Sports, Business, Life

10/18/2016 Jay Cook

I love sports. I love to read. I love to read about sports. The current issue of Sports Illustrated (the one with the Cubs on the cover) has plenty of stories that inspire and/or remind us what it takes to achieve great things in business and life.

An article by Tom Verducci, “Ghost Busters”, goes into great detail on how the Cubs have achieved a level of competence in almost every aspect of the game. The most important of which could be the emphasis on fundamentals. The Cubs have allowed the fewest runs in baseball and, according to the article, has the “stingiest defensive unit in a quarter of a century. “ 

After taking ownership of the Cubs in 2009, the business savvy Ricketts family hired a general manager with a proven track record, Theo Epstein. Even though Epstein brought top-to-bottom innovations to the club, a lot of emphasis was placed on scouting and developing a great farm club. Epstein also hired some extraordinary leaders like Joe Madden, who has an almost Zen-like quality of getting the best from his players by building trust. 

As of the date of this blog it is too early to tell if they will be successful in breaking the jinx. However, even though I am a life-long Cardinals fan, I hope they do.  It would be good for baseball, good for Chicago (and by extension Illinois), and my wife will be happy.

Lesson for business and life – focus on the fundamentals and your relationship with others.

“Your Story is Story”, by S.L. Price, examines the tragic death of Florida Marlins ace Jose Fernandez at age 24. This story is obviously depressing, but it also has a theme running through it of joy. Jose played the game and lived his life with pure joy. Chris Johnson, a teammate, said this:  “He changed me. I smile. Before I was always intense and took the game as a job… The game is fun. He played the game how I played in Little League. That’s how everybody should be in the big leagues.”

Most business people and professionals I know are passionate about their business or career – that is why they chose it. However, how often do we get caught up with the drudgery and lose sight of the fun of the competition that is life? often do we get caught up with the drudgery and lose sight of the fun of the competition that is life?

“At Any Cost” is an excerpt from a book by Gold medal soccer player Carli Lloyd. I became a big fan of women’s soccer when my daughter started playing years ago so naturally this article caught my eye. At age 21 Carli hired a professional trainer, after being cut from the US U-21 team and being told she “wasn’t national team material”.

This trainer was a highly regarded Australian named James Galanis, who conveniently lived in New Jersey where Lloyd lived. After one day of a “skill evaluation” which consisted of an hour workout and constant questions, and another day of a “fitness evaluation”, Galanis leveled with her:

“You are very strong technically and tactically. But you are not fit. Mentally, you are weak. You don’t push yourself hard; you are lazy. You aren’t the sort of player who’s going to thrive under pressure. And your character? That is poor. You make excuses and find people to blame. You always have a reason things aren’t working out, instead of making them work out.”

Well, obviously Carli took his advice: “It’s as if I have been waiting for someone like this my whole life” she writes.

It is so easy to drift into that mind set, so I am constantly looking for reminders of Steve Covey’s 1st habit – Be Proactive.

I read these articles and more (like Mark Cuban’s three biggest mistakes by shark tank entrepreneurs) on the way back from my son’s cross country meet in Chicago. And I’m inspired by these stories and these people. By the way, if you have not read “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, I highly recommend it. If you have a young Carli or Jose in your life and want to introduce them to these concepts but don’t think they have the patience to read Covey, I suggest “Things You Wish You Knew Yesterday” by Craig Lindvahl.

About the author:

Jay Cook, Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending

Jay Cook is uniquely qualified for his position as Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at Marine Bank. As the former owner and operator of three businesses, he knows what it takes to execute a business plan, keep customers happy and make payroll. His entire 30 year career has been devoted to working with the owners of closely held businesses.