Brasil 2014

I love sports.   And I particularly love watching athletes compete amongst the very best in their sport.  Every couple of years, I am absolutely glued to my couch, either watching the Olympics or the World Cup.  These events are truly global competitions and I always root for the USA and then the underdog from a small nation.  It’s so exciting!

However, I am always frustrated when some sports wish to remain traditionalists and not embrace technology.  For example, how come every sport does not use instant replay for major calls (i.e. penalties in soccer).

I understand the point of trying not to slow down the game.  My point is simply there is too much riding on this event for a team to get screwed by a ref giving the benefit of the doubt to the country with a better reputation.

Take it from me, I spent most of my career getting screwed by refs, because there was no instant replay in fencing.  Once, instant replay was adopted at the 2008 Olympics, the USA Fencing team finishes second in the medal count.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Anyway, I have seen way too many Oscar winning performances by these favored nations and then the smaller country / opponent gets screwed.

My proposal for FIFA is to have a video referee(s) quickly review any foul, goal or penalty, while the athlete is lying on the pitch pantomiming some random injury.  The review must not take longer than 10-20 seconds, so it does not disrupt the flow of the game.  Once the review is complete, the head referee should be signaled if they missed the call.  I think this would bring an element of fairness to the game of soccer and hopefully end some of the inherent biases an official might have.


The Zen Master

As a die-hard Knicks fan, I follow every tidbit of information about the plight of my beloved team.  Over the years, it has seemed that we are cursed or maybe we are just the kid in high school who matures in college or grad school (i.e. yours truly).

In any event, I am over the moon that the Knicks have brought Phil Jackson to serve as the next President of the team.  Simply put, the man is a student of the game and believes that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

I think there are direct correlations one can make between Phil’s career and the path and the journey we will all eventually face.  To break it down in a few sentences, Phil was a star player in Montana / North Dakota (i.e. if a tree falls in a forest…), arrives in NYC and realizes it is a different world.  Phil then has to develop a brand that is valuable to teams and becomes the player that does all of the dirty work on the court (i.e. sets picks, rebounds and does not shoot).  Wins two rings as a player.  Then becomes a coach, but first, pays his dues in the CBA followed by being an assistant in Chicago, ultimately he’s given the chance to run the show with the Bulls & then leads the Lakers (11 rings!).  Some may say he was always in the right place at the right time.

But, I think that is evaluating the situation through the wrong lens.  Phil knew how to make individuals work together and buy into the team.  Michael Jordan was already a superstar before he won a championship the same goes for Shaq and Kobe.  But, they did not win it all, until a leader like Phil showed up (I am praying to add Melo to this list).

The same thing occurs at work, we all are not lucky to be around great leaders every day.  Some of us have great bosses and others have terrible ones.  The great bosses I had, always left me inspired to walk through walls at a moment’s notice.  What I realized is not everyone is destined to be a great boss, but whenever we see one we should jump at the opportunity.

Right now, I am halfway through Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and it is great!  There are way too many business books that only focus about the victory celebration.  The rock star CEO that was destined for greatness in the womb.

Well, here’s a newsflash, life does not work that way.  Personally, I am far more interested in the struggles everyone faces.  Hence, my interest in the writings of Malcolm Gladwell and learning from the failures that a great leader made and eventually overcame.   Because, there is never a straight line to the top of the mountain even if you are Phil Jackson.  Although, I am praying that next season with the Knicks is an exception to the rule.

Wins versus Losses

Over the past couple of weeks, I have given approximately half a dozen speeches on the Olympics and how I won an Olympic Medal and then successfully transitioned into my current career.

Historically, my story had a predictable pattern of grew up in Brooklyn, introduced to fencing, made my first Olympic team in college and then won an Olympic Medal in my last competition.

However, over the past couple of years, I decided to be more forthcoming about my experiences.  Specifically, focusing on all of the losses that I have experienced in my athletic, personal and professional life, because that is what helped me become the person I am.   To some this can be a shocking departure from the typical feel good story most want to hear.

On the other hand, others feel that this is exactly what they need to hear.  My willingness to share my darkest fears and the challenges I face in trying to solve them resonates with many in the audience.  I can recall most major losses with graphic detail and constantly struggle to describe major wins.

It took some time for me to realize this, but we remember the losses in order to savor the victories.  If you are not losing more than you are winning then you are not setting high enough goals.