Talent, Timing and Luck

I played football at a small high school in the Bronx. I played just good enough to later play for a small college program where I was lucky enough to have played with a few guys who made it to the NFL and I got to witness firsthand how they did it.

Mike was the high school quarterback of our team and an amazing athlete. As a freshman, he stood 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. He was, by far, the fastest, strongest and all round best athlete on the team. I had been around good athletes before but nothing like Mike. One day, during practice, the coaches decided to play him as a wide receiver. He caught sixty balls in a row without dropping one!  Many of those catches were so incredible that the whole team ended up marveling at his talent. By the time he was a senior, he had over 100 recruiting offers and could have played on any college football team in the country. In the end, he decided to play at his father’s Alma Mater in North Carolina.

North Carolina was a huge school and already had a quarterback. This player had been a superstar in the state and the team boosters wanted to see their hometown hero succeed. Unbeknownst to Mike, he had been brought in as an insurance policy; he was never meant to upend the other player.

Mike was so talented only a fool would have never played him; but, that is exactly what happened. Being a “Yankee” from the North, the boosters were never going to let a northerner start for a team from the south.

So Mike never played. I mean not once.

Out of desperation, frustration and disgust, he walked away from football after college never to play again. Interestingly enough, his physical gifts were so great that several NFL teams inquired about him even though he had barely played. Even they could see his talent. But, he rebuffed them all… never to play again.

I remember watching a game where his team was not doing well. They had benched the starting quarterback. Logically I thought Mike would go on but it didn’t happen. Instead, a walk-on player was inserted into to play the remainder of the game. I watched the game with my father, who said that given what he saw, Mike was never going to get a chance to play for them. I’m not sure why Mike didn’t transfer schools right after that game but he never did. Instead, he rode it out for four miserable years.

At Boston University, I played receiver with a walk on (not on scholarship) named Darvell from Massachusetts. He was small: only 5 feet 7 inches tall and barely weighed 160 pounds. But he was quick, strong and had good hands. Over time, he got to play. In fact, because B.U. was a small program with a lot less competition, he got to play a lot. He was talented and coaches and professionals got to see his body of work. Had he gone to a bigger school, he probably never would have played. But at a small school he was given chances. He landed in the NFL and played for three seasons, which is an undeniable accomplishment most aspiring players never get to experience.

Much of life is like that: chances, circumstances and timing. Technology is littered with companies that did not make it specifically due to bad timing or bad luck.  Facebook, for example, was not the first social network nor the best; but, through a series of events, it ended up as the premier destination for social media after replacing MySpace.

Even in my own life I have benefited from these twists of fate. Twenty years ago, I was planning to go to Spain on vacation but had a really bad injury the day before I was to leave which forced me to cancel the trip. Later that year, with unused vacation time, I decided to go to South America to my cousins weeding. There I met my future wife. Had I not suffered that injury, I would never have gone to South America or met her. Six kids later, I can happily say that I am thankful for what I then thought was an unfortunate and ill-timed injury.

The challenge in life is trying to sense the changing tides, the twists of fate that can harm us or help us. Sometimes its knowing when to quit or when to press on. Maybe one day I will figure it all out. In the meantime, I stopped trying to judge what occurs and be more present and accepting that it may have meaning and purpose I simply cannot yet discern and that my job, in advance of knowing, is to handle the unexpected with grace.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

What Has President Trump Done Now?

President Trump just announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. He set out, with specificity, the reasons why. The economic disadvantages it imposes upon the United States, the intentional redistribution of wealth from U.S. taxpayers to other signatories who have fewer obligations yet greater freedoms to pollute, the imposition upon U.S. autonomy in making its own energy decisions, and its infringement upon the freedoms given us by our Constitution.

I thought the speech was great. To paraphrase Michele Obama, “Today was not the first, but it was certainly one of the days I am proud of my country.”

But, I have a dear friend who is as distraught as I am happy. She believes that the decision to withdraw is grave error because it’s all about “protecting planet earth.” On this she and I are in agreement. It is important to protect the planet. Where we diverge is that the Paris Climate Accord is the way to do that.  My friend voiced two strong opinions. I’d like to address them both.

First, that since we already committed or “gave our word” it’s important that we keep it.  As lifelong friends, she knows how important I think integrity is so keeping one’s word is high on my list…just not at the expense of one’s life. And certainly not when the word was given by those who will only experience the benefits…not given by those who will suffer the consequences of being bound to it.

The Paris Accord disproportionately binds the U.S. economically. It restricts our autonomy and harms our workers. Those elitists and politicians who negotiated it will be on the receiving end of its profitability and inside deals on carbon credits. Those who had no say, the average working American, will bear the financial burden and become the beasts of burden by being forced into less available and lower paying jobs as a result of more jobs going overseas.

So, if you commit me to something about which I had no say, and that to which you commit me is antagonistic to my well being, don’t expect a friend of mine who shows up and who has the ability to undo what you bound me to… not to do so. That’s what President Trump did. He undid what former President Obama did and what Obama did was not in the best interest of this nation. However, and more importantly, it was not in the best interest of the planet. This is what I would have my friend understand.

One more behemoth bureaucracy will solve nothing. That is what the Paris Accord is in its present condition. It is the latest iteration, this time global, in concentrating too much power in the hands of too few in order to enslave the many.

If you spend billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars to allegedly reduce the temperature of the planet by a fraction of one degree over the next 25 years…but allow one polluting member (China) to burn enough dirty coal in 5 years to negate the benefit…well…who gets happy from that deal?… other than the Al Gores of the world who can afford to create and trade on a carbon credit exchange.

Saving the planet is no different than any other moral issue. You cannot legislate morality and you cannot pass binding agreements that demand we become the stewards of the earth that the Book of Genesis demands us to be.

Whether its moral acts toward one another or toward the planet, they will only come through an awakening of our consciousness and a change of our hearts. Such things happen “one consciousness and one heart” at a time. When enough of them have been so awakened and so changed that we reach a tipping point in our collective consciousness…well…that’s when we will save each other and the planet. Not because Angela Merkel, Barack Obama or any other elitist with a political agenda contractually binds us to.

As I listened to President Trump today tell the nation the realities of the really bad deal we committed to, I kept thinking of that line from “A Few Good Men” when Nicholson says, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” Today, if you took the time to listen, President Trump told you the truth about the Paris Climate Accord. You say you want the truth? If you’re angry, it’s because you can’t handle the truth.

The Last Days of Night

If you want to be inspired by what goodness of heart and purity of purpose look like but also want to understand the scope of corruption that has existed between the private sector, government and media as far back as Tesla and Edison, then you must read this truly brilliant novel by Graham Moore. Its historical fiction par excellence!

Read more here: https://mrgrahammoore.com/books/the-last-days-of-night/