Mortgages And Leadership

I saw Thank You for Smoking over the weekend, a great movie, and I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific about it, but an article that I read this morning (and I guess thinking about the current circumstances of my life) changed my mind.

In an article on, Chris Mannix discusses how Jason Kidd, perhaps the greatest point guard of this generation (even though Nash has more MVPs to his name), has made a career or making his teammates better.  The most interesting observation that Mannix makes is:

For his part, Kidd relishes the idea of not only making his teammates better, but also serving as a human lottery ticket.

Well, what exactly does this mean, “human lottery ticket”?  Quoting Jason Kidd, he writes:

“I loved playing with all those guys,” says Kidd as he walks down the tunnel towards the parking lot. “Rex Chapman. Shawn Marion. Kerry Kittles. Scalabrine. K-Mart. When you can help a guy make a better life for his family, it’s the best feeling.

To go off on a tangent, for a moment, at some point in the last year, I was considering leaving Zorch as there were other opportunities available to me with better compensation overall.  But of course, there isn’t that satisfaction of being a core component of a small startup.  At some point, the CEO of the company came out for a meeting with a client and had some time to meet me for lunch.  Perhaps the most interesting concept that I took away from this meeting was his statement that he’s not in it for himself, he’s in it to build the wealth of those around him.

And indeed, our employees are all a close knit bunch with one of our developers having been with him for over a decade through at least two companies.

In a sense, he has a Kidd-esque quality about him.

In quoting Lawrence Frank on what makes Kidd so great, Mannix writes:

“He takes away the thinking process for his teammates. He gets the ball to them on time, on target, so they can just go into their move.”

Similarly, I like to think that our CEO (and any good leader) does the same: he creates the conditions for success by taking away the barriers for individual success; he makes it easy to do what you know how to do.

Okay, so back on the topic at hand.  So what does Jason Kidd have to do with Thank You for Smoking?  Well, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the protagonist of this movie, is asked how he can do what he does, knowing that the entity he fronts produces a product that kills thousands of people a day.  His justification?  He’s effortlessly good at it and it pays the mortgage.

In a sense – and I know it’s quite cynical – life in the modern world (especially for my generation) boils down to doing everything you can to make that monthly payment; mortgages are a painful reality for the vast majority of us. 

So what is the conclusion to draw from all of this?  I guess this is really a post on career advice: find someone to work for or work with that will be your “human lottery ticket” 😀

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