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7/23/2012 9:40:21 AM -
Corporate America

This was inspired by a Facebook IM session with one of my ex-players, who was confused about how the world works:

As team sport athletes, provided we had the right kinds of coaches, we were brought up to learn the value of sacrifice for the common good. Especially with football, the idea is to subjugate yourself for the whole, stifle your individualism (to a point, anyway), and work in concert with 40 other guys to produce something that's hopefully more than the sum of its parts. That, theoretically, is how team sports work -- and it's what we're taught to do from a very young age.

If you're good at your team sport, you end up playing on your high school's varsity team, and then you go off to college, where you have to start all over again in an even more intense environment. Anytime I ever complained about anything in college, the answer was the same -- "This isn't about you. It's about (Insert Program Here), and it's about winning." This response was for anything -- showing up late (regardless of your excuse), bitching about playing time, getting injured, or whatever else. With team sports, it's never about one guy unless it's some once in a lifetime player like Michael Jordan. And even with him, he didn't start winning championships until he started trusting his teammates (i.e., passing the ball to Steve Kerr for the winning shot in the NBA Finals).

Once you're done playing, you get to start your life -- and what we find, all too often, is that team sports, although they teach us a shitload about life, aren't exactly the right kind of preparation for how the world works.

You finish school and you enter the working world full time. If you've just graduated from college, you bust out resumes and cover letters, and you jump through all the hoops they put in front of you in order to get a job with some big company. You get a job, and you're ecstatic. You've got it made. If you're intelligent, you figure out how to do the job for yourself, and you find better ways than the ones they've taught you to get it done, to be efficient, and to produce more.

Perversely, your background in team sports has taught you to keep giving extra to your employer, so you repeatedly go above and beyond, staying late, getting more work done than you're supposed to, and busting your ass thinking someone's going to notice.

Here's the thing, though: In life, unlike team sports, everything revolves around money -- so instead of your hard work and dedication going toward the building of something "bigger than the sum of its parts," you're now on a fixed income, and no matter how hard you work, how creative you are with your intellectual property, and how many extra hours you put in, you're making money for somebody else.

Yes, entering the workforce is obviously important. By spending several years working for someone else, you learn your trade, you figure out the best ways (for you) to get your job done, and you earn experience, get lines on your resume, and make contacts that will help you later in life. That's all crucial in building a career.

What you find, however, if you have some modicum of creativity and talent, is that you eventually get sick and tired of someone else taking credit for your work -- i.e., the CEO of your company, or the manager of your department. You get tired of making money for other people. When you work for a big company, when you come up with a really good idea, implement it, and improve the process by which your company does business, who are you really helping? Sure, you're helping yourself if you get a promotion and a raise -- but how often is that promotion and raise commensurate to the amount of money you made (or saved) for your company?

Yes, a lot of people like the security blanket that this type of job provides, but I'm not one of those people -- and neither is the kid I had this discussion with. I want my intellectual property to make money and do good things for me and my family, and not some other dude and his family -- especially some other dude who doesn't need it.

The answer? Get out on your own as soon as you can. At least I think that's the way it should work. Of course, that's how big companies started in the first place -- some guy had an idea and did exactly what I'm talking about. But years down the road, the process gets perverted and we're working for the common goal of making money for somebody else when these people hire us.

And those of us brought up with team sports continue to show loyalty and make them money despite how things change in adulthood. Go figure.

Angry Coach

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