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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Factoring in the Fundamentals

Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It is loosely based on the Milan High School team that won the 1954 state championship. Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, a new coach with a spotty past...(

The following movie clip is one of my best-loved scenes in any movie. The team from a small rural town arrives in the city to play for the state championship in a large basketball arena. On arriving in town, their coach Norman Dale takes them to the court on which the game will be played. He wants to make a vital point.

The coach makes the point that the championship game will be played on a court exactly like the familiar court in their hometown. He might also have said that like the measurements of the court, the fundamentals of the game remain primarily, perhaps entirely, the same. The lesson extends for me even further to the human experience itself. No matter what court we are playing on, we can be sure that the fundamentals of human nature never change.

Today I visited my financial adviser, Greg Helck, at Raymond James. After a fairly exhaustive discussion of finances, Greg and I (as we are want to do) talked about issues that allowed us to understand each other better in a broader sense. We touched on several subjects that had one conclusion in common – fundamentals matter.

For example, we discussed the importance of language. Those unskilled in the use of language have a significant disadvantage in the fundamentals of thought. (This is perhaps the one place in the modern world where a generalized skill can contend with specialized ones). This evening my wife and I discussed it, and Kathy remarked that without language skills one is left to compensate for the deficit by thinking in pictures. For example, for the underprivileged with deficits in language skills; gold chains, gold teeth, and flashy cars can be imaged graphically. On the other hand, extremely important matters of an abstract nature cannot be so easily pictured—they are abstractions; but like the abstractions of math, they are essential for the human enterprise and require for comprehension a rich vocabulary in concert with well-practiced verbal thought processes. I think right away of the department where I work. The St. Petersburg’s Parks and Recreation programs build character with: Self Discipline, Teamwork, Achievement, Responsibility, Respect, and Honesty. Training and activities (including abstract indoctrination) are used to instill these values.

Another fundamental discussed with Greg had to do with the essential kinship between behavior early and late. That is, a businessman may start out his business with a spirit of philanthropy expressed in terms of helping his clients. In fact, he may get such satisfaction from helping them that the financial compensation so derived is secondary; he would do it, if he could, for free. After abundant success this same spirit can be expressed in terms of financial support for cherished causes. But it's important to understand that there is no difference in the underlying spirit. Likewise, there are many people of modest means who are significant benefactors in many ways other than money—but the philanthropic spirit is identical to that of our successful businessman.

We also discussed the fundamental need to positively adjust attitude to meet any necessity—even otherwise unpleasant ones. For me the attitude adjusting tool that most immediately comes to mind is the Lord's Prayer. When it's considered carefully in its entirety, it provides almost the perfect tool for such adjustment. I would recommend to any non-believer, if only for a moment, that they suspend their disbelief and recite this prayer.

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