I had the privilege recently to attend the ceremony as one of my very dear friends, Ginny Murphy, was inducted into the Ursinus College Athletic Hall of Fame. It was a very deserving honor and I am very proud of my friend.
During the ceremony, I reflected on what it means to be a Hall of Famer, in business and in life. Ginny’s story provides a wonderful example of the traits that differentiated a Hall of Famer from the “mere” high performers. Here is what I identified…
It Is Not About Talent
I have written many times that the world is full of talented people. What differentiates Hall of Famers from the mortals is their effort. Ginny was the hardest working, most determined athlete I have ever met – male or female (or alien or robot). She was (and still is) a perpetual motion machine. You could say she is “wired for 220v in a 110v world.” In basketball, I saw her outrebound women significantly taller and stronger. In field hockey, I saw her out face-off women more skilled and graceful. In life, I saw her out-hustle everybody. (However, she never did beat me in H-O-R-S-E! My patented over the top of backboard from the baseline LEFT-HANDED swish did her in every time)
Being a talented executive is easy. Being a Hall of Famer requires you to out-rebound bigger competitors, out face-off talented upstarts, and out-hustle everybody.
Being a talented parent / spouse is easy. Being a Hall of Famer requires you out-rebound multiple demands for your time and attention, out face-off the latest kooky parenting trend, and out-hustle everybody.
It Is About Talent
Who are we kidding? Yes, of course you need talent. Each one of us has it. The key is finding your talent and committing yourself to maximizing it. One of my former colleagues from Equity Risk Partners had a great saying that I wish I could take credit for – “Hard work beats talent, until talent starts working hard.”
The challenge for most people is refraining from focusing on the talent you WISH you had. I wish I had the talent to hit a golf ball 300 yards. It is probably better for my family and my bank account if I focus on the talent I have (yes, selling insurance is a talent). In the great movie, Chariots of Fire, as Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, struggled to identify his true talent, he said, “I believe God made me for a purpose… But, He also made me fast. And, when I run, I feel His pleasure.” We all know the purpose God made us for. Don’t fight it. Embrace it and feel the pleasure.
So, you have some God-given talent. So, you work hard. So, what! Hall of Famers perform at an extraordinarily high level over a sustained period of time. That means never giving up. That means never giving in. That means never “taking a day off”. Joe DiMaggio was once asked how he could play so hard in a late season game when the Yankees were hopelessly out of playoff contention. His famous answer? “Because there is some kid in stands today who is seeing me play for the first time and paid hard earned money for his ticket. I owe him my best.” That is HOF. Ginny sustained excellence in multiple sports not just for a season, but for an entire collegiate career.
It is easy to be the great parent when the kids are getting all A’s, brushing their teeth, making their bed, and only watching old Mister Rogers reruns when unsupervised on their computer. It is easy to be the great spouse when the bills are paid, college is funded, dinner is made, and the “you know what” is great (for the record, I did not get that part from Ginny).
A Hall of Fame parent and a Hall of Fame spouse performs at their best when those they love the most are not performing at theirs.
“I took us for better and I took us for worse. And, don’t you ever forget it.” Indigo Girls, “The Power of Two”
A Hall of Fame executive performs at their best over a sustained period despite market cycles, political and economic volatility, and whatever the latest “disruption” happens to be.
“I’ve done my best to live the right way. I get up every morning and go to work each day.” Bruce Springsteen, “The Promised Land”
God has blessed me with talent. I have honored Him and appreciated my talent by working my butt off. I never gave in, despite all the roadblocks, trials, and tribulations. Can I be a Hall of Famer now? As Johnny Carson (actually, Carnac) would probably say, “Not so fast, all star breath.”
Joe Montana was blessed with talent. He worked hard. He sustained. “The Catch”? Luck.
Ray Kroc was blessed with talent. He worked hard. He sustained. Showing up one random day to sell an ice cream blender to the McDonald brothers at their hamburger stand? Luck.
Warren Buffett was blessed with talent. He worked hard. He sustained. Being born in the United States instead of Ethiopia or Rwanda? Luck.
Norm Abram was blessed with talent. He worked hard. He sustained. Being the carpenter on a random home remodel in Boston the day the This Old House crew was out scouting locations? Luck.
This is one area I cannot advise you on. I have not figured out how to create luck. Although, I have observed that luck tends to be pretty highly correlated to talent, hard work, and perseverance. Or, maybe, it is the other way around?
So, what is the secret? How do you become a Hall of Famer in business and in life? Let’s ask two recent Hall of Famers…
“You will get knocked down. You will fail. You will doubt yourself. That is a good thing. That, my sweet children, is where the gold is.” Tony Gonzalez, Pro Football HOF, Class of 2019
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Ginny Murphy, Ursinus College HOF, Class of 2019 (and Jesus – Luke 12:48)