The Coach's Corner

All I Want Is To Blend In

August 6th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

One of my Flint business colleagues gave me a copy of Imperfect: An Improbable Life, an autobiography of Jim Abbott. Because he grew up in my new hometown, I found the book to be very educational. For those of you who don’t know of him, Abbott is a famous baseball player who got his start as a star pitcher at Flint Central High School and the University of Michigan. He was a starting pitcher on the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team and he pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

After finishing the book and reflecting on Abbott’s life, I pondered what I could tell you about this remarkable man. I could focus on his mom and dad, who were teenage parents, or the cutthroat nature of professional baseball, or the painful process of determining when to end a professional career, or what it’s like to be the spouse of a professional athlete in the crosshairs of the media, or what a great job his young parents did raising him.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that Abbott was born without a right hand?

After a great deal of thought, I decided to share two lessons I learned from reading about Abbott’s life.

The first deals with his desire not to be thought of as different. If you see pictures of him in street clothes, he always has his right (hand) in his pocket, and looks like any other person you might walk past. He tells a story about a time he was being introduced as the speaker at an event. In his introductory comments, the well-intentioned master of ceremonies mentioned that Abbott was missing his right hand. As Abbott listened, he thought to himself, Why? Just let my accomplishments of a gold medal and a no-hitter stand for themselves.

The takeaway, for me, is that it’s important to be more sensitive to any labels or adjectives I use when telling my many stories. Is it really necessary to say things about a person’s height, or where they’re from, or what ethnic group they belong to, or to make observations that sound more like stereotypes? I felt convicted.

My hero on the subject of avoiding labels is my youngest son, Joey. He had a new roommate who I had not yet had a chance to meet. Joey often spoke about his roommate and, from everything he said, they seemed to really be a good match. Well, one day I finally met the roommate. Based on things my son had said when describing his roommate, I had been expecting that this young man was going to look a lot like our family. To my surprise, he wasn’t like us at all. I was proud of Joey’s ability to overlook the stereotypes that might have been placed on his roommate, and to instead focus on the person his roommate is.

The second lesson I gleaned from Abbott’s life is “deliberate practice,” a concept with which I am obsessed. Starting at 4 years old, Abbott would throw baseballs against a wall in his backyard for hours and hours. It was there, in his backyard, that he taught himself to switch his glove to his right arm so he could throw, and then return it to his left hand to catch the rebound. (The book includes some really cool stories of how Abbott overcame adversity and was able to field balls, including bunts, in the majors.)

Do you want to be successful at something? If you didn’t have a right hand, would you dare to set a goal of pitching a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in Yankee Stadium?

It’s Not Fair

July 23rd, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

After reading The Capitalist Comeback, by Andrew Puzder, I debated blogging about it. I’m still not sure what the exact angle is, but I decided to offer a few sound bites and leave it up to you.

Even though I spent the first 15 years of my professional career advising (financially, that is) local governments — where I experienced some really nasty politics at times — I was shocked by this book. To support his comments and views, Puzder provides more than 500 references to other books, articles, studies, and speeches to support his findings. (Editorial comment: As you know, I prefer authors who reference credible sources versus those with “just” strong personal opinions.)

Puzder was a successful commercial trial lawyer who joined the parent company of Hardee’s Restaurant. After five years, he became CEO — a job he successfully held for 16 years. President Trump nominated Puzder to serve as his Secretary of Labor but, after a long and contentious confirmation hearing process, he withdrew his name from consideration. What happened is very sad to me, although I’m sure it happens to members of both political parties. Based on the positions presented in his book, I think Puzder would have been a refreshing addition to the cabinet. (And, just so you’re not confused, he was actually in favor of increasing the minimum wage. You need to read the book to get more details on his position.)

Although he doesn’t say it this way, Puzder seems to believe that for over 100 years, the U.S. has been drifting away from its roots. Prior to the industrial revolution, most Americans were business owners. Many were farmers and the rest had businesses that provided products or services to the farmers, like blacksmiths. Daniel Pink refers to them as “free agents” in his book, Free Agent Nation. Puzder doesn’t get into this subject in his book, but Pink and others are excited that we once again seem to have more self-employed workers.

Probably to the surprise of many, Puzder is a champion of what he refers to as entry-level jobs. He’s also really focused on income inequality.

I guess I would say that if you want to hear a side of the story that’s rarely told, I would recommend reading Puzder’s book. I found him to be a guy who cares about his family, his business, his employees and, most of all, his country.

Switch On Your Brain

July 9th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Switch On Your Brain is actually the title of a fascinating book written by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a neuroscientist with more than 20 years of clinical experiences. Since the ’80s, she has intensely studied the brain. Caution: I want to mention, upfront, that she’s a practicing Christian who incorporates her faith and scripture into her practice (which I believe only strengthens her scientific positions). With or without the scripture references, the plethora of brain research over the last 20-plus years is quite convincing.

I’m out of my area of professional expertise when it comes to discussing the brain, but I’ll take that risk. Today, we all experience and observe so many situations that seem hopeless and have the potential to drag us down. I found that Dr. Leaf offers some very practical and worthwhile advice for many of us.

For over 100 years, learned students, brain experts, and conventional wisdom believed that the brain was hardwired, or fixed. However, based on volumes of brain research over the past 20 years, Dr. Leaf and colleagues from prominent medical research institutions have come to recognize that the mind can reprogram the brain. The scientific word describing how the brain changes as a result of mental activity is called neuroplasticity. This means the brain is malleable and adaptable, changing moment by moment, every day. Additionally, the research indicates that DNA changes shape according to our thoughts.

Dr. Leaf would say, “You are not a victim. You can control your reactions. You do have a choice.” She would also say neuroplasticity can operate for us — as well as against us — because whatever we think about the most will grow (this applies to both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum).

Dr. Leaf provides a 21-day detox plan, which I decided to personally apply to a 15-year-old issue in my life. Just the idea that there may be light at the end of the tunnel was encouraging for me. So far, it has actually worked. I don’t want to take the space here to explain it, but I would be happy to share my issue with you if you’re interested.

Most of you who know me will probably say that I’m pretty solid, stable, and fact-based. That being said, if you are, or have for some time, struggled with an issue — even something as debilitating as posttraumatic stress disorder, for example — consider at least taking the time to read Dr. Leaf’s book. I found her life views very uplifting and inspiring, and I hope you do, too.


p.s. In previous posts, I’ve referenced Mindset, by Carol Dweck, who coined the terms “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Her studies support the position that with the proper instruction/coaching and lots of correct practice (deliberate practice), you can get better. I like both Dr. Leaf and Dweck’s views because they provide hope.



Trust Your Gut

June 18th, 2018 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with business owners who, when relating a situation in their business, would say something like, “I knew I should have done this or that.” I can relate. Based on my self-diagnosis, I would say that I’m not naturally intuitive. This conclusion is the result of working with a number of partners and clients who really are intuitive. To me, it seems like they have a sixth sense.

What I’ve discovered later in my business career is that although I may not be intuitive, I have experienced a lot — both good and bad — and I’ve tried to learn from these situations. As I reflected on the subject, I recalled a February 2001 Harvard Business Review article entitled “When to Trust Your Gut,” written by Alden M. Hayashi. The reason I remembered the article is that the author highlights a story about Bob Lutz, who at the time was a member of the Lee Iacocca Chrysler Dream Team, and who many consider to be one of the greatest auto executives of all time. I won’t spoil the article, but it details Lutz’s conceptualizing and then launching the very successful Dodge Viper with no market research, just his gut instinct, to support him. The article quotes Herbert Simon, of Carnegie Mellon, who came to the conclusion that experience enables people to “chunk” information so they can store and retrieve it easily.

In a November 16, 2017, article in Psychology Today, titled “When Should You Trust Your Gut? Here’s What the Science Says,” Al Pittampalli states, “In order to trust our intuition, we need to have had enough practice. Our intuitions are only as good as the database of patterns that we draw them from. So we need to have had sufficient experience noticing and revising patterns in order to have built up a database that is both robust and refined.”

In the HBR article, the author says, “Executives like Lutz and Eisner (former Disney CEO) will be the first to admit that their instincts are often plain wrong. Don’t fall in love with your decisions. They warn against overconfidence, and they suggest routinely soliciting the opinions of others when faced with tough choices.”

So, here is my advice to “seasoned leaders,” based on my own experience and my observations of some awesome leaders:

  1. Don’t ignore your gut, especially if it’s related to a subject you know really well.
  2. Make sure you aren’t emotionally too close to or attached to the subject.
  3. Seek the counsel of others.
  4. Listen carefully; try to understand their views and the bases of their opinions.
  5. Don’t ignore your gut!

p.s. If you’re just beginning your career, be careful — unless you’re Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Thomas Edison, or Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines.

Are Your Best Successes a Result of Goal-Setting?

June 4th, 2018 // Tom Doescher // 1 Comment

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

I will readily admit that mine aren’t. Goal-setting has been on my mind a lot lately, as I recently have been involved in career-planning discussions with 20-somethings. As we’ve talked about their passions — or, sometimes, their lack of passions — I’ve also spent some time reflecting on my own life (it’s true, I didn’t feel a strong passion about anything in particular after my football-coaching gig didn’t work out).

Any of you who know me realize I’m a very serious business and personal goal-setter. I strongly believe in planning and goal-setting. Over the years, it’s helped me make good choices regarding how to spend my time and money.

That being said, as I’ve thought about my life, I can’t think of one major thing that has been the direct result of my goal-setting. For example, I went to Western Michigan University to become a football coach, but instead I ended up at Plante Moran. Then there was the time my college roommate and I went to the Lutheran Student Center’s dinner one Sunday evening because our dorm didn’t serve an evening meal. I went simply to get some dinner, but instead I met Barbara (this was over 50 years ago!). Once we were married, Barbara and I had no plans to live in Fenton (long story of how we got here), but today we love it. Finally, it wasn’t my plan to be in business with Barbara, but that’s not the way things turned out.

So here’s my current advice:

  1. Put your sail up and let the wind blow into it.
  2. Don’t over-analyze everything.
  3. Don’t fight gravity. If things are going well, continue — but if you keep bumping your nose, move on.
  4. If doors open, go through them.
  5. Some of us have to experience a lot of things to find our passion.
  6. Do your best wherever you are.
  7. Always learn as much as you can, wherever you are. As you go through life, you’ll be surprised how many of your life experiences will connect years later.
  8. If you’re in a miserable situation, move on.
  9. It’s not all about money.

With the advantage of several decades of life, I feel that today I am in my “calling” or “passion,” and I love almost every day of it. That being said, it took a lot of experiences for me to realize what I wanted.

So hang in there, put your sail up, and walk through any doors that open, no matter how scary it may seem.

p.s. Give me a call if you want to talk.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.