To the Commonwealth: Kentucky, Basketball, People, and Teams Everywhere
I love the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
I love the game of basketball.
Like you, most of the time, I love people.
Life and work get tedious, and sometimes the tediousness of the grind takes its toll on us. We’re human. So, it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.
Thank God for basketball…
Every March, as hoops fans dive into the madness that is the crescendo to college basketball season, we’re always reminded of those timeless principles which, without fail, give way to happiness, meaning, and fulfillment in our day-to-day – at home and at work.
There are so many of them, but this week, I’m compelled to call out the following:
- Personal Connection
The 2017 – 2018 Kentucky Basketball team was the nation’s youngest team. They started off hot, seemingly on their way to another great year. However, midway through the season, they hit a brick wall, and went on a losing streak Kentucky fans are not at all used to seeing.
Then, March happened…
All hope which had once been lost or given way to doubt came rushing back over Big Blue Nation, as our beloved Wildcats revealed character beyond any of our wildest dreams. They played, hustled, united, listened, and perhaps the most impressive quality the collective team revealed was their sincere love, respect, and appreciation for one another. We could see it and feel it clearly in their actions, reactions, approach, and demeanor before, during, and after games. They had genuine concern and love for each other.
The Cats won the SEC Tournament, and then entered the Big Dance a less than desirable (and maybe in unfamiliar territory) 5-Seed, playing in Boise, ID for the first two rounds. Didn’t matter. They dug deep, came together, and played for each other and for Big Blue Nation.
The season ended last week, with a tough fought game vs. Bruce Weber’s scrappy Kansas State Wildcat team. The young (KY) Cats didn’t play well, got no calls nor bounces, but they were still in position to win the game down the stretch.
As a life-long Kentucky Wildcat fan, every Kentucky team is special, with superstars born seemingly every single year. And every year, we follow them and support them just as much as the year before. The unique thing about this particular team was they were the youngest team in the country, with players who arrived on campus as boys. Today they are a group of young men having learned lessons about teamwork, discipline, compromise, listening, and love which they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Each of these young men are stars in their own right. Watch them over the next several years, as we’ve watched others in the Kentucky Basketball fraternity, go into the NBA and become superstars. But at Kentucky, Coach John Calipari takes a collection of individual superstars, and over the course of six to eight months, transforms them into a fully functioning, purpose driven team.
Coach Cal, love him or hate him, talks a great deal about his true purpose. And since reading his book, Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out, I’ve personally been speaking to audiences all over the country about what drives Coach Cal every single year. It’s not winning championships. It’s about teaching, coaching, encouraging, and preparing young boys, helping them become men. And perhaps the single most important principle he teaches them is to play for each other, not for themselves.
I can’t help it. I love threads. So, consider for a moment the idea of “commonwealth…”. Break it apart into two words…common and wealth.
I looked up both the worth common and the word wealth. Miriam-Webster has a number of definitions for both. I picked out a couple:
a: of or relating to a community at large
- work for the common good
b: known to the community
2a: belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or things or by all members of a group
2: abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
3: abundant supply
Common wealth happens when we come together as a community, working for each other as opposed to against each other.
For Each Other
Before the Cats game last week, I received a text message from a dear friend. He grew up in London, Ontario, our Canadian neighbors to the north. However, since he was born in Houston, TX, he’s been a Texas Longhorn fan all his life. But on the night the Cats were playing, he sent me a quick text with a picture of a Kentucky straight bourbon cocktail he’d prepared himself (in a special cocktail glass I purchased for him and all my groomsmen in my wedding in the Fall of 2016…) for the game, and all his message said was, “…to the Commonwealth…”
A week prior, our group of “Fellow Idiots”, we call ourselves, were all in Las Vegas to watch as many NCAA tournament games as humanly possible, together. Our group is special, and that trip is special, because every person in our group cheers for each other’s beloved team. We support each other, not only that weekend, but throughout each month of every year, in a 14-person continuous text thread with daily texts, sentiments, and encouraging messages to one another. No matter what, we have each other, for support, love, and encouragement.
That’s true common wealth. It’s about everybody helping everybody. People loving people. Building people up, as opposed to breaking them down.
So leave it to basketball, to remind us
It’s not about individual contributions creating fame and fortune. It’s not “bosses” in corporate America demanding, berating, and threatening their teams to perform.
To really experience abundance of all that is good in life and even at work, we have to make it all about each other.
And Leaders – Coaches, Managers, Directors, Vice Presidents and Presidents – need to encourage, inspire, teach, and coach rather than threatening and/or using short sighted scare tactics.
Without teamwork, it won’t be sustainable.
Without sincerity, it won’t be credible.
Without personal connection, it won’t be meaningful.
Without community, it won’t be fulfilling in the least.
So all of this to say, here’s to the 2017-2018 Kentucky Basketball Team and Coach Calipari for another great year of basketball, but also for so much more. Thanks to the young men, on all these teams in the NCAA Tournament, who remind us, with their own character, drive, humility, and passion what it takes to experience true abundance of wealth.
To the COMMON WEALTH…
Have a great day.
For more ideas on how to turn the tediousness of your corporate corporateness grind into meaningful work, you or someone on your team or in your life might enjoy my new book, Ballgames to Boardrooms: Leadership, Business, and Life Lessons From Our Coaches We Never Knew We Needed.