From D-Day, Baseball, My Grandpa, and a Beatle
Written By: Doug Green
I have never been the type that loves to grab or download the latest bestselling business book. I’ve tried it a few times on flights, and I usually lose interest before the plane leaves the runway. For me, the best business lessons come from learning about places like Omaha Beach, Gettysburg, The Chosin Reservoir, or far before I became part of a work team that I love and admire, I learned how to become a good teammate from baseball. Lessons from spending time on the golf course with my grandpa never resulted in a fixed slice, but I did walk away with something even better, his hard-earned wisdom in my bag. Finally, on my way home from work, instead of listening to the latest business guru, I tuned in to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Otis Redding, and then became intrigued at how they revolutionized rock & roll.
So, with that background, here’s a few of my favorite business lessons I have learned from history, baseball, my grandpa, and rock & roll.
Keep Moving and Know Your Mission
During the opening hours of the D-Day invasion, nothing was going to plan on Omaha Beach. Months of meticulous planning and preparation failed to knock out enemy strongholds, deliver troops and equipment to the right place, or establish a beach head. Under relentless and accurate enemy fire, soldiers struggled to wade through the surf and blood-soaked sands of the Normandy beach to the safety of the cliff base. Those who made it to the base of the cliff quickly realized they couldn’t go backwards, and it was only a matter of time before artillery would come down on them at their current position.
As the battle raged and the odds piled up, small groups of soldiers and unflinching leaders realized the only way off the beach was to move forward. Despite the loss and confusion, they endured. They never lost sight of their ultimate objective or mission. Soldiers from different units banded together, and against impossible odds, pushed forward and kept moving. What looked like a sure loss in the early hours of the battle began to shift as soldiers made their way up the cliffs and silenced enemy gun emplacements, called in artillery, and opened transportation paths for more troops and material to come ashore. While the bravery of these soldiers is beyond words, their ability to keep moving and not give up on their mission was key to their success. Like on the battlefield, plans in business rarely go exactly as anticipated. Moving backwards or staying put will not yield the results we seek, but if we know our mission and keep moving, navigating whatever obstacles come our way, we ultimately find a path to success.
The Importance of the Voices We Listen To
Growing up as an aspiring center fielder for my beloved Dodgers, I would turn on the major league baseball game of the week each Saturday morning to listen to Vin Scully call games. Vin brought the game to life like no other. I felt like I was watching a game on my grandpa’s lap at the ballpark instead of listening to a person far away in a booth. Vin’s voice was full of knowledge, excitement, and comfort. With Vin recently passing away, it made me wonder...what voices are important to me and is my voice making a difference.
There is not a shortage of voices out there. Many scream and shout. But loud doesn’t equate to right. Surrounding yourself with the voices of good, honest, bold, humble, and principled people, while making sure your voice does the same for them, fosters growth. Also, just as important, is taking the time to listen and not just to be heard.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
My Grandpa Evan was raised in a small, rural community in Northern Utah. He grew up working on farms thinning sugar beets among other difficult tasks. He eventually became a highway patrolman and worked in that capacity for decades. He had a high school education and did not go to college. As many who made it through the Great Depression, he learned to work hard.
He was the poster boy of the old adage, “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without.”
My grandpa had acquired a lifetime of knowledge and was very adept at teaching it in his own homespun way. The classroom for one of my favorite lessons was on the 4th hole of Skyway Golf Course, a 9-hole track in Tremonton, Utah. After patiently watching me hit, or not hit the ball for 3 consecutive holes, he taught me, a happy go lucky toe headed 9-year-old, the 3 secrets to golf. With a somewhat stern look on his face, but a sparkle in his eye, he said, “Here’s the 3 most important lessons in golf to never, ever forget:
Number 1...keep your eye on the ball!
Number 2...keep your eye on the ball!!
Number 3...keep your eye on the blankety-blank ball!!!”
I feel fortunate to work for a company and team where I am surrounded by good people and voices who know their mission and keep their eye on what is most important.
Unfortunately, my golf game hasn’t improved much since then, but his lesson was more about life than golf. In business it is so easy to get distracted and take our eye off our customers, what sets us apart from the competition, our strategic objectives, or guiding principles (the ball). If we apply Evan Green’s 3 most important things about golf to business, we will never lose sight of that which is most important.
Don’t Be Afraid to Trade the Trumpet for a Guitar
Jim McCartney, wanting his son to follow in his love of music bought him a trumpet for his 14th birthday. His son Paul loved it. Paul tooled around with the trumpet even learning a few songs and scales until he came to the realization, “I wasn’t going to be able to sing with this thing stuck in my mouth.” Paul asked his dad if he could swap his trumpet for a guitar. His dad obliged and the rest is history. Let it Be, Hey Jude, Yesterday, Get Back...I could go on and on—all came from McCartney and his guitar.
Back in the 50s playing the trumpet was a safe bet. Thanks to swing music and innovators like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, the trumpet was one of the most popular instruments of the day. But can you imagine a world without the Beatles? Paul didn’t follow the crowd, and while he and the Beatles didn’t invent rock & roll, they launched it into a new stratosphere. In business, the same principle applies—following conventional wisdom doesn’t always lead to success. Being willing to buck traditional thought, follow our passions, and trust our guts and instincts can lead to, like it did for Sir Paul McCartney, an incredible career.
I feel fortunate to work for a company and team where I am surrounded by good people and voices, who know their mission, keep their eye on what’s most important, aren’t afraid to trust their instincts and try new things, and are always moving forward no matter the bumps in the road.
Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ...and a good business lesson.
Keep Moving and Know Your Mission
The Importance of The Voices We Listen To
Keep Your Eye on The Ball
Do Not Be Afraid to Trade the Trumpet for a Guitar