Saturday night. I’m sucking down a beer, my first and only of the evening, a treat for surviving another Saturday in the EMBA grinder.
I tweeted about class, live in class. First time I’ve done that since starting the program. I know, I know, what a waste of my education. But our professor was reading the Power Point slides off the screen—something that students would get crucified for should they ever do during their presentations.
He was also recording the lecture, and the PP slides were available online, as was the homework problems and study guide. So, yeah, it felt a touch redundant, and, since the class was 4 hours long, I knew I’d be doing my more hardcore learning from the book and the notes rather than what stuck from the marathon lecture, the second 4 hour class of the day. It felt like a safe tweeting opportunity.
I realize the EMBA program will do everything it can to pass me since no EMBA program wants to get saddled with a high fail rate, but it’s no walk in the park. I have 85 pages of writing to do for my Legal and Ethical Impact class in the next two weeks, 2 group projects and a bazillion math problems. It’s not law school, but it’s certainly not grad school-Light.
I know I’ll get all the work done. I’m obsessive about it. Very, very competitive. Even though I didn’t care much about my grades my first go around in college, I can’t stand not getting an A now. The need to accomplish keeps me up at night. On top of the EMBA I’m trying to learn 4 languages, a code language, get PMP certified, publish another book, and get MCE credentialed before the EMBA has run its course. That’s a lot for 2 years, even if I get half that done I’ll have made big strides. I want my next employer to see that, while there are lots of EMBA’s out there, there are few as industrious as me.
And that scares me, honestly, because it may be me missing the point of what brought me to the EMBA program in the first place.
Let me explain.
While I was live tweeting today, folks kept asking why I’m in grad school at all. Why was I not with some media company, talking about baseball, writing about baseball, tweeting about baseball. Baseball, baseball, baseball…
It’s a complex subject, but the more people ask about it, and the further into the class work I get, the more honest I have to be with myself.
A large part of me going back to school has to do with being tired of baseball. Burned out. I mean, I’ve been playing the sport since I was a kid, then writing, talking, radio calling, commentating, analyzing, and even making video games based on it. A good thirty years of my life has been about baseball. It’s hard for me to get excited about it anymore. I don’t understand how people cover it every year and summon the same intensity to talk about events the way they do.
But another factor, one that the EMBA program has helped me understand more clearly, is the dynamics of working outside of baseball, and how little I really understood the process, politics, and forces that control the media conglomerate world.
When I was working in Toronto with Rogers, I used to get accused of being bitter and jealous by the fans. This is mostly because I was hard on the Jays—just ask JP Arencibia. But I was also hard on a lot of the folks around the league as well—just ask David Price. The Jays sucked that year so they were an easy target, but, truth is, I really was a bitter guy.
Jealousy had nothing to do with it. I’ve never been jealous of ball players because, while many of them made loads more money than me, I was never really happy being one. I was much happier with the new media role, where I had a chance to flex new muscles. However, with Rogers I was working crazy hours and trying to get a book out at the same time. Then I picked up the App on top of the rest of it. Then switched agents, from a guy who liked working with me to a guy who didn’t give a shit about me because I wasn’t a multi-million dollar starling. Then I got Rogers nice and pissed off by pulling TBS and ESPN into a rival employer situation—which I thought would help me have leverage but, in the end, just made me a liability. Then I pissed off Buchholz. Then I thought my job was to play the role of shock value critic. Then I pissed off Price…and on it seemed to go, me walking into landmines, doing ignorant things and taking on too much and trying to move too fast and standing up when I should have ducked and vice versa. In the end, the whole thing was what not to do in broadcasting—which kinda stinks because I wasn’t all that bad at the broadcasting, just everything around it. I pushed so hard and wanted it so bad I pushed it right over the edge.
Looking back, I wish I would have taken a couple years off first. Got a chance to get out of the institution that was the game. Got a chance to find myself without baseball. Got a chance to grow up. But I wasn’t a star, and my name had very little sticking power and I felt I needed to act quickly. I jumped at the new job, pushed as hard as I could to make it awesome, and in the end I killed it—I mean, I killed all of it. Think about that for a second. How does a person go from TBS, with Keith Olbermann and Pedro Martinez to no television presence anywhere.
So, while I’d like to tell you all that my rise to media fame was cut short because life in the media world is fickle, that’s not it. At least that’s not all it was as the media world is very fickle. I fired more than a few cannon balls into my own ship because I was not patient, emotionally intelligent concerning my co-workers, savvy to the machinations of major corporations, or humble enough to be just another face in the crowd lest I look replaceable and fade away. It cost me. A lot.
Now, I’m not putting all this out there so you can tell me I deserved it because I criticized a player or team you like. I won’t take that back. Getting people stirred up to engage sports teams was part of the job—though, I would recommend you do it sparingly, since, right or wrong in your opinion, people tend to like you more when you’re loving to their ideas instead of smashing them with your own.
I’m putting this out there because I made mistakes you can learn from, and I made them on a big stage that I’ll most likely never get back on. If the sum of this experience is only a gain of knowledge, then I’d better make the most of it.
First, pride has deep roots, and while a little gives you a competitive edge, a lot will get you torn out of the landscape and replaced.
Second, the most important person to know in the work place is not the star you’re commentating on, the manager you kiss up to, or Keith Olbermann. It’s yourself. Screw up that relationship and everything else will crumble along with it.
Three, be patient, be attentive, be calm. Don’t force opportunities that aren’t there or you’ll find yourself mad at people for no good reason, irradiating your work environment with angst and intensity that serves no useful purpose.
Fourth, don’t gossip. That’s hard in the media world which is all about rumors, but, honestly, the more you can give people the chance to be who they are, untainted by someone else’s second hand take, the better. Kill rumors, walk away from sewing circles, and let people be who they are at face value until proven otherwise. Even then, don’t spread a negative opinion about them.
And fifth, no matter what you do, or how good you think you are at it, you are always replaceable.
For a lot of my classmates, business school is just another stepping stone on their career path, hopefully one that takes them from middle management to C level or Exec status. For me, it’s an entrance to an entirely different world. Everything is new. Everything is fresh. Everything has value—the kind that another game of baseball just doesn’t have. I’m learning skills I wish I would have learned before the media gig came along.
This is turning into a plug for business school, but I don’t mean it to be. I mean it to be a document of lessons learned, most of them the hard way, all of them I’d still be oblivious to had I not went back to get more education. I’m scared of what I might do wrong in the future, or that, after I’m done with this degree program, there wont be a future, but I guess that’s where I must harness that driven portion of myself. At least I know what to be scared of now, which is very useful when you think about it. There is no courage without fear. It’s a balance. And it’s different for everyone.
I do take stock in one thing: I’m moving forward. I know so many players who’ve ended their careers and done nothing. They sit around and wait for the past to come back to them, and it’s not going to. Whether we screw up, get cut, explode, or fade into the shadows, the important thing is we take measure of ourselves, stand up and keep moving. It doesn’t matter if it’s to a classroom or studio or a gas pump, just go. We can’t go back. We can only learn and go forward.
There is only forward.