The Things We Think and Do Not Say

The Things We Think and Do Not Say

Most people I know have seen the movie, Jerry McGuire. What most people don’t know is that Jerry McGuire’s manifesto The Things We Think And Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business wasn’t just a plot element. Director Cameron Crowe actually wrote a full 25-page manuscript. That’s dedication.

Crowe’s manifesto was inspired by a memo (which is also epic) sent by Jeffrey Katzenberg when he was the head of Disney. Like McGuire, Katzenberg was calling for his company to “return to its root” with less reliance on the glitz and more focus on storytelling.

You can read the whole text on Cameron Crowe’s website. I’ve included some of my favorite highlights below:

My father once said, “Get the bad news over with first. You be the one to say the tough stuff.” Well, here goes. There is a cruel wind blowing through our business. We all feel it, and if we don’t, perhaps we’ve forgotten how to feel. But here is the truth. We are less ourselves than we were when we started this organization.

Tonight, I find those words guiding me back to an important place, and an important truth. I care very much about the fact that I have learned to care less.

We are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business. Every day I can look at a list of phone calls only partially returned. Driving home, I think of what was not accomplished, instead of what was accomplished. The gnawing feeling continues. That families are sitting waiting for a call from us, waiting to hear the word on a contract, or a General Manager’s thoughts on an upcoming season. We are pushing numbers around, doing our best, but is there any real satisfaction in success without pride? Is there any real satisfaction in a success that exists only when we push the messiness of real human contact from our lives and minds? When we learn not to care enough about the very guy we promised the world to, just to get him to sign. Or to let it bother us that a hockey player’s son is worried about his dad getting that fifth concussion.

There is a good bet that I will erase all of this from my laptop, and you will never read it. But if you are reading it, and you’re reading it right now, it is only because I was unable to stop. I was unable to forget the quiet questions in the hallways, when some of you, usually the younger agents, or interns, asked me on the side: “How do you keep all these lives, all these clients, separated in your mind?”

Chances are, I didn’t say much. I might have told you “it’s easy,” or, “you’re not working hard enough.” Chances are, I said something that you expected, maybe even wanted to hear. But it wasn’t the truth, and it wasn’t what I felt. And if you ever wondered about the drawbacks of being quiet about important things, talk to yourself in the mirror sometime, say the truth. Yell the truth to yourself, when no one is listening. See how good it feels?

And yet, as I sit here in the wonderful Miami Hilton, I have never been so happy to be alive. I have said “later” to most anything that required true sacrifice. Later I will spend a weekend reading real books, not just magazines. Later I will visit my grandmother who is 100 and unable to really know the difference. Later I will visit the clients whose careers are over, but of course I promised to stay in touch. Later later later later. It is too easy to say “later” because we all believe our work to be too important to stop, minute to minute, for something that might interfere with the restless and relentless pursuit of forward motion. Of greater success. Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of success. But tonight, I propose a better kind of success. I could be wrong, but if you keep reading and I keep writing, we might get there together.

How can we do something surprising, and memorable with our lives? How can we turn this job, in small but important ways, into a better representation of ourselves? Most of us would easily say that we are our jobs. That’s obvious from the late hours we all keep. So then, it is bigger than work, isn’t it? It is about us.

How do we wish to define our lives? So that when we are sixty, or seventy, or eighty and we’re sinking down onto that cool floor of O’Hare airport, with playoff tickets in our pockets, perhaps we too can know that we led A Happy Life? Is it important to be a Person and not just a slave to the commerce of Professional Sport? Do we want to be Remembered?

Or do we just want to be the guy who sold the guy who sold shoes that came with the little pump?

Recently I was asked by the son of a client, in so many words, “What do you stand for?” I was lost for an answer. At 14, I wasn’t lost for that answer. At 18, I wasn’t lost for an answer. At 35, I was blown away that I had no answer. I could only look at the fade of a 12 year-old boy, concerned about his dad, needing my help, just looking at me for the answer I didn’t have.

Let’s bring soul and character to what is already there. I propose that we recreate everything that we’re currently about. Right now we’re at the top of our game. Traditionally people do one thing at this point in their success. They try like hell to maintain what they did to get there.

Most of the time, we are creating nothing. We are shoving digits around. But to address the growing pains of our business, and to create a new way of looking at what we do … because these growing pains could easily be dying pains. But we are meant to live at this company.

A life is not worth living if you are sleepwalking through it. Because that is what feels like death. That is what causes athletes to, out of despair, get drunk and wrap their cars around a pole. Or lash out at someone they love. Or that is what might have caused Mimee to careen into another car in an oncoming lane of traffic. It is the feeling of sleepwalking. Of others living life around you, keeping their fists tightly wound around whatever dollars they can muster, caring little more than nothing about those around you. We cannot sleepwalk. We cannot just survive, anything goes. We can take control of our lives, we can quit sleepwalking, we can say – right now, these are our lives, it is time to start living it. It is time to not second guess, to move forward, to make mistakes if we have to, but to do it with a greater good in mind.

Let us start a revolution. Let us start a revolution that is not just about basketball shoes, or official licensed merchandise. I am prepared to die for something. I am prepared to live for our cause. The cause is caring about each other. The secret to this job is personal relationships.