Where has Todd Been

Sometimes when we take on projects, we find that what we thought it would be and what it would require of us are far in excess of what we had planned. Such has been the case for me. I was offered a project, a chance to do something that I have always dreamed of doing, and I took it. I knew it would be demanding, and I knew it would challenge me in new and interesting ways. What I didn’t realize is just how draining the experience would be.

The project was concluded last night, and it was a wonderful success! The people that I worked with on it are amazingly talented, and we had a wonderful time making the project successful. I am truly indebted to them for their trust in me and their willingness to work with me. Through the process I have deepened friendships and strengthened ties that were already powerful. I feel rejuvenated and energized at a level I haven’t felt for a long time. It was demanding, it was draining, and it was wonderful.

The project was directing a show, and, as with all things, it gave me wonderful chances to learn and reflect. Allow me to share one of the insights that I gained through the experience.

Don’t underestimate the power of the right team.
A show basically has three phases, pre-production, production and performance. With that also come three teams, a production team, a cast, and a crew. In many shows the teams are completely separate, crossing paths only rarely and handling their tasks separately. This was not the case for this show. Our producer, the individual responsible for giving us the materials we needed for a good show, was also a member of the cast. Our costumer visited us regularly, consulting with the cast to ensure that they felt comfortable with all the pieces they would use. Our prop master was at nearly every meeting and every rehearsal. Our crew enthusiastically agreed to work as understudies for certain roles. And everyone worked exceptionally well with each other. Egos were always at bay, everyone was focused on the outcome of the show, on telling the story, and when questions arose contributions were made by everyone.

But it could easily have gone the other way.

I have seen shows and movies that were built not around the team but around an individual. I’m sure you have too. And like me, you have probably perceived that something was just not quite right, that something was out of synch. I have also seen shows where one or two members of the cast were holding back their best effort, for whatever reason, and it shows in an inferior result.

This lesson is critical for all of us, in every facet of our lives. We are rarely successful alone. We rely on the work of others to make everyone on the team successful. Even in individual sporting events, a team of coaches, trainers and countless support staff set the stage for individual success.

The team’s the thing!

The production team spent quite a while putting the entire team together. Decisions were carefully thought through, nothing was haphazard about the assembling of our team. Likewise, once the team was set, it was done. We committed to working through the entire process with one another. When timelines were tight and delivery was crucial, the individual members of the team worked singly and together to raise each other up to the needed level of performance. We were committed to each other, to the end goal.

And together we made it!

I wonder if we put the same thought into all of our teams, whether recreational or professional or family, what the results might be.

We’ve all been on teams where individuals lose sight of the overall objective that the team was created for. You’ve probably been on teams where egos became so inflated that working together was impossible. Maybe you’ve even been one of the egos involved. In that case, I invite you, as a man growing in style and substance, to learn to put the success of the team ahead of yourself. Learn what it means to give yourself completely and whole heartedly to the accomplishment of something so big that you cannot possibly complete it alone.

Learn to contribute gracefully, to ask for help, and to take advice and consultation as the magic ingredients that will not only lift the project but empower you to greater contributions in the future. Learn also to trust others, and encourage their part of the process in an unselfish but totally committed fashion.

Do this in all your teams and you will likely find yourself always participating in successful projects.

The team’s the thing, so be the best part of the team that you can be.


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 ?