Two Important Lessons from The Blind Side

Saturday night, I watched the movie The Blind Side. (OK – I’m behind the curve on this one).  Sandra Bullock won the Oscar, it was a huge hit at the box office, and it is based on a book by Michael Lewis (which I have also not read, though I have read other books by Lewis:  Moneyball; The Big Short).  It is based on the true story of the Tuohy family, and their adopted family member, Michael Oher, who graduated from high school, went to Ole Miss, and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.  It is an inspiring story.

The movie is filled with valuable lessons, about compassion, and the challenge of rising above horrific circumstances, about the difference that one person (in this case, one family) can make in a human life.  But here are two specific lessons that are pretty hard to escape.

Lesson #1:  look for the bright spots, the shared wisdom – and build from there. In the movie, this giant of a man was not getting the hang of his job in football.  So, Ms. Tuohy interrupts the coach, walks right out on the field, and does a little personal coaching (I tried to find the video, and could not.  You can find the script here):

Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) provides a little on-the-field coaching.

Michael, do you remember when we first met, we went to that horrible part of town to buy those dreadful clothes?  And I was a little bit scared and you told me not to worry about, because you had my back. Do you remember that?

Yes, ma’am.

And if anyone tried to get to me, you would have stopped them, alright?  And when you and SJ were
in that car wreck, what did you do to that airbag?

– I stopped it.
– You stopped it.

You stopped it.  This team is your family, Michael.
You have to protect them from those guys.

Okay? Listen.

Tony here is your quarterback, alright?
You protect his blind side.  When you look at him,
you think of me.  How you had my back.
How you have his.

Okay? Alright. Tony, go back.

Oomaloompah here is your tailback.
When you look at him, you think of SJ, how you never let anyone or anything to hurt him.
You understand me?
Alright. Go back.

– You got it?
– What about Collins and Mr. Tuohy?

Fine. They can be on the team too.

Are you gonna protect the family, Michael?

Yes, ma’am.

Good boy. Now, go have some fun.

(Ms. Tuohy to the coach):  Yelling at him doesn’t work, Bert.  Doesn’t trust men.

She reminded Michael of what he knew, (he tested 98 percent in protective instincts), and applied it to football.

Lesson #2: one on one beats one on many for life instruction, teaching, coaching…

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to improving education in this country.  But in the story of Michael Oher, not only was he brought into a remarkable family, but he also had the good fortune of being brought into into a wealthy, remarkable family.  A family that had the means to buy him a bed of his own (his first in his life), a pick-up truck, and… a private tutor!  And that private tutor (Miss Sue – the first Democrat the Tuohy family had ever met  — that was a funny detail) gave Michael all of her time and expertise, and helped him raise his grades high enough to get into Ole Miss.

{And, before Miss Sue, there was a terrific teacher (played by Kim Dickens in the movie) who saw the potential in Michael.  How many of us owe our success to a teacher who saw the possibilities, and helped us along the way?}

We can’t afford a teacher-student ratio of one-to-one in this country.  But the lower we get that ratio, the better the education will be.  And the same is true in business – the more individual coaching we can provide, the better people get at their jobs.

I think these are two pretty important lessons.

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