It’s Not About Me!

One of my favorite subjects to discuss (and the focus of my dissertation) is humility. This often misunderstood phenomenon is one of the most needed, yet least found character traits in Western society today. But what actually is humility?

This weekend, I will be helping to lead a group of teens to engage a theme that is contrary to just about every notion recognizable in culture today: “It’s Not About Me!” Society screams that the me-centric lifestyle is a must in our (disgusting) over-emphasis on self in our technology (MySpace was followed by Facebook was followed by the Selfie as king or queen of the average teen). While a decade and a half ago when I was growing up we did emphasize self-esteem, I think we were able to differentiate that construct from the seeming self-addiction that clouds our culture today. But what can actually be done about the me-cravings?

The first thing that can be done is to point toward positive examples of humility. These examples are present, and even the media will pick up on them every now and again, but the problem is we put so much attention on the Biebers, Lohans, and Kardashians of the world (not to mention all of the media hungry individuals that seem to pop up on reality TV) that we have drowned out the people that consistently show care and concern for others, aren’t self-absorbed, and seek to serve.

The second thing to be done is to encourage people to know themselves enough that they don’t have to be absorbed with themselves. That is the irony of our society, we are probably more self-focused than at any other time in history, but yet we seem to really not even know (or be willing to admit what we know about) ourselves.

From now through Monday, humility will be the major focus of this space (with Friday being a special edition of “Coaching Corner” on humility), as we work to promote other-focused individuals, teams, and organizations that truly get the importance of caring for one another so that we all can grow – together!

Stay tuned!

Sports: Where I First Fell in Love with Teamwork

As a product of Southeast Michigan born in the early 1980s, sports were a very important part of my life. I grew up with what I believe are some of the most amazing “teams” of all-time. I truly believe that a large part of my interest in teamwork as a social researcher was formed in watching the amazing feats of connection and collaboration that took place during my formative years.  

For the next few days, I will be pointing toward some of the key reasons I am passionate about both teamwork in general, and sports in particular. Recently, ESPN has participated in a spotlight on Detroit highlighting the 25th anniversary of the Bad Boys and so I thought it fitting to pick up some of the memories and people that have shaped the way I think about teamwork.  

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Today – the 1984 Detroit Tigers

As a three year-old I was a witness to the Roar of ’84 in which the Tigers went wire-to-wire in 1st place and defeated the San Diego Padres to win the World Series. Though I was only three, the impression that team left in my consciousness was deep and important. This team carried such an amazing blueprint for success.

When you think about the team that toiled on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull that year, players such as Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Willie Hernandez, Chet Lemon, Darrell Evans, and Tom Brookens come to mind. Even now after 30 years, I still recall the poetry in motion that these players brought to the diamond. In my world they were larger than life, though even to this day the only member of that team to make the Hall of Fame was their manager.

When you think about the quintessential players of that generation, you think of Boggs, Yount, Molitor, Murray, Rice, Henderson, Carter, Davis, Fisk, Murphy, Sandberg, Schmidt, Garvey, Brett, Smith, Ripken, Gwynn, Strawberry, Gooden, Ryan, Eckersley, Puckett, Fingers, and Hersheiser. Unless, that is, you are from Detroit. Then you think about how this team was powerful in the mid-80s, put together with such amazing depth, complementary parts, and lack of weakness.

Roving the infield as a youngster, Sweet Lou and Trammy were my heroes, leading me to play 2nd and SS for much of my baseball (and now since I am older, softball) career. These two were the greatest double-play combo ever (don’t just believe me check out the stats), they taught me the value of continuity (played together from 1978-1991) and trust. This team never boasted the best player, though Gibson, Morris, and Hernandez were amazing in those playoffs, but brought together a wonderful collection of players who understood their role and had an amazing leader (Sparky Anderson) to guide their collective journey.

What I love about this team is that while there were some real personalities (see Gibson, Kirk; Hernandez, Willie; Allen, Rod; and Lemon, Chet) this wasn’t in anyway a ‘me-first’, or superstar-oriented team. They didn’t have any hitter with 100 RBI and no one with 35 HRs (Lance Parrish surprisingly led Detroit in both categories with 98 RBI and 33 HR). Further, they only one regular player who hit over .300 (Alan Trammell). They had 5 pitchers though with double-digit wins, a closer who had 32 saves (which seems almost pedestrian today), but not a single starter with an ERA south of 3.20 (Dan Petry had a 3.24 ERA the lowest of the starters).

Stats thrown out, when you watched this team they had chemistry. Right from Opening Day they went on a 35-5 start that has never been (and might never be) duplicated. They seemed to enjoy being together, having such an interesting collection of players that each brought something different to the table. To me they are the quintessential team. No megalomaniacs (Gibson’s later run in LA doesn’t factor in at this point), no serious in-fighting, a good deal of diversity, and consistency that led to greatness.

What teams (whether they be sports or not) formed the way you think today?