Lessons from last night’s game

Saints 31, Vikings 28

It was an honorable, hard-fought game. I won’t gloat in victory.

Either team could have easily won.

I’m not going to say the best team won, but it is true that the team that got the points on the scoreboard first when it mattered did – and there’s a giant lesson right there, and three related bonus ones for good measure:

=== Uber-Lesson ===

Great team, great plan, great productivity etc. don’t mean a thing if you’re not putting points on the board – in a TIMELY way

Football – and business – is not about having the best stats.

It’s about having the best business and that’s calculated in sales made, profits earned and taking money off the table (wealth, also known by the boring old word “savings.”)

Three more related lessons:

1. Protect the quarterback

The Vikings did a pretty good job of that. The Saints did a GREAT job. It made all the difference in the world.

In business, this translates to “protect the boss.” In other words, if you work for somebody, WORK for them. If you’re the boss, expect respect and loyalty.

I see a whole lot of otherwise great leaders make this mistake. They put their staff’s well being first (good), they give their staff’s credit (good), but they’re too lenient and tolerate less-than-stellar performance from employees.

This is bad for all kinds of reasons, but here’s the key one: Yes, business and football are team efforts, but neither is going anywhere without a quarterback who is protected so he can do what he (or she) can uniquely do.

Three kinds of people

There are three kinds of people in the world: 1) people who know how to be respectful and loyal, 2) people who are learning, and 3) people who don’t know, don’t care and/or are genetically incapable of things like honesty, integrity, and loyalty.

My advice as soon as you get the first whiff that someone is in the third category, out they go, preferably head first. (This includes “little” things like showing up late and not honoring simple commitments.)

As for folks in the second category (they’re learning), make a clear decision as to whether you want to invest your time and effort in mentoring them to become fully functional human beings. It will be expensive, even it you’re successful.

My take on this is? Let someone else teach them.

There are plenty of people who automatically and reflexively “protect the quarterback.” Why on earth have anyone else on your team?

2. Doing everything right “most” of the time is not good enough

Once you “get” the fundamentals and make applying them a reflex, the next thing is to be on guard against mistakes. The Vikings did everything right, except for a few bone-headed beginners’ mistakes that cost them the game.

Top performers in the high-stakes business of commodity trading will tell you: making money trading is not just about racking up huge profits. It’s also about being relentlessly vigilant and not accidentally giving away the farm through careless blunders.

Sales-oriented entrepreneurs often fail to learn this lesson.

They’re so focused on their great plays, they never look up at the scoreboard and see that they’re actually losing because they’re not paying strict attention to all the boring – but absolutely essential – parts of business that keep things on track and in the black.

3. Don’t be good, be great

If you’re going to go through the effort of tackling somebody, why not take the small extra step of trying to force a fumble?

The Saints did this and enough of their attempts succeeded that it won them the game. Extra energy expended? Just a little thought and consistency.

It’s the same in business.

Too many folks just go through the motions and do everything “right,” but fail to apply that little bit of extra tactical effort that can turn a commonplace interaction into a game changing one.

It’s the fine points relentlessly applied that can make all the difference.


1. If you’ve got a good leader, respect and protect him. If you are a good leader, expect the same from your staff.

2. Do things right and pay at least equal attention to not doing things wrong

3. Why settle for being good when a little extra thought and execution can make you great?

P.S. As promised, to celebrate last night’s historic win, I’m giving Saints fans – and all other smart business owners – a one-time chance to join us at System 2010 at a super price.

For two days only, January 25 and 26, we’re rolling back tuition to the 2009 level.

in sixteen years, we have NEVER done anything like this before and since the Saints are never going to Super Bowl again for the first time, don’t count on it happening twice.

This truly once in a lifetime sale expires midnight January 26, 2010.



– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

Economics made simple
Saints win! Sale on

16 Responses to Lessons from last night’s game

  1. RSS Ray January 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    Love the message, even though I am a Vikings fan. Excellent information presented in a compelling style.

  2. Ed Osworth - The Joy Professor January 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    I think another point from football is – get a good realistic and motivating coach and follow their instructions every day. In the IM world I think that person is you Ken.

  3. Sheldon R January 25, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    Hey Ken,

    Great little piece of copy!

    Love the line …

    “..people who are genetically incapable of things like honesty, integrity, and loyalty. ”

    So it’s not really “their fault” .. it’s their lousy genes that is making them act like a complete A-hole and ruining their life.
    Yep ..that’s it. LOL

    Keep up the gr8 work!

  4. Ken McCarthy January 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Just trying to put some science to it Sheldon 🙂

  5. Colin Y.J. Chung January 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    I’m not a football fan and I enjoyed this article immensely. I’ve had and seen the “nice boss” syndrome enough times to know how draining the third types are. Vampires.

  6. Ken McCarthy January 25, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    It’s a real danger and it’s wrecked countless enterprises – and entrepreneurs.

    My guess is only about 1 out of 10 people who *appear* employable are employable. It may seem extreme, but it’s woefully easy to be taken in by a good talker who can’t be relied on for the simplest things.

    “Vampires” is the perfect word for these folks and when you do manage to separate them for your neck, it’s amazing how skilled they become at telling everyone how you’ve “victimized” them.

    Hire (and do business with) respectful people and give them respect. It’s a simple formula.

  7. Stephen January 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    I agree with everything you said Ken but let’s be honest, it came down to a coin-toss! (If the Vikings had won it, they would probably be going to Miami.)

    So I guess that’s another lesson: In Biz, you need a little luck!

    ** I don’t think the Saints have the horses to beat the Colts. Although I’d love to see it happen!

  8. Marge January 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Great analogies Ken.

    Another pitfall is having the “Mother Teresa” syndrome, as some call it.

    That’s trying to help all those who are needy and are maybe not in a position to help themselves.

    Giving someone a position because you feel sorry for them, rather than the fact that they are capable or can contribute back to the business, is costly too.

    I have done that, and it greatly weakens your business, if you’re not careful.


  9. Ken McCarthy January 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm #


    Sure, the coin toss helped, but the 5 to 1 on turnovers, including Farve’s late-game interception, were devastating.

    “We really gave those guys the game,” said Adrian Peterson, Minnesota running back. “Too many turnovers.”

    It came down to a coin toss because the Vikings didn’t execute on Principles 1 to 3. (see above.)

  10. Gabe January 26, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    Great stuff, Ken!

    I don’t have a horse in this race (Giants fan), but you have to admit the Vikes got hosed on that pass interference call 🙂

    That said, it demonstrates that in football, as in business and life itself, you must “score” when you have the chance and put those points on the board. Otherwise you open yourself up to questionable calls, ie. a new law, a bad economy, a price shock a ref who may be a “homer”:) And please don’t commit rookie mistakes when you’re a 19 year vet! (throwing across your body into heavy coverage).

    Very happy for the people of New Orleans though. God Bless them.

  11. Olan January 26, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    I am a Vikings fan but Ken you are exactly right. Coin toss was good to the Saints but there should have never been a coin toss.

    The Vikings lack of “fundamentals” execution is what cost them that game. The Vikings should have won by one or two touchdowns.

    Let us not forget the fundamentals in business or we can easily go down in defeat as well with “no time left” to recover. A sobering thought for sure.

  12. Ken McCarthy January 26, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    As my brother likes to say: “Make hay while the sun shines.” …because you never do know when you’ll be in for a spell of bad weather.

  13. Al January 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    Having as much passion for my Minnesota Vikings as you have for your Saints, both teams were well prepared. Both teams have excellent personnel. In the end, the game was decided by mistakes. One team made more mistakes than the other and it cost them the game. Preparation, planning, skill have much to do with winning. So do the lack of mistakes!

  14. Luke Brown January 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm #


    Your old school take on issues is decidedly refreshing. The analogies made in your post are exceptionally accurate.

    My favorite line is: It’s about having the best business and that’s calculated in sales made, profits earned and taking money off the table (wealth, also known by the boring old word “savings.”).

    Savings is what really jumped out. There are so many blogs asking the stale question, “How can I survive this recession?” The answer is by using the same skills used to survive all previous recessions. The trick to to plan for the downturn during the previous upturn. The economy runs in cycles, similar to momentum in a football game. Maximize your profits (and savings) when momentum is on your size and minimize losses when momentum is opposing you. After all, a recession is just a huge sale for people with cash and courage.

    Keep up the great work, Ken. I enjoy your posts.

  15. Stephen January 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    That’s my point. Did the 5:1 really matter?

    At the end of the day, it was still tied and they may have lost if the Vikings won the toss? Of course there should have never been a coin-toss!

    With all due respect,what would you have written then? Never give up? Keep going even if your QB/Boss is having a tough time? Even if employee’s fumble and make mistakes keep going?

    Look, I’m Canadian and I know footbal is a religion to you all in the States ( I like football, don’t get me wrong.) But any game the uses a clock is rigged. That’s why I love Baseball! And I’m a Canuck.

    Actually, I was thinking about it after I wrote you yesterday. When you really think about it, with all due respect, it was not a good game to use as an analogy. How do you explain Peterson scoring 4 times? The Saints Defense Coach even admitted that they need turnovers to help them?? It was really a rare game that proved that so many of the cliche football analogies don’t really apply.

    Listen, I live in Montreal with the great “Canadian’s” hockey team. With all the history and BS. Even when they had their big 100th yr anniversary celebration, all the old timer’s were saying it’s a new time, forget the past glory, focus.

    But if you listen to all the commentator’s, they say they have no passion, they don’t play 60 min etc. And it’s true!

    I’m 53, sports is not what it once was. I would be very careful using sports analogies!
    Just a thought!

  16. Ken McCarthy January 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Luke: There’s a great and hard-to-find book called “What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars” by a futures trader who did just that. I reference it in my “Independence Day Financial Blueprint” (which can be found on Google.)

    Smart men learn from their mistakes. Wise men learn from the mistakes of others: A big part of playing a good game is guarding against preventible mistakes.

    Stephen: If you insist that a 5 to 1 turnover ratio doesn’t matter in the NFL, you’re entitled to your opinion.

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