Thursday, September 15, 2005

My Basketball Diaries

I am not one of the world’s better athletes. In fact I’m part of the reason why people picture Jews as accountants and lawyers, not hockey players and NASCAR drivers. Nonetheless, despite—or perhaps in celebration of—my mediocrity, I enjoy a game of basketball here and there. I can jump, pass, and run around. Everything except shoot. I can’t shoot for beans.

But one thing I’ve noticed: when I’m going all out on the court, my whole team plays better. Even if I’m the weakest player and not making any statistically significant contributions, we seem to win (or come closer to winning) when I push myself. I may not be scoring any points or stealing the ball from the opponent, but still somehow my hustle is making an impact on the court.

I take this as a message from On High that, even on the basketball court, the good L-rd wants me to move my tuches.

When I try harder, I succeed more often. Even when my efforts are not yielding direct results, results are nonetheless filtering through, seemingly on their own and out of the blue. Somehow the effort finds its reward.

The Talmud states, “Don’t believe one who says, ‘I tried but did not succeed’; nor believe one who says, ‘I did not try, yet I succeeded’; only believe the one who says, ‘I tried and I succeeded.’” Though the Talmud is referring to Torah study, I find those words apply to much of life.

Let me give you another example.

At work, I’ll sit down to make phone calls to clients and prospects. I pick up the phone, begin dialing—and good things start to happen. Sometimes, those results are direct. I dial, my prospect is home, he picks up the phone, we speak, he’s interested. An account is opened.

Other times, it doesn’t happen that way at all. I call a few people. They’re not home. I leave messages. I get a hold of a few of them who can’t talk just now. I get frustrated.

And then the phone rings.

It’s a client calling to ask me how to wire money into his account. Or it’s a banker calling to introduce me to a high-net worth prospect. These productive calls coming in have nothing to do with those fruitless calls going out. They could have just as easily come in while I was twiddling my thumbs.

But when I’m twiddling my thumbs, they usually don’t.

Don’t get me wrong: the reciprocity isn’t perfect. Not even close. Believe me, I’ve known much failure and frustration in my life—even when I’ve expended myself. I could tell you about the NCSY chapter that never panned out, the yeshiva in Israel that I had to leave, the aborted attempt at a writing career. But I have generally viewed those failures as a sign to move on, pocketing the “learning experience” for whatever it may be worth.

When I’m onto something that’s working, however, it always works better when I’m pushing myself.

G-d certainly wants us to work. We recite the Kiddush each Friday night declaring that G-d created the world “la’asos—to do.” Often people answer the question, “What do you do?” by stating what they are: “I’m a doctor/lawyer/florist.” That may be their job, their title, their degree, but it really doesn’t answer the question—it doesn’t describe what they do. Or even if they do.

Working for a large firm, I know plenty of people whose job description is “don’t lose your job.” They aren’t really contributing anything. But they show up, keep their heads down and their noses clean. I’m not offended by them; I simply feel bad for them. They’re not really doing.

Even those of us who are doing, may not be doing it to the best of our abilities. Are teachers constantly looking for ways to reach the kids who don’t seem to be learning? Are parents unfailingly searching to improve how they raise their children? Are financial advisors steadfastly seeking to safely grow their clients’ portfolios?

Are we moving our tucheses?

It’s up to us not simply “to do,” but to do so aggressively—to utilize our talents, skills, and energies to help create a better society, both Jewishly and generally.

31 Comments:

Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Ok, productive = success, except when it doesn't (but when it does, usually happens when putting in effort). When it doesn't, however, what are we to learn from it? That we were headed in the wrong direction? That it wasn't what we were meant to be doing?

"I could tell you about the NCSY chapter that never panned out, the yeshiva in Israel that I had to leave, the aborted attempt at a writing career."

You should! Would love to read about those...

Fri Sep 16, 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

This really resonates. I've experienced the same thing at work. The trick is to keep up the energy level and effort when not getting the quick results. Nicely written.

Fri Sep 16, 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Looks like you've restarted your writing career :)

Fri Sep 16, 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

you are 100% right CJ
im in the financial industry myself i know exactly what you mean
sometimes i can make 100's of calls nothing happens of those calls, but right afterwards somebody calls me to open an account whom i never called

Fri Sep 16, 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

Mack, when confronted with failure, you have to figure out whether you need to redouble your efforts or cut your losses. Polar opposite responses. That's when it's important to have good--or better yet great--advisers: rabbanim, parents, friends. It also helps to pray. Ultimately, "atzas Hashem hi sakum."

yy, ours is a terrific parnassah for keeping yourself reminded daily that the Good L-rd is holding the pursestrings.

Fri Sep 16, 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Y.Y. said...

you are so right, i see it daily two clients doing the same investment, and somehow one profits and the other doesnt

Fri Sep 16, 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

There is no substitute for hard work, especially in a sales job. More effort yields greater rewards.

Fri Sep 16, 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Elisheva said...

CJ, as usual, an amazing, amazing post. I totally agree with the others about you restarting your writing career.

Shalom

Fri Sep 16, 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

Y.Y. - sorry, but that doesn't seem to make sense

jack's shack - you also need a lot of mazel - giving tzedakah helps

Fri Sep 16, 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

CJ, excellent.

Fri Sep 16, 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger callieischatty said...

are you married? do you have kids yet?

Fri Sep 16, 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

CJ,

White men can't jump (gadlus film!). Are you really pushing yourself Jewishly more than financially? where does most of your kochos and time go?

(mussar from me - this must be an all-time low for you)

TRK

Sun Sep 18, 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

TRK, You're hired as my PM (personal mashgiach)!

Sun Sep 18, 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

White Men can most definitely jump. Prior to breaking my ankle I could grab the rim, couldn't dunk a basketball, but I could get up there.

Sun Sep 18, 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

Work hard. Fly right. Got it.

Mon Sep 19, 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

guys, I don't believe you. we can't jump. fact.

cj, you are heading down a dangerous, slippery, pitfall-infested road if you use me as your PM!

Mon Sep 19, 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

"Whose job description is “don’t lose your job". Unfortunately I recognize myself in this very original description.
There are days where I barely get a chance to sit down and read my mails. But on too many days I will just sit, surf a little and get bored out of my mind.
I’m open to suggestions on what to do then.

Tue Sep 20, 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

My take on employment is this: it's a job, not a hobby. Work is the curse of Adam--"By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread." So if you don't love your job, that's NOT a sign to leave.

But, on the other hand, if you CAN'T STAND your job, it's probably time to look elsewhere. Obviously, this depends on what's available in your field. If jobs are tight in your market, you may want to consider going back to school and shifting careers.

If you are looking at that as an option, there are some very good "personality profile" tests that help you figure out what you'd be good at.

I switched careers from Journalism to Wall Street. But my profile said I'd make a good lawyer or rabbi!

Tue Sep 20, 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

lawyers are often good writers
and you would make a good rabbi

Tue Sep 20, 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Semgirl said...

You got my vote as a good Rabbi. And your writiing is superb.. Don't give it up..

Wed Sep 21, 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

clue - you've inspired me to do some writing of my own.

Wed Sep 21, 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

Mata, good luck with the blog. Everybody, go check her out.

Thu Sep 22, 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

hey - that's sweet!

Thu Sep 22, 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

cj, you are now officially the Rebbe

Fri Sep 23, 12:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

TRK,

We most certainly can jump. Don't know who you have been hanging out with, but it is more than possible, it is reality.

Mon Sep 26, 04:19:00 PM  
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