movies

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” or Coach Taylor meets Sun Tzu

Everyone loves a good motivational speech and there are few better than the ones from our favorite movies. The one where Rocky says that’s how winning is done. The one where Al Pacino talks about the game being one of inches and the inches are all around us. The one in Independence Day where President Bill Pullman says they won’t go quietly into that good night. Stellar stuff, all.

As much as I love them, I can’t use them every day. What I can use is a mantra, and not from a movie but a TV show – the long canceled Friday Night Lights. It’s simple and startlingly prescient. I can’t stop seeing it everywhere.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”

I think of this when we get something wrong because we allowed ourselves to become easily swayed by the information we didn’t bother to interrogate. I find myself muttering it when someone makes a stunning reversal and course corrects after allowing the truth of the situation to come to them.

All that, and honestly, I’m a sucker for six words. There’s music to that number, arriving in two-word pairs. Hemmingway once won a contest by penning a compelling story with only six words: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” My first Mission Statement at CVI was only six words: “Be professional, Solve problems, Create value.” Distilling something meaningful into six words is an art and I’m its favorite patron.

Clear Eyes

The ability to see. The ability to identify what is happening all around you and not deluding yourself about the conditions on the ground, in the air, or in your own heart. You can see it all and you need that ability if you’re going to do anything meaningful.

Any idiot can make decrees or decisions while not knowing what’s happening; that’s most of life. What an effective agent of change needs is the ability to discern what the hell is happening; both inside and outside themselves.

Sun Tzu says any winning General must master the Five Factors:

  • The Purpose
  • The Weather
  • The Terrain
  • The Leadership
  • The System

You can’t master anything if you can’t see it. And not just with your eyes. You need to see it with every part of your understanding. You especially need to see that which you’re inclined or incentivized not to see. Clear Eyes is of supreme importance and so it comes first. As mantras go, this one is fire.

  • The Purpose is the cause, the morality; what are we fighting for? Is this who we are? Do we know?
  • The Weather is the conditions. If not the rain or wind then the market forces at work.
  • The Terrain is the ground, the topography. If not a battlefield then the shelf or the venue the sales battle will be fought.
  • The Leadership is not only those in charge but those whose influence exceeds their titles. How capable are your leaders to produce and adapt on the fly?
  • The System is my favorite. It’s the thing that accounts and adapts (or should) for all the strengths and weaknesses of the others on this list. It’s what we have the most control over if we’d only recognize it and give it its due.

The General who masters the Five Factors will win every engagement, even if they don’t. Clear Eyes reminds us that we should never lie to ourselves. Self-awareness is one of our most powerful weapons if we’ll develop it properly.

How many times have you seen a person, organization, or company, fail because they couldn’t see clearly; because they refused to see clearly? Too many.

Full Hearts

Are you in to it? Do you believe in what you’re saying? Do you believe and trust in what you’re doing? Does what you do each day, right now, resonate with your core beliefs?

Can you stay focused and dedicated when things get tough and your path gets blocked? Can you fight through self-doubt, stumbles, and the hellish unknown? Can you manage to lose a battle without losing yourself?

Can’t Lose

There are two types of losses; the one on the scoreboard and the one in your mind. You can’t fully control the first kind of loss. You can plan, scrap, and brawl with all your might and you may still lose when the points are tallied. The second kind though? That’s all you.

Keep your vision clear. Don’t lie to yourself, ever, about anything.
Walk your talk. Believe in what you’re doing and be prepared for the way to get rough. Don’t lose yourself.

Do those two things and you’ll never lose.

What’s Your Joy?

Irreverence, Passion, Art, Poetry, Stories, Movies, Debate, LOVE, smelling my son’s hair when he hugs me goodbye in the morning, seeing my wife smile, closing a deal – a BIG deal. Leading. Seeing my team decimate anything in their way.

Facing Fear. Not conquering it so much – but just facing it. Holding my breath the whole time. Innovation. Making something incrementally better. A good tomato cream sauce. Pop Art. Jeanelle’s photos. Kaleel’s brisket rub. Hiser’s Jedi-mind stuff. Marshall’s heart. Tara’s ever-presence. Tracy’s Stories.

Shifting into fourth and really letting the engine have it. The surge of an RPM gauge as you pass some Tuesday Greg on his way to get his hair cut. Getting my hair cut. Drinking coffee like it comes in a red solo cup at a frat party because you know it’s powering exceptional stuff today.

I think this is mostly right - perhaps learning how to do a thing right is also Joy.

I think this is mostly right – perhaps learning how to do a thing right is also Joy.

Learning something new for the first time. Did you know that WD-40 stands for “Water displacement – 1940” because I do. Metrics. Pouring over towers of data and making it stand up and tell a story. Cutting through BS because “aint nobody got time for that” Memes (Thanks Richard Dawkins)

Having great friends that push you. Pushing yourself to be something better and achieving it. Being the type of person you want to see others be – even if it’s not all the time. Caring. The one pistachio that’s really easy to pop open. The parking space that opens at ikea as you make your first approach.

Good design. Thoughtfulness. Being present. Winning – but not at the expense of others. Knowing nothing else beats human effort. 80’s movies, namely “Red Dawn.” Tumblr. SNL. Making something out of nothing – or even better – something better out of something OK  Quotes. George C. Howell speaking as “Patton”

Making a sale. Looking at things sideways. Changing my mind in the face of superior information – and doing so without apology. Grammar. Teams. Exceptional oratory. A superior cut of meat, grilled to perfection. The feel of a crisp paper in the morning and the occasional cigar.

Belly laughs. The deep look of immediate recognition from an awkward puppy. A handful of darts, a blank slate, and a pitcher of beer with good friends. When my wife makes up words by combining two words and doesn’t even realize it – cutest thing in the world. A freshly starched shirt in the morning. A clean polo on the weekends. The unexpected summer breeze in late July. Making breakfast with my boys while they stand on chairs the moved into place.

I could do this all week…

Care to try your hand? What’s your joy? What do you believe in, virulently. What would you rest back and with a wide expressive spreading of hands say “Ohhhhhhh, this is amazing!”

Name it now, please.