The following excerpt from Larry Steinmetz’s book, “Kansas Sense: Simple Business Wisdom from the Heartland,” illuminates practical and philosophical stories that easily resonate with leaders from all walks of life.
Don’t Settle for the Blue Football
When I was a boy, my friend showed up at a neighborhood football game with a junior-sized, orange football. It was perfect – the perfect fit for my small hand and the perfect texture for my grip. Every time I threw that orange football, I felt like my boyhood idol, New York Jets Hall of Fame quarterback, Joe Namath. I had to have one. My older brother Dave loved the football too.
My parents agreed to get one for my brother and me the next time they went shopping, as neither one of us had a football of our own. The first time they went shopping they were unable to find the perfect orange football. They returned home with a report of a blue version they had found, a little bit smaller with not quite the same “feel.”
Darn, no orange football, but I could not wait. I needed a football, and I needed one now. I asked them to go ahead and get me the blue football. I had some football that needed to be played and played right away. Dave said he would wait until Mom and Dad could find the orange football because that is what he really wanted.
The next day I got my blue football and started playing with it. The first five minutes were great. I now had my own ball, and I was playing some football! And then, a little at a time, I began to compare it to the perfect orange football.
It was a little smaller. It didn’t have the same feel. When thrown, it didn’t have the perfect spiral like the orange football. I had a sinking feeling that the blue football just wasn’t as good as the orange football.
That weekend when my parents went shopping, they found the perfect orange football and bought one for my brother. It was just right, just like my friend’s football. It had the perfect feel, the perfect fit. The only thing not perfect about it was that it was my brother’s perfect orange football and not mine.
If I had just waited a few days and let my parents look a little harder, I also would have a perfect orange football just like my brother’s. I was one sad pee-wee football player. Oh, what a mistake I had made, and as strange as it may sound, it provided a lesson I’ve brought along with me into adulthood.
Sometimes reflecting back on it keeps me from stepping into a mistake. Other times I have made a mistake as a result of rushing to a decision and later remembered (albeit too late) this lesson.
There are a number of good examples of how this lesson can be applied in daily life. One of the better ones is to use it when making an important hiring decision. Absolutely, nothing is more important or plays a bigger role toward your success than hiring and surrounding yourself with good people. You must take the time to focus on finding people who possess the special skills, expertise and personal attributes that will positively contribute to your team’s success.
In hiring decisions, it doesn’t pay to compromise for the sake of saving time or effort. Taking a shortcut to fill a key position, just because you need to get it filled, can certainly lead to the wrong choice, a blue football if you will. At the time you might convince yourself and rationalize that this lesser choice will “maybe work out.”
Make a commitment to yourself that no matter how busy you are, you will take the time to do this right, that you will not fall into this trap, and that finding the right people to surround yourself with is absolutely essential.
This doesn’t mean that you do not have to think fast or be quick on your feet to be successful; you do. It means that you must efficiently think through every decision to ensure you make the best long-term decision for your company or yourself, that you do not just apply a band aid to the situation and go for the quick and easy fix.
A good way to illustrate the critical difference needed between acting quickly and decisively and making foolish rush decisions is best summed up by a quote from UCLA Hall of Fame basketball coach, the late John Wooden, who said, “Be quick but don’t hurry.”
It’s a mistake to hurry an important decision like I did. Don’t settle for the blue football!