"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills." - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Successful companies weren't always successful. Steve Jobs' rollercoaster ride at Apple is well-documented. Netflix stopped shipping DVDs and dominates streaming. Howard Schultz turned around Starbucks. Robert Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994 for $174 million. Belichick, Brady, and five championships changed everything. Their current worth is estimated at $3.8 billion, a greater than 20-bagger.
Even special forces have operations go sideways. In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink leads an evolution that results in friendly fire with both American and Iraqi friendly deaths. Willink writes, “Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
During medical training, I worked 185 consecutive days, sometimes thirty-six hours with little or no sleep. Driving home to Silver Spring on Connecticut Avenue, I fell asleep at a traffic light, luckily with my foot on the brake. Fortunately, someone honked and woke me up. Residents have died when they hit bottom.
The Greeks have a word, katabasis, describing descent, as in a trip to the Underworld. It has been used in psychiatry to describe depression. Film celebrates many descents to rock bottom. In The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale (as Batman) literally sits broken and imprisoned underground before rising (above).
Rock Bottom happens in sports. But "it's not how many times you get hit; it's about how many times you get up." The Astros rebuilt from three consecutive last place league finishes to win the World Series in 2017. Lance Armstrong recovered from advanced testicular cancer to win the Tour de France, albeit in a sport fraught with cheating. The 2008 Celtics captured Banner 17 after having their second-worst season.
The first step to reach bottom is to stop digging. That might include shedding underperforming or overpaid players, management changes, or completion of the dreaded tanking process. Baby steps with personnel and coaching can transform tectonic shifts as in Bill Walsh to the 49ers or Bill Belichick to the Patriots. The discipline of execution blends personnel, strategy, and operations. Get the right people in the right seats doing the right things.
Last season our team limped along at 3 - 3 after a discouraging, bottoming out loss to a mediocre team. A lack of previous travel basketball experience doesn't excuse lack of aggressiveness, poor execution, and coddling. We emphasized finishing at the rim, applying and defeating pressure, and accelerated tempo en route to nine consecutive wins and a league-leading offense. The players bought in to a more aggressive style.
Continually ask how to leave the bottom.
- What is going well?
- What is going poorly?
- What can we change for the better?
- What enduring lessons emerge from each evolution?
Sometimes hitting bottom finds the urgency to leave it.
Lagniappe: Defending disadvantage (from FastModelSports) and Randy Sherman. The whole article is worth it.
Highlight: Shape up with tandem versus 3 on 2
Defenders must 'slow' the attack and force extra passes. Teammates hustle back, communicate, and stop layups and open threes.