Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Leadership Paradox

Another beautiful one from coachingtoolbox.net

These leadership commandments were written by Kent M. Keith.

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Way to Victory

Victories of life are won not on the fields nor in the marts where the deci­sive struggle takes place, but in the obscure and forgotten hours of prepara­tion. Success or failure lies in the hands of the individual long before the hour of final test comes.

In the higher fields of success there are no accidents; men reap precisely what they have sown and nothing else; they do well precisely what they have prepared to do and they do nothing else well.

The world puts its force into us when we put ourselves in right relation with it: Experience makes us constantly wiser if we know how to rationalize it: Time deposits all manner of treasure in our imagination and memory, if we hole the doors open.

Nothing is lost upon a man who is bent upon growth, nothing wasted on one who is constantly preparing for his work and his life by keeping eyes, mind, and heart open to nature, men, books and experience. All things that he has seen, heard, known and felt come to his aid at the critical moment to make his thought clear and keep his illustration luminous, his speech eloquent and inspiring.

-Compliments of Indiana State University

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Basketball Player

I don't like CCPing..but I had read a wonderful article on who a basketball player is and would like to share it with you guys.

"A basketball player can come in any size, shape, or color. There is no common denominator except a love for the game and a desire to get the most out of his abilities. He is not only proud of his strengths, but understands his weaknesses. He is concerned first with the good of his team and knows that individual recognition will come through team excellence.

A basketball player has the enthusiasm of an evangelist, the discipline of a monk; the heart of a warrior; and never loses the honesty and character of a small boy.

He appreciates the support of thousands of fans, but he is much more aware of the example he is setting for some small boy watching from the sideline. He is happy when he scores a basket but never forgets that a teammate threw him the ball. While he never lets up at either end of the floor, the other team is not his real opponent; it is the full extent of his own potential that he is always playing against. He lets the referees, with occasional assistance from his coach, do the officiating.

A basketball player is made and not born. He is constantly striving to reach his potential knowing that he will bypass other players who cannot withstand the strain of this quest for excellence. He realizes that the challenges and competition of today's game will better prepare him for tomorrow's world. He knows that the true measure of his performance is not recorded in wins and losses but in how much of himself he has given to the game.

A basketball player never realizes when the odds are stacked against him. He can only be defeated by a clock that happens to run out of time. He is what a small boy wants to become and what an old man can remember with great pride that he once was. "

(available at http://www.coachingtoolbox.net/filingcabinet/a-basketball-player.html)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The tangential approach: Kobe Bryant

(As appeared in sportskeeda.com)

Sports writers have waxed eloquent about him, yet Kobe Bryant continues to be hot property for continued dissection. A reason for this is perhaps because Kobe’s personality is like an onion- nobody has quite managed to peel through its many layers. He still retains that enigma which makes him very attractive to journalists.

I have told myself to desist writing about NBA greats because there are more competent people already doing so. I ought to rather focus on the development of basketball and its players in the Indian subcontinent. But like many others, I too have succumbed to the charms of the “black mamba”.

People have tried to understand Kobe Bryant- the person- through a number of ways. Some document his work ethic, others look at the injuries he has suffered throughout his storied career, a fewer still attempt to deconstruct his personality by analysing his sexual assault case. My attempt is to understand Kobe using what I call the “tangential approach.”

On 4th December 2009, the Los Angeles Lakers played host to the Miami Heat in a regular season tie that went right down to the wire. With the Lakers trailing by 2 with 3.2 seconds to go, everybody in the arena knew that the ball would go to Kobe to hit the game winner. He obliged in remarkable fashion.

In the Brownian motion unfolding in the seconds before the inbound pass, Kobe managed to break away from a very persistent Dwayne Wade to receive the ball. Turns out (as he later admits in the post game interview), he got the ball farther out then he would have liked- at around 26 feet from the basket. A jab step to the right and a couple of dribbles to the left later he found that Wade was still stuck to his hip. With time almost running out, Kobe has no choice but to pull up for an off balance three pointer falling away to his left. Miracle of miracles, he banks it in and is soon engulfed by his teammates.

A lucky shot perhaps? Well, Kobe conceded as much immediately thereafter (“It was the luckiest shot I have ever taken”). But a few of days later he was heard singing a different tune: “I used to do a lot of mountain biking as a kid…so I had to learn how to balance myself on my left leg while in motion.”

A bizarre explanation don’t you think?

Logic. According to Wikipedia, the study of logic asks the question: “how do we know what we know?” Central to this study of logic is the ability to make logical links. These links vary from the straightforward to the seemingly absurd and help us rationalize the apparently unconnected events that take place in our lives.

Kobe Bryant can make these links. If you dissect his mind, rather than swirling thoughts, you would probably find a highly ordered catalogue of experiences, failures, successes, learning, videotape, memories, criticism, newspaper comments, praise and historical events.

Even if he was wrong about the mountain biking as being the reason behind him making such an impossible shot, he sure as hell wasn’t wrong in trying to find such a far-fetched connection.

Great players are known for eccentricities that few others like us can comprehend. Kobe Bryant is one such mastermind. His brain is like a pensieve (if you’ve read Harry Potter you’d know what I’m talking about) which has the ability to sift through millions of different ideas and thoughts and extricate the exact reasons for his actions. Again I could be talking in the air, as I am reminded of Derek Fisher’s remarks in one interview. Fisher, who along with Bryant have formed a potent 1-2 punch winning 5 championships along the way- knows his two guard better than most and says that people always think they “know” Kobe Bryant when actually then don’t know “s**t”.

For Kobe Bryant, the sub conscious and conscious have merged into what is now one cohesive memory. It’s almost likes he “googles” his own brain for a viable answer to any question that defenses may throw at him.

To further elaborate: If you were to ask Kobe “how do you somehow always manage to find a way to the basket weaving around several opposing defenders to take that perfect shot?” or “How is it that your game is almost like a choreographed dance where you seems to know exactly when to do what?” His answer would probably sound something like this: “Read more books.” Again this would seem like the weirdest response- but that’s Kobe. To him this is as obvious as two plus two equals four. After all he is known to be one of the brightest minds currently playing the game.

The reason Kobe is able to explain each and every move or action of his is because he plays the game so consciously. Nothing happens by chance in the land of Kobe. So when he says “read more books”, he probably is referring to how reading can cultivate an imaginative mind which in turn enables him to visualize all the possible situations that he may encounter in a game. These situations he then practices until he achieves near perfect muscle memory. Not exactly two plus two equals 4 is it?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The perils of the playoffs

(As appeared in sportskeeda.com)

Game 1 of the NBA Finals 2010. No, this is not a summary account of who won or lost; nor is it an in-depth analysis of what went wrong for the Celtics (they were the ones who lost btw). Rather, this is a heart wrenching story of a boy who is still searching for that one elusive chance to watch an NBA Finals game live on television. Yes, I have never witnessed NBA Finals action live, but this is not for lack of trying. It’s not my fault really- following basketball in India has historically been difficult!

Problem 1: Half the games are not even telecast on TV (ESPN STAR arbitrarily decides what matches to show and which to chuck).

Problem 2: Cricket, cricket, cricket. We have the good old cable operator at home and no Direct-to-Home (DTH) Service like TATA Sky or Dish TV. At my place the cable guy allows only two sports channels. I had called him last year- the night before the NBA Finals 2009 (and I am talking here about the NBA Finals- no less!) and asked him to make sure he puts ESPN the next morning. He tells me that there is some random cricket match and he would get lynched if he removed NEO Sports. The sad part was that there wasn’t even a cricket match happening at that time (since NBA matches in India are telecast live very early in the morning and get over no later than 10-10:30 a.m.). I tried convincing him but the logic fell on deaf ears. He has got so bugged with me that he doesn’t even pick up his phone nowadays.

Problem 3: Watching TV in the morning is a strict no-no at my place, indeed in many households, where mornings are meant to be quiet and peaceful. The only allowable sound to break the tranquility is the rustling which accompanies the turning of pages of the newspaper. One of my old habits is to wake up and immediately rush to the TV without even brushing my teeth, to catch whatever is left of NBA action. If there wasn’t a game happening I would immediately switch off the TV- mindful of old traditions of morning silence and family breakfasts. I usually wake up in time to catch the last quarter of any game and pray to the basketball Lords that the game will go into overtime (for the selfish reason that I will get to watch more basketball).

Problem 4: College. In college, following basketball presents its own difficulties. 2/3rds of the year I am away in college. While this means that there are no regulatory parental controls on viewership (see problem 3), it also means that there is no TV at hand (yes I belong to a college where hostels don’t have common rooms with television sets).

Also we have classes that we have to attend. My college has a 70% attendance requirement, the rest 30% I consume in the following manner:

(i) Taking part in basketball tournaments -15%

(ii) Falling sick from all sorts of diseases normally afflicting the stomach- 10% (hygiene and hostel are two irreconcilable terms you see- the only thing common between them is the “h”)

(iii) Last minute assignments and projects which I could have done earlier (but who are we kidding here…its college- nobody does their work on time) so another 5% gone here.

The problem with the above is that it leaves no margin for bunking classes for “otherreasons. You know what these otherreasons I’m talking about are: yes- Watching basketball matches! By a stroke of good fortune, a floormate of mine managed to get a Tata Sky connection on his laptop. The very next morning we were watching game 1 of the Lakers-OKC first round playoff series and were so engrossed in the game that we ended up bunking the next class. The ramifications of succumbing to such temptation were immediately felt: we were now on the wrong side of the dreaded 70% attendance line.

Current status: My mom, using her enviable social networking skills found a neighbour who happened to have played basketball for Delhi and more importantly had a Tata Sky connection. So I went over to their place at 6:30 in the morning to watch the first game of the Finals. As luck would have it, their TATA Sky connection wasn’t working. We tried fiddling around with the antenna in the vain hope that it may suddenly decide to pick up some signal. Not surprisingly, this didn’t work. I trudged back home and made a last ditch attempt to watch the game online. But a slow internet connection put paid to any hopes of watching Kobe and the Lakers dismantle the Celtics.

Monday 5:30 am on ESPN. Game 2 for you guys, game 1 for me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The game happens here: What it means to play basketball in India

(As appeared in sportskeeda.com)

The Supreme Court…. No it’s not in Delhi. It’s in every courtyard of every school of the country. Or at least that is what hoopsters in India would like you to believe. For many of them, playing basketball is like being cast under a hypnotic spell from which there’s no escape. It’s wei wu wei of the highest order- there is no fear or anxiety: just peace, love and happiness. There are people here for whom every dribble makes them come alive, where they feel a tingle down their spine, every time they step out on the basketball court. What is it about two hoops and a 28m by 15m rectangle that engages and occupies ballers for their entire lives? This infatuation is all the more extraordinary if you consider the circumstances in which a desi plays basketball.

Playing basketball in India is actually tougher than playing in the NBA. Every court is different: cement, tar or clay. Every ball is different: COSCO, NIVEA, SPARTAN, NIKE or SPALDING. Every ring is different: some are double rim, some are single rim. Every ring is at slightly different heights and some rings are more loose than the other (meaning there is no consistency in where the rebounds may fall).

In fact, where you are playing basketball in India also matters. The courts in Rajasthan are constantly dusty, with sands blowing across the surface of the court making it extremely difficult to grip the ball. The courts in the south are always wet, with puddles of water during most part of the year (weirdly enough always near the freethrow line or under the basket, making it practically impossible to play; you need to have gunny bags or mops to drain the court). I dunno about the courts in the east, because I haven’t played there yet, but I can pretty much imagine them to be of some peculiarity.

No Indian has made it to the NBA yet (although there are some contenders- see I and II), but folks here are still passionate about playing, and overcome a remarkable number of hurdles to do so. Women ballers fight their traditions and parents, guy ballers fight the impulse to get settled and find a stable job and kids fight persistent pleas from their friends wanting them to play cricket instead.

I salute all these people. These unknown heroes who are now not so unknown anymore, thanks to the pioneering work being done by sportskeeda and select others in popularizing the sport of basketball (among other sports) in our country.

The game truly happens here- right here in India, just as much as in the US, where the NBA playoffs are happening in controlled air conditioned arenas, where they can practice their shots in the comfort of not having to take their own rebounds, where they have stacks of basketballs lined up by their side and money is not a problem.

Playing basketball in India is no joke mind you. Especially when you are concerned with winning: when you genuinely want to improve and not merely play as an evening past time. Indeed a person playing basketball in India has to face so many problems each day, that he is forced to scratch his head and wonder whether it is worth all the effort. So much so, it is said that a person becomes a philosopher or a thinker in one of two situations: either when he comes out of a bad relationship or when he is an Indian who is basketball obsessed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who is a leader?

Who is a leader? It is said that a leader doesn’t have to be the best player on the team, or the most outspoken of the lot. A leader is simply one who is willing to make the most sacrifices every day for his team. He is like water: fluid and hence capable of taking on any shape or any role that is necessary for his team to win. He is a leader not out of any thirst for power or authority, but simply because he knows that he can take the team in the right direction. He accepts the responsibility of every loss, yet realises that any victory is because of the team and not because of him. A leader knows when to pass, when to be more aggressive on defence or more assertive on offense. A leader is not afraid to take decisions. A leader clarifies the role of each and every guy on the team and ensures that each player realises their significance on the team. A leader is willing to accept mistakes and never makes the same mistakes twice. He is not afraid of failure and learns to improve with every step. He is conscious of the need to keep moving forward every day and taking his team forward. He is willing to lose today for a more permanent victory tomorrow. He knows how to push the right buttons on each of his team mates. A leader has the ability to inspire. A leader is one who is constantly in search of finding “the leader” within others around him. Once he does find “the leader” in others, he realises that his job is done, and he fades away from the spotlight just as silently as he came into the spotlight in the first place. A leader speaks from the heart, otherwise he chooses to remain silent. A leader knows that he has to lead from the front, and set an example. A leader is the most passionate, at the same time he is the most calm. A leader knows the importance of winning the right way. A leader is the one with the most burning conscience. A leader is one who trusts his teammates to a fault. A leader is one who is never tired, or even if he is-knows he shouldn’t show it. A leader realises the importance of every moment as an opportunity to make people around him improve. At the same time he understands the delicate need to not be too pushy and letting people make mistakes and learn at their own pace. A leader is one who prays for you even when you sleep. A leader is one with no ego distinct from that of the team. A leader is one who is the heart and soul of the team. A leader is one who realises the importance of continuity- of having a system in place even after he has long gone. A leader is the one who is the most sincere. A leader is one is normally of the opposite mindset of the rest of the team. When the team is nervous, he is calm. When the team is happy after a 20 point lead at the end of the third quarter, he is alert: knowing that the game is not over until it is over. That defeat is always most likely when victory seems imminent. A leader makes even the best player realise “you need the team more than the team needs you”. A leader is one who becomes better with increased responsibility. A leader feels no pressure at crunch moments. A leader is logical. A leader is a risktaker. A leader trusts his instincts. At the same time he ensures that his instincts keep developing through constant study. A leader is like a sponge- he imbibes the best qualities from those around him. A leader doesn’t demand respect- he commands it. A leader makes inspired decisions. A leader doesn’t wait for things to happen, he makes things happen. A leader shakes the collective conscience. A leader gives people hope. Contrary to popular perceptions, a leader is not flamboyant or flashy. Left to himself, a leader is a very simple and boring guy- who simply wants to play ball because he loves it.