December 17, 2010
This weekend ESPN ran a segment on one of the most enduring traditions in college sports. It wasn’t about touching the sign at Notre Dame or the rock at Clemson. It wasn’t about spearing the fifty at Florida State or dotting the “i” in script Ohio. It was about Butch Varno at little Middlebury College in Vermont.
Butch has Cerebral Palsy. Now 63, he’s been in a wheelchair since he was a youngster.
For 50 years, students have been “Picking Up Butch” a tradition that started in 1960 when a then sophomore football player literally picked up and loaded thirteen-year-old Butch into his own car after seeing his mother struggling to push his wheelchair down a snow covered road following a Middlebury game.
Since then, for every football contest at Middlebury, members of the basketball team pick up Butch. Then during gridiron season, football players pick up Butch. They use their own vehicles, lifting Butch in and out of the car just as on that very first day. Doing so, these students not only develop life-long bonds to Butch, they learn a thing or two about life.
They learn that it isn’t about them.
They learn that the golden rule is both.
They learn that an entire team is elevated when it picks up one among them.
And that’s the point for the week.
On any team, ours included, not everyone will be “up” every minute, day, month or year. When someone is down, it is up to others to carry them.
The notion of “one team, one number” is rooted in this fact. The team wins when the sum of its parts exceeds what is required. Not every part will win every time. That’s OK, as long as the team prevails.
The success of the team matters more than individual wins. Personal success counts for little if the team falls short.
When we approach every day with a fundamental belief that the team is more important than we are, we’ll act differently. We’ll look out for each other more. The failures of our teammates will bother us more. Their achievements will delight us more. Together, we’ll win more.
Put simply, when we give more, we get more.
Doing so, we’ll build trust by the wheelbarrow-load. We’ll create personal bonds that last forever. We’ll experience the joy that comes from being a part of something far bigger than we are.
So, pick each other up.
If you like the blog, you’ll love the book. To purchase a copy of Phillip’s book, The Not So Subtle Art of Caring: Letters on Leadership, from John Hunt Publishing, London, please follow this LINK. “Letters” is based on 85 story-backed lessons Phillip used while leading actual teams to accomplish extraordinary things. It is an outstanding resource for those who wish to commit to becoming the sort of leader that people WANT to follow.
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