Ever want to throw a shot put into the middle of an intransigent organization or system? I know I have. With a shot put weighing in at 16 pounds most of us had better either be very close to the target or consider a better way to catalyze change.
You probably haven’t heard of James Fuchs, who passed away on October 8, but he was a classic innovator. Fuchs was the best shot-putter in the world from 1949-1950. He won 88 consecutive meets, set four world records, and changed the sport forever. Fuchs teaches us about the difference between best practices and next practices.
Fuchs was a fullback on the Yale football team but injuries kept him from playing. He was also on the track team and while recovering from surgery for a leg injury he was limited to competing in discus and shot put. Fuchs became best known for shot put. Fuchs’ leg injury prevented him from using the standard and universally accepted shot put technique. State of art at the time was for a shot-putter to come to a complete stop before releasing the shot. Before Fuchs, shot put was all about brute arm strength. Athletes focused their training on weight lifting. All shot putters competed on a model of arm strength equals distance. That is until James Fuchs came along. Fuchs didn’t lift weights at all and weighed only 215 pounds, small for a shot putter.
Because Fuchs’ leg injury prevented him from using accepted best practice he invented a new practice that worked for him. Innovation is more about next practices than best practices. Fuchs came up with a fluid catapult motion that didn’t require him to stop short aggravating his injury. His innovative technique involved rocking back on one leg, swinging the other in front for balance, hopping forward and propelling the 16-pound iron ball forward. He had learned from a physiology teacher that legs are three times more powerful than arms. Fuchs, like all innovators do, took advantage of both existing constraints and insights missed by current competitors. His innovation became known as the ‘sideways glide’ working around his injury and taking much better advantage of the power of his legs. In 1949 Fuchs set a new world shot put record of 58 feet 4 ½ inches. In 1950 he beat his own world record three times with a personal best of 58 feet 10 ¾ inches. He had changed the sport forever. Fuchs’ sideways glide became the new best practice for all shot-putters. That is until innovation struck again and it wasn’t.
Read the rest of… Saul Kaplan: 16 Lbs. of Solid Iron Innovation
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Mar 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM ET
As this is a bi-partisan site, and as yours truly has been using this space to air my support for an Ashley Judd for U.S. Senate candidacy, I feel it is critical to give Team Mitch (McConnell) some equal time.
With that in mind, here is the latest McConnell for Senate campaign video:
h/t to Joe Sonka, liberal columnnist/blogger for Ace Weekly (Louisville) who tweeted:
We can finally credit McConnell for bringing some progress to America: The Harlem Shake is officially dead: youtube.com/watch?v=VMp_yz…
By John Y. Brown III, on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 1:30 PM ET
A change in strategy. The Rope-a-Dope diet.
Much like Muhammad Ali’s brilliant out-maneuvering of George Foreman in the famous Rumble in the Jungle boxing battle, I am
using Ali’s strategy to lull Jonathan Miller into a state of assumed victory (by overeating for several days).
And then just when Jonathan Miller thinks he has it won, I will bounce from the ropes and like a man on a diet who both floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, I will …..I will….practically starve myself for a flurry of days until I am declared the winner.
Geez. That’s a terrible strategy.
OK. Scratch that.
Guess I will eat Italian food today like Italians eat it. Not like an American eating Italian food. In other words, they don’t eat for the taste or to fill themselves up so much as because they just look really cool eating Italian food.
Hope that works.
No other written entries today. Just a video that sums up my activities (and zeal for those activities) today. …
Join Team HTC for the Lexington, KY premiere screening of “Hitting the Cycle” on Thursday, October 11th @ 7:30pm! The film will be shown at The Kentucky Theater with an exclusive cast & crew after party immediately following the show at Portofino Restaurant (249 East Main Street, across the street from the theater).
“Hitting the Cycle” an independently produced feature film shot entirely on location in Lexington, Ky., was named Best Dramatic Feature Film at the 2012 Manhattan Film Festival in New York City.
The fictional story follows Jimmy “Rip” Ripley, a professional baseball player nearing the end of his career, who reluctantly revisits his long-forgotten hometown to face his estranged, dying father. While attempting to reconcile his fractured past with an uncertain future, Rip begins to gain insight into the choices, opportunities and sacrifices that people confront when they outlive the life of their dreams.
“Hitting the Cycle” screened at the 10-day Manhattan Film Festival in late June, and won the Best Dramatic Feature Film award at a ceremony on July 1st. Hitting the Cycle previously won an award in May at the Tupelo Film Festival in Mississippi.
Lexington native J. Richey Nash portrays the lead character of Rip in Hitting the Cycle. Now based in Los Angeles, Nash also wrote, produced and co-directed the film (along with Darin Anthony). Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern plays Rip’s father. Co-producer (and RP Sister) Jennifer Miller is seen in the picture above with Nash accepting the Manhattan Film Festival award.
Though many of the film’s stars and primary crew members are Hollywood-based, Nash decided to bring the production to Lexington because of the diversity of available filming locations and the growing number of production and talent resources (Kentuckians comprise two-thirds of the cast and crew). The opening scenes from Hitting the Cycle take place at readily recognizable Lexington venues, most notably the ballpark of the Lexington Legends, the popular local Minor League Baseball team. The remainder of the story unfolds in “Sayreville,” Rip’s fictional hometown. Shooting locations included public parks, private homes, bars, restaurants, a high school, and several University of Kentucky hospital buildings.
“Lexington was the ideal place to shoot this film not only for its beautiful scenery and varied locations, but also for the tremendous support of the local community,” said Nash. “We had such a great experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to Kentucky for another film project.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to be among the first in Lexington to see “Hitting the Cycle” on the big screen, then mingle with the filmmakers and cast at the after party! Reserve your tickets today before this event sells out!
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Sep 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM ET
Troop Rallying or Pluribus Unuming?
(A long winded spiel–so long and windy that you may just forget what you were mad about at half-time during the DNC and RNC conventions)
It’s political party convention time– it’s a party for the parties, so to speak–where partisan cheerleading becomes the order of the day. The goal of both the Democratic and Republican parties is to “rally the troops.” Both major political parties strive, as they should, to make the case most dramatically for their side to win in November. It’s a time honored tradition–and an important one. And hyperbole and histrionics are not only expected—they are featured front and center.
But with every rhetorical flourish, left or right, that hits it mark at the conventions, something else is jarred too. The opposite of rallying the troops, I suppose, is trying to find common ground in our already very divided nation. Political conventions are constructs that are a bit like Midnight Madness if you are a UK basketball fan. You leave such events not only feeling a stronger than ever allegiance to your team but stronger than ever animosity toward any team that threatens them.
If political conventions are successful, when they are over, those who identify with each party should feel stronger than ever about their party being right —and stronger than ever about the other party being wrong. We don’t put on war make up. But we do, say and wear some awfully silly things at these conventions. In more primitive cultures, they had these sorts of partisan conventions but they called them tribal war dances. Seriously. (See clip below.) Note that neither Clint Eastwood nor Betty White were given prominent roles in the pre-convention warrior dances. Our political pros today could learn a thing or two from these ancient tribal rituals. Stay on message; whip up feelings of righteousness to a fever pitch; and dance like the dickens. No need to use chairs as a dialectical prop by a tribal elder (republicans) or matriarchal elder (democrats). Ever. Just keep dancing.
Oh sure, we should have fun celebrating and rallying with our political brothers and sisters during our side’s convention. I certainly intend to! And hope my republican friends did so last week.
But I suspect it would be good to note, too, that “rallying the troops” theater, while good for cheerleading, isn’t terribly useful once the political parties’ parties are over. That’s important to remember –as it is to recall that we have many more brothers and sisters than just those sharing our political opinions. Our Founding Fathers certainly realized this and memorialized it in our new nation’s motto that they selected– a simple Latin phrase: E Pluribus Unum. I’m really glad a few weeks before our Constitution was signed we didn’t have competing conventions represented by the political factions of the day. We may not have a constitution. We may have instead had some funny stories about Benjamin Franklin getting his lights punched out by a lesser signer because of his acerbic speech a few weeks earlier. But we didn’t have political parties back then. In fact, the Founders warned against the dangers of divisive factionalism—or extreme troop rallying.
E Pluribus Unum means essentially that within our diverse differences we are committed to an unassailable unity. Not “My country, right or wrong” blind allegiance, but more like “our country no matter how right or wrong we believe ourselves or our political opponents to be.”
In many ways E Pluribus Unum is nearly the opposite of the raw partisan blood sport we see played out regularly today masquerading as serious debate . Is it the worst it’s ever been? Hardly. It’s easy to pull up some old allegations about Abe Lincoln looking like a baboon, or Thomas Jefferson being an heathen atheist. But it’s pretty bad. And it’s not the end game our Founding Fathers had in mind. I suspect our Founders wanted more of legacy for their efforts than Glenn Beck lecturing about left wing conspiracy theories or The Daily Kos flaming the Internet about right wing conspiracies. If this is the apex of 236 years of a great republic’s maturation, the Founders probably would have stayed home and played cribbage instead.
But we are better than our partisan extremes. A whole lot better. We are not at our best divided and petty. Granted, it’s difficult to be united and idealistic for very long when there are over 300 million of us. But we don’t have to be that way all the time. I’d settle for opinionated but respectful –and a little more curious. Maybe a little more open-minded about where we might find common ground rather than determined to more deeply draw the boundaries that divide us.
But last week in Tampa and this week in Charlotte, is not the landscape for such things. Our country’s simple yet complex motto won’t be on prominent display in either city. That’s not the point of political party conventions. Or tribal war dances.
But unity among diversity is what makes for a great nation. And I hope that as we inch toward—and then beyond—the November election we don’t forget the motto our Founders hoped we’d live up to. To be a more unified nation. A time when political warrior dances are replaced again by Dancing with the Stars.
Even if it means I have to cheer again for Tom Delay.
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Jul 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM ET
Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have lived our lives up to this point truly believing in our hearts every day the words below spoken by a great Kentuckian:
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men/women who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Now imagine what it would be like to live the rest of our lives truly believing in our hearts every day these same words….
Tired of imagining yet?
The owner of these words, of course, is Louisville native Muhammad Ali. Whose life is proof that these words can be true.
By Jonathan Miller, on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 1:30 PM ET
This Father’s Day, I will be spending in bed rooting for Tiger Woods to win the US Open, and then for LeBron James to carry the Miami Heat to a 2-1 NBA Finals series lead. Not IN SPITE of their widespread unpopularity, but BECAUSE of it.
For most of his career, I’d been largely indifferent to NBA superstar Lebron James. My passion is college basketball, and since Lebron leaped straight from high school to the pros, I never had the opportunity to root for him in Kentucky blue, or curse him if he had, God forbid, put on a Duke uniform.
My opinion of golf phenom Tiger Woods was always a bit more jaundiced. I developed an early man crush on Phil Mickelson, and was continually frustrated with (while being constantly awestruck by) Tiger’s mind-meld hold on Lefty — and on the rest of the PGA tour, for that matter — during his extraordinary and unparalleled domination of the sport for nearly a decade.
But as Lebron leads his Miami Heat through a brutal playoff finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as Tiger tries to recapture his magic formula for winning Major tournaments in this week’s U.S. Open, I will be enthusaistically cheering both of them on.
Why my change of heart?
Each of these men, after all, made a series of stupid mistakes.
Lebron James branded himself with a scarlet A for arrogance by announcing his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in what many thought was a callous, disloyal manner; and then by carelessly bragging that by taking “his talents to South Beach,” he’d produce a string of NBA championships for the Heat. In the most communitarian of sports — a game that rewards teamwork over selfish hotdogging – Lebron emerged as the poster child for Gen Y narcisism, the prototypical me-first face of the Facebook generation.
Tiger Woods’ scarlet A was, of course, a bit more true to the original Hawthorne. From his initial domestic-induced car crash, to the perverse scenes of Kardashian-wannabes hiring Gloria Allred to grub their fifteen minutes of sex scandal infamy, Tiger enriched the monologues of the late-night host and comedic stand-up industry for weeks on end.
Both Lebron and Tiger have been mercilessly villified; their public unfavorability ratings possibly unmatched by any American not named John Edwards.
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM ET
”You know it’s time to change your Facebook profile information when (fill in the blank).”
I just had a ski trip cancelled…which forced me to also reconsider my FB profile information.
I list skiing as my favorite sport. When I filled out my FB profile a couple of years ago, it seemed like a good idea. Skiing as my “favorite sport” made me sound sporty and interesting–and I even believed it at the time.
But today’s cancelled ski trip got me thinking. I’ve actually only been skiing twice in the past 28 years. I really don’t think that should qualify as a “favorite sport” —even for a person who has been deceased for 3 decades.
I’ve spent more time playing skeet ball the past 28 years!
So, in a flush of full disclosure, I’m getting brutally honest and changing my favorite sport from the cosmopolitan sounding “skiing” to the more mundane but factually correct “taking the stairs” –which I’ve done more than 3 times the past 28 years.