Sunday, April 11, 2021

Matsuyma, Hideki: Honoring the Victory, Custom and Culture of the 2021 Masters Champion

Japanese culture places such emphasis on the family, that professional athletes are introduced and recognized by their last name first. It is with that spirit and custom in mind that we extend the warmest of congratulations to the winner of the 85th Masters: Matsuyma, Hideki. 

Matsuyma, the first Japanese golfer to win The Masters also earned his first major championship title by finishing the 2021 tourney at 10 under par. Here are but a few insights honoring and related to the 29-year old victor.

Why Matsuyma won: Moving Day 
As many of my readers now know, Moving Day is a colorful way to describe the third day of a tourney—usually Saturday—because it is the day where competitors try to set themselves up for the final push on Sunday.

Golf fans love to dial it in on Moving Day because certain players advance up the leaderboard by leaps and bounds. As written by Golf Digest, "Others collapse under the pressure and slide quickly, knowing that simply by making the cut, they've assured themselves a decent share of the purse." In short, moving day is  the day you can confidently move up or you can move back but you cannot lose sight of what that lead score is.

One could argue that a golfer wins a tournament because of how they play 72 holes of golf—but one look at Matsuyma's scorecard from Saturday: a 65 says a lot. With five birdies, one eagle and a bogey free round following his two prior rounds, (which were both under par), Matsuyama created distance between himself and second place. At the awards ceremony, he admitted that his nerves were driving the ball from the first tee on during the Final Round. However, thanks to truly making moves on Moving Day, Augusta National extended a green jacket to a new man.

On Saturday morning, before I headed up to play my own round of golf, an announcer proclaimed—"I don't buy into this Moving Day stuff. Today is like any other day in the tournament." I heard what he said and looked sideways. "That's no fun," I thought. I love the jargon. I love the spirit.  And as evidenced though Matsuyama, there IS something to it.

Diversity Has Many Faces
In the sixteen years I taught at Saint Ignatius the school grew increasingly more diverse. It was not the same community it was when I started working there in the Fall of 2003. People too often made assumptions about who comprised that community. Their perception was not reality. S.I. should be very proud of the efforts it made for the student body and faculty to reflect the diversity of the Bay Area--a diversity that has many faces and looks different than what one might expect.

I speak of this truth because I find similar assumptions made about the game of golf. While there is certainly much to question in terms of access, equity, inclusion and the need for diversity, I would like to suggest the face of the PGA and the LPGA is not what you think. 

Of those who finished in the top 10 at the 2021 Masters nearly half are international. You have the winner from Japan, two Aussies, one Englishman one Spaniard, and one Canadian. Of the five Americans—one is biracial, another is Samoan/Tongan. There is really only one jerk and one with a waist size 26 on a good day. Again diversity comes in many forms.

My Favorite Moment
I could not help but appreciate the composure exhibited by the champion as he secured the win and extended thanks and congratulations around him. After a warm embrace, Matsuyama's caddy started to walk the flag back to the 18th hole. But,  before he placed the pin in, he took a bow. He bowed to the crowd, to the course and the game of golf. 

Having traveled to Japan in 2015 and attending a baseball game in Seibu, I know just a bit about Japanese culture and traditions. They are a people who honor the sacred and show respect with the simplest of gestures: a bow. I don't think I've ever seen a caddy do that before. It was a special moment.

The Champions Dinner 2022
I don't want to make any assumptions but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of golfers are already looking forward to the 2022 Champions Dinner. As mentioned in Big Night: The Champion's Dinner, the previous year's winner sets the menu. Given how many people are mad about many of my friends enjoy Saki, or for me—love Kobe steak! that menu is not one they will want to miss.

In Closing
I am always sad when The Masters comes to a close. Given COVID restrictions, none of us had to wait a full year for the 2021 tournament to commence. But, as we progress toward a healthier and reopened society, we live in the hope of what next year will bring. 

This Masters brought a limited number of patrons. Though they didn't litter the fairways or fill grandstands, they did what fans ought to do. They cheered loudly, giving away what was happening on another hole before we could get the report from CBS. They stood to clap and acknowledge the great golf by the players in the hunt and most especially to this year's victor: Matsuyama, Hideki. 

Thanks to the members of Augusta National for hosting my favorite sports week of the year.

Photo Credits
Xander and Hideki

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sight and Vision: The Green is Sacred Space

It is no secret that I have long believed that sports and golf in particular serve as a worthy analog for understanding the spiritual life. I love playing with ideas—and teasing out the correlations, limitations and seeing what sticks. What do I want to pass on? What "works?" It's not only fun, it's necessary for the continued growth and vitality of my own spiritual life. 

As we move into the final round of the 2021 Masters, I would like to share one analogy that I have returned to many times in the past year. The green is sacred ground and to read it properly requires both sigh and vision. The purpose of this post is to explain what that means and why it's important far beyond golf.

First, how do we know it is sacred ground? When I asked my golf team about the green as a sacred space, they answered without hesitation. They noted the obvious: golfers exhibit behaviors on the green unlike anywhere else on the golf course. For example, one would never leaves their bag or push cart on it. A golfer is expected to fix any divots and tend to any marks to keep the green intact. A good rule of thumb is to do your best to leave the space better than you found it (read: housekeeping!). 

Scripture tells us that we ought to take off our shoes when entering holy ground. I know many people would love to do this on the golf course but thanks to athlete's foot, golfing without shoes is forbidden (believe me, I've seen people try....doesn't go over well). However, a golfer is ever mindful of where and how she walks on the green. For example, you are not to step on a person's line. More often than not, golfers tread lightly on the green. Sacred spaces ask us to do the same.

I often associate sacred space with the notion of pilgrimage. While the purpose of pilgrimage is to reach a meaningful destination, pilgrims discover the journey itself is just as important. It is always physically and spirituality demanding. Pilgrims grow weary but find respite in unexpected people and places along the pathway.

In golf, the green is home to the flag or pin, and the objective of each hole is to get the ball there!. It goes without saying, it isn't always an easy place to get to, either. When approaching the green a golfer ought to implement both sight and vision. In other words, they are tasked with looking hole to part and part to whole. They ought to determine: What is happening here? They should look front to back, and right to left.  And as they look, they are asking What is the slope? Where are the breaks? What speed and distance do I need? This information ought to help a golfer make a good decision about how to play. 

I have been able to visit sacred sites—shrines and cities, churches and memorials. And, in these places I have asked myself similar questions. I have taken a personal inventory, I am seeking clarity. I am hoping for direction beyond here and now—but for where I am going next. 

The green is not a place where people rush, nor should they. Though a putt is but five, ten or twenty feet to the hole, each stroke counts the same. A golfer may get on in two and resents the game when they three-putt (speaking from a lot of experience here). Every golfer has his or her own pace and method. There's no one way to get the job done. A golfer must do what suits him or her.

I have always felt this same way about prayer. There is no shortage of methods and modalities for prayer. Each one puts us in touch with the Lord, others and ourselves. No need to rush it, either.

The reason I spent so much time thinking about this analog is because my colleagues and I took months to determine when would be the right time to have our coaches retreat. Due to COVID, high school athletics were on put on pause in March 2020. Whereas we would have had a coaches' retreat to kick off the new school year, this school year's gathering was slated for November, then December and finally occurred in February 2021.

Given my role in the Athletic Department, there is nothing that I wanted to do more than bring coaches together for formation in the mission of our school through conversations about sports. And yet, I wasn't sure how to do that, and when to do that. I asked questions like Do we need to acknowledge what we have lost? Is it ok to look ahead? Will this be meaningful? How can the message we want to offer be relevant? In short, I was looking for a way to "read the green."

In November 2020, Dustin Johnson set the course record at The Masters by finishing the tourney 20 under par. His win is attributed to being long and strong off the tee, hitting nearly every last green in regulation and reading the greens with excellent precision. But what was most noteworthy to me is how he did that.

Dustin's caddy—his younger brother Austin uses the aim point method of reading the green. This requires sight and vision. A golfer or in this case, a caddy must feel the green with his or her feet. Straddling the line to the hole—half way between the ball and the flag—a read requires feeling the balance of right and left. Is it equal? Is one side 2-1? 3-1? This read determines where the golfer then aims the ball. In short, feel, speed, sight and vision work together to execute the putt. Austin was excellent in advising his brother for what to do and where to aim, but ultimately Dustin had to decide and to execute. He said he couldn't have done it alone.

In my own life, I like to feel the green. As with the retreat, I wanted to get a sense of the balance. I realized I might be straddling two different places where people stand. I wanted to account for both, but lean into one more than the other. We erred on the side of hope, but not without naming what we had lost and what we had mourned.

A funny thing has happened since I learned more about the Johnson method of reading the greens. I see things SO much more clearly. There are times now when I play golf and I have the line and I know it. My putting has improved dramatically and with that, so has my confidence (this might not be saying a whole lot because there was big room for improvement). I enjoy the time I spend on the green. I like paying better attention and seeing the part to whole and whole to part. I love feeling it with my feet and firing away. My hope is that this same comfort and enjoyment of reading the green will carry over to how I live my own faith. I can use the boost.

Sight and and precision....taking time and  doing your best...sounds like a good way to life the spiritual life, too.

Photo Credits
brown greens
Austin and DJ

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Big Night: The Champion's Dinner at The Masters

It's always fun to ask what if. What if you had your choice of playing golf on any course with any foursome—Where would you go and who would you include? What if you could visit one sporting event—What would it be and where? What if you could attend any dinner party—Where would that be and what would you eat? My question is a timely one. Why? Because the answers to those questions involve a singular location connected to a specific event. Welcome to Masters Week. And, tonight is the Champion's Dinner. It is a Big Night—a sacred meal in a sacred space. Here's why.

As written in Seven Days in Augusta, "It's one of the most exclusive dinner reservations on the planet, and it doesn't even take place on a Friday or Saturday night. It is, however, one night a year."

Tuesday night of Masters week, past champions gather in the Augusta National clubhouse for a dinner hosted by the defending champion. No coaches or caddies, WAGS or wannabes. No media either. To say its exclusive is short-sighted. It is men only. It's not a large crowed. It's not even subject to invitation. I don't think there's anything else like it—I can only imagine.

The Champions Dinner was first put into place during the 1952 tournament when defending champion Ben Hogan gave a dinner for the previous winners. Hogan proposed the formation of the Masters Club, with its membership limited to Masters champions. He wrote "my only stipulation is that you wear your green coat." 

Dustin Johnson, the 2020 champion posted the menu for tonight's gather via Instagram. Cannizzaro writes "the menu choices reveal something about the players and where he's from." For example, Scotland's Sandy Lyle served haggis and Germany's Bernhard Langer served Wiener Schnitzel. When I saw Dustin Johnson, the 2020 champion's menu posted via Instagram, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Though entertained by Pigs in a blanket as an appetizer, I pegged him for a fillet mignon all the way. Bubba Watson served the save menu in 2012 and 2014: caesar salad, grilled chicken breast with a side of green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. What more would you expect of a guy from Baghdad, Florida?!

And the greatest meals—the ones we remember and cherish—offer sustenance far beyond the food on our plate. We are nourished by the conversation, the stories and the word made flesh.

As creative and distinct as the menu may be, Phil Mickelson's favorite part of the night is of the Champions' Dinner is the conversation. He said "those dinners are usually the chance for the older guys to tell stories. Gary Player and Bob Goalby are great storytellers and they tell some fun ones. It's always fun when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Waton tell stories because they always have some good ones of players I watched growing up. Some of us will add things, but usually it's the older guys telling the stories. I like to listen that week."

Cannizzaro writes "Byron Nelson used to serve as the dinner's unofficial host for years before Sam Snead took over and then Ben Crenshaw. Mickelson credits Player with being a conversation starter who elicits stories from everyone.  It's always fun—lots of jokes and stories," Player said.

Thinking about the gathering that took place this evening—who is there and who is not—notably the five time champion Tiger Woods, I couldn't help but think of myself: Big Night. In the senior selective "Faith, Film and Fiction" students are tasked with watching this 1996 classic. They are invited to consider how this movie demonstrates a eucharistic celebration. My friend Chad, the teacher asks students to respond to the following. He writes

A “Catholic imagination” acknowledges a universe where sacred places and times can be experienced . What experiences/ memories do you have of sacramental meals? What about those meals helped you experience communion and the sacred? What made these meals different/ special?

I see these questions and I can only wonder: What if I were allowed to attend this dinner? 

I know my answer. I would teach this group about the spiritual event they are privy to. They are sharing a meal and sharing stories. What makes is meaningful and memorable is that the menu represents more than one man's personality or homeland. At this table, the elders are respected and revered. They share their wit and wisdom. Those gathered at table listen and learn and one day will have their chance to impart their own nourishment for the self and the soul. 

And in two days, competition will unfold on the greatest of golf courses. The players will make their mark. The crowds will respond. The beauty of Augusta National will shine. A new work of art awaits....

Photo Credits
DJ and flags, Champions Dinner and Table Setting
Menu: DJ's Instagram page!

Monday, April 5, 2021

We Are Easter People: Two Thoughts from Sports & Spirituality

Happy Easter. He is Risen. Alleluia! We are Easter people. I've heard it in the pews and from the pulpit. I say it to my students and serve myself the same reminder: we are Easter people. What does that mean? I have but two thoughts.

First are the words from the Holy Father. This man, whose lives up to the name of his Twitter handle @Pontifex—Bridge builder, the Jesuit who speaks and preaches about the culture of Encounter and models it, has offered an important reminder. He said:

“This is the first Easter message that I would offer you: it is always possible to begin anew,  because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.  
Even from the rubble of our hearts -- each of us knows, knows the rubble of his own heart. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can  prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and  death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.” — Pope Francis, Easter Vigil 2021. 

What a timely reminder. In a year that has been rife with challenge, division and strife, let us seek to begin anew. Let us open our hearts so that this history can be born and this art can be seen. Thank you, Pope Francis.

Second is a realization and a reminder: we must spread Good News. We are hungry for it. Though we are enticed by negativity and gossip, it leaves us hollow. No, let us share our experiences of joy. Extend our stories of hope and delight. Bring light to others. To me, this is what it means to be an Easter person.

This realization on the most mysterious of Holy Days: Holy Saturday. I refer to the day after Jesus died as "no man's land." I can't  recall learning about how we are to approach this solemn day. To me, it feels like you're in a holding pattern. Do we make time for silence and more prayer? Ought we engage in some communal worship or preparation? My approach has always been to pay attention, to be mindful and intentional about my day. This isn't difficult for being an Easter person means we know how the story ends.

On Holy Saturday, I was at work, supervising a junior varsity girls' softball game. I don't know if I have ever attended a high school softball game (which is surprising to me). It's probably not most people's ideal way to spend a Saturday during Spring Break, especially when you don't know any of the girls on the team. I didn't mind.

With fans mindful of social distancing, I took advantage of one of the few open seats—directly behind home plate. I was immediately struck by the amount of clapping and cheering from both the crowd and the athletes on the field. I heard the parents next to me calling most batters by their number. "Let's go one-six! You got this!" and "way to hold off that pitch niner. Good eye niner." More clapping, more cheering, lots of girls being called "kid" by both the adults and the teens. This made me smile.

As a sports fan,  I love sitting next to fans who are engaged in the game. I am a glutton for good commentary or insight. To my surprise and delight, this game offered all of it. My ears were feasting on the language that was being spoken about the game unfolding on the field. 

One inning later, I found myself cheering and yelling myself. I clapped and even stood up at one point. I began to wonder: was it not attending live sports for nearly a year that prompted such enthusiasm and joy or was the culture of the game? Probably both.

But what does this have to do with being an Easter person. In the past year, things have been so divisive and challenging that I think we have all fallen into sharing our latest gripe. I am no exception. I dish them out and receive them willingly and regularly. But when asked about my Saturday at work, all I could do was the total opposite. 

I found myself sharing the story of softball. Surprised by the joy of what was happening on the field and received in the stands, I had good news to tell. 

It was interesting to see the body language of the people who received my report. They relaxed. They were armed for a complaint and met a compliment. My smile prompted their smile. It was fun to share.

Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. The chronicle of his life—the Gospels mean, "The Good News." Easter is the time to remember that even with the sacrifice, loss and tragedy of this life, faith, hope and love remain. Joy awaits. New life is possible. 

I encourage you to share the Holy Father's reminders and offer your own Good News. You might need to look for it or when it comes to you—pass it along. Happy Easter, people!

Photo Credits
Pope Francis
Thank you Jim for posting Pope Francis' message
Holy Saturday
Good News

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

It's Not About the Weight Room....Right? Thoughts on Women in Sports

It's not about the weight room. And yet, it is.

By now, every sports fan in America should be aware of the story that emerged shortly before tip off of the 2021 men's and women's NCAA basketball tournament. University of Oregon basketball player, Sedona Price created a TikTok video to expose the disparity between the weight room facility and resources allocated for the men in Indianapolis and the women in San Antonio. Same sport, same tournament, same difference. Wait, strike that—it's not true.

The difference is remarkable. The NCAA issued and apology. Many were not surprised to see what has long been true.

How's so? Muffet McGraw, former head coach of Notre Dame women's basketball , said "
Well, I was happy to see it, and I was happy that people were surprised to see it. Because I think we're shining some light on the inequities that have been there for decades." McGraw would know—she retired from her position in April 2020 after 33 years at the helm.

As an outspoken advocate for women in leadership and a veteran teacher, McGraw offered examples of inequalities beyond the weight room. As written in Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw still shooting for women's empowerment, she said, 

Both the men's and the women's [teams] are playing on some college campuses. But you can't tell on the men's side if they're at Purdue or Butler. Because the NCAA has got a brand-new court with a beautiful March Madness logo in the middle of it. [The women are] playing at three schools in Texas who still have the regular court. So there's a three-point line for men and a three-point line for women. One court even has a volleyball court set up on it, with absolutely no signage. Then the courts in the Alamodome that the NCAA has provided for us simply say, "Women's Basketball" in the middle. The NCAA does not allow the women to use the March Madness [logo]. 
I think some of these things seem small to people watching. But there's so many. It's a pretty long laundry list of things that are inequitable. The problem to me is that they treat us as if we don't deserve better, and they're OK with it.

McGraw isn't OK with it and sports fans know it. As Laskey wrote, "McGraw captured attention outside the sports world in 2019 when her Final Four press conference answer about her practice of hiring only female assistant coaches went viral." Her words were truthful and they were divisive. I heard applause from many and jeers from others—long after "One Shining Moment" was played. Perhaps I should reference something else...that video montage does not feature any women. I guess I now know's riddled with that March Madness logo.

Price concluded her report with the declaration: "If you're not upset about this problem, then your'e a part of it," 

McGraw said, "W
e have to ... enact change by raising our voices and making a stand, letting people know that we are not second-class citizens and we're not going to take it anymore.

So where does that leave us? What do you think? What can we do. Here are but two humble suggestions.

1. Talk about your Mount Rushmore. Expand your G.O.A.T.
Sports fan love a bar stool. They relish a good debate, new and old criteria, allowing history to be a teacher—for good, bad and much more. 

As much as I love this arena, I have grown very tired of the endless conversation about the G.O.A.T. My disdain for this topic isn't for the exceptions people make, the bias they carry or even the rules /qualifications they enact. All of that can be fun. No, this conversation is nearly nauseating to me because it seldom, if ever, profiles or mentions women. It should. Why not?

When Sheryl Swoopes turned 50 earlier this month, I heard Michael Wilbon—cohost of "Pardon the Interruption" claim her on his Mount Rushmore. As he said this, my ears perked up. I leaned in. With synapses flying, I said to myself Now we're talking! This something we can all do: change the narrative. Invite the input of others. Press your opinion. Go for it.  

FYI: Swoopes is on my Mount Rushmore, too. I LOVE that she won defensive player of the year and was scoring champion in the same year!

2. Read, Write and Follow a Female Athlete or Women's Sports Team
Supporting, following and celebrating an individual athlete as well as a dynamic team is one of the great joys of sports. 
Sports marketing 101 proclaims the R.O.I on a popular name and personality or an exciting crew is legion. So why not invest a little time, a little effort in getting to know female athletes. Why don't we make more of an effort to tell a female team's story?

Sixty Minutes' profile of the renowned sportswriter, Dave Kindred is all the evidence you will need. It is one of the best stories I have heard in a long time. He's a tremendous example and his personal story says it all. Enough of me—I can only encourage you to see for yourself.

Dave Kindred has covered the biggest moments and brightest stars in sports for more than half a century, but now he tells 60 Minutes he's found his most fulfilling work: writing about girls high school hoops in central Illinois. 

Back to the Weight Room
Though I haven't been there since March 2020, I love working out in the weight room at my gym. A co-ed space, I've never felt intimidated in this space—but I know many women do and I'm sensitive to their reality. I would like those who are tentative about entering this space to know that most people are more focused on themselves than you. For example, due to my heart health I cannot even lift heavy weight. I've taken some ribbing over the years, but most people never say anything. I'm just happy to be there. I put my weights away. I'm respectful of other people's space. I don't sing with my ear pods in, grunt or scream. I talk a little trash—but never about the weight I'm lifting.

I have noticed in recent years just how many more women—in particular younger women are active and showing up in the weight room. Like their male counterparts, they are focused, hard working, intentional and social. It's a good place to be. And, it's a place I would like to talk about a female Mount Rushmore....women GOATs and March Madness 2021. I have to say, I was sorry to see Oregon lose but happy to see Stanford back in the Finals. 

First, thanks to Dyan for sharing the story about Dan Kindred!!
Weight Room
Mt Rushmore

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Is Failure Your Fuel?—Question from Two Great Female Leaders

On Monday, I received what I hope will be the results of my final COVID test for 2021. I opened the email from COLOR SF to see a green arrow that said NEGATIVE. In one sense, the words and the image were contradictory. Green means go. That's positive—and in this case—so is the word "negative." My brain was happy to make these connections.  With the thought of Carla Harris's “negative motivation” fresh in my mind, I started to wonder: How often does a negative approach elicit a green arrow? In other words, are more athletes and competitors motivated by something negative or would they rather be fired up by something positive? 

As written in my last post "The Positives of Negative Emotion," Carla Harris ,vice chairman of wealth management and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley, admits that she "leverages what people say cannot be done into energy to prove them wrong." She coaches with negative motivation. Since reading about her philosophy, I have seen she's not alone.

In her book "Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power and Change the Game," Abby Wambach promotes the lesson to "Make Failure Your Fuel." This realization was born from something negative. While still on the youth national team, she visited the U.S. Women’s national team’s locker room. Next to the door, she noticed a 5” x 7” photograph of  longtime rival: the Norwegian national team, celebrating after having just beaten the USA in the 1995 World Cup. Wambach wrote, "It was a picture of their own team’s last defeat.”

Five years later, when she became a member of that very national team, Wambach said "Hey, what was the deal with the picture you kept on the locker room wall of the Norwegian team? Why did you want that to be the last thing you looked at before you went out to play?" 

She writes “they began to explain to me that the first order of national team business is to win. But that when failure does come, the team isn't afraid of it; the team is fueled by it. The team never denies its last failure. We don't reject it. We don't accept is as proof that we aren't worth of playing at the highest level. Instead, we insist upon remembering. Because we know the lessons of yesterday's become the fuel for tomorrow’s win.”

I had to wonder: Would that work for me?  Do I need the visual of a tough moment to keep me focused? to fire me up? 

Wambach adds, I came to understand that "in order to become a champion—on and off the field—I'd need to spend my life transforming my failures into my fuel."

I thought to myself, there's something I can wrestle with. I'm not sure that transformation is anything I could do on my own. It would require patience, prayer, mentors and more. For me to work with something negative—like a loss or against an errant expectation is not easy. It asks something of me....deeper questions, stronger emotions—quite possibly the ones I don't want to deal with. 

Wambach puts in print the Old Rule: Failure means you're out of the game. New Rule: Failure means you're finally IN the game. I think negative emotion is calling us to this same realization.

Do you agree? Does proving people wrong get you going? Do you see negatives as positive? Is that fuel for the fire? Thankful for these female leaders who not only lead from the bench but set their own, unique and outstanding example.

Photo credits
Abby Quote

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Positive of Negative Motivation: Thank you, Carla Harris.

I am a positive person. I would rather affirm that deny. I do what I can to make things possible, but occasionally it's just better to act, speak and think otherwise. For example, as a coach and a teacher, I know that "addition by subtraction" is much more than a catchy phrase. I cannot not tell you that's true. Quite often, less really is more. And thanks to Carla Harris, the recipient of the 2021 Laetare Award, I now know "negative motivation" is a positive approach—in spite of its name.

The Laetare Medal is an annual award given by the University of Notre Dame to recognize an individual who has displayed remarkable service to the Catholic Church, academics and society. At the commencement ceremony in May, the University will confer this distinction upon business leader, gospel singer, speaker and author Carla Harris.

As written in Notre Dame News

Harris currently serves as the vice chairman of wealth management and senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley and is on Harvard University’s and the Walmart Corp’s boards.

Throughout the course of her career, Harris has worked to promote women and people of color in business. She helped create Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab and oversees the company’s multicultural client strategy as a whole.

Characteristic of Harris’ approach to her own success has been a mantra that has carried her beyond many obstacles and naysayers: “Never count yourself out.” Harris coaches others with a “negative motivation” approach, leveraging what people say cannot be done into energy to prove them wrong. She likewise understands her successes as a responsibility to help others, saying, “We are blessed so that we may be a blessing to others."

Her approach caught my attention. Negative motivation? It seems contradictory. To me, motivation feels inherently positive. It is fueled by optimism. But it's also driven by desire and Harris' life is testimony of a truth that too many women, too many people of color, too many people encounter. Many doors aren't open. Ceilings are made of something other than glass. The world says "no way," or even worse "there is no way." Harris' stands before herself and others and says We can. You can. I can....or rather "you/we/I cannot not do this!." And why not?!

Yasiel Puig has always been my example for addition by subtraction. Talented but not a great teammate the Dodgers have fared better without him.

In math, the multiplication of two negatives results in a positive. Every language, has a construction in which two negatives make a positive. And so it is with a reality that many people face. When people tell you to count yourself out, use negative motivation and prove them wrong. I think Carla Harris has it right.

I speak about Carla Harris in Episode 17 of my podcast FaithFondue. You can listen here!

Photo Credits
Carla Harris