Reading Ron Lieber‘s best-seller entitled The opposite of spoiled: Raising kids who are grounded, generous, and smart about money (Harper Business, 2015) is quite an eye-opener. He is a personal finance columnist for the New York Times. When I present its synopsis on Friday morning at the Park City Club, I am sure many parents will feel as I do – we should have read this book many years ago, even before we had children!
There are many important points in the book, and you need to attend the First Friday Book Synopsis this week to hear about them. However, one key element surfaces in several different ways, and that is the distinction between “wants” and “needs.”
So, here I am at a deadline I face. I must pay for the right to renew my SMU men’s basketball tickets today, or I will lose my season ticket seat. Note that this is not the fee for the ticket. It is the fee to pay for the right to have the seat to pay for the ticket. There are no tickets included.
It has been a terrific two seasons for me with this seat at the renovated Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus. These two seasons were filled with excitement, but both ending in disappointment. Last year, the team did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. This year, it exited in a first-round loss to UCLA on a controversial goal-tending call. The competition in the new American Athletic Conference was outstanding, including visits from Louisville last year, and the defending NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies this year, as well as last. And, I watched every road game on television this year, including national broadcasts at Gonzaga, Michigan, and Connecticut.
I never went to SMU. My brother went there, and he was in the Mustang band. But, I listened to SMU men’s basketball games on the radio before I was a teenager. I remember heroics from Charles Beasley and Denny Holman, among others. I was a faculty member at TCU in the mid-’80’s, but I followed Coach Dave Bliss and his # 2 ranked Mustangs much more, listening to games called by Brad Sham and Ira Terrell, who was a standout at SMU, and a colleague with me at 7UP. The star of that team was John Koncak, and they had a runaway train type player in Carl Wright. I remember going to a home game when they defeated Louisville, coached by Denny Crum. That season, they beat North Carolina on the road, and lost to North Carolina State in overtime, and were later eliminated in the NCAA tournament. The last two years with stars such as Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, have been joys to watch as they developed and dominated the opposition.
Success on the court begets success at the gate. For many years, I would go to Moody to see SMU play, but only against top-ranked opponents, such as Kansas. Most of the fans were not for SMU, and even then, crowds of only about 1,600 were in attendance. I remember going to Coach Larry Brown‘s first game – about 5,100 showed up mostly to watch him coach, as well as chant his name toward the end of the game. The first few games in the 2013-14 season were close to my home in Garland at the Culwell Center, while the school waited on the completion of the renovations at Moody. When I walked in to the new-look coliseum for the first time, I could tell it was going to be magic. It was bright, intimate, and loud. The arena had a new floor, new scoreboards, and new seats, including suites. The games sold out, and all the tickets for the entire season were gone. The games were truly “escapes” for me from the everyday routines I faced.
I bought mine before all that happened. I had one seat behind the SMU bench at the corner of the court, with a great view of everything, including the SMU dancers. A view from my seat is to the left. I sat directly behind an alumnus, Patrick Downs. We provided everyone around us “expert” commentary. I have a picture of us to the right. He was really funny.
So, back to the book by Ron Lieber. When things are this tight, and expenses outrank income, you make different choices. Oh, I could find a way to pay for this seat. It’s not that I couldn’t find the money. But, after reading this book, what message does that send to my child, who is about to start college? Is this something that I need, or just want? How can I get by without going to these games? Before I finished this book, this would have been a hard choice. After reading it, there is no choice at all.
I will just figure it out. I won’t be renewing this seat. There are other way more important things to spend my money on.
And, I am sure I will get by. This is a want – not a need. These two years added to the great memories of being a fan there. I don’t have to miss the games, but watching on television is a poor substitute for going in person. My friend, Rich Phillips, calls the games on 770 AM with former Mavericks broadcaster Allen Stone. They are a great team.
I can tell my child, “if I can do it, you can do it.” This is the right thing to do.
Cheryl offers: I frequently hear people talking about our young generation graduating from college these days. Many times the comments just aren’t generous. My teaching experience at SMU has been just the opposite, so I’m often puzzled by this apparent gap in perceptions. The story coming out of Indiana from the University of Notre Dame to be precise is just another reminder that today’s young people are hard working, smart trailblazers. Katie Washington, will be the first black student to graduate with the honor of being the class valedictorian. She’s a biology major with a minor in Catholic social teaching carrying a perfect 4.0. And I can tell she’s a leader; her comment regarding her honors tell it all. “I am humbled. I am in a mode of gratitude and thanksgiving right now.” Does that sound like someone who feels entitled, is lazy, or lacks a work ethic? Not to me. And if you think this is no big deal, think again. Research tells us this is a monumental accomplishment because being a woman of color “combines the stereotype about race with gender stereotypes to present even greater challenges for women” according to Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode. I cannot fathom how much hard work, determination and guts achieving this great honor must have taken this young woman. She’s off to study medicine at Johns Hopkins and some day she’ll likely be a great researcher or physician. I can only hope to live long enough to be the recipient of her good work.
Cheryl offers: Sara and I teach a class at SMU titled “Leader as Coach” for MBA students. Last night we had a guest speaker, Matt Doherty, head basketball coach for the school. When we asked Matt about coming to talk to the students about the value he has seen in being a coach-like leader, he jumped at the chance. You see, he is a student of leadership himself and recognized this was another opportunity to learn. Matt shared some incredibly insightful stories from his life and career, including his time as head coach at Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina. Both had many similarities and many major differences. What struck me about Matt’s comments were his authenticity, candor, and willingness to tell these young professionals what he has learned about leadership. Example: leaders need to take the time to get to know people, show a sincere desire to listen to their ideas, and learn to become self aware enough to make better decisions. He also acknowledged both the existence of the positive and dark sides to striving for achievement. The reading for this week’s class was the #1 HBR article in 2008, “Leadership Run Amok” co-authored by a friend of ours, Scott Spreier. As he acknowledged, “The drive to achieve is tough to resist.” He also, very thoughtfully, opened their eyes to the possibilities if they do not themselves learn to understand what drives them and how it affects others. For us, being a “coach-like” leader is not like being a sports coach unless the coach is one who values others, is willing to listen, is open to new ideas, invests time in developing others, and takes the time to be human. No one was ever more human than Matt Doherty last night.
Cheryl offers: Last week SMU Executive Education hosted the introductory session for their new women’s program, Women in Motion. The session was attended by high level women in consulting, telecommunications, IT sales, accounting, law and others. The title of the session was a reference to the book, Through the Labyrinth, by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli. The activities were clearly linked to the book; I know, I’ve read it. The reference to the labyrinth certainly seems a lot more plausible today than the old glass ceiling. The idea of a labyrinth has been around since ancient mythology and conveys the idea of a complex journey with a goal worth achieving. As Eagly and Carli point out “Passage through a labyrinth is not simple or direct, but requires persistence, awareness of one’s progress, and a careful analysis of the puzzles that lie ahead.” This seems to be much more the case for women contemplating successful careers today in any field, private or public, corporate or entrepreneurial. The really attractive part of referring to a woman’s career success as a labyrinth to me is the fact that a labyrinth offers the true possibility of success, whereas the old glass ceiling seemed to indicate being trapped forever hungering for a world that can only be seen, never acquired. We’ve come a long way baby!
Cheryl offers: A few months ago, we decided to create a new offering for women’s business topics. Since we regularly attend the First Friday Book Synopsis, and we read a lot of books on women’s issues, we thought it might be interesting to blend the two concepts. That’s how we came up with the idea of Take Your Brain to Lunch. What we have learned over the past months while working on SMU’s new women’s leadership program, Women in Motion, is both men and women are interested in understanding each other better. They both see the value of appreciating the other’s perspectives. In diversity, there is great strength. With women now occupying more jobs in the U. S. than men, graduating with more degrees then men and projected to do so for many years to come, it’s imperative we all work together to deepen our individual understanding of how things are changing, or not. In their book, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, they tell us “Curiosity is the high-test fuel for the engine of learning.” Once we noticed the shared curiosity surrounding women’s business topics, all we had to do was build an engine. When we started we optimistically aspired to attract 40 people to our first event; we have more than 80 and pushing 100! Personally, I have been amazed and inspired by the interest that is apparent in all generations, across all industries for learning. Way to go Dallas!
Sara adds: It’s good to talk about being curious; but how do you know you are doing “it” (being curious, that is)? Here are some ideas. If you are interested in the other person and their ideas, you are being curious. If you aren’t trying to justify your own idea – you are interested in someone else’s, you are being curious. If you get outside of your own thoughts and ways of doing things and consider new ideas, you are being curious. Frederick Schmitt and Reza Lahroodi have written an article on “The Epistemic Value of Curiosity” and offer 4 important values of curiosity:
- Curiosity is tenacious: curiosity about whether something is true leads to curiosity about related issues, thereby deepening knowledge.
- Curiosity is often biased in favor of topics in which we already have a practical interest.
- Curiosity is largely independent of our interests: it broadens our knowledge.
- Curiosity jumpstarts learning and when you embrace curiosity, you become a lifetime learner
And when we think of successful leaders, they are almost always curious. I guess the lesson here is to proactively look beyond what we know and believe to be true in order to find what is truly possible.