As a kid I grew up with more heroes who I idolized than I could honestly count (or even remember!) There were my favorite athletes such as...
- Gary Payton ("the Glove")
- Michael Jordan
- Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
- Emmitt Smith
...to name a few.
And like many growing boys I idolized friends and family members who I interacted with. People like:
- My older cousin Aaron, who taught me how to find the best fishing holes on Lake Francis, play cards (Lo and Hi Chicago!) and spending time with your family in the outdoors
- The older neighbor across the street, Hoodean, who taught me many lessons around the the dangers of group think as well as how fortunate I was to grow up in America (he was from the middle east and was a first generation Iranian American)
- Mogen and Paul, my friend's fathers who threw us into their sports cars and drove way too fast with all the windows down to hear their engines scream just as loud as we screamed in the backseat
Last month, I had a very special and meaningful view from here experience.
I (virtually) met one of my childhood heroes: Emmitt Smith.
While I grew up in the Seattle area, our family spent good portions of each Summer visiting family in Dallas, Texas.
My uncle would take me to Texas Rangers games. Only on $1 hot dog nights, of course. Between the two of us we would take down a half dozen delicious ballpark dogs, a few bags of peanuts and some cracker jacks for desert. And I'd go to watch Pudge Rodriguez - one of my favorite big league ball players - do his thing.
While I never had the opportunity to go to a Dallas Cowboys game with my uncle, we still talked about the Cowboys all the time. And if we were talking Dallas Cowboys football, we were talking about Emmitt Smith.
Fast forward a few decades: I actually got the chance to meet him in a group event set up by EO, the professional organization of which I've been a member for three years.
I learned so much hearing his experience both on (but mostly off) the field.
In the spirit of continuing to learn myself and help others learn, I'd like to share some of the things that Emmitt said to our group along with my reflections on those thoughts. Hopefully, Emmitt's words will help you continue to grow and learn as a human being or professional as well as they did for me.
On the Benefits of Losing
According to Emmitt: "It's amazing how opportunities to improve are ignored or even missed entirely when all you do is win. When you learn is when you lose and have to figure out why that happened."
Let me ask you this: how many post-mortums has your company held when you land a new client?
Probably a pretty small number (if any at all).
Now let's explore the opposite outcome: how many post-mortums have you held when you lost a current client or lost a bid for a new client?
That's right. Probably a lot more, huh!
Emmitt's experience was refreshing to hear. When the Cowboys were winning all day long, none of the locker room issues, contract disputes, family drama, or anything else mattered. Who cares, we're the best! We're winning!
According to Emmitt: that's a missed opportunity to get better. Those problems don't go away. They just become easier to tolerate.
While I certainly don't enjoy l losing, I'd like to make it a priority to look for learning opportunities when we win and also when we lose.
Seeking to Understand - Not Convert - Your Teammates
Your way of doing things is not the only way. I seek to understand other people in my life. To treat them fairly. And to keep equal opportunity and equal justice in mind for all. That's what Lady Liberty says and that is what I believe.
Not many people outside of MKG know this meeting took place: Nearly a week after the horrific killing of George Floyd on May 25th our team met internally on Zoom video to discuss social justice and human rights.
During that meeting, I heard the following words repeated by my fellow team members:
As I listened to Emmitt speak about equal opportunity and equal justice for all Americans, my mind wandered back to the powerful, vulnerable, real conversation that MKG had internally. It's a conversation that I'll never forget.
That internal conversation was a place to tell your MKG teammates how you feel. What you are experiencing right now. A place to talk and be heard.
It wasn't a place to politic. There was no sharing news soundbites or articles.
Regardless of whether a team member spoke at all or listened during that meeting, it was a place where our common goal was to seek to understand each other. It was without a doubt the best meeting that I have ever been a part of in the 9 year history of MKG. And I'll be forever grateful that my fellow teammates accepted the invitation to attend.
Growth comes from seeking to understand.
Don't Come to the Table with an Appetite and Nothing Else
In the business world, you've got to bring something to the table besides your appetite. Our construction company makes it a priority to give back to the business community. We make it a priority to bring in minority-owned businesses to bid projects as subcontractors. We don't give them anything though. We plug those business owners into a formal mentorship program that we've developed to guide them through the project. And we expect them to do an exceptional job. Someone helped out me when I first got into construction and real estate so I feel it's my responsibility to help out the next generation.
This absolutely blew me away. Not only does Emmitt's construction company make it a priority to solicit bids from minority-owned businesses, but they also plug them into their mentorship program to make sure that they do an amazing job on that project and every single one that follows.
Think about it this way: Emmitt's company brings the client, makes it a priority to solicit bids from companies of all types and then gives extra attention to the winner of that bid to ensure that they do a standup job on the project. It's the modern day example of the parable "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
I'm not confident that MKG has found their mentorship stride just yet. But I know that bringing awareness to that fact will help us begin to put something together in the future.
Money / Financial Gain is a Byproduct of Performance
Money is a by-product of performance. If I perform at a high level, the money will take care of itself.
We've actually seen this happen with a pair of our clients in the past month. Even though they are doing business in the midst of a global pandemic, ExtraHop Networks and MariaDB are continuing to grow their businesses at a staggering rate.
ExtraHop Networks was just named a top place to work by Inc magazine as well as a one of America's most promising Artificial Intelligence companies. And MariaDB's investors piled on for another round of funding to fuel the serious growth they've seen in he past 24 months.
As your company, team, rec league basketball team or neighborhood urban garden performs exceptionally well, the "gain" in whichever way you measure it will follow.
Thank You Emmitt. Thank You EO.
The hour spent with Emmitt Smith was worth every second.
If you want to hear MKG's stance on social justice, business strategy or digital marketing please reach out to say hello and get a conversation started.
Until next month!
Please note: I am paraphrasing Emmitt Smith's words from our meeting last month. I certainly don't want to represent his words as direct quotes nor does Emmitt endorse any of the follow-up opinions I personally have based on the experiences he shared.