|The Great Man Of History Theory|
By Tom AbtsMany years ago I worked for a general manager who was a Socialist. He was a very bright guy and had very strong beliefs about how the world worked and how it should work. We had long lunches every day over the winter months that were more focused on discussion than food.
One day he asked me if I were a believer in the "Great Man of History Theory" or if I were a believer that history would go where it was going no matter what happened - that big people and/or events were just blips on the screen.
Of course he was not surprised when I told him that I was a "Great Man Theory" believer. The previous week we had a discussion about training our staff. He believed that everyone at the golf course should be able to do each other's job. I disagreed. Obviously a little carry over is nice, but only a little is realistic. I said, "How could our bookkeeper give golf lessons? Or imagine our superintendent running the food service. Or our food service person as the general manager." In his usual pretentious way, he explained that in "the theater" everyone from the star to spear-handler knew everyone's lines. Fine. Good for them. That won't work at most golf courses.
I believe that people are unique and have different talents. My job as a manager is to put people in the correct roles. It's like a coach in sports - most offensive linemen would be poor safeties. Most basketball centers would be poor guards. Most catchers would be poor shortstops. That's reality. Are there exceptions? Of course - that's why we use the word exception.
Team sports are fascinating. Why do some teams do well in the regular season but not do well in the playoffs - or vice-versa? Usually because it's about having, or not having a star. The solid, deep teams without a star will usually do well throughout a long season. They can survive injuries and not get too worn-out. But, they need a star to carry them through the playoffs. Put your money on the teams who have a star who can take over a game. This year's Minnesota Wild is a classic example of a good, solid team without a superstar. They had a great regular season, but couldn't capitalize during the playoffs. They needed a guy who could take over and win the game.
Here's a few obvious examples: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Tom Brady, Joe Montana. Remember the 1991 World Series when Kirby Puckett told the team that he was going to put them "on his back" and carry them to the title?
Everything works like that; business, politics, religion, schools, etc. An unusual leader comes along and makes something great.
That concept can be very upsetting to people. They think it means that regular people are not worthy of equal rights, love, and respect. That's not true. That's confusing the issues. I believe in equal rights, love, and respect for everyone. But, that doesn't mean that all people are the same. Equal rights doesn't mean that everyone is equal in all things. Some people are gifted. And I believe that gifted people help ALL of us. Beethoven's music has made it a better world. Steven Job's computers have made it a better world. America's founding happened because it had more than one superstar to make it happen - but they were superstars. However, these things don't just happen.
This gets us back to where we started - The Great Man of History Theory. I don't believe that progress is inevitable. Life could just coast on by. Same with our own lives. If we don't make an effort, we're not going to improve. It's pretty hard to have much of a life if you don't get out of bed.
Though this is a golf column, I haven't mentioned anything about golf (a little about golf course management), but nothing about the game of golf. If you want to improve, I would recommend making an effort to improve. The gods of golf probably won't cast a spell on you and magically improve your golf game. There are many ways to attempt improvement. Practicing (what a novel idea). Taking lessons. Reading about golf. Stretching. Exercising. Meditating. And a host of other ways. But, an attempt must be made.
The game changers of history made incredible efforts to make things happen. Much of what happens in our lives and on this planet and in this universe is beyond our control. But, that is no reason to not try to make ourselves, and the world better. I read and hear so much victimology, and it drives me crazy. Of course life isn't easy. So what? That's how it is. But, we do have the power to keep trying. We can all be the "Great Man in History" of our own lives. And that doesn't mean being rich and powerful or a professional athlete. It means, making ourselves better people and making the planet a better place, and it usually takes baby steps.
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