Pay Attention To Intention - 2015

What is most important to us as human beings?  Is it money?  Is it cars?  It is education, food, or sports; is it the significant other?  Keep in mind that I am speaking in the perspective of grouping the majority.  From face value I see what is most important to be dependent on our situation.  When we are financially stable I see it as the people close to us, like family and friends.  When we are not in a good financial situation then I see it as money.  If we are trying to impress someone then it often becomes the material things.  While it may be momentary or temporary, this is how I perceive what is important to our society from the jump.  Look more deeply.  Intention is what is important to us.

We’ve heard, “It is the thought that counts."  Though, how many of us really feel this way?  How many of you reading this can remember a time when your judgement of someone's choice of attire or choice of gift at a social event was that attire or gift being sub-par or inappropriate for the occasion?  How many of you can think of a situation when the result mattered more than the work put in?  I could think of enough examples of events around me to fill a week with thoughts.  Judgement is frowned upon, but it seems like a necessity in our society.  There are a team of judges that choose the recipient of the job.  There are a team of judges that position the people on the athletic team.  There are judges that decide many things, they go by different titles.  Some go by judge in the court room, some go by referee, a few go by coach, and countless go by "dad" and "mom",  When we are in a role that allows us the decision to judge, we must choose what our criteria is based on.

Intention is losing its importance in some of the most important fields in the world.  Genes, pure talent, efficiency, and a contact pool have all combined into the result based ideology behind judging.  Let me stick out a hand and guide you on this one.

In the world of athletics, so many valuable lessons are subconsciously taught.  Most of those lessons will come to use as some point in the average athlete's life.  What is an average athlete in this day an age though?  A young man that is 6'5", 220 pounds with 6% body fat as an eight grader?  I don't see us paying attention to what is most important.  We are quick to grab the young lady that sprints past everyone, slows down before the finish line, and still wins the race, to our team.  How often do we look more deeply?  When the teams are selected and it is time to train, speak with the athletes.  Sometimes an athlete will hit a wall in which their knowledge pool or their natural athleticism pool will not allow them to go beyond that result based point.  Often that same player is judged and labeled as lazy.  Coaches have a responsibility to analyze each athlete as an individual and cater their conversation to that individual.  Pay attention to the athlete's intention.  Speak with them and evaluate the words that he or she throws back.  Is the intention to pass on hard work or is their ability at that age, that junction, not allowing them to perform the task at hand?  Athletes often intend to work hard, and would ideally like the product to show; but we coaches and educators must identify when an athlete is at a pausing point and help them navigate their way beyond it.  Our alternative is to write them off and flip our wrists on both hands to present them with the last spot on the bench, permanently.  What would be more ideal for your team's depth and long term success?

While this stuff is completely relatable to the business world, I'd like to stay with the theme of sports.  This next example flows through my mind rather frequently and it guides my own attention to intention.  I overhear so many conversations about the NBA Playoffs, for now and for the past.  Those are the follow up of the standard regular season conversations that I hear.  A common topic is the style of the NBA.  A ton of people are confused at why the NBA has become so individually accoladed and why it is approaching the point of one athlete's name being larger than the name of the organization he or she plays for.  I tend to start it with the financial policies.  I do not choose who creates the contract negotiations or the signing bonuses or the shoe deals.  I do find the design interesting though.  After reading Michael Jordan's "Driven From Within" on my plane to Atlanta last week, he brought up a concept that confirmed my feeling from years ago.  He talked about the lack of pressure that he felt to be successful in the NBA because he didn't have any of the glory or shoe deals or large contracts at the time.  He boils it down into the word, expectation.  It was easier to be motivated to compete and reach new goals and new records when the expectation isn't already unrealistic.  In today's game, the contracts are handed out in large sums before an athlete touches the NBA floor.  The $100 million shoe deal is given before those very shoes see an NBA arena.  That creates two issues.  The first being that the bar of expectation is now set so high that it is often unrealistic for a first or second year player to reach that level.  The second issue is that finding motivation to get a larger payout or to earn a shoe deal has minimized.

The San Antonio Spurs are a nice example or equality being more valuable than individual success.  The Spurs are the most recent NBA Champions and their system is based off of everyone playing a role and everyone having a hand in the overall success.  There are players that are better than others, yet you rarely see one guy be the leading scorer two nights in a row.  The intention of their team is to make the guys around them look good.  It is not to get their 30 points with 15 rebounds and raise their shoulders at the team result, either way it goes.  I do not know a single person that had a Kawhi Leonard poster on their wall before he became the MVP of the NBA Finals.  That is the result of great intention and what Phil Jackson would call, a beautiful system.

The simplest equation would be to pay everyone the same amount in the NBA.  Everyone won't be happy about it, but it would improve equality.  Right now, there are guys that work just as hard as a percentage of the top 20 players; however, their genes will not allow them to reach that same level.  Paying everyone the same makes the work ethic expectation even, the locker room chatter more healthy, and creates simplicity is re-doing contracts.  Just pick the number of years that you would like to sign the player for and let the endorsements outside of the NBA take care of the rest of the financial gain.  In this scenario we would be forced to look at the intention of the athlete, intention of the coaches, intention of the organization.  The athlete must work hard to stay on the court.  The coach doesn't have to worry about keeping the athlete that make $60 million more than anyone else, on the court if he isn't providing the same work ethic.  The organization pays everyone the same, so only the work that is put in and the result of that current season's work will determine the fans in the seats and the cash coming into the program.

To switch gears, this concept comes back to our family and friends.  Care is through the intention.  For us to say that someone is showing care for us just because they are involved in everything that we do is not accurate.  Intention is important.  Is the intention of being around for us to support others in what they are choosing to do or is the intention to control what they do and gain personal satisfaction and benefit from it?  We must pay attention to other's intention and make certain that they are helping us move in the direction of our personal goals.  We must also pay attention to our own intention and make sure that we are inviting people in for mutual benefit and not just things that will service ourselves.

I sat down with a young man in Palo Alto yesterday.  He is a student at Stanford University and we talked about his epiphany of giving in order to receive.  It struck a cord with me.  He spoke of having this quote on his wall, "The more you give, the more you get, and the more you get, the more you have."  Man... that was strong.  Something like that is not to be understood at first glance.  We should sit with it, experience with it, live with it.  

I will leave you with this unrequested advice.  Watch what someone says they are going to do and evaluate them on that.  Avoid picking a random area and judging based on something they did not say they will do.  Enjoy and if you have any feedback, below is the place.

- Lion

Chris P Austin