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More than life or death

By Græme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity

True business professionals are like die hard sports fans, writes Graeme Gordon, Executive Director, Praxity Global Alliance.​​​One of the great sporting quotes of the 20th century vividly came to mind today and made perfect sense for both the business and sporting worlds.

Back in the 60s, great soccer manager Bill Shankly of Liverpool FC said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

As a non-football (soccer) fan but a follower of Liverpool, I’ve often smiled at this quote, not really taking it at anything more than hyperbole. But today I had to stop and think.

The story that stopped me in my tracks and which resonates in professional services is about baseball’s Chicago Cubs, whose fans are to be applauded for being truly long suffering.Curse of the Billy Goat.

As a total convert to baseball (I am a fan of the New York Yankees), I know the dedication of the Cubs’ supporters. The club’s last trip to the World Series was in 1948, and their last World Series win in 1908. Their fans claim all sorts of curses and such as to why they did not get to the series, from the “Bartman” case (a fan catching a ball that would have sent them to the finals if caught by a player) to the Billy Goat and/or the Black cat curse (look them up).

Amazingly, the Cubs have been resurgent of late and this year they face those other notorious non-achievers, The Cleveland Indians, in the best of seven World Series finals.  

And it is the story of one of these fans, 90-year-old Norman Rosen, which inspired me today.Belief and dedication
In 1945 Norman and his then girlfriend Sally were walking home and saw people lined up outside of Wrigley Field, waiting for tickets to a World Series. They both thought this was a silly thing to do, apparently. But later that night he too joined the queue and when the booths opened got two tickets. He got permission for his girlfriend to skip school that afternoon, and they went to the game. As we know, the Cubs lost, but he won, as he married Sally his girlfriend and they were reportedly married for 69 years. Sally sadly passed away this April I am told, but Norm is sure she will be with him when he and his family go to watch the Cubs. Neither he or Sally, or any of his family, I am led to believe ever gave-up believing that their Cubs would get back to the World Series.*

That is the level of belief and dedication that true sports fans can have. It is also the level of dedication that I am sure all true professionals have towards their clients.Helping clients through bad times.

Many clients will go through bad times. They may be near the brink of implosion or closure, but to be their “trusted advisor” and fulfil the ethical standards that I would expect of all professionals, we must stand beside our clients and support them “rain or shine”. 

Even if they believe they are cursed by a “Billy Goat”, it is our job to help and advise them the best way forward. And we should always be willing to explain an unwelcome truth if we feel it is to their benefit. They may not thank us initially, but that’s what being true to our standards requires.

So if you ever see a client and wonder how they are still going or why they have not progressed, think of the Chicago Cubs. After almost 70 years of trying, they brought in the right people and now, three years later, are reaping the benefits. Their 71-year drought is over, and maybe, just maybe, their 108-year drought will be too. As I write this, the outcome was yet to be decided.

As a New York Yankee fan, I look forward to some good games, but in my heart I will be rooting for the Cubs. Sorry Cleveland.