Half Mental (I of IV)

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


‘Half the game is mental, the other half is being mental.’

Jim McKenny, Toronto Maple Leafs Defenceman, 1970-78

What a great quote, even if a bit politically incorrect. It applies to far more than hockey, right? And I’m going to say that it gets right at why so many people hate their jobs. Or, at least, why they find their life’s meaning elsewhere.

Everybody loves sports; they involve thinking, and passion, and courage and risk, and they are intense. It’s all there. Business is all about just thinking - all about being ‘objective’ - and even most of that gets done somewhere else. People don’t like their jobs because most of the original thinking has been eliminated, as have all the passion, courage and (hopefully, many senior managers would say) the risk. Business: Fact based, measurement oriented, analytical, sensible. No place for emotion or feelings (aaah!), which skew analysis. I have scanned my son’s business school textbooks. They make me gag. Don’t think, learn. There isn’t a shred of doubt or reflection or joy in them.

Everyone, of course, has an objective side; people work hard on their logic skills. But they also have a strong ‘subjective’ side: Emotional, chance oriented, sometimes courageous, often afraid, always aspiring. People want their life to have meaning (I certainly do), and they want to be proud of themselves (ditto). Martin Sullivan, EllisDon Hero (ret.), loved the adage ‘Find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Love. Whoa. Gimme a hug, dude. Measure that.

And yet businesses still count holiday days and create new forms and refuse to entertain any notion that can’t be objectively measured. How about just a little less ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there’ and just a little more ‘I love this group, let’s go for a joyride’? (Or, as Jim Collins wrote: Don’t try to motivate people. Hire self motivated people and try not to demotivate them.).

The corporation that figures out how to marry logic and feeling, the hard facts and the bubbling emotions, the objective and the subjective, and keep that marriage intact through the years, will conquer the world. And their people will never want to retire.

Jim McKenny, philosopher. I wonder where he is now. He should maybe join a few corporate boards.

Thanks for reading.