What I Learned About Business From Watching Hard Knocks (417)

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Get ready to gain a fresh perspective on the NFL as Mike unpacks surprising revelations from the Hard Knocks show. He’ll be sharing his unique insights into how the NFL operates differently from traditional businesses – it’s a pure meritocracy, a cult of personality around the quarterback, and places performance over loyalty. We’ll be dissecting Aaron Rodgers’ move to the New York Jets and how this reflects the NFL’s distinctive system. If you’re looking for a system that’s simpler than traditional businesses, where performance trumps loyalty without the fear of lawsuits, the NFL might just be your inspiration!

Check out the video version of this episode below:

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Episode transcript below:

0:00:00 – Mike Malatesta
This episode is sponsored by the Dream Exit. The Dream Exit is a private bespoke program for successful entrepreneurs with annual revenue between $5 million and $100 million who realize that they have one chance to get their Dream Exit right and that the odds of realizing that dream by themselves, all alone or at the last minute are stacked against them. In less than 90 days, we teach you how to design, build and execute a customized Dream Exit playbook that gets your business ready for sale at its maximum value and gets you ready to maximize your meaning and purpose in your post-exit life, even if today you are not ready to sell. You see, dream Exits just don’t happen. They are the result of early, professional and proven planning. So if you’re an entrepreneur with annual sales between $5 million and $100 million and you want to learn how to 10X to 100X your chances of achieving the Dream Exit you deserve, go to dreamexitplaybookcom today. Hey, everybody, welcome back to this Friday episode, this free thinking Friday episode of the how to Happen podcast, and today I’m going to talk about hard knocks.

Hard knocks is a TV show. Every year they take an NFL team and they basically follow the team through the pre-season, and I watched this year’s because it featured the New York Jets and because Aaron Rodgers who I live in Wisconsin, who you may know was the Packers quarterback for many, many years, left the Packers to join the New York Jets this year. So we had sort of an interest level from hey, this is a great quarterback who was on our team and now he’s on another team. So we decided to, my wife and I decided to watch the show and I hadn’t watched hard knocks in a long time, years and probably wouldn’t have if Rodgers wasn’t on there. But, having watched it here, I wanted to talk about I hope you liked the show or you’ve seen it, but I wanted to talk about the three things that I learned about business and leadership from watching hard knocks. The show follows the team through their pre-season, all the way to the point where they first come to camp, to the time they end up cutting everybody and getting down to the 53 person team, and this particular one had, besides Aaron Rodgers, had a few other notable people that were played prominently in it. Of course, the head coach, robert Sulla, I think is how you say his name and Randall Cobb, who came to be sort of Aaron Rodgers’ buddy as a receiver, and the Jets have Saus Gardner, who is a great quarterback. They have a lot of great players, but they haven’t had a great season. They won 10 games, which isn’t bad in 2022. But anyway, they’re an up and coming team. So now they’ve got Rodgers, we’ll see what happens.

But here are the three things that I learned from watching hard knocks. Number one and the NFL is a true meritocracy. I’ve talked about meritocracy, you and I have talked about meritocracy on this podcast a number of times, and I am a believer in merit. I’m a believer in meritocracy, and the NFL is definitely a meritocracy. I mean, you have to perform in order to make the team and then you have to perform in order to stay on the team, and that applies to almost every player at every position. And it’s so much of a meritocracy that it’s even a little scary. A little scary because you can see what these guys are going through and the pressure that they’re under and the pressure they put on themselves and I’m talking about not just the players here, but the coaches as well to win. So that’s number one the NFL is definitely a meritocracy.

Number two the NFL is a cult of personality. So Living Color had a great song, cult of Personality back in the 80s I guess it was, and I’ve kind of fallen out of favor or touch with that saying. But having Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, having him on the Jets and having him as part of Hard Knocks really brought that back. Because the NFL is really a cult of personality around the quarterbacks. The quarterbacks are the team and almost every case, and if they’re not the team, they want a quarterback who will be the team. So the quarterbacks are given. I mean, the rules favor them, the practice favors them. They are not the people who are going to get hit or injured during practice. They are the cult of personality. They are the people who are well, maybe they’re kind of said yes to all the time, and especially someone like Rogers. He is and probably has earned this the right to be said yes to or given much deference to, much more than any other player. So that’s the second thing I learned. The NFL is a cult of personality around the quarterback.

The third thing the NFL is not a business. Now, of course the NFL is a business, but for you and I, trying to compare the NFL or the New York Jets or any team to a normal business is just totally in apples and oranges comparison. And here’s why I think that Well, number one the players are lined up out the door for a chance to be on the team. I mean, they cut 20 players. There would be 20 players in line or 200 players in line to try to take those 20 spots. And you and I know that in most and maybe all of our businesses, we just do not have that luxury. We do not have a line of people out the door for every position who would do anything to join our team. So that’s one reason why the NFL is not a normal business like our business.

Number two the players are owed nothing but an opportunity. They’re coached to be better, of course, but if they don’t perform, they’re out. There’s no PIPs performance improvement plans there’s no HR, there’s no documenting stuff for the folder, just so we can build a case against this person, so that we can let them go All the stuff that you have to do in your business. There’s no fear of a lawsuit. I mean, it’s just so simple If you don’t perform, we’re cutting you, and that’s that. That’s unique to. I think it’s more unique to the NFL than maybe it is to any sport. Baseball probably has that. There are probably other sports that have at least baseball when you first start. There are probably other sports that have that, but it’s not anything like a business. No one none of us can handle can work with our employees like our players. That way Just can’t do it. So that’s another reason why it’s not like. It’s not a business like a normal business.

Number three the coaches and I’ll use the term managers here for coaches to bring a business perspective to it. They can say almost anything they want about the player’s performance without being accused of discrimination, without being accused of having made aggressions towards the players or any other consequence for that matter. I mean they basically have impunity to operate and talk to players the way that they want to, which of course, is nuts. In a normal business. You just simply can’t do that, and not that you’d want to, because that’s not how often how you get the best out of people. And again, I think it’s that whole mentality that there’s a line out the door for these positions and so if you don’t like the way I talk to you, then there’s somebody else out there and I don’t know that I should change to accommodate you. So those are three reasons that the NFL is not a business, not a normal business. Now I’m gonna tell you why that’s important, at least to me.

Oh, first I wanna give you my take on the head coach, robert Sulla. So Robert Sulla, and I don’t know anything about him outside of the TV show, and of course TV shows can be produced to give you a certain viewpoint or encourage a certain reaction, and there’s probably some of that here. But here’s my impression of this coach. He is very charismatic. I’m sure he’s a good husband, good father, he’s got a big family, he’s got a nice smile and he appears to be a coach who’s come up through the ranks. But I would not want to play for that coach because I don’t think he’s inspirational, I don’t think he’s authentic.

For example, he can’t get through a sentence he’s talking to a room of grown men. He can’t get through a sentence without using the F word five times, or three times, five times, ten times. It’s like he has no idea how to talk to men or adults and get them inspired to do what he needs them to do without using the F word. And it’s always been my experience that the use, the judicious use of that word, if you’re going to use it at all, has a lot more power than the quantitative use of that word, and I think that’s a real problem for him.

He also, if you watch it, you’ll notice he cannot finish a motivational speech that he’s supposed to be delivering to the team that he’s supposed to know. He can’t do it without looking at the PowerPoint on the screens in front of him. And that just tells me two things. One, he isn’t bought into what he’s talking about, otherwise he would know it. And two, if he is bought into it, he’s not willing to do the preparation that’s needed to actually incorporate it into his mind, what he wants to say, and just get up there and say it. And I think the former is more true than the latter. I don’t think he’s bought into it at all. Someone told him this cool thing that, for example, that they should be commanders and not something else, and he jumps on that and tries to make it his own. But he doesn’t believe it. And I think the players see through that. I know I do, as a fan, I guess, and as just a person watching the show. I see through. That takes away from my impression of him. So what’s my point?

So, yes, the NFL is a business, but it’s definitely not like the kind of business most people can relate to. I mean, just imagine that you in your business, whether you are an owner or just a part of the team, or you have people lined up outside the door for a chance. I mean we have 10 million, 9 million, 8 million, whatever it is open jobs in the United States right now and nobody’s lining up for a job. So just imagine that too. Players or team members in your company are owed nothing but an opportunity. Of course not. Once you bring them in, you are obligated and sometimes it’ll sometimes legally, sometimes not obligated to do everything you can for that person before you cut them loose. Nfl doesn’t have to deal with that.

Number three, the managers in your organization. They can’t say whatever they want to you. They have to be very careful about what they say, and for good reason. Their job is to get the best out of you in a very competitive environment, and by competitive I mean there’s not people lined up the door to take your job in most cases, and so managers have huge hurdle that they don’t, that coaches and managers in the NFL don’t have.

Here’s the thing Robert Sola and all the coaches in the NFL probably get hired to make you know, get paid big money to make speeches about leadership and inspiration, motivation and all that, and I don’t think that any of them are more equipped to make those, to have those kinds of conversations with leaders, than leaders themselves in businesses that don’t have the advantages that the NFL has. The NFL has the cachet, but you don’t have to be an amazing leader like you do, as an entrepreneur, for example, or anyone running a division of a company or a whole company. They don’t have the skill set that I’ve seen, and certainly not in this show so to do what you do every day. And so that’s my point, leaving you with this it’s so cool to watch those shows and see all the accolades and all the crap that coaches and players get, but it is just so totally different and I feel like they have a big advantage when it comes to how good of a leader they actually need to be to create a good team and become a quote unquote great coach. So those are the lessons I learned from watching Hard Knocks. I do encourage you to watch this show if get your own and have your own perspective about it and be interested to discuss or debate it with you as well.

So that’s it for today. I hope you got some value from this. Do me a favor please maximize the greatness inside of you today. Do the very, very best that you can and, while you’re at it, think about your future as your property, something that you want, own and are willing to pay for. And get started on that future right now, on making it your property, something you own and are very proud to own, until next time.

Thanks, hey everybody. Thanks for listening to this show and before you go, I just have three requests for you. One if you like what I’m doing, please consider subscribing or following the podcast on whatever podcast platform you prefer. If you’re really into it, leave me a review, write something nice about me, give me five stars or whatever you feel is most appropriate. Number two I’ve got a book. It’s called owner shift how getting selfish got me unstuck. It’s an Amazon bestseller and I’d love for you to read it or listen to it on Audible or wherever else Barnes and Noble, amazon you can get it everywhere. If you’re looking for inspiration that will help you unlock your greatness and potential, order or download it today so that you can have your very own copy and, if you get it, please let me know what you think.

Number three my newsletter. I do a newsletter every Thursday and I talk about things that are interesting to me and or I give more information about the podcast and the podcast guests that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had with them. You can sign up for the podcast today at my website, which is my name, mike Malatestacom. You do that right now. Put in your email address and you’ll get the very next issue. The newsletter is short, thoughtful and designed to inspire, activate and maximize the greatness in you.


Alexi Cortopassi

Alexi Cortopassi

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