This will be a winding post including Rick Pitino, Margaret Thatcher, Ray Lewis, Annette Funicello and Rutgers.
But the past several days has made me think about legacies … and judgment. We judge every day … sometimes simply an event … or a moment … and sometimes reflectively. All I know for sure is that we seem to be quick to judge, relentlessly unforgiving in the moment and oddly selective in circumspect.
Rick Pitino is a great basketball coach.
But he also shapes young men. The other night I was watching a group of 18- to 22-year-old young men teach us a lesson about life.
<side note: to all the boomer 50/60something managers out there who bitch & moan about managing younger generations maybe you should put a picture of Pitino up in your office because he is 60 now … and was 40something when he brought a group of 20somethings to another championship and he was in his 30’s when he brought another group to a Final Four … maybe it isn’t the younger generation … maybe it is you? … oops … I digress>.
It would be easy to focus on his recent success … but his path to where he is today <I was tempted to use ‘greatness’ but didn’t> was not a straight line. There were failures and transgressions. Simply put … today he is not the man he was in his 20’s. Do we judge him on his hall of fame career? Do we judge on basketball statistics? How his young men athletes do in Life? How he did in his own personal life? Or do we judge him in totality?
Margaret Thatcher was neither the smartest <a British paper used the word ‘cleverest’> nor the most eloquent politician of her generation. But she was without question one of the most determined. Maggie’s <that is what I called her> unwavering belief in her convictions is most likely her most important characteristic. Whether you believed she was right or wrong … you knew she said what she meant and meant what she said. It was never about style it was always about substance. The content was almost irrelevant because the intent drove in to the minds of people. Maggie did not become a great prime minister by being nice. She was tough-minded, determined, and convicted. Do we judge her on popularity? The success, or lack of success, of things she implemented? Do we judge her as a mother? Or do we judge her simply as one who led and not any specifics?
On the same day Maggie died … Annette Funicello died at the age of 70 from complications of multiple sclerosis <which she had had for more than 25 years>.
For anyone growing up in the 1950s, Annette Funicello was a huge celebrity, one of the original Mouseketeers on Walt Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club.” After it ended she had a couple of records and starred in Beach Blanket movies … then she left the business to raise her children. <trivia: Paul Anka wrote “Puppy Love” about her>.
Do we judge her on her insanely bad Beach Blanket Bingo movies? Do we judge her on being a Mouseketeer? Do we judge her on her moral compass? Do we judge her on the way she dealt with multiple sclerosis? Do we judge her in total?
Ray Lewis is probably the polar opposite of Annette Funicello. Retired this year more as a motivational inspirational leader than the truly monsterly talented football player that he was. He was a beast on the field. So much of a beast that we may tend to forget that he didn’t become a beast simply by walking on the field … he dedicated himself off the field to not waste his talent. He was an imperfect man off the field … but focused on not wasting the one true talent he had – playing football. And you know what? His motivational ability was simply him sharing that conviction … make the most of what you have <and don’t let the other shit get in the way>.
Oh. Yeah. Ray may have shot someone. He may have just been with someone who shot someone. Ray was definitely a young punk in the 90’s. Brash, arrogant and wandering. Do we judge him as that? Or how he has matured? Do we judge him on an event or a series of events? Do we judge him simply for the fact he didn’t waste an incredible talent despite the fact at one point he could have chosen another path?
The Rutgers basketball coach … and that path to choose I just mentioned with Ray.
If I were to judge this coach on a 30 minute video tape I would not judge him well. Please note that I believe this is not about any ‘generational style of coaching’ … his actions are, and were, unacceptable for someone who has the ability to shape and mold young men for life beyond sports.
We never get to see the thousands of hours of coaching video that would make him look like a first round Hall of Fame coach.
Look. Someone could make a 30 minute video of me from my entire professional career that could make unhireable for the rest of my life. On the other hand someone could make a 30 minute video of me that could put me in the top boardrooms in the world.
Highlights, or lowlights, are just that … the peaks or the valleys. And it is silly to assume we are always at the peak of our best. You should notice that most of the great coaches being interviewed have been very careful about how they discuss the situation … why?
Geez. I bet even Pitino is sitting there thinking “whew … if someone went back to when I was a younger coach and created a 30 minute lowlight film I bet I wouldn’t look so good.”
And being awful quick to judge how it was initially handled. Beyond the fact we are in a maniacally litigious world and the university is kind of trapped between ‘being in the right to fire’ and ‘providing the opportunity to improve’ … it would seem like the university <which is in the business of teaching people and improving them for future success> actually gave someone, who must obviously have some redeeming professional value, a good spanking, some good support … and then sent them back out to be a better person.
We are quick to judge the coach … and the university. And from the outside looking in sometimes objects look closer than they really are <sorry … that’s the side view mirror perspective on Life>.
What he did was unacceptable. What the university did was acceptable <in some ways>. Everyone should be careful how they judge … the event … as well as legacy of the event.
The point of all this?
We seem so quick to judge people these days. We judge with a strong dose of nearsightedness.
In addition we debate judging people on character, deeds or sometimes even lifetime consistency.
We forgive … but we don’t forgive.
Here is a Life truth.
If you sift through the rubble of anyone’s life you will find some cherished mementoes … and some rubbish.
Some people will hold the mementos high and declare sainthood.
Other people will flaunt the rubbish as proof of poor character.
It is all silly.
These people may not have been the smartest nor the most talented nor even the nicest. But they all had conviction.
Despite challenges and any transgressions they may have encountered they got their proverbial train back on the tracks and moved forward with conviction on what mattered to them.
Pitino has always been a great basketball coach. He is now a better man … and a shaper of young men.
Thatcher was never a great mind. She was a leader … not just listening to what people wanted to showing them what they needed.
Ray Lewis has always been a monsterly talented football player. He is now a monsterly talented football player who did not waste his talent.
Annette Funicello was never the most talented. But in the end she could certainly be judged well on moral compass and integrity and heart.
But what did they all have in common?
The Rutgers coach? He is at a crossroads. After the witch hunt has died down and we stop judging him as evil incarnate he can decide where he goes from here. And he has a lifetime to build events that will ultimately decide how he is judged. He will find this is a test of his conviction.
And in the moment you are simply judging … well … a moment. Life is a series of events. Some good and some bad. Some gooder than others and some a lot badder than others.
But people have a lifetime of events to build a legacy for the rest of us to judge them on. And in the end they will be exactly as we expected them to be … flawed.
I imagine I would like to judge people not on their greatness or even individual events but rather how they dealt with the flaws in their life.
We can isolate specific events within a Life and find something good or something bad. That is easy. In fact … that is lazy judgment.
But judging how someone deals with the flaws … the mistakes.
Well, maybe, just maybe, that is judging their conviction.
And, well, conviction is a reflection of character … not brains nor genius nor talent nor skills.