The Magic Circle Meeting: The Path Toward Funnification

There is no shortage of  blog posts, articles, (and other collections of vowels and consonants) that attempt to tie a current event (celebrity death, or a movie release….) to some sort of business problem as if this random event can solve the problem.

The headline is usually along the lines of this format:

What Star Wars (Yogi Berra, Leonard Nimoy…) Can Teach Us About Commodities Trading (Integrated Marketing, Employee Retention, Student Engagement…)

There are so many articles of this type, with their faint whiff of click bait, that I hesitated to even think about that format.  Yet this morning, I was pondering alternative meeting formats when I read of the death of Meadowlark Lemon, who for a generation (and then some)  was the face of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I am not going to pretend that my feelings  on the death of a basketball/comedic icon somehow has significant  relevance in the solution of your organization’s challenges.

However, I think we  all agree these two universal truths: everybody likes the Globetrotters, nobody like meetings.   This begs the question:, wouldn’t employee  meetings be more fun if they began with a Magic Circle?

Don’t forget  golden-throated announcer with introductions:  “And now……your Chief Executive Officer…..”  Even better  if  your C-level executives had nicknames like “Slingshot” “Spider” and “Buckets.”

And of course, somebody whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown” in the background is a welcome bonus.

In the past few years, there has been a mad-dash to gamify everything. Though these attempts rarely seem fun. How about for 2016, we strive for funnification?  It’s what Meadowlark would want.

Happy New Year and may all your hook shots in 2016 be nothing but net.

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Batter Up!

I worked for a startup in my mid 20s. They had a good business model, that was often overshadowed by hare-brained ideas and  and  unrealistic revenue streams (they weren’t charging enough), and unnecessary purchases.

In about the fifth month, my paychecks started to bounce. The owner promptly fixed the first few of these.  Then came delays and promises. And the normalization of not getting paid, at least not getting a check from an account with money.

A Friday ritual was to get a paycheck with assurance it “will be good on Monday.” Sometimes that was true, sometimes not.

What made things even worse about 15 months into my tenure at was  that he hired a local artist to paint a two-story mural on all four walls of our office’s entrance way.

Let’s just say that the commission to which the artist agreed was roughly  equal to the amount of 10 of my paychecks.

My checks started bouncing at an accelerated pace.

A Friday in March, when I was already down 6 paychecks,  I was given a  new check with the expected, and meaningless  promise that it would be good on Monday. The few seconds that it took to put my hand out for the piece of paper, then nod at the weekly promise was especially exhausting that.

I began mulling over my departure, and continued to do so over the weekend. Sunday evening, I decided that if my check wasn’t good, I would be done.

Though moments later I began to doubt that I would do that. I decided that I would delay my arrival until after 9, when the my boss’s bank opened and I could check on the available funds.

Before the bank  opened,  my friend, then in grad school and on spring break, called and said “Tigers v. Red Sox in Lakeland (Florida), let’s go!”

I told him I’d call him back. I then called the bank and found out the check wouldn’t clear.

Lucky 7.

I realized at the point, that I was under no obligation to go to work that day.

I called my friend back  and said, “Batter up!” Soon we were on Interstate 75 (southbound).

We had misread the schedule, and the Tigers game was actually a night game. Thus, we headed to Sarasota for a Phillies  game but learned it was sold out.

We decided to hang out in the area until the Tigers game started. We got home really late. I thought of heading to work Tuesday. I was bloody tired, but that never stopped me before.

What did stop me was a 9 am call to the bank to find out that my check would not clear. I went back to sleep.

I never went back to work for the company, but I told the founder I was going to keep the office key so I could use their computers, and laser printer because until he paid me off I was a partial owner of the organization.

He agreed.

We trusted each other in many areas. Though I could no longer trust him to pay me, and he finally understood that it was unreasonable to expect my services when there was no compensation in return.


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Talkin’ Baseball

I first heard Terry Cashman’s song Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke) in a baseball documentary that I saw in the 1980s.

The title refers to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider who played centerfield with the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers, respectively. They all played in New York at the same time, at least until the Giants and Dodgers left for California.

The song is a tribute to baseball, and “good old days” in 1950s and  the 1980s. It references many baseball starts and other pop culture. I was particularly intrigued that the song had a rhyme for line: “Kluszewski….Campanella.

I don’t think I’d heard it more a few times in the years that followed but started singing it to my son when he was a baby. I didn’t know many of the lyrics, so I did a lot of humming..

When my son was older we used to watch videos that were made for the song, and I did my best to sign along.

In the early part of the song it characterizes the 1950 with these lyrics:

“Rock and Roll Was Being Born
Marijuana We Did Scorn ”

I didn’t really need him blabbing “My dad makes me listen to a marijuana song,” at pre-school, so, I used do a “La-la-la” over that line.

I realized that we were nearing a time that he was aware enough of the world  that he would eventually hear the lyrics in the  video.  That happened sooner than I expected.

When he was nearing three, he sang the lyrics as this way:

“Rock and Roll Was Being Born
Nobody would eat his corn. ”


That deferred his innocence, or mine, since it’s one of those conversation topics that makes a parent squirm. I was relieved that I wouldn’t need to have a slightly uncomfortable talk with him, at least for a little while.

A couple of years later he picked up the word in a radio broadcast while we were en route to school. He asked me, “Dad what is marijuana?”

I sighed.  I had vowed that when the time came I would be honest with him when he asked questions like this.

I thought to myself “Remember to be honest!”

“Marijuana was one of the co-founders of Apple Computer,” I said.

With that he recited  a line he’d once heard in a documentary, where it described Steve Jobs’ attempt to lure Pepsi CEO, John Scully to Apple.

From the back seat, the little voice started yelling:: “Do you want to sell sugar water all of for the rest of your life,  or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

Crisis averted.

And I was honest…kind of honest.


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Play Ball!

With Major League Baseball’s opening day looming, I unearthed some of my baseball-related blog posts from the past several years. Some of them have themes other than baseball, including forgiveness, redemption, racism, playing hooky, and why I was the best boss ever.

Busch Leaguer
A story of baseball, beer, and brand loyalty (through coercion). 

Who Blamed Roger Maris?
Who among us hasn’t blamed  a two-time Most Valuable Player for our second-annual hernia. Decades later I was able to forgive Maris and blame Bob Uecker

Woke Barber
Baseball broadcasting legend, from the Deep South, describes his awakening that followed his  learning that Dodgers planned to sign a Black Player.

Jackie Robinson  and Jim Crow in the Deep South.

“That Stain That is On Our Soul”
Celery City makes amends with Jackie Robinson.

I don’t care if I never get back
Playing hooky on my first day on the job.

Performance Review
This is what work meetings looked like before Zoom. 

Rhodes Scholar
A warning about  recency bias. And yes, Tuffy Rhodes was the greatest player ever.

Bo Knows Content Marketing
Well, this one’s about Bo Jackson and Content Marketing.

Talkin’ Baseball
Willie, Mickey, the Duke and questions that make parents squirm.

Photo of Oberon Beer bottle and bag of Peanuts

Oberon and Tigers Peanuts Season

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