When I was growing up, I loved to follow the NBA. Some of my early heroes were their biggest stars. We lived close to Cincinnati when the city had the Royals. When my heroes would come to Cincinnati to play the Royals, my dad would take me to see them play.
My early heroes included Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, and Pete Maravich. I modeled my game after an aspect of each of their games.
I had the opportunity to meet Jerry West in 1973 when I attended his basketball camp at VMI. When he showed up, I had goosebumps. As he spoke, he would continue shooting and not miss. When he came up to me to shake my hand, I asked him how he learned to shoot he told me that he developed a repeatable form so when it came to making a clutch shot, is was second nature. That is why his nickname is “Mr. Clutch.” A “Moments Matter ” moment.
In 1975, I attended the Gale Catlett basketball camp at the University of Cincinnati. We had moved to Virginia so coming back to Cincinnati was a big deal for me. At the camp, I was put on a team that was stacked. We played for the camp championship and won. After we won and we were getting our medals, Oscar Robertson walked in. When he started to speak to the camp, he started shooting. Then he asked for someone to guard him. I quickly raised my hand and got to play 1 on 1 with one of my heroes.
As he spoke and we played, he used his patented “backside” in move. When we finished, I asked him what one thing he would recommend me to work on to improve my game. He told me to develop the ability to use both hands equally to keep the defense off balance. About forty years later, I ran into Oscar at the Pittsburgh airport and thanked him. He didn’t remember me, but he did remember the camp. A moment that mattered.
I had the opportunity to meet Pete Maravich after a game he played against the Royals. I didn’t ask him anything but that night, as I watched him play, he was magical with the ball. He never looked at the ball, whether shooting, dribbling, or passing. What I learned that night was to play at that level; you always need to keep your head up and your eyes watching. A moment that will later serve me.
One of the first games my Dad took me to see at the Cincinnati Gardens was when the Celtics played the Royals. We got there early and I saw the former teammates at Ohio State speaking, Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. As I was standing in the endzone next to the tunnel, John Havlicek was heading back to the locker room. He stopped to shake my hand and I told him I was trying to model my game after his. He told me the one thing he learned from Fred Taylor, coach at Ohio State, that helped him more than anything was to anticipate the next move. So if you ever saw me play, one of things I did well was I had the ability to anticipate the next pass, tip or move and I usually led the team in steals and charges taken. A key moment that has been a key differentiator for me throughout my life.
As US Airways 1549 was struck and the engines went out, these lessons I learned from some of my heroes kicked in.
I learned from Jerry West to have a process in place so when it is “clutch time,” you are ready and are able to execute. That is probably why my process that day as the plane was quickly heading straight into the Hudson River was ” aisle, up, out.”
What I learned from Oscar Robertson was have the ability to use ” both hands,” which translated that day in be flexible and adaptable and be able to go whatever way that would serve the mission.
Pete Maravich’s lesson that kicked in that day was that you must always keep your head up and be aware. Move instinctively.
And from my few minutes with John Havlicek, I learned to always anticipate the next move. I have used that lesson many times in business, but that day, that instinct kicked in as I was always looking one move ahead and quickly assessing the potential risk for others and me.
With how quickly things are moving today, the ability to anticipate is one of the two most critical skills you need to develop. When I was with Tony’s security team, he told me that the ability to anticipate and resourcefulness are the two most important things one needs now and what leaders do well and look for in building their teams.
When I look to build my team, these skills, anticipation and resourcefulness are the first two things I look for.
As you go about your next week, look if you anticipate what could happen next, quickly assess the risk, and take massing action. If you work on this skill and become more resourceful, you will progress to become someone others seek to work with and become indispensable.
All these moments in my life mattered. What I learned in my youth, served me many times throughout my life and especially on January 15, 2009. When it came to “clutch time,” the ability to have a process, adapt to go either way, be aware and instinctive and have anticipation were the key in turning turmoil into triumph and creating an opportunity out of uncertainty.
Always be creating your flight plan for your future as