How Tennis & Business Intersected (For Me)

So, I spent the weekend playing in a tennis tournament. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. But what could I expect? I don’t play much anymore and that was a conscious decision I made last year, after losing in a different tournament.

I’ve never been much of a tournament player, so losing isn’t any really notable deal. The real issue is the fact that I decided last year, that after playing tennis for almost 20 years of my life; that I had grown tired of it.

It’s simply not fun anymore. It never really was fun in a traditional sense. Part of that is largely due to the fact that I was never very good and it took me almost forever to actually become a semi-competent ballstriker.

In spite of that, tennis was great to me. Not just because it was something to do growing up, but the fact was all I knew and I learned well from watching. So I develop my eye for coaching pretty early on, but never imagined that I’d actually get the opportunity to run my own program someday.

But I did.

I had the opportunity to see my high school tennis coach a few weeks ago. He’s well into his 80s and not as vibrant as he once was. I called him before I went to his house and the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hi Coach, this is Ronald Bronson.”
Coach: “Ronald Bronson?”
Me: “Yeah Coach, Ronnie.” (Note: Coach remains the only person to this day to call me this. In other words, don’t get any ideas…)
Coach: “Ronald Bronson” ::pauses:: I had a Ronald Bronson on one of my teams. He didn’t hit the ball real well. But he could organize stuff. Made him captain his senior year.
Me: ::laughing:: “That’s me, Coach.”

The moral of that story is something he always said me to after my playing days were over during my (sporadic) visits back east. He always told me that what he liked about me was that I didn’t quit. That all of the years when I played, when I was clearly terrible, it never occurred to me that I should stop playing. I just never seriously thought about it, no matter what else I had going on.

When I thought about that this weekend and how it relates to my fears about business, I started to see the parallels.

A few years ago, when I started to take my own entrepreneurial projects more seriously; I came to the conclusion that if I really didn’t want to do this, I would’ve quit a long time ago. Because nothing about it is easy and you spend inordinate amounts of “free” time working on stuff that may go up in flames for any number of reasons. But if you can’t fathom a scenario in which you’d rather be doing anything else, it becomes interesting to consider other things to do with your time.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about “well, what will I do if [insert thing here] doesn’t work out” because I’m pretty good at that. It’s more like, I don’t want to. And I don’t feel like there is a need to (at least, not yet…)

In the meantime…

While you’re waiting to get your hands on your new CMS, it can be very tedious. Or just downright overwhelming when you only have one person in charge of the entire operation of dealing with the content. During this time, we were mostly working with the various people on campus who were there — in the summer, you have barely any academic types, which is hard — but we setup a strategy that would essentially allow us to start to revise content and prepare what the new site’s organization would look like.

We had a really drastic change, because the new site allowed us to archive and compile new stories and a host of other capabilities that in the past simply were not part of our operations. For us, it was all about just “getting the content out there.” That can often be a big challenge for people who are one or two-person shops.

I do think that this time is the most critical time to start to get your ducks in a row. In our case, there was no automatic migration. We had to migrate every page over ourselves that we wanted to move over and the company we worked with did about 200 of the most critical for us, but that wasn’t enough for us to really scratch the surface.  One thing I’d suggest doing that we didn’t make better use of, is identifying those pages early and then revamping them before the company you’re working with gets their hands on them.

That way, when they’re migrating you don’t have to worry about that and can focus on organizing other areas that are important to your operation. There are always going to be changes. But if you can save yourself work during the dead period, when you’ve effectively stopped updating pages on the existing site — to prevent from doing double the work —  it will benefit you a great deal in the opening days and weeks of the new site.

Social Networks and Ordinary People

You know, we’ve been sitting around awhile, teetering about an idea that would allow folks in ordinary, non-city areas to connect, develop and discuss ideas. Abstract or more fleshed out, it’s very difficult to meet eclectic people in a non-college setting.

I like the idea of a social networking platform. But I tend to think — like all things techy — that not enough of these tools are really adaptable or useful enough for ordinary people to use. To me, sites like myspace, facebook, LinkedIn or whatever have you, are all part of what I’ve been calling the “trading card nature of friendship.” It’s as if, no one really cares if they make meaningful connections anymore..they just want to show all of their other ‘friends’ how cool they are.

Social networking sites should ideally connect people of different niches and should — at their best — give a voice to the voiceless. I don’t think that it seems anyone really cares about that. Moguls are too busy trying to plod and create things that have widespread appeal and get lots of people buying, selling and being involved.

I get why they do it. It makes sense.

But I have a hard time believing that facebook can become some sort of phenomenon like craigslist. You have to realize that sites like craigslist worked for a reason. People swear by it, because they have some legitimate reason for doing so. I can point to my summer in Boston back in ‘03, when I interned there and found a computer, my apartment and a variety of other random stuff all because of the good ol’ CL.

Facebook hasn’t done anything than maybe replace the role that used to play back in the day. But myspace does that too. And all that is, is reintroducing random people from your past back into your life. And that’s not always a good thing. ;)

I think while the new platform will be huge from a valuation standpoint and it’ll make investors continue to drool over that company, I have a hard time believing that it’ll lead to some sort of cultural revolution.

Kids don’t set trends, they simply consume trends until they get bored with them and find new things to pick up, play with and use. That’s why no one uses pogs anymore and why slap bracelets are a thing of the past. And part of why it’s not very useful to try to figure out the significance of what they’re doing, because the trends usually move too fast for anyone to keep up with anyway.

People don’t understand the acute nature of popular things. You get really caught up in what’s popular for you. You care about what works in your neighborhood, what influences you and your friends. It might be a ‘bigger’ trend on some level, but that doesn’t necessarily result in some sort of major representation of society as a whole.

I think social networking and blogs are just a representation of the fragmented society we live in. The same society that ignores people who don’t look a certain way, whose stories aren’t interesting because we can relate to them and who gets cast aside by the message that says ‘this is important because we value it and everything else simply doesn’t matter.’