What Kind of Person?

November 30, 2012

The Nov. 12, 2012 issue of Fortune magazine asked 21 high-profile people from all walks of life for the one piece of wisdom that got them where they are today.  The responses were typical tripe . . . except from Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar.  Griffith said he received this advice from his brother 15 years ago:

"You have to think about what kind of person you want to be when you’re done with this experience.  Think about coming out of this a different person than you go in.”

Mr. Griffith got this advice shortly after he was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins lymphoma.  But he came to see how this advice could be applied to any challenge – positive or negative – in his or anybody else’s life.

Think how different things would be if Pete Rose had asked this before betting that he could get away with gambling during his Major League Baseball career; or if Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens or others had asked it before the start of their steroid-stained MLB careers.

Which takes me to more recent fallen heroes:  Lance Armstrong, and Generals David Petraeus and John Allen. All three have done so much that is so good, most of which has unraveled with their ruined reputations.

If they had only asked, “What kind of person do I want to be when I’m done with this experience?”

They have come out of their experiences different than they went in, but not at all as they had hoped.

We used to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  It’s also true these days that no bad deed goes undiscovered.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.