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Monthly Archives: July 2012

My Favorite Villian

I love movies.  I love the escape that they provide from reality for 90-120 minutes at a clip.  I especially love the basic formula that is used to tell the story.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I am speaking of the age-old formula of “good vs. evil” that is the blueprint of most theatrical performances.  As a child growing up in the 70’s, every year I could see this formula play out in both of my Easter classics.  One being The Ten Commandments and the other was the Wizard of Oz.

Both had villains that we were introduced to in the very beginning of the films and appeared difficult, if not impossible, to defeat.  To keep things simple I will just focus on Dorothy and her nightmarish situation of waking up in another time and place with just her little dog.  Kids could identify better with her because the age gap wasn’t as far as that of Moses in Egypt.  Minutes into Dorothy’s saga, she is confronted by the evil, wicked witch whom we find very scary, intimidating and unbeatable.

After we are introduced to our evil villain in the first minutes of a movie, we then spend the majority of the film wondering how on earth our hero is going to triumph.  But time after time the hero finds some miraculous way to conquer evil in the waning moments of the movie.  It could be something as simple as a plain old glass of water; we have discovered that from the wicked witch’s demise in the land of Oz.

That all changed for me 35 years ago in the summer of 1977.  My dad took me to the movies for the first time (he left my mom when I was 4) and it just happened to be the blockbuster film that I had heard so much about…STAR WARS!  All I knew for sure is that there was this awesome scene where chess was being played on a board by live creatures.  The rest was all a great and spectacular surprise to my 9-year-old eyes.

Moments into the film we meet our villain and he was like no other bad guy I had ever seen on-screen.  His height, his gait and that voice had me quaking in my Dolby stereo implanted seat.  As soon as we meet him he is killing people with his bare hands and also this mysterious power known only as the “force.”  Immediately my mind starts to wonder how on earth are the good guys going to defeat this evil?

Only this time the evil villain would not be defeated by the good guys before the credits rolled up the screen.  How could this be?  Good has to triumph over evil because that is the only formula this kid has ever known.  But George Lucas had other plans for his fans as he put together the best trilogy to grace the big screen.  And not only does the dark villain, now known to us as Darth Vader, survive the first chapter of the saga, he comes back in the “Empire Strikes Back” (my favorite of all six films) as mean and as ruthless a bad guy as I had ever witnessed.  The guy cut off his own son’s hand for goodness sake.  Then he coined a phrase that will live in moviegoers eternity when he uttered, “I am your father!”

As you can see, I could go on all day about Lord Vader and his evil antics but what the first trilogy left me asking myself was what could have happened to him to turn him into such an evil monster.  Well Mr. Lucas gave us a wonderful back story about how Lord Vader came to exist.  And in 2005, at a midnight showing no less, the reason was revealed…it was love.

Darth Vader chose evil over good so that he could save the life of his wife and unborn child (she did have twins but that was a surprise to everyone).  How many times has history shown us that behind every great moment was a love story?  Love of a woman/man or love of freedom and country have been common themes since the beginning of time.

Darth Vader…evil personified

But today I have a new favorite villain to watch as he conquers his foes on the hardwood of the NBA.  His name is LeBron James and I have watched this man dominate the sport that he loves for more than a decade now.  But to so many people, two summers ago he became the biggest villain in the sport of professional basketball.  Why?  Because he made a choice that he had every right to make as the most sought after free agent of modern times.

Criticize the way he went about it all you like, but at the end of the day he made the best decision for himself, his family and his basketball career.  So many of us are not able to make those kinds of decisions in our entire lives and then this hometown kid decides to take his talents to South Beach and join forces with his buddies on a quest for multiple championships.  Had I chosen to leave my firm when I was as hot as he was in year 7, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would still be at the top of the corporate world today (that “two comma” income did allude me).

In year one of his journey he made the conscious decision to embrace his new villainous role and play with an angry chip on his shoulder.  He even made an awesome commercial about it with his team from Nike.  That earned him boos in almost every arena in the league whenever he touched the ball.

He played hard that season but made a habit of not finishing as strong as he was capable of and his “hater” ranks grew stronger as he failed in the best of seven against the Dallas Mavericks (the Mavs got even from their previous 4-2 loss in 2006 to the Heat).  So this year he had to constantly hear that he couldn’t get it done, about his “Decision” and his prediction of multiple championships (those other two guys said it too).

He could have been unbearable when he finally got the chance to hoist the trophy but instead he was grateful and humbled by his team’s triumph.  He knew that he couldn’t do it alone and he chose the team that he knew he could get it done with.  That line of thinking got him labeled the ultimate villain and that was unfair.  LeBron knows more than anyone that life is unfair at times and he does his part to level the playing field.  This year he made a commercial pleading with young people to stay in school and get an education.

Mr. James, you became the type of villain that, when it is all said and done, there won’t be anyone around to claim that they ever hated you.  I look forward to you leading our country to Gold in London and your next NBA campaign as you embark upon the hardest challenge in pro sports…repeating as champion.

Lord Vader made a tough decision that led him down an evil path that forever cemented him in our minds as the top member of the Evil Hall of Fame.  LeBron James made a tough decision that will cement him in our minds as one of the greatest to ever play the sport and a guaranteed Hall of Famer.  For different reasons I have found a way to love them both.

LeBron James…NBA Champion

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Business, Life, Love, Movie, Sports

 

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Routine Commitment

Why do we make the decision to walk away from a commitment?  I believe that most of us are not walking away from the commitment, person, job etc., but instead we are walking away from the routine.  Most of the things that we embark upon in our lifetimes will almost always settle down into some sort of routine and, like it or not, commitment to that routine will need to be made for the relationship to survive and then thrive.

Think about how we start our new job.  We come in to the office for a few interviews at different times of the morning or afternoon and, if we nail it and get the job, we are asked to start the following Monday.  That Monday we get up bright and early, get dressed, grab a quick bite and jump into traffic for what will now be our morning commute.  Traffic is not too heavy that morning so we think that “hey, this is no problem.”  We arrive at the office early and then we get the tour of the various departments and job descriptions of the key people.

This is great but what we haven’t yet established is our daily routine.  Everything is fresh and new and everyone is nice and friendly and it is all coordinated to welcome you in to your new work family.  But in just a few weeks you won’t recognize this set up or remember your first day.  Instead you will now be settled into a daily work routine that you may or may not enjoy.  The key is that committing to that routine will probably determine your success or failure in your new work relationship.

Another great example of the routine is when we decide that we are going to go to the gym and get into better shape.  Once again, we come in at an odd hour and inquire about the costs and benefits of membership at this fitness club.  We are greeted pleasantly and given the tour of the facility and when all of those things feel pretty good we commit and join.  Now because we came in during our lunch hour and used most of it joining the gym, we have to start our workout routine some other day in the immediate future.

Now we have a decision to make.  Do we work out before, during or after work?  Do we go everyday or every other day?  Once we decide when we are going to workout we then have to figure out what equipment we are going to use.  If we just go in there and jump on different machines or just grab some free weights, that is going to get real boring really soon.  We need to develop a workout plan and then we need to commit to staying with the program until our goals are achieved.

If we do not commit to the workout schedule and then the routine we will follow, we will probably not achieve our goal and even stop going all together (gym’s bank on you quitting and continuing to pay by the way).  As we all know, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of ways for us to lose weight and get into better shape but none of them will work without committing to their routine.  In sports, like the upcoming Olympics for example, we know that without the years of intense training and commitment to a particular discipline, the athletes have no chance to make the team let alone win a medal.

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing a motivational speech from Bart Connor, the gold medal winning Olympic gymnast, on what it took to become a world-class athlete.  He told us simply that if you wanted to become a world-class gymnast you just had to do two things…work out when you felt like it and work out when you didn’t feel like it.  He said commitment to his routine was paramount to his success and those unwilling to work extremely hard never had a chance to compete at the Olympic level, let alone score a perfect “10” like he did in 1984.

So we know that if we want an arrangement to last we have to get into a routine that we are committed to, right?  Wrong.  We need to let the routine develop and feel good about that routine and then commit to it.  If not, we end up in the bad boyfriend/girlfriend, fiancée/fiancée and husband/wife relationships that we will eventually walk away from.  The things we initially found attractive about the other person get lost and we settle into a less than exciting routine.

Many men who wandered in their marriage (the exception not the rule) have stated that the sex had become routine and had been reduced in frequency (oral is always the first to go) which caused them to find a “girlfriend.”  A girlfriend always wants to fool around.  In fact, to a married wanderer, the only real reason that their immoral relationship exists is for sexual supplementation.  How can the answer to a successful marriage or long-term relationship be fooling around with someone else?  It isn’t but we lack the courage to commit to the routine, or better yet change the routine, so we set about a course of action that will ultimately destroy our relationship, job, workout regimen etc.

I do not pretend to have all of the answers.  The truth is I do not.  But what I do have is a desire to look at where things went wrong and logically conclude what the best course of action should have been.  By taking responsibility for letting the routine go south and realizing that I am accountable, I can build the successful routine for my health, wealth and my love life and possibly live happily ever after.  I hope that you can too!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Business, Life, Relationships, Sports

 

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Whatever You Believe…

Over the course of our lifetimes, we sometimes decide to change careers and in some cases the decision is made for us.  Mine is such a case but I will not get into those details here.  What I want to discuss in this post is about the power of believing.  I have always been a big fan of sports so when my children took a liking to sports competition I was literally in heaven.

I have always wanted to coach my own children in organized sports and with the Jerry Sandusky’s of the world rising up almost everyday it looks like that decision has been made for me as well.  I can’t say where (what state) and I can’t say when (what year of my oldest son’s life) but I promise you that I will be his coach (most likely basketball…his favorite…right now).

In his first year as QB, Tre led his team to the Superbowl. They lost to the undefeated Jaguars by a touchdown.

I was actually introduced to coaching years ago when my daughter was younger and we lived in the DC area.  She joined a local basketball team with her friend and neighbor and her mother decided to join the team as the assistant coach.  We were expecting our second child  so her mother and I agreed that we should pay as much attention to her and her activities before our new family member arrived later next year.

My daughter was blessed with a very good coach that understood the game but also emphasized that all of the girls have fun while competing.  The team lost just two game during the entire regular season.  They were two, close, heart breaking loses to the same team.  That team went undefeated that year and became our chief rival.  They had a tough coach whose regular job was a FBI field agent.  The rival team’s best player was his daughter and no one in the league could defend her.  She played at a different level and her father barked at her from start to finish every game.

My daughter found it tough to play with her dad in the stands and her mother on the sidelines each game but she pushed through and had some stellar performances.  In fact, she was girl who would always defended the other team’s best player and she really shined when she executed the “freeze.”

Freeze was the defensive play that her mom would occasionally yell out during tough stretches of the ball game.  Simply stated if your man scored while the “freeze” was in effect, you had to come out of the game.  Believe it or not, that simple concept worked almost every time when the girls needed to make a comeback.  I just shook my head in the stands and smiled at the simplicity of children playing a game with that tiny threat of having to hit the pines.

The season flew by quickly and the playoffs were upon us.  Our team finished 2nd behind their chief rival who, of course, never lost a game during the regular season.  We knew in order to win it all we would have to face them and win this time.  The playoff format was a Round Robin; which means you play everyone at least once and you are not eliminated until you have lost twice.  What that meant was our girls would have to beat a team that they never had at least once and probably twice…a daunting task to say the least.

The girls got off to a great start and beat every team that they faced until they came upon their rival.  The assistant coach, my spouse, had to go to a nearby army base for some additional training for her job so I was asked to stand in for her.  Boy was I nervous.  The know-it-all dad from the stands was now going to be pacing the sidelines coaching against the undefeated favorites.

I decided that I had to be singularly focused with one message that did not conflict with the head coach’s game plan.  I had to get those girls to believe they could win against a foe that had always beat them.  At every stoppage of the clock I waited for the head coach to say what he needed to say and then I said, “you are going to win this game.”  I got mostly crazy looks at first, even from my daughter.  Why?  Because they did not believe they could win.

With their belief system where it was, they were beaten from the opening tap but I never gave up on trying to convince them otherwise.  We kept it close but in the end we had been dealt our 3rd loss of the season and to the same team.  Now we were one game from elimination and there was more bad news.  We were headed to Vail that weekend for a family ski vacation and there was a game scheduled.  Without the team at full strength we were vulnerable for our second loss and elimination from the tourney.  This was going to be one tense vacation.  We held our breath until we got the call…victory.  Next up, our hated rival.

As luck would have it, I was asked to coach in place of my spouse once again.  This time I was determined get the W for the girls.  The girls came out with a fire in their eyes I had not seen in some time and it showed in their performance and on the scoreboard.  By halftime we were down just a couple of points so we were confident that we could beat this team finally.  I was up to my same trick as before in getting the girls to believe that they were the better team this day.  I ended every time out with the same phrase, “you will win this game.”

Then it happened late in the 4th quarter.  The game was tied with two or three minutes to play.  It was our ball and our last timeout and the head coach gave a spirited talk about how this game was different and we were going to win it and right before we broke I said it again.  “You will win this game.”  Our best player looked right at me and as our eyes met she said, “you’re right coach, we are gonna win this thing.”  I was shocked.  She called me coach.  I was honored and I knew we were going to finish them.

I got animated after every play, every score and every turnover and the rival coach wanted me tossed by the refs.  We scored, we turned them over and scored again and they collapsed under the immense pressure of the moment.  The final buzzer sounded and we were victorious.  I hugged every girl and thanked them for letting me coach them.  It was an unbelievable experience but the work was not finished.  In order for us to be the champs we had to beat them again.  But now we believed!

Unfortunately, I could not attend the championship game because of a previously scheduled engagement out on the west coast.  I hated that I had to miss what I knew would be another great performance but I had to honor my prior commitment.  I called the team to find out the results and learned something that made my jaw drop.  Not only did our team win, but they never trailed in the entire 40 minutes.  The rival coach fell apart in the second half and got numerous technical fouls.  The parents of the rival squad even turned on him.  From all accounts it turned into a real ugly scene.

Two championships and one all-star appearance in 4 seasons. Not too shabby.

Whatever you believe, you can achieve.  That is not just a cliché but the truth.  My daughter would give up basketball for good two seasons later.  See, she won two championships with that head coach but she also suffered through two winless seasons which bracketed the championships.  Can you imagine, she either the whole thing or didn’t win a game?  Too extreme for even her temperament.

As for me, I can’t wait for the day that I can coach my boys in their sport(s) of choice.  Right now I am getting prepared for what I expect to be a charmed life…being a head coach.  I am doing it for me and I am doing it for them.  I am doing it to keep them as safe from predators as I can and I am doing it to give them the best chance to be champions.  I believe that I can be a great coach and that is most of the battle my friends…believing!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Life, Relationships, Sports

 

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