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Working hard at the little things

I took time this afternoon to hear one of my favorites – Ted Leonsis – talk at the first of the Robert G. Hisaoka Speaker Series events at the University of Maryland.

I’ve heard Ted talk a bunch of times.  He didn’t break new ground this afternoon, but he bookended the interview with two stories about people doing “small things” well, much to their benefit.

Ted mowed lawns as a teen.   Before starting, he went to the library and read a book about mowing lawns and about the different types of cuts.   Going door-to-door, he found a client who was impressed first with his unique knowledge (“Which one of these cuts would you like?”, Ted asked, showing him pictures from the book.)  and then with attention to detail (laying down on the grass to look at the cut from ground level).   The client turned out to be Ted’s gateway to Georgetown University, which led directly to his early career in technology.

Michael Jordan ended his basketball career with the Wizards, and Ted got to know him through that experience.   Ted recounted a story he’d heard about Michael during the filming of the movie “Space Jam.”  Jordan asked that a half basketball court be built on the movie set so that he could practice a fadeaway jumper of sorts – a move that he would need as he aged and couldn’t jump as high.   He practiced that move thousands of times, and it was the move and shot that won Jordan the last of his NBA championships.

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