Archives for February 2013

Winning, Fear, & No Regrets: Quick Clips

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There are moments in life you will always remember.

Victory.  Loss.

Some of the worst memories are feelings of REGRET.

Regret is usually a by product of NOT confronting a powerful emotion:  FEAR.

Don’t let fear, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of loosing create a long term memory:  REGRET.


Who better to talk about fear than the great Sly Stallone?  2 classic clips giving his sons a hard hitting, Old School pep talk.


“The World Meets Nobody Halfway.”

You lost because you beat yourself, you let yourself get beat.  I know you can do it, your a special kid, your my boy.  Do you understand?  But your also a spoiled rich brat whose always had everything done for him.  Now it’s time to do for yourself Mike, you can do it.  Because I’m telling you, the world meets nobody halfway.  If you want it, you gotta take it.  Go in there and try, I know you can win.  But if you don’t, so what?  So you loose?  As long as you loose like a winner it doesn’t matter, because you did it with dignity.  I’m telling you, if you don’t go in there, your going to regret it your whole life.  I know you can do it.  Come on, let’s get ’em!”   

“Nobody can hit as hard as life!  It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s as hard as you GET hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done….”

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A Wake-Up Call To Sales

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We’ve all experienced that pushy sales person that gets under your skin.  For too many years, “sales” as a profession has conjured up images of bad suits and used car lots.  It is unfortunate.  There is a business axiom that “nothing happens until first a sale.”  So true.

While I am officially in the sales adjacent function (Marketing),  I grew up in sales in the CPG industry.  In fact, I believe it’s one of 2 critical experiences every marketing leader should have in the CPG industry.

Having said that, this week it hit me that the Real Deal sales pro is a rare breed.* *Note, this is probably not isolated to sales, it’s the brutal reality of the bell curve again!

After the meeting I noticed some pretty simple things:

  • I actually TOOK the meeting.  I probably turn down 20+ meetings a month, and take 2 at the most.
  • I enjoyed the meeting.  Was not running out the clock, probably because of positive thoughts coming into the meeting.
  • The sales person was not looking to close a transaction.  He was looking to help in any possible way, even if that did not generate a sale.
  • I could see myself wanting to do business with him in the future, should the opportunity arise.

Maybe most important?  I felt compelled to write his CEO a note with my thoughts.   

The “wake up” moments are listed below in my email.  I did change the name of the sales person to the infamous “Harry Hustle”, and the company to Optimism, Inc and CEO to who other than John Smith!.


Maybe the most important learning?
The 15 minutes it took to write the note, not only felt good for me, but it may have made “Harry Hustles” day, or week.

The CEO may have learned a thing or 2 as well.  If he was smart, he shared it with his management team and asked themselves some hard questions related to their business, who is representing them and if they hiring the right talent broadly.  But that is his concern….

Looking back on a long day, it reinforced that the best moments are usually found when you lift people up.  Sincere, heartfelt notes actually brighten YOUR mood.  Optimism is usually a precursor to having a great day, with better results.

People that “WOW” you may not be around the corner every day, but when you see it:


Celebrate it.  Tell people.

It will do wonders for your attitude.

And that will have lasting benefits, long after you hit the send button.

[Continue Reading…]

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Hustle: Your 100% Controllable Difference Maker

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Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Eric Schmidt.

That is a staggering stat.  The world is moving at light speed.

Simply put:  You better have a strategy to TRY and keep up with this reality.
I call it Hustle.

It’s the only tool I know of to guard against being wiped out to the middle (or worse) of the bell curve.  Examples of NOT Hustling are everywhere you look.

Look at social media.  I wrote about sea changes in businesses, and what that means in terms of ignoring them (you’re obsolete).  If Fortune 100 executives can give you an example of burying their head in the sand, chances are many more are doing the same.

People being asleep at the switch always presents opportunity.

Think about our “institutions of knowledge” like colleges/universities.  They used to be the destination to spend 4 dedicated years to fill your brain with critical information that provided a foundation for a career.  Yes, principles of accounting in 1985 don’t change dramatically through the years.  But the reality is that the world is moving at light speed, and the end of year 4 may look very different than when the 18 year old entered college in year 1.  Yet another reason, I wouldn’t want to be on my heels if I were a College President:  I’d be awake at night.  Too many are, and you can see higher education Disruption coming around the corner.

Here’s the good news:  HUSTLE is a choice.

Choosing to make a commitment to stay relevant, up to date, and valuable is 100% in your control.  That is a liberating feeling.

There are role models all around us, and tools.  You just need to get off your heels and make that choice to step it up.

A Free Hustle Resource

I consider Twitter to be a great tool, not just for talking, but for LISTENING.  I think of it as the world’s largest cocktail party of likeminded people.  I have met many great, interesting people I wouldn’t hesitate to meet for coffee in the “real world” if I were in their neighborhood.

One person in particular I respect, enjoy and have learned from for many years?  Tom Peters.  He’s one of the great management thinkers of our time.  His mind is brilliant, and he’s witty and humorous at the same time.  It’s amazing what can be learned in 140 characters.

tom peters excellence now

He has also pulled together 30+ years of his materials into a free website, appropriately named EXCELLENCE Now.

Unbelievably generous work to give away for free what has taken years to amass.  An MBA worth of leadership material.

I have shared this site with lots of people in my business network.  Being obsessed with performance, bell curves and results, I keep a “mental tally” of the % of folks that have browsed it, or at least recognized how powerful this is.  I put the % at <15%.  Maybe I should double that % for those that have not responded, kind of like consumer complaints.  Pretty low, but the bell curve is one of those harsh realities.

Any way you cut it, not Hustling is all around us.

Sometimes entering the right side (excellence) of the bell curve is not that difficult.

You can choose to use your free time (on-line) in many ways.  Go shopping on Amazon.  Talk to your buds on Facebook.  Catch the latest viral You Tube Video.  I certainly do my fair share of goofing off.

But there is one thing you should be INTENTIONAL about.  Your “scale” should not be tipped towards the goofing off end of the free time balance.  Because there are people that have their scale tipped in the other direction.  Those people are staying sharp, engaging with thought leaders, and learning.  Some of them are competing with you for market share.

They are making different choices.  They are HUSTLING.

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Excellence: The Great Michael Jordan

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Today marks the 50th birthday of one of the great professional athletes to ever walk the planet:  Michael Jordan.

Hustle or Bust is all about excellence and achieving great performance, so reflecting on the great career of MJ is certainly time well spent.  Nobody combined Old School Fundamentals with the New School approach better than MJ.

Below you’ll see the great Hall of Fame speech with learning points recapped, a couple of great ads and his legacy movie below.

Enjoy, and Happy 50th to the great MJ.  Memories will last for generations.

Hall of Fame enshrinement speech:

Key Points

  • My competitive nature came from my family.  They started the fire in me.
  • As I started my career there was a fire.  But as I went along, PEOPLE added wood to that fire.
  • As a freshman I didn’t get on the cover of Sports Illustrated….that burned me up!
  • No matter how you look at it, I’ll play to win
  • They came up with a theory after I came back from an injury:  Only play 7 minutes a game, although I practiced 2 hours a day.
  • Don’t put the organization above the players.  The organization is important, but the players have to get it done.
  • I was told I am not as good as Magic, Larry Bird.  You look for any kind of messages to get you motivated
  • The game of basketball has been everything to me:  My refuse, intense pain, satisfaction, and a relationship that has evolved over time.
  • I don’t look at the induction into the Hall of Fame as a defining moment.  I may be playing this game at 50!
  • Limits, like fear are often an illusion

One of the great Ads of our time:  “Maybe it’s my fault”.  The message makes the ad

Another great ad: Old School vs. New School MJ


And if you really want to learn, the full version of “The Legacy of Michael Jordan” full movie.

MJ on Failure…


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Where are you from? The Question That Matters

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Did your home town have an impact on your life?

I bet if you think hard about it and made a list of your “top 10” things that shaped your life, your hometown will somehow be woven into that list, whether directly or the images that flashed through your mind.  Rarely have I met someone and the place where they grew up did not shape them in a meaningful way.

Yet I am surprised at how much this question is a throw-away line.

Sometimes it’s asked to simply establish rapport with new business associates or neighbors to try and find common ground.  But if you dig deeper, you will learn an awful lot about who your dealing with.

Why does it matter?  Simple:

“Knowing SOMETHING about your customer, is as important as knowing EVERYTHING about your Product”  Harvey Mackay

Harvey Mackay, the great author of the classic “Swim with the Sharks” is a master at learning about customers.  His famous “Mackay 66” was ground breaking in its simplicity and intentional structure to help salespeople get to know their customers.

If you are in sales you understand this.  Many industries are in a race to the bottom on price, but relationships still and will always matter.  People generally like to buy from those they like, so relationships are a very real difference maker.  How a person is wired is often a function of the basic question:  “Where are you from?”

What if you are not in sales?  It still matters.  Do you need to deal with people?  Would better relationship help?  If yes, then learning about people makes good business sense.

My wife and I often banter on which is the better state, NY or NJ.  She’s an ultra-proud New Yorker.  I’m a Jersey Boy.  Our arguments are never decided, but always passionate.  Anybody that has seen the conversation would learn alot.  It kind of goes like this:

Kim:      NY pizza is better.  It’s the standard.

Mark:   No way, it’s all hype.  Yes,  “NY style” is across the country but anyone that knows real pizza understands that NJ has better, more consistent shops.  Like entertainers, NJ has more and better.

Kim:  No way.  Billy Joel, he’s your all-time favorite, so there!  And do I have to remind you about your precious Yankees?

Mark:  True, but we have Springsteen, Frankie Valli, Bon-Jovi, Sinatra, and the 2 NY football teams play in NJ, what does that tell you?

Kim:   Sinatra wrote “NY NY” not “NJ.”  We have the Hamptons, they have class.  You have the Jersey Shore, enough said.

Mark:  My point exactly, we have AC too.  And the Soprano’s.

And on and on it goes.  A giant circular argument that’s laced with pride and contempt all rolled into one.  That is just the surface of it, dig deeper and you would learn more.

When was the last time you asked about a colleague’s home town, or how they grew up?

What did you learn about it that surprised you?

If you have never asked them, no time like the present.  Grab a cup of coffee with them, or a glass of wine at your local happy hour watering hole.  Ask them about their home town.  What made it special?  How often they think about it?  Was it where they were born, or where they are NOW they consider home?  Do they miss it?  Why?

You get the picture.  It’s a conversation to genuinely learn, not an interview.  The key word is genuine.  People sniff out a phony from miles away.

Building relationships starts with Caring.  

Care enough to learn about things that matter to people.

Don’t have an agenda.  Just CARE.


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Failure To ACT on The Sea Change Guarantees Obsolescence

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Key Words:

  • Sea Change:  A profound or notable transformation
  • Obsolescence:  The state, process, or condition of becoming obsolete

Rarely is it hard to recognize the Sea Change.  Often times however, people refuse to personally act, despite the risks of inaction, which are often times Obsolescence, or irrelevancy.

Mark Fidelman wrote a fascinating piece in Business Insider in ’11 that caught my eye relative to this topic, profiling the the top marketing executives in the Fortune 100, and their personal use of social media.  What did he find?

  • Only 15 of the 143 CMO’s and Chief Communication Executives (CCO’s) in the Fortune 100 had active Twitter Accounts.
  • Worse, 15% of them have a net zero social footprint (meaning no social activity).
“US marketers will spend $3.08 billion to advertise on social networking sites this year,” according to eMarketer. “Spending will be up 55% over the $1.99 billion advertisers devoted to social networks in 2010 and will rise by a further 27.7% next year to reach nearly $4 billion.”

Here’s the Question:

How can a functional leader have leadership credibility with zero hands-on experience?[Continue Reading…]

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Lessons From The Sopranos

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Soprano's family dinner

Life hasn’t been the same since the Soprano’s went off the air.  Despite the over the top violence, and stereo-typical, negative profiles of Italians from NJ (OK maybe I’m just a touch sensitive here!), the HBO series was flat-out entertaining and set the standard for a drama series.  It was a game-changer in the TV biz, like American Idol.

UNLIKE AI, they never threw a Hail Mary, and stayed true to what made them successful at all times.

Besides the entertainment, there are real life lessons in each episodes, and scenes that make you think.  Some kind to mind:

  • Family scenes.  Especially those over the great Italian Food.  Life’s little moments.  Old school traditions that matter.
  • Scenes with “tough confrontation.”  Not the violence, the direct, in your face confrontation of whatever the issue at hand happens to be.
    • Never any ambiguity of an issue or where someone stands was simply refreshing.
    • Jack Welch calls it “Candor,” and the series was all about that and then someone.  Lack of Candor in the workplace slows things down.  And speed Kills in a hyper-competitive market.
  • When Old School Meets New School.
    • Usually in the area of Power, who leads, who sits back.  Most were messy & bloody outcomes, sometimes they nailed it perfectly without the violence.  But the philosophical differences provided intrigue to no end.
  • Life’s FUNNY moments.  Life was always celebrated, sometimes over each other’s expense.
    • In NJ, this is called “ball breaking.”  It’s a habit I inherited from my father.  His BB DNA and sense of humor lives on with me.


Below are some great clips that touch on each of these.  Of course, adult language and some with violence, so viewer caution.

Meadow and Tony’s first “heart to heart” while driving to New England

Tony Soprano toast at Family dinner:  Traditions matter

Silvio confronts the boss, throws caution to the wind as troops are unsettled and the #2 confronts the #1.  Standing up equals leadership.  Silvio exposes a blind spot or 2 to Tony.  Great leaders need a #2 that will call it like they see it.  Silvio is that guy.

Tony and Christopher talk leadership & succession planning:  “It’s a matter of trust”
Ever hear the expression:  “Love what you do!”  Have passion!  Celebrate life!  The most violent of the clips, but maybe one of the most priceless scenes in Soprano’s history.

Sometimes “Thank You” is all that’s needed.  Old School meets New School at dinner.

Update:  6/20/13:  RIP James Gandolfini, passed away in Italy on 6/19/13.  A legend will live on through all his work.  Thank’s for the memories and sharing your awesome talent
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Saying Goodbye: Never Easy, Always Needed

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Parting Ways.  Firing.  Termination.  Saying goodbye.  One of the most unpleasant aspects of running any type of organization.  And unfortunately, one that is simply unavoidable.

You're Fired.  Says Easy, does hard

All organization in some fashion conform to a bell curve, where a small % of elites and NON-performers.  Lets deal with the Non-Performers, the left-hand side that may makes up as much as 10% of the workforce.  We’ve all seen it.  The picture of the “walking dead” that for whatever reason, doesn’t fit into a culture, struggles to find their groove for extended periods of time, or simply can’t get it done.

Sometimes the whole world sees it, except for the people that can make the call.  Or the people that CAN make the call see it clearly, but choose NOT to act.  They rationalize a number of reasons for the lack of results and hope that a magical turnaround is around the corner.  Unfortunately, what they bank on for the turnaround is HOPE and TIME.  Rarely will those two ingredients combine for a performance turnaround.  

Business is a contact sport, and it needs to be managed.

Would you ever consider running a marathon with 12 lb ankle weights?  Is it not harder to run to the top of a snowy mountain pulling Paulie on a sleigh?  Of course it is.

The same thing happens when leaders refuse to act and part ways with people that clearly need to go:  They create extra weight to the team and company as they climb the mountain.  The market is usually challenging enough, carrying extra weight is a self-imposed challenge.

Rocky Old School Training

Rocky Old School Training: Pulling extra weight (on purpose)

Firing is not easy, and it is often emotionally draining.  Jack Welch provides a framework in his classic book “Winning.”

3 Reasons For Termination

  1. Integrity Violations – No debates, be swift!  Your businesses reputation is on the line and reputations that are damaged through lapses in integrity cannot be tolerated.  I would go so far as to say it should not only be swift, but PUBLIC.  People need to know when lines are crossed, and if they are there is zero tolerance.  Managers need not agonize over this.
  2. Economic – Let’s face it.  Many businesses need to trim costs for survival mode, and sometimes eliminating jobs of a select few, ensures the survival/well-being of many.  This is difficult, but a brutal reality in an ultra-competitive world.
  3. Poor Performance – The most difficult for any manager.  Comes with challenges, obstacles and the “walking dead” syndrome indicate above.

Dealing With Poor Performance:  Ensure No Surprises

  • Set Clear Expectations.   Make sure they are on paper.
  • Gain commitment that expectations can be met, and HOW they will be met, and WHEN.
  • Provide “appropriate” level of support, training and resources to deliver against those expectations.
      • The key word is appropriate.  Managers need to provide support and training, but not so much that it creates a black hole of over-managing.  People need training, mentors and to be shown the way.  More than one time is certainly appropriate, as well as different methods if one does not work.  But spending in-ordinate amounts of time to get the employee to see the light?  Red flag
  • Check in at the appropriate intervals.
      • When expectations are not being met against the commitments, be direct.
      • Don’t sugar coat.  Failure to communicate that performance is not meeting the expectations outlined and agreed too will make the final day more difficult.  Don’t let multiple milestones missed go unchecked.
  •  Develop a “course correction plan” with a new, tighter timeline for check-ins.
      • Have the EMPLOYEE own the turnaround plan, how to get back on track.  Brainstorm ideas.  Don’t over-resource but DO be creative.
      • Communicate that there is now a heightened sense of urgency to perform with termination as a possible and likely outcome.
      • Many would advise documenting the “heightened urgency” to start getting results.  And having the employee sign this.  Not a bad idea….
      • Expect a positive outcome.  Encourage.  Be a cheerleader.
      • Turnarounds ARE possible and when they happen everyone wins.    But the responsibility for individual performance is on the individual.
  • If no performance, you need to part ways.  Not on the first “course correction plan” but certainly after 3 attempts.  This is where “no surprises” plays out.
  • No humiliation.
      • Not meeting performance expectations is often NOT a reflection on the person’s intelligence, ability or drive.  Other forces could always be at work, which should be uncovered early when results are not being met, and planned for.  But Managers have a responsibility to deliver results, not explain why people can’t achieve them as the primary course of action.  Be human and show empathy.  If you have done your job as a manager and ensured no surprises, you have done your part.

Anybody that says “they don’t mind firing” probably needs to have their heart checked.  It is one of the most difficult things in business.  But the manager that is either unwilling or incapable of doing this when the time comes (and it will for all managers) needs to re-think their own capabilities as a leader.

Leaders ensure their teams can compete in the race.  Business certainly is a marathon.  Don’t put extra weights on your team by not confronting the reality of a non-performer…. marathons are hard enough.  So is the marketplace.


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The Brutal Reality of the Bell Curve

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I accept some bedrock principles as “universal truths.”  It keeps things simple and they are timeless, whether dealing with Old School or New School philosophies for getting things done.  I’ve talked about a few on Hustle Or Bust, and below are the links.

Here’s another one, a similar concept to the 80/20 rule:

People, and their performance almost always fall into a bell curve type distribution…

Bell Curve Distribution of Employee Performance

  • The far right, “top 20%” of performers
  • The vast majority “big middle” which is the bulk of the population, about 70%
  • The bottom 10% of the curve

Many theories exist WHY this distribution almost always holds.  Some will say natural intelligence (IQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), work ethic, intangibles, etc.

I don’t try and analyze why, I accept that there are simply all sorts of capabilities among people, and there is a wide range between the elite and the non-performers:  The “extremes” of the curve.   And simply put, the vast majority are NOT in the elite or non-performer tail ends.  That by definition is why they are in the middle, or the “average.”   A blend of the 2 tails if you will.

If you accept the theory that your organization will take the shape of a bell curve as it relates to performance, than you have a management strategy for each segment right?

Easier said than done, but simply put, a “one size fits all” is not the right strategy when results and capabilities vary tremendously.  The below questions all assume that they are a cultural fit and their values match that of the organization.  If the answer to that is NO, the choice for development is usually cut or dry.  Values miss-matches should not be invested in.[Continue Reading…]

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Dear Yankees: Say Goodbye to A-Rod And LEAD, for the Good of the Game

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NY Yankee Logo

I’m a die-hard Yankee Fan.  I bleed the pinstripes, the tradition of excellence, the big market, the history.  The Babe.  The Iron Horse.  The Yankee Clipper.  The Captain.  There’s one name I used to tolerate, but now I can’t stand:  A-Rod.

The A-Rod saga has been playing out for years.  Once the most gifted ballplayers of our generation, and the most highly compensated as well with a long term $275mm contract that would enable him to smash sport’s most prized record:  The Home Run King record.

Then he admits to steroid use, without of course uttering the word “steroid.”  And yet another publication comes out in early 2013 with more PED allegations.  This of course off the heels of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, injury plagued and less than 20 home runs, hitting in the 270’s  and the drama in the tabloids that never ends.  A-Rod had a better shot being on the back page with Madonna, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz vs. a triumphant walk-off for a Bombers victory.

A-Rod steroid allegations

Then came the final nail in the coffin.  The 2012 playoffs where Joe Girardi benched him in three of the nine games and pinch hit for him in 3 critical spots.  But you have to hand it to A-Rod, he still managed to pass his phone number to some females in the stands.

A-rod benched in playoffs

The NY Yankees have one standard: CHAMPIONSHIPS.  

The playoffs are what counts.  A-Rod has rarely performed in October, when it counts.

What does it say when the most highly paid athlete in sports is given multiple, clear cut votes of ZERO confidence in the playoffs?  Simple:  Game Over.

The Yankees operate in a world a bit unlike American business.  They still owe him $114mm despite non performance.  A-Rod can veto any trade the management wants to make.  The Yanks appear stuck, as A-Rod has never indicated a desire to retire, or accept a trade.   Let’s assume that A-rod’s position does not change.  But there are always options, in sports or business.

Option 1:  Do Nothing.  Keep A-Rod on the team.
  • A-Rod has another Hip Surgery, rehabs and MAYBE comes back in late 2013.  Yanks continue to pay the rest of $114mm
  • Let’s say he comes back in late summer.  What will his performance be?  Could he even match the production he put up in 2011-2012, which was far less than HALF of his “average” year?  Long shot.
  • If the Yanks make the play-offs, what are the odds that he would not be benched more often than he was in 2012?  Slim.  Confidence is fragile even in the most gifted athletes.  The NY media has a field day on A-Rod and the pressure would be like nothing he has ever seen.  That can’t help performance.
  • Option 1, simply stated:  SUCKS.  No fan wants this.  I bet the players don’t want this.  Girardi already gave you his vote when it mattered most.
Option 2:  Reason with Him; Tell him You are saying Goodbye.  He’s off the team, effective immediately.

But here’s a token of our appreciation we hope you’ll accept.

  • Sit him down.  Tell him we are saying good bye.  Thank him for his service.  Give him ONE full year’s pay, maybe 2.  That’s more than fair.  If he accepts, everyone’s a winner.  If he does not?
Option 3:  Go to the Mattresses in the courts.  He’s off the team effective immediately, win or lose in the courts.godfather go to the mattresses
  • Sue him.  He hasn’t showed up for work due to injuries.  Prove that it was self-induced, at least in part due to PED usage.  Downside is you loose and owe him the money anyway.  Upside is you don’t, and maybe send a message along the way.  Win a few chits in the court of public opinion for taking a stand.

No choice is acceptable other than getting him off the team.  The only debate is do you fight to get out of the contract, or pay him sports richest contract when he’s not on the roster.  Easy to say “get him off the team and pay him” when it’s not my money.  The fact his the drain on the team, his performance, and the drama that comes with him ON the team, this is one of those events where addition happens by subtraction.

How about this in addition to saying goodbye on option 1 or 2?

Take the $114mm compensation they MAY save (if victorious) and LEAD major league baseball in the effort to clean up the PED issue once and for all.  Set up a commission funded with this money, bring in outside talent from business, academia, and some trusted insiders.  Have the games great ambassadors (ie Derek Jeter) take leadership roles.  Lead the effort with Major League Baseball to clean up its act.  Invest in youth education.  Put money and talent against the problem.  If MLB doesn’t get on board, do it anyway.  Be bigger than the game.  Your the NY Yankees.

You have the might, you have the brand, and you can and should get it done.

Integrity matters.  No sport cherishes its records more than baseball.  Nobody means more to the game than the Yankees.

I applaud the baseball writers of America for voting nobody into the 2013 class due to steroid allegations.

Unfortunately, the problem still exists in the game.  The writer’s sent a message, which is a start.  The problem won’t be solved unless it’s from the inside out.  Leadership is needed.  Who better than the NY Yankees to take a stand?

Start with getting your own house in order.

Kill two birds with one stone.  Say Goodbye to A-Rod, for the good of the team.

Lead the effort to clean up the sport, for the good of the game.

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