Bring Back Dodgeball! Why ‘Too Big To Fail’ Failed

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“Whatza matter you, big toe?” Danny incomprehensibly teased, egging me to wing the ball at him. His flaming red hair and daring blue eyes proved a compelling target. Danny wasn’t stupid—but neither was I. As all fourth graders knew, Danny caught every ball thrown his way. And in Dodgeball, that means you’re out, he wins. The cool lake breeze evaporated the sweat from my forehead as the sun beat abnormally hot that spring day on the elementary school playground. With the recess bell moments away, I made my decision quickly.

Using the deft eye of a future quarterback, my face feigned throwing the ball into Danny’s broad chest and stocky arms. He bought the ruse and, as I cocked my arm back, I could see his biceps tense. Kids usually thought if they threw the ball hard enough right at him, Danny wouldn’t catch it. Danny always caught it. With a snap release, I flicked the ball directly at… his feet!

Stymied by the misdirection, Danny froze. The ball bounced harmlessly off his shoe. The bell rang. I had won.

* * * * *

Six years later, on the hardwood deck of the high school gym, I found myself in Danny’s shoes. Faced in an identical Mexican standoff, I stared at my opponent’s eyes like a preying defensive back. Prepared for anything, his launching of the ball for my lower leg did not surprise me. Its speed, however, did. I quickly slipped my feet behind me and fell forward, curling above and around the oncoming missile. I carefully watched the path of the fleshy projectile, first as it sailed beneath my torso, then as it shot under my quickly rising sneakers. I watched it all the way—at least until my teeth slammed into the unyielding floorboards.

My head ricocheted back, sans two front teeth. My classmates immediately surrounded my dazed body. The first thing I remember seeing were pieces of my shattered front teeth strewn across the shiny wax floor. When asked how I felt, I calmly but matter-of-factly answered, “We won.”

* * * * *

They don’t play Dodgeball in public schools anymore—and not just because kids can get hurt. No, Dodgeball fell out of favor during the era where “self-esteem” became the mantra. “Don’t let Johnny lose. It’ll hurt his confidence.” “Let’s give everyone a trophy for participating.” “Just giving awards to winners might deflate the self-assurance of the losers.” “Better yet, let’s not have ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ at all, because, really, aren’t we all winners?” “Yes, society has certainly grown out of the ‘macho’ phase of testosterone.” “Why can’t we just all get along?”

And so, out went the virile excitement of Dodgeball and, with it, the grandeur of achievement. In came the tepid feel-goodness of equality and the glorification of the victim. “Jane shouldn’t get too far ahead of the rest of the class.” “She doesn’t need help like those less bright. She’s smart enough to figure it out for herself.” “We can’t hold Johnny accountable given his depraved background.”

We went from “defining deviancy down,” as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once declared, to, as the Washington Times wrote more than a decade ago, the “dumbing down of America.”

One need look no further than at the actions of our financial markets and those investors who had unrealistic expectations in 2008/2009. We saw it in the government forcing lenders to give money to borrowers who couldn’t afford to pay back those loans. We saw it in the banks who didn’t envision losing and willingly gave money to borrowers who couldn’t afford to pay. We saw this in the borrowers themselves who, fed on a steady diet of “self-esteem,” never assumed they could lose. Hadn’t any of these folks ever played Dodgeball?

Worse, we saw it in the quixotic investors who believed in the fantastic returns claimed by Bernard Madoff’s now obvious Ponzi scheme. What a perfect investment! Everybody wins, nobody loses!

Though I now sport a “White Bridge of Courage” from my childhood antics in the game of Dodgeball, that particular arena left important lessons: Life produces winners and losers; and, its corollary, sometimes, when something seems too good to be true, it really is too good to be true.

In truth, when you play the game called “real world” you either win or lose. Pretending this axiom no longer exists only leads to—well—what we’re reading in today’s headlines. The Founding Fathers understood this. The pioneers and cowboys embraced it. And we today must take a stand – nothing is too big to fail!

And if a business “too big to fail” can fail, can’t government “too big to fail” also fail?

(Sigh…) It’s too bad we don’t play Dodgeball anymore…

Why It’s Important You Believe You Control Your Own Destiny

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Duke Worne Productions / Duke Worne Productions, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Duke Worne Productions / Duke Worne Productions, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine you’re out walking your dog on a nice sunny morning. As you approach the intersection, you see a car attempt to make a lefthand turn only to be hit by an oncoming car that runs the stop sign. No one’s hurt, but the cars are totaled.

What is your first thought concerning the innocent driver making the turn?

Is it “poor guy, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time”?

Or do you think “even though he had the right of way, he should have made sure the Continue Reading “Why It’s Important You Believe You Control Your Own Destiny”

Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?

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Look around you. Now, more than ever, the world teems with constant change.

Some succumb, consumed by the cascading chaos.

Winners smile broadly, delighted by the array of percolating opportunities.

“Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?”

This is the question every budding entrepreneur asks. It is the wrong question.

Imagine

Wouldn’t you benefit more if, before beginning on your entrepreneurial journey, you knew what talents successful entrepreneurs possess?

Rather than first asking if you have them, you’d be much wiser to ask what they are.

Before answering that unasked question, behold the very first lesson of this series. It’s a lesson you should carry with you at all times. It reveals the ultimate axiom, the rule that Continue Reading “Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?”

Is Starting A Business Worth It?

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Can you feel inflation eating away at your income? Are you worried matters will only get worse as the nation dives deeper into recession? Perhaps you’re eying that favorite hobby of yours, wondering if you can tweak it a bit to bring in some much-needed revenue.

What’s holding you back?

If you’ve spent the bulk of your career working for someone else, it’s only natural to wonder if starting a business right now is worth it. You can be on the cusp of retirement or even in retirement. Sure, you enjoy helping people, but wouldn’t it be easier just to give it away for free and cut back on other expenses?

Well, no matter what your age, a healthy challenge can invigorate the soul.

“Starting a business can be an exciting responsibility to take on for many people,” says Nick Chandi, CEO, and Co-Founder of ForwardAI in Vancouver, British Columbia. “It’s also a Continue Reading “Is Starting A Business Worth It?”

How To Be Successful: The Explosive Truth

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(continued from “Why The Harvard MBA Should Be FIREd”)

Remember those paint-by-numbers kits we got as kids for too many birthdays? They had the allure of any typical get-rich-quick scheme. Each package featured the finished painting on its cover. It looked like a masterpiece. You just knew the Louvre had a space just for it, probably right next to the Mona Lisa. And – here’s the kicker – in just a few short hours you will have created an exact copy, suitable for hanging on your mother’s refrigerator!

Oh, joy, rapture! I got artistic talent!

And it was so easy, wasn’t it? Each kit came with clearly numbered paints, each number corresponding to a numbered shape on the heavy cardboard canvas supplied. It was as simple as 1, 2, 3… Picasso!

Picasso?!

You dreamed Monet and you got Picasso. And that was being generous. As you painted, you saw nothing but a series of random splotches of color. You might see an image, but Continue Reading “How To Be Successful: The Explosive Truth”

Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes

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Let me clue you in on this from the very beginning: this is another business metaphor. I’m telling you up front this time so you can begin to think about the connections from the moment you start reading it.

I was strolling through the National Comedy Center in Jamestown the other day, taking in with delight the many funny people who have entertained so many for so many years, when a thought struck me. Why do good comedians tell bad jokes?

When a comic sits down to write gags, it becomes an exercise of no-holds-barred brainstorming. This is by necessity. You don’t know what’s really funny while you’re creating it, so you don’t want to restrict yourself in any way.

James Mendrinos, in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Comedy Writing, writes: “You have to force yourself to stain the pages, even if you think the jokes aren’t your best work. I’m not saying that bad jokes are better than no jokes. I am saying that if Continue Reading “Why You Should Tell Bad Jokes”

Your Date With Destiny

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An inconspicuous spot stands apart in a dimly lit corner of a musty, but comfortable, restaurant. The usual red and white checkered cloth covers this tiny table for two. The only light in the darkly paneled corner comes from a lone candle atop the table’s center. A worn wooden chair occupies a position on each side. The slightly overdressed couple sits casually. Their rigidly relaxed bodies betray the dull seriousness of their conversation.

Ever the curious sort, you’ve always wanted to meet fate. She’s now poised across from you, having accepted your invitation. Things aren’t going well.

“Tell me,” she says with forced interest, “what is it you really want to do?”Continue Reading “Your Date With Destiny”

The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win

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The Conqueror“The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. Let the game do its work… If a champion defeats the meaning for which the game was designed, then he must lose.”

So says Mr. Bartholomew in 1975’s classic film Rollerball. It’s an American tale. An epic retelling of the classic mantra that fills the heart of every red-blooded citizen from the very founding of our country.

Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the most popular books, films, or any other place where a character must confront personal and public obstacles in heroic fashion. The most compelling of those stories are built around a single individual.

No, it doesn’t take a village to succeed, it takes self-discipline, self-reliance, and, ultimately, Continue Reading “The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win”

The Secret Step to Success: The Art of Delegation

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It’s the bane of every author. No, it’s not writer’s block, writer’s cramp or carpal tunnel syndrome. Sure, all these things exist, but they pale in comparison to this single great curse: perfection.

They say “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and, when it comes to writing, this is all too often true. Diligent writers weigh every sentence, every word, every syllable. Good writing is not merely a collection of coherent thoughts, but a flowing melody of music.

Think of your favorite books. Whether they be fiction or non-fiction, they all possessed the Continue Reading “The Secret Step to Success: The Art of Delegation”

Are You Trapped In An Echo Chamber? (And Why You Must Immediately Find The Nearest Exit)

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We’re building a detached garage. Since the time I bought my home, I had dreamed of building a detached garage. It was a dream Betsy quickly adopted, if only to create a massive storage vehicle for a lifetime of research, source material, and memories that have consumed much of the living space in our house. Soon, we will have a living room again. And a dining room. And maybe a couple of other rooms (and closets), too.

While the garage isn’t yet complete, we do have a roof and the building is adequately enclosed. A few weeks ago, we had Catarina’s birthday party in it. This weekend, we held Cesidia’s birthday party there.

Both parties were excellent. And instructive.

We had bare studs-and-plywood walls for Catarina’s party. By Cesidia’s party, the insulation had been installed (but not the drywall).

For Cesidia’s party, the garage was a nearly perfect sound room. The paper backing of the insulation absorbed all ambient noise. That didn’t mean it muffled our voices. No. When everyone was talking, it sounded like everyone was talking. You could hear each voice very clearly, but when the voices stopped, there was a dead silence.

It really perked up your attention. It also made you quite aware of everything around you. It was a full-bodied experience. Ironically, at the same time you were more attentive, you Continue Reading “Are You Trapped In An Echo Chamber? (And Why You Must Immediately Find The Nearest Exit)”

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