Who can say it better than Yogi – “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore” … “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken” … “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”

Yes, I know, you’re disappointed this week that I’m not talking about Newton’s Third Law of Motion, but my brain needs a rest … and I’m still straining with every molecule in my body to understand what Newton’s talking about. When in doubt – sports.

Sports in this country have become a glutinous conundrum of romance, excitement and heroes, leavened with money, big egos and scandals. Yet, sports are uniquely imbedded in our culture, and we can still glean valuable lessons from them.

You can’t swing at every pitch. In baseball, you get four walks for a free pass, three strikes to connect and it only takes a .300 batting average to get into the Hall of Fame.

In our daily business endeavors, we often face very difficult choices, and sometimes they arrive like a 100-mile-an-hour fastball. If you’re not ready for that pitch, better to let it pass, recalibrate your readiness and look at the next one.

Sometimes, the pitch appears headed for the plate like a beguiling temptress, but at the last moment, the knuckleball dives into the ground and we miss it completely. Some days, all we can do is strike out. But, we have to live to fight another day and marshal our resources to focus on those opportunities that we can exploit to our greatest advantage.

Don’t be a ball hog. Is this all about playing as a team? Sharing? Singing Kumbaya around the campfire? No, it’s much more enigmatic than that. When you think about it, it’s really about finding the highest and best use of our resources and exploiting our strengths while avoiding our weaknesses.

We don’t pass to our weakest shooter just because he’s open, but we might flip it to our fastest gal who’s cutting for the basket. It means that we play with our head up, that we think openly and consciously about how to maximize our success at any moment in time.

Keep your head down. Golf – that most inscrutable and insidious game – is where we hear this mantra more than anywhere. Is it just so we don’t take our eye off the ball? Or is it because our head is the fulcrum of a smooth and balanced swing? A little of both, probably. Mostly, it’s about the discipline, focus and balance that’s required so that we are stable and comfortable at that critical moment when the clubface meets the ball.

Like the batting stance, the tennis serve and free-throw shooting, stability and focus foster a measured approach to problem solving and frame our perspective in a way that will be most successful.

Follow-through. We do this everywhere, don’t we? Or at least we should – in our golf swing, our baseball swing, catching and throwing, tennis, ad nauseum. What’s behind all of this? Mostly, it’s about control and completion, the assurance that our careful aim is rewarded because we’ve stayed on a perfect plane until the ball can no longer be affected by our movement.

I think Newton would like this, too. Most days, I think follow-through is 90 percent of the battle and makes all the difference between success and failure. How often have you started an initiative that you carefully developed and saw a surefire winner fizzle because there was no follow-through, there was no execution of the idea?

Now if I could just keep my head down and get Newton to help me finish that physics problem ….


Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors Inc., providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. He works closely with senior executives and their businesses to accelerate their growth and improve personal and professional performance and hosts a CEO Round Table for middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit www.exkalibur.com for additional information.

Strategy Webinar May 27

Business Journal contributor Lary Kirchenbauer will present a free one-hour business planning Webinar “Hope is Not a Strategy, Driving Success in Turbulent Times” from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 27.

The free session will be moderated by Brad Bollinger, Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher.

“We strive to present businesses with useful information and commentary in the newspaper and online. The Webinar is just one more channel,” Mr. Bollinger said.

To register go to www.exkalibur.com/hope.