You have the ability to create your own comeback stories.

I am a Milwaukee Bucks fan. This week the Bucks won the NBA championship for the first time since 1971. I wasn’t even alive the last time the Bucks won the NBA title. In fact, during the Bucks’ championship drought bellbottoms went in and out of style 3 times.

The 2021 title did not come easy. There were several times when a championship this season seemed out of the question. Like in the second round of the playoffs when the Bucks were down 2 games to 0 versus the Brooklyn Nets. (Not to be confused with the Moscow Nyets.) In the second game of that series, Milwaukee lost 125-86. In case you don’t know sports, that’s really bad.

Then, in game 7 of that series, it looked like the Bucks had been eliminated when the Nets’ Kevin Durant hit a last-second 3-pointer to seal the win. But it turned out the toe of his size 18 shoe was on the 3-point line, making the shot a 2-pointer, and sending the game to overtime, and a Bucks win.

In game 5 Against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with a nasty knee injury that looked as if it was sure to end his season, his ability to walk right, and the team’s championship hopes.

Then the Bucks opened the NBA Finals in Phoenix against the Suns. Despite the fact the Giannis miraculously was back and played great, the Bucks got rolled in back-to-back games. Things didn’t look good when the team was down 2 games to none.

But the Bucks never gave up. They never waved the white flag. They stole Phoenix’s schtick and kept rising to the occasion.

They won game 7 in overtime against the Nets.

They rallied after it looked like they lost their best player against the Hawks and won the final 2 games without him.

Then, when they came back to Milwaukee down 2-0 against the Suns in the finals, the crowd cheered the now famous ‘Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six! Bucks In Six!’ Which meant the team would win the next 4 games in a row. And that is exactly what happened.

Key Takeaway

  • Just because you are losing doesn’t mean you have lost.
  • It isn’t over until it is over.
  • Bad breaks don’t mean a bad outcome.
  • What has happened doesn’t indicate what will happen.
  • Humans can cause their own momentum shifts.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why you should approach self improvement like a sport.

I first published this post a few years ago while reflecting on my track & field career. I recently shared the post with some track athletes and coaches who really appreciated the message, especially the Key Takeaway (so you could just jump to that). So I decided to repost it again during the heart of track season.

Pre-Note: Wednesday I was at a track meet and took the cover pic of our family friend Eva Brandenburg hurdling. Eva and my daughter Ava (confusing right?) have played basketball together since 5th grade, and are now having fast starts to their freshman track seasons. Keep an eye out for Eva. She is going to do special things!

Here is the original post, now in an unoriginal post...

I love track and field. I first got involved in the sport as a freshman in high school, mostly because I was terrible at baseball. But also because it was co-ed. And, I thought the fact that it was a no-cut sport significantly improved my chances of actually making the team.

Trying Everything

I have competed in a wide variety of track and field events. My resume includes the 100 meters, 400 meters, 1600 meters, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus, javelin, hammer, 35-pound weight, 110-meter hurdles, 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, and, yes, even the pole vault (which I approached more like the high jump with a stick).

I have enjoyed every event I have ever competed in (except the 1600 meter run). I love the energy and atmosphere at track meets. But you know when track and field becomes really fun?

The Second Meet.

The second meet is the most important and impactful event in a track athlete’s career. In your first meet, you are just setting a baseline. But once you get to your second meet you walk in with a time, distance, or height to beat. And most of the time, the results in the second meet are a rewarding step forward from the first meet.

In track and field, every result is measured in minutes and seconds, or feet and inches. Which means that your linear progression is clear and quantifiable. Your undeniable improvement in the second meet gets you thinking about the third meet. It makes you think about practicing more, training harder, lifting weights, warming up smarter and getting some better hype music. You start wondering just how much better you can get. The seeds of self-improvement are planted, fertilized and watered in that second meet.

The Broader Lesson

This is not just a track and field thing. This is a life thing. The same principle of self-improvement applies to our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities and our hobbies. Our first attempts simply set a baseline. The second time we do anything we start the improvement process. We recognize that as we pour more energy, time and focus into any activity we get better and better. This is true of presenting a closing argument in court, hiring good employees and folding fitted sheets (although my wife, Dawn is so good at the fitted sheet thing that I focus on the closing arguments in court instead).

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try something new because you think you will be bad at it. You will be bad at it. Or at least you will be the worst you will ever be. But that first attempt creates a starting point. The climb from there is both exciting and rewarding. As you improve, remember that first attempt. Recognize how far you have come since you first started. It is one of the most rewarding reflections in life.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why this was the greatest Super Bowl for old people.

Super Bowl LV will be remembered for some important firsts. It was the first time a team ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Which, if you ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seemed to be a great advantage. It was the first time cardboard cutout attendees outnumbered real people attendees at the Super Bowl. And it was the first time a female officiated a Super Bowl. You go Sarah Thomas! (But don’t go before the snap of the ball, or that is a penalty.)

The non-cardboard crowd attending the Super Bowl was mostly comprised of America’s frontline workers. And rightfully so. But there was another type of worker that slowly stole the show: the older employee.

At 43 years old Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl. And not only did he win the game, he won his 7th Super Bowl. And his 4th since he turned 37. For those who don’t follow American football, 43 in the NFL is like 85 years old in the normal person workplace.

Bruce Arians also became the oldest coach to ever win a Super Bowl. At 68 years and a whole bunch of days, Arians broke Bill Belichick’s old record by 2 years. In fact, Arians was out of football, and just came back to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. 2 years later this senior citizen won the Super Bowl of, well, Super Bowls. Plus he got to live in Florida like so many other 68-year olds.

The noteworthy takeaway is not that Brady and Arians are old. Which they certainly are in relative terms. It is that they are older employees who bring a stadium worth of experience and knowledge to their organization. Experience can be a major game-changer. Even in the NFL.

In a time when employers are quick to pass on older talent, let Brady and Arians serve as a valuable reminder. Their success with the Bucs was not a product of them running the same old proven system in the same old place and having the same old success. This was Arians’ second season in Tampa Bay, and Brady’s first. Yet their applied knowledge and experience transformed the Buccaneers and made them the best team in the NFL. And success in the NFL is harder to come by than most other industries.

Key Takeaway

Don’t overlook the value of older employees. Their accumulated knowledge and experience is a tremendous asset. Organizations of all types benefit from senior experts. They have seen all there is to see. They know what works and what is doomed to fail. They know that people power businesses and that systems create winners. To win more, make sure you have senior talent on your team that knows how to get you where you want to go because they have already been there. And if you are highly experienced, never forget how much value you bring to any organization lucky enough to have you.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to approach your career like a sport.

Business is the ultimate sport. Not only is it highly competitive, it is played for money. And the better you are at this game the more money you and your teammates make. And while many professional athletes are well paid, it is because someone else is making even more money in business by owning the team or the league the athletes play in.

Sports and Business

Will Jurgensen loves exploring the parallel between sports and business. In fact, he began a podcast called Sport Coats to profile the stories of athletes who applied their approach to athletics to successful business careers. I would have liked to have been in the room when Will realized how perfect the name Sport Coats was for his sports/business podcast. Because I bet that boy celebrated like Ickey Woods.

Everyday Ickey Woods is shuffling.

I recently sat down with Will to talk about my experience as a track and field athlete at The University of Wisconsin. But more importantly, we talked about how I have applied my approach to athletics to my career in advertising. And we talked about how my athletic career prepared me to become an entrepreneur when I launched The Weaponry.

Sound bites from the podcast:

On Focus:

‘I remember early in my career, getting hyper-focused on concepts for a campaign or ideas for a new business pitch. It felt the same as those times when I was in the weight room focusing hard on getting those last few reps. It’s the same thing, it’s the exact same feeling.’

On Transitioning: (Not like Caitlyn Jenner)

‘When you are done with your athletics, a lot of athletes say, “I was lost, I felt like it wasn’t me without sports.” I would say I never felt that at all. As soon as I graduated, I just turned my attention to my career and took the exact same focus and drive, and willingness to put in the energy to be great that I did for my athletics. I put that into my career and it surprises me how few athletes do this, because it is the exact same blueprint for athletic success that drives the rest of the success in your career.’

On Self Improvement:

‘Track and field is a little different than a traditional team sport because it is all you, and it’s so cut and dry. I would put a tape measure out or use a stopwatch to figure out if I was improving and if I was better than other people who have tried this. From that standpoint, I found the challenge of self-improvement to be intoxicating.’

On Training:

“The structure, the discipline, the focus, the background work that you have to do as an athlete, you know, all the little drills that you do over and over to perfect a piece of what you do, when you do that in your career you become highly specialized. And you become world-class at the smallest things. You add extreme value to organizations that make money off of that kind of work.’

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Ye Can Hear It Here.

You can listen to my interview here at The Sport Coats Podcast. You can also read more of the transcript if you prefer the voice in your head over mine. I listened to the podcast on the podcast app on my iPhone.

I think you will enjoy it, even if you aren’t into sports. It feels like a motivational talk. Will is a great host. And after listening to the episode I understood why people think I am excited about life.

Key Takeaway

Business is the ultimate competitive sport. It requires discipline, teamwork and strategy. Everything you know about athletic competition, hard work, focus and determination translates directly to business. It is an inherently fun game to play with others. And it is even more fun to win. The money is a bonus. But what a bonus that is.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, or from this podcast, please share it with them.

Do you know your good misses?

My daughter Ava is a freshman in high school and has been playing basketball since 4th grade. To improve her skills, she has also been training with Joe Chapman at Chapman Basketball Academy in Milwaukee for the past 3 years.

Joe is a great coach. In fact, he coached the Marquette alumni team, aptly named The Golden Eagles, to the championship of The Basketball Tournament. So what you say? The winning team wins $1 million dollars. Which makes TBT one of the most exciting new sporting events concocted this century.

Joe Chapman with the left-handed ET greeting.

The Good Miss

During CBA training sessions I regularly hear Joe say, ‘Good miss’. For developing basketball players, a good miss is a shot that hits the back of the rim. This is the best way to miss a shot for several reasons:

  1. You hit the rim. Which means that your aim was in the right direction. If you don’t hit the rim it’s a bad miss. (I have mastered the bad miss if you want to see what that looks like.)
  2. A shot that hits the front of the rim is too short and will naturally bounce out, based on physics, angles, relativity and polarity. (I may have made the last 2 up.)
  3. A shot that hits the back of the rim was aimed correctly, had enough distance to go in, and could still bounce into the hoop. In other words, the shot that hits the back of the rim gives you a chance. #SoYourSayingTheresAChance
Ava and Joe and a banner (but not David Banner).

Pro Tip

Travis Diener, another Chapman Basketball Academy trainer who played in the NBA for the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers, told me that for him there is no longer a good miss, and that he expects to make every shot he takes. But that when starting out it is good to distinguish good misses from bad misses so that you can identify progress as you develop and refine your skills. And since Diener hit the winning million dollar shot in this year’s TBT, he knows what he is talking about, Willis.

Travis Diener, with the leaner.

Your Good Misses

We all have good misses. These are the attempts that didn’t land where or how you intended. And they occur in every area of your life. But you can still take positive feedback from the results. As you are learning new skills and developing new muscles it is important to distinguish good misses from bad.

Until you master an activity you should give yourself partial credit for your good misses. For the actions that were nearly there. When you clearly identify the intended outcome you can measure your improvement through efforts that land just one circle out from a perfect execution.

Hypothetical Examples

  • Maybe you didn’t land the job, but you got the second or third interview.
  • You made a cold call and you got a response, but not a yes.
  • Your backhand cleared the net, but landed outside the lines.
  • While parallel parking you bumped the curb, but not the other cars.
  • You asked that cute guy or girl out, but called them by the wrong name.

Key Takeaway

When you are developing a new skill your performances are not black and white. Don’t simply categorize your attempts as passes or fails. In every activity there are good misses. And there are airballs. Know the difference, and know what you can learn from each of them.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.