Business 1.0 July/August 2020

August 11th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Go For It, Joey!

By Lyle R. Hill

All ten of them were from the neighborhood and each one was special. They were my group of seven- and eight-year olds and my job was to mold them into a basketball team.

The primary idea was to have fun while learning the fundamentals. The importance of winning was to be downplayed, while teamwork and good sportsmanship were emphasized. As could be expected, the kids handle these concepts better than most of the parents who came to watch them play.

It was a great group of kids … bright, eager to learn, well-disciplined and very coachable—all except Joey. Joey’s mother had passed away less than a year earlier and the loss had taken its toll on the little guy. He had become subdued, shy and almost backward. His father had signed him up for the basketball program hoping that it would help Joey make friends while building up his self-esteem.

But it wasn’t working.

Every time Joey got the ball, he froze. He just stood there like a marble statue. Fans and players alike would exhort him to do something with the ball. … Pass it! … Dribble it! … Shoot it! … Go for it, Joey! …. the crowd would yell, but to no avail. Ultimately, one of his teammates would grab the ball out of his hands and continue the play.

One night after practice, I drove Joey home so we could talk one-on-one. We discussed how well the team was doing and he told me he enjoyed being a part of it all. Finally, it was time to get to the heart of the matter.

“Why do you think you have a hard time passing the ball when it comes to you?” I asked.

“Because I’m afraid I’ll pass it to the wrong person,” he answered.

“And why don’t you ever shoot the ball?” I continued.

“Because I might miss,” he said, “and I don’t want everybody to be mad at me because I made a mistake. I don’t want to look dumb.”

As we rode in the car that night, I asked Joey who he thought was the best player on the team. He quickly selected Chris as our top player and added that he wished he could be like Chris.

“Does Chris make every shot he attempts?”

“Most of them,” Joey responded.

“Have you ever seen Chris make a bad pass or any other mistake?” I continued.

“Sometimes,” he answered.

“But you don’t remember his mistakes, do you? You remember the baskets he made.”

We rode the rest of the way in silence, with Joey pondering my point and me congratulating myself on reaching him. Now, I thought, things would be different. And they were. He did finally start shooting and passing … and making mistakes. In fact, he made plenty of mistakes and no matter how far away he was from the basket, he couldn’t wait to shoot the ball every time he got his hands on it. I would like to tell you that he became a great star, but he didn’t. He was a very average basketball player, but he started having fun and making friends and I think that his life was made better for the experience.

The business world has a lot of Joeys in it—people who are so afraid of making the wrong decision that they make no decision at all. They don’t play to win, but to avoid losing or looking bad.

“The better a person is, the more mistakes they will make, for the more new things they will try,” says management consultant Peter Drucker. “I would never promote a person into a top level job who was not making mistakes … otherwise they are sure to be mediocre.”

No one enjoys making a mistake, but failure is usually the price of improvement. And quite often, the one thing that keeps many of us from success is the fear of failure.

I bumped into Joey’s father at a restaurant one afternoon not too long ago and asked him how Joey was doing. He told me that he had graduated from college and started a family of his own. One of the first things Joey did after moving into his first home was to install a basketball backboard on his garage. It put a smile on my face.

Lyle R. Hill is the former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years of experience in glass-related industries and can be reached at lhill@glass.com

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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