his amazing obituary here.  Fairfax seemed like quite a lost person but his sense of adventure and imagination is what inspires me most.  If he were alive today, Mark Burnett or another reality show producer would be begging to follow and record his life.

So why do these crazy things?

Fairfax describes why in context of his rowing adventures.

“I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw.”

Fairfax reminds me of the movie Big Fish, one of my top 5 inspirational movies.  It has so many lessons in it and the main character Edward Bloom is probably related somehow to John Fairfax.

Edward Bloom’s son shares about his father’s immortal life,

In telling the story of my father’s life, it’s impossible to separate fact from fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is to tell it the way he told me. It doesn’t always make sense and most of it never happened… but that’s what kind of story this is.

It’s easy to dismiss a life like Edward Bloom’s in Big Fish. Edward learned early about his purpose.

It occurred to me then, that perhaps the reason for my growth was I was intended for larger things. After all, a giant man can’t have an ordinary-sized life.

The movie is a reminder that we are all meant for big things in God’s eyes.  I want to be remembered for having taken risks and gone on great adventures like John Fairfax or Edward Bloom. Perhaps I yearn for these adventures with a little more purpose to them and do them in a way to help others. Maybe at the end of life, those irrational experiences will actually be my reality, which is in God’s hands. My practical challenge to you is to start with a bucket list and write out 100 amazing things you want to do/experience before you die. I did this when I was 20 and have been keeping track of it since. Go one step further to describe why you will do each item and what the achievement will mean to you and others.

Have you ever imagined your funeral and what would be written in your obituary?

What would they say?

What stories would they tell?

This post is Innovate Like Moneyball Part 2 so try to read that first.

I recently heard a great spot on NPR from Frank DeFord about the fascination with Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American New York Knicks basketball sensation.  Jeremy Lin has become the latest version of Tim Tebow.  Anyone looking at his previous stats would say he was an average backup player to having no chance at an NBA career at all.  Pretty soon, scouts will be saying things about their recruits as having “The Lin Factor”.  It’s that special thing about him that gets fans excited while executing on the court (or field) in an amazing way.

In Moneyball fashion, can a statistician find a Jeremy Lin?

Perhaps, but it would be a long shot and they’d need some divine help. Here is why.

Life and business can be only calculated so much.  I’m asked all the time in marketing from clients how we can have better “quantifiable” results.  It always amuses me because a client definitely wants life to be put together in an organized fashion that they can control like a wizard.  Don’t we all, especially when money and reputation is at stake?

Left photo: Tim Tebow. Credit: Barry Gutierrez / Associated Press Right photo: Jeremy Lin. Credit: Frank Gunn / Associated Press

A statistician would say that people like Doug Flutie, Tim Tebow, or  Jeremy Lin are flukes.  They rose to the occasion when given the chance and delivered but their overall stats might be considered mediocre.

Ultimately life and business should be both about quantifiable and qualitative results.  That is how the best research is done to understand stats and behavior.

Clients say they want the “Lin Factor”,”Apple Factor”, or “Nike Factor” for their brand.

Can you quantify how to get that?  That’s not the point. We should celebrate the statistician and the scout equally.  When working well together, that “Factor” can happen and I’ve seen it time and time again with teams I am a part of.

The result can be “greatness”.  And you know it when you see it.

 

 

 

Lately, our company has been going through the best-selling business leadership book, Good to Great by Jim Collins.  Featured in the book is the “Hedgehog Concept”, which serves as an illustration of why we should master one simple thing.  In the Hedgehog’s case, he has an amazing simple defense with is his spiky needle-hair and ability to roll up in a ball. Foxes and other animals may try to be sly to take him down but he does this one simple thing really well and succeeds.

It got me thinking about other ferocious little animals we can learn from today.

Apparently 37 million people on YouTube agree that the Honey Badger is a hero to all nations.  I kind of feel like this blog would be best  if I could do a video post and imitate the narrator of the popular video. But I don’t because it would be terrible in my voice so here is my attempt to make further use of Honey Badger. As an homage to Honey Badger and “Randall”, the voice behind the narration, here are five life lessons from Honey Badger.

1. He is patient.  Honey Badger always takes his time and goes at his pace. When attacked by other animals, he simply waits them out because his endurance is better than theirs.  Does he set goals? Probably not but in his head he just knows what he needs to do and does it well because of his patience.

2. He is not a people pleaser. Honey Badger doesn’t care what other animals are doing or what they think about his activities.  This behavior is incredibly intriguing because I fall into this trap of pleasing too many people.

3. He is resilient and focused. Honey Badger gets knocked down and gets back up and keeps going. When Cobra takes Honey Badger down with venom, he accepts the short loss but then quickly gets back up  and is on to his original task. We all experience failure like Honey Badger. But we like Honey Badger need to recognize that this is only a short setback and we need to get back up and eat Cobra. When he’s being attacked by a swarm of bees and other animals are trying to snatch his food that he caught, Honey Badger stays focused on his prize.

4.  He knows how to use the right tools:  Honey Badger is known to adapt tools in his environment to dig holes and move objects when his claws won’t do.

5. He focuses on his strengths.  Honey Badger doesn’t try to fly. Honey Badger doesn’t try to juggle too many rats. What is his Good to Great “Hedgehog Concept”? He probably eats Hedgehogs of course.

All this being said, the only weakness I can find in Honey Badger is that he is a bit of a lone ranger and doesn’t seem to work well with other Honey Badgers.  Then again Honey Badger would simply say to me, “I don’t give a $#!&.”  So be it, Honey Badger.

What else can we learn from Honey Badger?