I have a theory. My theory is that there is an inverse relationship between status/power/rank and open demonstrations of good will. (When I was an engineer we spoke gleefully about inverse relationships as if they were the best kind to have.) In short, the higher we climb in life (status, power, rank) the less we see open kindness within that “elite” community. Life becomes more dog eat dog, me versus you, and good will between competitors (those other leaders in the corporate, non-profit, sports world, or anyone deemed as “on the opposing team”) can be difficult to find. Good will may look like weakness to some, but of course, the opposite is true. However, this notion of weakness can make it more difficult for our young people to understand that good will can be part of a viable success strategy. Plus, it’s free. Doesn’t cost you a dime.
Counting down to my favorite act of good will, beginning with number three.
#3: GOOD WILL AND HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY
You know how competitive 16-year-old male hockey players are, right? Especially in Canada where hockey is the national pastime! Read about this fabulous act of kindness when a goalie helps opposing defenseman Davan Cloney who agrees to fill in when his team’s goalie was injured. Never played goalie before (imagine if that was your child…) What happens next will warm your heart and you’ll understand why, by the end of the game, the crowd was roaring with approval. Read the story here:
Special shout out to my friend, Coach Karl Norton, for sharing it with me.
#2: GOOD WILL & CANCER
I love this story about college kids from the University of Georgia who staged a Pink Out when opposing Arkansas Coach Blake Anderson came to town. His wife, Wendy, had recently lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. It started with a tweet. Don’t miss the photo of “Remember Wendy” – sometimes beautiful messages come in, uh, “interesting” packages. Read the CNN article here.
#1. GOOD WILL IN THE PROS
This is my favorite Good Will and Kindness Moment of the year. I happened to see it live and I confess to reaching for the tissues.
Two seconds of back story. An African American tennis player “arrived” on the scene this year (never mind the years of hard work involved to get to that place). Her name is Coco Gauff. She has the goods to go a long way in in the sport. And she’s 15. The media has created a frenzy around her that few could live up to, an explosion of coverage lit by a powerful fuse when Coco beat one of her childhood idols, Venus Williams.
Instantly, Coco was identified as The Next Big Thing in tennis. Frankly, I think she will be. AND Coco needs space to grow into that role so that she doesn’t become another blazing star that burns out under the pressure of media scrutiny and unreasonable expectations.
With the entire world hoping that Coco would win the U.S. Open, she faced 22-year-old Naomi Osaka.
Naomi is part Japanese, part Haitian, and has lived in America since she was three. She is the first Asian tennis player to be ranked #1 in the world. Naomi was having her own troubles. In nine months, she’d gone from being ranked #1 in the world (after winning the both the U.S. Open and the Australian Open) to firing her coach and then losing in the early rounds of several tournaments. Frankly, Coco had the right to hope that she could beat Naomi. The New York crowed hoped so, too, and was poised to go absolutely wild if she did.
However, Naomi found her groove, became a human buzz saw, and promptly destroyed the dreams of all involved. It was over in 66 minutes with a match score of 6-3, 6-0.
Here’s where it got interesting.
Instead of shaking hands and heading off to celebrate, which is what most pro tennis players do, Naomi took Coco aside. Here’s how it went down.
Naomi asked, “Do you want to do the interview with me? The people are here for you.”
Coco, who was wiping away tears, replied, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” affirmed Naomi.
“I’m gonna cry,” said Coco.
“No, you’re good,” said Naomi, reassuring the young warrior. “Look, you’re amazing, seriously.”
The crowd began to sense that something big was happening and responded with a swelling roar.
“I’m gonna cry,” reiterates Coco.
“No,” says Naomi. “I think it’s better than going into the shower and crying! We have to let these people know how you feel.”
The crowd went crazy.
And then, the on-court interview happened.
Both young women were amazing. Coco expressed her gratitude. Naomi spoke directly to Coco’s parents about raising a great child. It is lovely to see Coco’s parents watch it unfold with evident disbelief and awe.
It is a moment that Coco will remember forever, and hopefully pay it forward someday if she becomes a champion.
GOOD WILL IS A CHOICE
Naomi could have simply congratulated herself and moved on after beating Coco, but she didn’t. She had clarity about “what could be” and demonstrated class and goodwill.
If Naomi Osaka isn’t a champion, I don’t know who is. And I’m not talking about her trophies or her rank or her endorsements or her income. I’m talking about her elevation of the human spirit, and for shining a spotlight on the goodness of competition. Ten years from now, who knows where either athlete will be. But one thing is for sure – this moment will be remembered for a long time.
Good will to all. Maybe that’s my 2020 catchphrase of the year. Granted, it’s a stretch goal! I tend to parse out my good will to others that work hard. Hard work is my sorting filter. I struggle to extend good will to those who don’t help themselves (of which I am apparently the Supreme Court judge!) Success on a Plate is not a meal I serve, and it’s why I believe my best engagements are with small, hungry corporate teams, sports teams, and military teams. They understand and value hard work, and I will walk 1000 miles with them, supporting them every step of the way. Having said that, perhaps I can increase the power of my good will by being a bit more generous with it. Right?
How about you? Do you have a favorite good will story from 2019?