We had a great men’s leadership meeting as we heard from the large group of new men, and reviewed some of the principles from Orrin Woodward’s Resolved book. The chapter on Systems Thinking sparked a fire in my central nerd system : ) I love brain teasers, Sudoku, cryptograms and any other activity that causes me to have to break down the complex into the simple systematically. It one of my strengths and failings in the same breath. Systems thinking applies well to processes and programs that can be logically improved, but applying “nerdom” to people is a different challenge. Relationships are more complex than a series of steps taken to make them productive. People add variability to processes. Attitudes, personalities, fears and egos can turn the most productive system into chaos. There are those rare occasions where processes and people work in harmony to produce the most amazing results, and I wanted to share one of those occasions from my past.
As a child, I was raised in a single parent home by my mother, and around age 10 she decided that I might need to toughen up a bit, so she enrolled me in Junior Football. Being pretty athletic and adventurous, I landed on the Kirkwood 10 Heavy Rams, led by Coach Mike. Coach Mike was the cerebral type. He had a three ring binder full of dozens of plays for our offence, and he created NFL like blitz packages for the defense. As you can imagine, the 10 year old mind might have a little trouble understanding systems so complex, but Coach Mike proceeded with vigor. We tried reverses, flee-flickers, end-arounds, and any other cockamamie ideas that the Coach Mike could come up with, but to no avail. We proceeded to lose every game badly for two years 0 – 22! Not even a tie! The leaders over the football program must have wanted to spare us a life of shame, so at age 12, they fired Coach Mike and hired Coach Chester and his brother Jesse, and that is when things changed.
Coaches Chester and Jesse had a tradition of winning that’s still in place to this day. They brought a philosophy to the game similar to the philosophies found in TEAM LIFE. No practice no play! We are going to be in shape mentally and physically, we are going to work hard, and no quitters, whiners, or cry babies allowed! They had swagger, and the results to back up that swagger. The first few weeks of practice became a weeding out process. We ran until we could hardly stand, and many people quit the team for fear of their lives from these two maniacs. Once we got pads, we hit until our arms were swollen and bruised, and still more people quit the team. Similar to the way we build our organization, there are some people that just do not want to do the work of a champion. Nothing wrong with that, but our coaches knew that they had put systems in place that only disciplined champions could execute! The system began with one number “3.5”! Three and a half yards on every play is what we wanted! That would guarantee us a first down every three downs, as we marched methodically down the field. No more flee-flickers nor reverses looking for the big play. We were going to beat our opposition into submission through disciplined simplicity(Go-Getter 4 plans a week). On defense, Coach Jesse demanded that we stop them from gaining three and a half yards on each play in a painful way. Coach Chester( Melancholy) installed an offence with 3 plays to the left, and three to the right, and one pass. We learned the simple systematic offense in one day, and practiced those few plays hundreds of times until we mastered them (Make a list, Contact, Show the plan, Follow up, Teach).
The systems were designed to work if executed, and they had proven to work in the past, but our coaches were smart enough to know that people execute systems, and people require encouragement, motivation, a kick in the butt(Coach Jesse liked this method… Choleric), and rewards to foster an environment conducive for the system to succeed. By now only kids with heart were left on the team, but each of us still had weaknesses that need to be addressed in order to build a team. Our center Cooley (guess from picture above), was a good blocker and hard worker, but he was Sanguine and often forgot the snap count. Can you imagine a center that forgets the snap count? Coach Chester knew that he needed some foot action in the buttocks to encourage him, but that only went so far. Every time he forgot the snap count in practice, the entire team had to run (TEAM Approach). We learned to discipline him along the entire run, but still he had lapses. So Coach understood that the system is only as good as its weakest point so in a bold move, he decreed that every play would be on one! Cooley now had a fail proof system… as soon as you hear hut, snap the ball (POWERPLAYER)!
We had a kid named Bernstein(not pictured above, probably crying somewhere) that had to weigh 50 pounds more than anyone else on the team. Bernstein was massive, but he lacked that fire necessary to dominate his right tackle position(Phlegmatic). He often cried during games, and wanted nothing to do with physicality, but after Coach Jesse planted within him the fear of God, Bernstein began to move anyone in front of him down the field like a beast! We lost only one game all season and we won 10. We qualified for our first bowl game, and by then we were a machine designed to take the will of our opponents through concentrated hard work. We had learned to trust in each other because each teammate played a very important role in the execution of our system. We applauded Bernstein, and had fun with Cooley, we appreciated the foot of Coach Jesse because he was molding us into champions. We won that bowl game 19-0, and as we huddled in the middle of the field to say our goodbyes as we headed to high school, we all cried because we knew that we had all experienced one of those rare occasions in LIFE where systematic success with people had been achieved. We had discovered excellence!
Today 30 years later, I still look at that trophy with pride, and I look forward to the day when we as a team, put in the reading, listening and changing necessary to get in shape. When we as a team, trust in one another enough to show this plan with fervor 4 times a week. When we as a team, decided to encourage our Bernstein’s, appreciate the genius of our Coach Chester’s, have fun with our Cooley’s and know that our Coach Jesse’s push us because they see our greatness. TEAM has systematized community building and leadership development and formulated the power player program into an unstoppable play. We now have LIFE to help us grow better in understanding people, relationships, and other areas covered in the 8 F’s. We have the leaders, the team, the system and the heart to explode. Do you have a place for your trophy? It’s Coming! This is our year!