Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Survival and the concentrated mind

"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Samuel Johnson's quote (he's got a number of them) seems particularly appropriate in light of some of the significant budgetary challenges facing college athletics and higher education.  UAB football, Sweet Briar College and Cleveland State wrestling all faced down their mortality in the past few months, avoiding being cut or closed.  Each has emerged and will hopefully flourish in the future, serving as great examples of focusing the mind and in the process, staying alive.   

Akron Baseball is now facing the same fate and no doubt other programs will soon have similar challenges to their survival placed in front of them.

The future strength of Sweet Briar, UAB football and Cleveland State wrestling remains to be seen - perhaps they emerge stronger (indeed, "that which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger" - Friedrich Nietzsche, not Kelly Clarkson) - or perhaps these are temporary revivals where the damage from near death cannot produce sustainable rebirth.

The challenge we all face is figuring out how to have the focused mind - and perhaps more importantly, the focused supporters who are willing to contribute their time, talents and treasure to our programs - so that the threats of closing and panicked last minute appeals become unnecessary.  

There are many powerful and motivating emotions in the situations referenced above - love, hate, anger, and regret among them. But indifference provided the initial death sentence, until the perceived loss was so real that emotion emerged again to save the program.

If you were to have an in-depth conversation with your key supporters and ask them, "What would happen if our program didn't exist anymore?", what would they say?  And if you had the same conversation with potential or lapsed supporters who have been sitting on the sideline waiting for the right time to engage, what would they say?

Concentration that produces engagement, motivation and passion without the threat of hanging is a worthwhile challenge that may not seem very urgent.......until it is.