In Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s “Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai,” there is a passage that reads “There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
Reading the above quote I think it is quite safe to say we are in a economic rainstorm in these current times and not the John Grishamesque “Rainmaker” kind of rainstorm but a good old fashioned “better fix the levee” soaking. I mean, just looking around or reading the paper there are tales of woe and gloom and doom abounding across the world’s landscape relating to the massive economic downturn. Layoffs, stock portfolios nearly wiped out to extinction, dogs and cats sleeping together etc. I am sure by now you are saying “Hey thanks for the describing the water I am drowning in Craig.” Ahh but not all is as dark as it seems. Frankly it is quite easy to get lost in all this, we are all human after all and it is so simple to get sucked into the vortex and essentially miss the proverbial forest for the trees. In many ways what this is more then anything else is a call to remind all of us how we got here to begin with. Not a postmortem on the subprime mortgage industry but how we got to be great to begin with, because sometimes that is what it takes, something to rock us out of complacency and get us to roll up our sleeves and say “all right lets do this!” Before we get to deep into this blog though, do remember down through history there were folks who had it a lot worse then we do right now and they managed to pull through just fine. I couldn’t even imagine hanging around in Europe between 1618 and 1648 with the Thirty Years War going on and people rolling over each others lands like grass, I mean imagine the same war fought by your grandfather, father and you and we think we have it bad. Even in modern times just ask anyone who ever lived through a war or is living through a war from either the standpoint of a soldier or civilian that was or is being fought on their own soil and you will start to hear some stories of how tough things really can get. Of course please don’t think I am denigrating human suffering relating to this world economic situation, but go spend some time in rural villages in a few choice African countries in this current time and get a first hand look hardship really is and things like a stock portfolio might not seem so bad anymore. Again though this isn’t a “lets wallow in it blog.”
So where do we start? Let’s start there, “what made us great and what do we do about this to begin with?” I am not a professional economist and won’t pretend to have the answers to provide sound macroeconomic policy on the global stage, but I can share this with you. We have to get back to what made us great as a country to start with and what made us was great was that we worked together and played as a team. Sure I know if you looked at the founding fathers they couldn’t agree on anything accept that they hated the British, but Ben Franklin coined the famous line “we must hang together or we will surely hang as individuals.” Because if we want to do a lot with very little; we are going to once again have to learn to think as one and that is not an easy thing to do. Simply stated, the nature of team play can be very difficult to master because the natural desires of humanity lean towards the individual and individual accomplishments. As Heath Ledger’s Joker would say in “The Dark Knight,” “Let’s wind the clocks back a year.” Recall last year January 2008. Seems like an eternity ago doesn’t it? The air was clear, your portfolio was riding high, the world was your oyster and everyone loved you… ok it wasn’t utopia for everyone(again reminder about Africa and I am exaggerating but you get the point. So here you are strolling into any grocery store and you pick up a magazine and you can see articles dripping with individual accomplishments and praise of the individual, this person did that, this person did this..blah blah blah.. yet upon digging deeper it might have dawned on you that the expression “no man(or woman) is an island,” might be lurking back there somewhere. Like Morpheus would say “it is there Neo like a splinter in your mind.” Ok, hang with me on this journey, we are going somewhere with this. So now back to individual accomplishment, think about this for a second and I will use Golf legend Tiger Woods as an example. On some basic level Tiger Woods may go out and take an opponent out in sudden death, but someone made sure his clothes were clean, his clubs were ready, his schedule is sorted and his money is properly managed. Going back even further you see a supportive dad and mom who worked to give young Tiger every opportunity he could do be successful and eventually smash through a racial barrier. Sure Tiger is out there on the course but all of it came together from the past and present to ensure that the moment on the course was created because of a whole group of people who were their to support and make it happen. Teamwork 101.
First off, before we continue this discussion and see how this relates to our current world we are in, I must confess I have been a student of Phil Jackson’s numerous works that take a very in-depth exploration of the nature of team play, specifically “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior.” Phil’s philosophies and approaches are demonstrated in his success as arguably one of the finest basketball coaches to coach the game and his winning record with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls speaks for itself. So how does this apply to where we are at now? How can these lessons alter the path we have found ourselves treading on? The solution once again returns to the nature of team play because when there are many people with drastically different backgrounds, life experiences and abilities, the only way to make this successful is through real team play that involves people working together on the deepest and most profound levels.
Which bring us to where we are. What is team play? All great teams have at least two things in common: one is each player learning to trust his or her teammates as well as each player knowing what their role is and how they contribute to the overall whole. To use the analogy of basketball, when you are storming down the court on a dribble drive you already know where your teammate will be to accept your pass and they know where you will be because you are no longer thinking as individuals but as a collective unit. In this moment, you become virtually unstoppable because all there is to do is execute and nothing else. You are dwelling then inside a pristine and pure moment that generates power in the confines of the unit itself and that unit can be anything from family, community, business, your church, your country, planet earth you name it. In cases like this it is akin to the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” where the little chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin turns to his opponent and offers him a draw in their final chess match and offers up the following, “You’ve lost, you just don’t know it yet.” It is at this level of play that you know and become cognizant of your role and what you are best at and you learn to deeply trust your teammates. It requires a profound knowledge of one’s self and more importantly, understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are and to trust those around you. As Clint Eastwood’s character Dirty Harry said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Powerful words of wisdom from brother Eastwood, but it is also extends further to imply a connectedness as well. The place where you end and your teammate begins disappears. This approach harnesses each individual’s unique abilities and drives them into a single cohesive group. Ultimately, when you excel and perform your role perfectly, the others around you become better. This can also be found in Dr Martin Luther King’s statement that “I can’t be me, until you are you.” This is not easy to accomplish because is requires the hardest thing which is trust, both trust in yourself and trust in those around you. All of team play evolves from this. From this great things can get accomplished. Still we are always aware that it is always a never-ending process to evolve and work as a unit, and every moment of glory a team experiences as a unit is always the result of hours, days, months and years of hard work and that is where we find ourselves today. In a place where work will need to be done to restore and rebuild. Let there never be a doubt, nothing good ever came easy, ever comes easy, or ever will come easy and that is something we will have to remember more then anything again in these times, but when people gather together and choose to accomplish great things, anything is possible.
Lets get back out on the court and make it happen!