Lessons from March Madness

A closer look at March Madness

It’s the Night before Madness and I still haven’t finished my bracket—or my wife’s. Last minute, as always. While sitting here at a restaurant waiting for my wife and kids to show up for our weekly family dinner, I’m watching a little ESPN, hoping to gain one or two more morsels of information that’ll help me figure out which 5-Seed is going to get upset this year in the first round. (Right now, I’m leaning towards West Virginia, who plays Clemson, by the way.)

For some reason, though, I can’t get out of my head the turmoil and heated discussion that took place Monday morning immediately following the announcement of the 68 teams that now make up the NCAA National Championship Tournament. It was 64 teams. Then, a year or two ago, they expanded the field to 65, with a “play-in” game that saw the winner getting the unenviable gift of a first round matchup against the Overall #1 Seed, so named as the best team in the field according to the selection committee. And this year it’s 68 damn teams. Too many if you ask me, but that’s a topic for another day. For those of you not at all interested in basketball or sports, bear with me; I’m getting to the part about the lessons learned from this always exciting and chaotic tournament in just a moment.

Anyone who knows me or has followed my blog for a little bit knows that I see a number of parallels between sports and life. The workplace is filled with examples. So is your family and circle of friends. Challenges, setbacks, teamwork. The list is almost endless. So it’s almost second nature for me to find moments in sports that I can use as either a personal lesson or a teachable moment to those around me. And this is what I learned and will continue to understand this and the next couple of weeks, courtesy of what’s known as March Madness.

Lesson #1: Stop the Damn Whining
No matter how big the selection field gets, there will always be one (or five) teams that feel they were cheated, that they got snubbed. To them I say ‘Stop the [you know what] whining. If there is an argument whether or not you belong, then you probably don’t. The fact that you left the decision in the hands of a room filled with old guys drinking mineral water is no fault but your own. The same is true for you and me. Layoffs happen. Breakups happen. Decisions on acceptance into school happen. And if you are borderline or have given any reason for the decision maker to “weigh both sides”; well, sorry, but that is your fault. Control what you can. And let the results be what they may. If you haven’t done enough, you simply have not done enough.

Lesson #2: Once You’re In, You’re In
BUT, If you are accepted into school, if you are hired, if you do make the team, OR if you get into the NCAA tournament, then you belong. Period. And at that point it doesn’t matter how you got there. For all intent and purposes, you have as good a shot as anyone else. You might be shooting with a slightly older model gun without the target lens, but you have the same shot nonetheless. Don’t apologize to anyone. Not even yourself. You only had a 3.3 GPA in high school, while the guy next to you in your Freshman Calculus class was his school’s Valedictorian. You do realize you are in the same classroom now, right? Hearing the same material from the same professor with the same opportunity to get an ‘A’ and eventually a degree. How about this: you were a rookie free agent and your signing bonus was $10,000. The guy next to you in the team photo was a Top 5 Selection in the draft and signed a $10 MILLION dollar signing bonus. Again, in three years, if you do your job right, it might just be that none of that matters.

Lesson #3: Be On Your Game
So you made it. The school you wanted. The team you wanted. Heck, maybe the girl you wanted. Now, you have to prove that you belong. Not necessarily to them. Not even necessarily to the world. Or yourself. Actually, you don’t really have to prove anything to anyone. If you don’t want to stay there, that is. If you do, and I’m assuming whatever “IT” happens to be is important enough to you, that you do want to stay, then you have to be on your game every day. In the NCAA tournament, you have to win 6 games in a row to become a national champion (7 if you are one of the 8 teams that have to play the opening round in the new format). You’re not allowed an off day. If you don’t show up, you go home. It’s really that simple. Now our lives—at work, at home, in our community—are not as finite. We often have more chances than just one. But a mentality that doesn’t recognize how important it is to make sure that any opportunity that arises is met with energy, focus, and excitement is one destined for failure. If we approach every day like it is a single elimination contest, we will be on our game; whether in a board meeting, playing in company softball league, or hanging out with our spouse and children.

Those are just three of the lessons I can glean from the Tournament. I’d be interested to learn what you learn. Enjoy the games!


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

One Response to Lessons from March Madness

  1. Poppy says:

    Nice blog Bobby. I have to say Go Bucks, or I am sleeping on the couch, but I do have a soft spot for the SDSU Aztecs!

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