The other day I was getting out of my car when I noticed a boy carrying a football, lagging about thirty-feet behind his father.
When I got out of the car, I told the boy to throw me the ball. His father nodded it was okay to do so. The ball was too big but he threw it to me. It wobbled the ten-yard journey, non-spiraling, end over end.
I called the boy over and told him he should learn how to throw a spiral if he wanted to play football.
Maybe it would guide his life as it did mine, I thought to myself.
When I was fifteen, I was an end on my high school team. One day someone asked me to throw a ball back to a group that was practicing receiving passes. Nobody had ever seen me throw before, only catch. I returned the ball to the group, a twenty-yard spiral that never went higher than six feet off the ground. The coach stopped practice and said, “You’re my quarterback!”
I had an older brother who was a good player in high school and I had learned from him.
Throwing spirals soon became a metaphor for my life.
Nothing in life has brought me so much success as my ability to throw a spiral. High school honors, college scholarships, good jobs, leadership positions, lasting friends, and lots of great memories.
Sometimes those spirals missed their mark. So what? I kept throwing. Some times in school, courses were too hard. I kept going. Sometimes efforts failed but I kept throwing spirals.
I learned in relationships, business, athletics, dealings with problems, and managing people, you should never stop throwing spirals that are straight and true. You’ll have a high completion average the more you stress the fundamentals. Recognize the target, screen out the obstacles, keep your eye on the prize, and throw a perfect spiral that is right on target.
Sometimes you’ll get picked off. Learn from your mistakes. Never mislead your receivers. Know their strengths and weaknesses and help them succeed by providing soft spirals to them in stride.
And then congratulate them for being successful.
It is no different in all we do. Every position I’ve held was because I had thrown spirals in games and was expected to do the same in my work. That’s how I had a very successful career at IBM, and why my fellow residents elected me to be their mayor.
I determined that everything I learned from my parents to Coach Murray Warmath, was right. I used those principles to become not only a better leader, but a better follower, if that was to be my role.
From the day I threw that first spiral, I’ve never stopped trying to do my best.
I hope that kid is waiting out in the street to play catch with me, getting ready to throw spirals.
It is in that spirit that I am so very grateful this Thanksgiving and I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.
Hut One, Hut Two….