Risk to Lose to Win

Over the weekend I have attended the Friday session of one of my favorite sporting events; the NHRA races in Vegas.   That they are in Vegas is incidental, but the drag races themselves are fascinating and exhillerating.  And whether you are a car fan or not, there are some valuable lessons to be garnered from these events.

For those of you (likely many) not familiar with the formats for drag racing, it boils down to this: a team (yes, the driver gets the glory but the team makes it happen) gets four qualifying runs to post the beat e.t. (elapsed time) for the run (traditionally 1/4 mile).  Based on e.t. drivers are ranked and seeded in a single elimination series of rounds.  If you aren’t one of.the top 16 qualifiers, you don’t race in eliminations. 

Most teams work very hard to make the first run good enough that they can then experiment with car set up to try and get a slightly faster run.  The teams also understand that the more they experiment the greater the chance that they will have a catastrophic failure, which in the world of drag racing means exploding engines, fireballs, and not finishing at all. But they all accept the risk, knowing that sometimes losing a single run gives them valuable information about what it will take to be successful in eliminations.

I think that life is more like that than we realize. When I approach each day as an opportunity to tweak things a little, to make some minor adjustments in one area or another in the hopes of getting a slightly better result, the day becomes more productive. It also sometimes goes wrong, but that information is just as valuable.

In drag racing, a failure in a single.run down the track is disappointing, but most teams respond by sayings, “We’ll rebuild it and be ready for our next run.”

And that’s how I try to live each day.

What do you think?

What Winning Fixes

I am throwing away all of my Nike golf balls.

They have been my favorite golf ball.  I have played them exclusively now (except at scramble tournaments, when I get free ones) for nearly a decade, but I’m throwing them all out and finding a new ball.

Come to think of it, I may be throwing away all of the merchandise I own that has a Nike Swoosh on it.  Because I’m done with them and what they appear to stand for.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me bring you up to speed.  I’m talking about the advertisement that Nike ran when Tiger won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  It had a picture of Tiger, apparently sizing up a putt, and was captioned with, “Winning takes care of everything.”  Immediately, praisers and pundits of Tiger starting voiceing what they thought of this kind of ad really said.  Almost all of them said something like, “Well, that’s just Tiger’s attitude, and it always has been.  What’s new?”

And they’re right.  This has always been Tiger’s attitude.

And Nike’s.

Nike has been synonymous for years with a gritty determination to turn things around, to fight longer and harder, to train smarter and, as a result, to walk away the winner.  Anyone who has competed in any arena can relate to that.  Nike also famously gave us the “Just Do It,” slogan (albeit borrowed from others) and inspired an entire generation to go out and challenge themselves to do things that they had never done before.

And Nike stayed with various athletes through their ups and downs, both professional and personal, and until recently, I was on Nike’s side on the issue.  I was proud of them for not dropping Lance Armstrong when he was diagnosed with cancer.  I was proud of them for not dropping Michael Jordan when he was struggling to come back to basketball.  I was proud of them for sponsoring so many initiatives to help kids be healthy.

But now, I think Nike has shown what they really think.

They think that winning takes care of everything.

Does winning take care of broken families?  Of promises made and then scoffed at and ultimately disgarded?  Does winning restore lost integrity?

I don’t believe it does.

Frankly, Tiger’s prowess on the links doesn’t truly impact me one way or the other.  He is impressive, like many athletes who compete on the world stage.  And I’ve always known that athletes who are the best in the world see things differently.  But I don’t have to agree with them.  In fact, as a man of substance, I think part of my responsibility is to find role models who exemplify the virtues I espouse, and emulate them.  And to that point, Tiger and I see things very differently.

I don’t believe that winning takes care of everything.  I believe that taking care of the critical things, especially family relationships, is what makes it possible to handle everything else.

And that’s why I am done with Nike.  I don’t feel like Nike’s corporate values match the man I am trying to be, so I choose not to use their products and be in any way, shape or form part of their advertising program.  Instead, I will use a different golf ball, one from a company that doesn’t say that success on the golf course excuses me from being a man of integrity.

What do you think ?