Goal-Based Teaching: Baseball and Business

For fifteen consecutive summers I have been fortunate enough to volunteer manage for a youth baseball league, first through the DeKalb Park District and currently with Crystal Lake Babe Ruth. What began as a volunteer job because I signed up too late to be hired for the summer as an umpire has become an integral element of my life and a passion that I truly appreciate every day.

50th Anniversary

Crystal Lake Babe Ruth celebrated 50 years

Over the years I have managed kids age eleven to fifteen years old, coaching with my best friend, Mike. We started first in college at Northern Illinois and for the past ten years in Crystal Lake. I have volunteered every summer all while working full-time as the manager of Nelson’s Jewelry. Mike and I have spent years working on a goal-based Player Development Plan that we modeled after collegiate and professional baseball and business organizations. The plan works to justify success by measuring accomplished goals that are set by the team and the coaching staff. The individual player’s plan includes current strengths and weaknesses and allows coaches to communicate with players about their progress, but at the same time makes each player more accountable for improving upon his specific goals.

Diamond Stud Earrings

Hot Gift this Holiday!

The baseball plan is also designed to give a player a chance to succeed beyond the standard statistical method used by most teams. It demonstrates a player’s readiness for the next level of play as well as gives everyone a method to measure success that is more reliable than just using categories like wins, batting average and fielding percentage. In a sense, it is another way to evaluate the success of a given baseball season. This year, I implemented a similar model with our employees during the holiday season at Nelson’s Jewelry.

At the jewelry store, when a goal was accomplished, the entire team discussed this achievement and helped each other establish additional goals for the remainder of that day. By measuring success using an achievement-based system, employees were immediately rewarded for their hard work and dedication to the team, much like my baseball players were rewarded after accomplishing a team or individual goal during a game.

In the baseball model, the development of each player is the goal of the system. The focus is on teamwork, discipline and achievement of individual and team goals. Personally, I believe this success is achieved through attitude and effort, as it is expected that all players and parents that participate in the program will have a positive attitude, display a high level of commitment to the team and instill character traits that will allow players to be successful on and off the baseball field. For me, it is important that the success of the program is measured not by the score of each game, but by player development and the cohesion of the team. I trust that each player will achieve his goals with a commitment to those core values.

Nelson's Jewelry Private Collection Engagement Ring

Nelson’s Private Collection Engagement Ring

At the jewelry store, the goal-based system allows each employee to maximize his or her strengths, improve on his or her weaknesses and allows the store to demand that every employee provide as much effort as the management team is contributing on the sales floor. The same is true of players on the baseball field.

My favorite element to this system is its ability to foster a supportive team environment. All players cheer for the team when they capture a positively expressed goal. At the jewelry store, we rewarded a great sale by providing the entire staff with a special treat. Whether it was Starbucks coffee, a sandwich from Pot Belly or a drink from Jamba Juice, everyone was rewarded by one person achieving a goal. Eliminating commission-based stress from our sales team made working long hours during the holiday easier and life as the manager of a family-owned jewelry store feel as fun as a bag of Skittles at a Seahawks victory parade.

As I continue to learn from my managerial experiences, I am sure this goal-based coaching system will evolve, but for now, I believe the best technique to measure success and build a supportive team environment is to establish positive, attainable goals and reward the team when a goal is accomplished.

Benefit for Bimbi at Nick’s Pizza

When another volunteer is in need, I always try to support that cause. On October 23rd, I hope all my friends from Nelson’s Jewelry and Crystal Lake Babe Ruth are able to help support an important family in need.

Steve Bimbi, a volunteer coach with Crystal Lake Babe Ruth, and his family need assistance and I would appreciate if all my loyal readers, jewelry customers, and fellow volunteers were able to support the Bimbi family by eating at Nick’s Pizza in Crystal Lake, Illinois this Wednesday. The link to the event, Benefit for Bimbi at Nick’s Pizza, as well as details about Steve’s accident and his family members that need our support is available here.

Besides being a volunteer that I worked with at CLBR, the Bimbi family have always trusted Nelson’ s Jewelry with their special jewelry needs and our jewelry store family wishes to support his family as well.

Once again, I hope to see all my volunteer friends at Nick’s Pizza in Crystal Lake this Wednesday, October 23rd to help the Bimbi family!

Make the World Awesome

In January, Kid President, the little man behind the “Pep Talk” video that just happens to now have over 29 million views (when I watched it originally, it had 9 million views), wants everyone to stop being boring and make the world awesome. I understand why he is so passionate about improving our world. Every day I meet new people who do amazing work, or help those less fortunate, or just need a watch battery for their Timex. Sometimes I am inspired by their stories, their passion, their desire to make the world a better place. Sometimes I collect my $8.00 and ring up another Cash Customer. And sometimes, like Kid President, I realize “I am gooder than that,” and decide that I am more than inspired by a conversation. That I am moved to help. That I might really be able to make the world a little awesome.

Where I live in Crystal Lake, Illinois, the Crystal Lake Food Pantry supports a growing number of people in need of a little “awesome.” I discovered two years ago that there was a true need for food donations and with the help of Bob, Sue and Rich Nelson and our jewelry store, Nelson’s Jewelry, we donated a free watch battery to every customer who made a food donation during this past year.

For me though, that was just the start of my “awesome.” I am now ready to donate time to helping stock shelves, pick up food donations, and assist those in need of food supplies. I want to take the time to help the Crystal Lake Food Pantry because I see how my desire will make a huge impact. I see how my time will make a huge difference. I see how my desire and time to do something “awesome” may also inspire others to “be gooder” and have a chance to follow their dreams.

Like Kid President and that dude Journey said, “don’t stop believing… unless your dream is stupid.” I am pretty confident that anyone who is supported, even briefly, by the generous people at the Crystal Lake Food Pantry, will have a chance to make their dreams a little more attainable this year.

Hopefully, I can give a little support at the end of 2013 and be one of 29 million people plus that makes the world a little “awesome” thanks to Kid President and, of course, my general desire to never be boring!

Retail Jewelry: Living Life During THE Holiday

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HoHoHolly Cow that is A LOT of Hours

I love working for a family owned jewelry store. I also love spending the holidays with family and friends. Unfortunately, those “loves” go together like Andy Reid and Eagles fans in 2012.

I have been in the retail jewelry business since 1997, so it is not like in my fifteenth Holiday season I am suddenly surprised by a 60-hour work week. In fact, Nelson’s Jewelry has always been more than helpful with my holiday hours, even letting me have a day off in December BEFORE Christmas (anyone in my industry just choked on their energy drink and swore at my luck). But I still wish I had more family time. More time to spend traveling to see everyone who lives in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arizona. More time to just spend at home with my wife, who as a teacher, has a few weeks of quality hanging out time to herself during the holidays. Even more time to just visit Santa at the mall… because that is what I say when I want to shop for surprise gifts during the holiday season.

Speaking of surprise gifts, and really what would a post from a jeweler on the holidays be without a blatant mention of sparkle, there is a new collection from Southern African Diamonds that I am really excited to show my favorite customers in December.

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Shameless Plug for Nelson’s Jewelry

One of the pieces, part of the Circle of Life Collection from our Private Collection, is a stunning necklace in 18-karat yellow gold, and even as I write this shameless plug for Nelson’s Jewelry, I do believe someone’s wife will be delighted when she peers into her stocking and finds this pendant wrapped in our special holiday paper.

While more time during December may not be possible with the extra holiday hours included at the jewelry store, making time for friends and family is still on the top of my list. For one, everyone who does not work retail hours seems to be in a festive mood and thus a lot of fun to be around on a regular basis. Not only that, but when a customer buys the jewelry he is studying like a college kid cramming for finals, I feel better about my success at work, and leave the store with 5-hour like energy. It is amazing how helpful a successful day at work is on feeling positive the rest of the night.

Semoa in her favorite weather

So here is to a holiday filled with a variety of exciting jewelry gifts, fun with friends and family around the Christmas tree and most importantly a month of long hours that still allows for plenty of nighttime energy… you know so I can take my other favorite “person” not married to me for a walk.

Posts Just Don’t Come Easy

Ringo Starr and George Harrison know exactly what I am feeling lately with my blog.

When I created this blog I knew, like my guys above, that “you got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues.” By blues I of course mean Cubbie Blues and by dues I of course mean many a night scribbling thoughts that never end up on the world-wide web. Most thoughts, like a Carlos Marmol 9th inning, are too wild to successfully convey my message. Either that, or I “Marmol” it up in re-write mode for so long that by the time I feel decent about the post the material is about as useful as this cell in 2012.

Note: If you Google “Zach Morris” the next phrase it expects is “cell phone.” I love the 90’s.

Great, now I want to write this whole post about how Saved by the Bell changed my life and everything I remember about the 90’s I learned from Mr. Belding or TRL with Carson Daly and MTV when it stood for “Music Television.” In fact, when a friend’s child asks me while babysitting what television was like when I was growing up, I will refer to this video.

Wow… anyone else feel unbelievably old now?

What I have decided is that for me to be able to write a blog about my thoughts on sports, jewelry and pure music nonsense, I need to cut myself some verbal slack and let the words flow like 40’s in a Tupac video. Just “Publish” and start the next project. Like a TV comedy, if you try enough formats  you are bound to have at least one How I Met Your Mother.

And really, the best way to end a blog is with a quote on life by a twenty-twelve TV icon:

“How do you keep a girl from becoming your girlfriend? Simple: The rules for girls are the same as Gremlins. Rule number one: Never get them wet. In other words, don’t let her take a shower in your place. Rule number two: Keep them away from sunlight—i.e., don’t ever see them during the day. And rule number three: Never feed them after midnight. Meaning she doesn’t sleep over, and you don’t have breakfast with her, ever.”

Thanks Barney, thanks.

Fantasy Sports… the Fun Sort of Never Ends

Sandwiched between the end of my summer baseball season and the start of my fall baseball season (I coach A LOT I know) is one of my favorite events of the year… our annual fantasy football draft. I firmly believe there is little better in fantasy sports life than a live fantasy draft. For the past four years our football league has found a way around marriage duties, work responsibilities and the birth of many a baby to meet in person and draft our favorite fantasy guys. Never a dull moment, these drafts lead to trash-talked seasons, unpredictable winners and usually a few frustrating Sunday’s watching a random Buffalo Bills game screaming at some third-string wideout to “break an f-in tackle dammit.”

And I love it.

Maybe it is because we play for cash and I have found a way to successfully bring home the pot a few times, including last season, but I love fantasy football. Like Matthew Berry love it. Like re-design my Sunday mornings to spew through podcast details for the edge that will help me squeak out an extra .7 points and survive another week love it. I might need medication… or Dez Bryant to just stay healthy… whatever I love the competition that is fantasy football.

Week 2 IR... Say it Ain't So Jamaal

This year, like your quarterback carrying it in for a touchdown, we added something everyone loves about a fantasy league, keepers. While we are only keeping two guys next season, from your draft day strategy, to a torn-ACL finished campaign, deciding not only about how to win this year, but also how to handle future roster decisions plays into our football managing responsibilities.  Draft pick trades, keeper players, and a chance to win your cash back with the highest accumulated points during the season makes this fantasy football year like chocolate and peanut butter, the perfect combination of all that is awesome.

And did I mention I. Love. It.

With the championship game long over in our league, writing the reminder of this blog is like watching a Kardashian TV series, (I’m on to you guys. You will only stay married 72 days, who cares if you have a “fight”), but even knowing the outcome (I finish third), I still love talking about the idea that we compete in this Internet sport like puppies competing for dinner at the pet store.

Or at least I thought we did, until the 2011 winner of our beloved Fantasy Football world (aptly named “The Retard Show“) won our money by making two waiver wire moves the entire year. Two. That includes bye weeks where many times he did not start a full lineup. He started Dallas Clark, a player who rarely had an impact when he played this year, in both the semi-final and championship game. Clark was inactive for both games. Now, give him credit, he drafted MJD in round one, Drew Brees round two and Bradshaw and Wallace in the following rounds. His best find turned out to be Reggie Bush, a round 9 selection that carried him through Week 16 of our season and aided his final playoff run.

So while most of my Retard League boys watch Matthew Berry like Grandparents watch the Wheel, our league proved that all the statistical love in the world does not always equal fantasy success. In fact, I am fairly certain it proves we all need is a little luck in our fantasy lives if we want to win cash. And while knowing those facts will not change the hours of ESPN fantasy bliss that I personally enjoy more than ARod loves to gamble, I do hope for a little luck my way when the fantasy baseball season starts this March.

Passion Makes Perfect

I wait on at least 10 to 15 customers a day at Nelson’s Jewelry in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Managing this jewelry store for over seven years, I have realistically met 10,000 people in my time behind the counter. Fortunately, I have a large number of loyal supporters who shop with me for every special occasion. For my “A-list” guests, I not only remember their name and their significant other’s name, I also tend to be able to recall past purchase history and favorite family stories as well. However, for the vast majority, or roughly 9,000 patrons, I would be lucky if I remembered a single letter in their last name. Does that make me lazy?

Seriously, there is little better. Guys in monkey masks, bobbing to music.

I don’t think of myself as a lazy employee and on one hand, blame is easily passed, as I can write off my lack of memory to the shear quantity of people I see every day. I mean how could I possibly remember every watch battery customer? However, pry a little deeper into the idea of memorable events and I think the blame is more in my lack of passion for retaining this information compared to other activities in my life. In other words, I am not passionate enough about the everyday customer to remember simple details like his last name or the last piece of jewelry he bought.

Is it possible that passion makes for a perfect memory?

In my other life, I am a baseball coach and have spent every summer since my junior year of college at Northern Illinois University coaching 11-18 year old baseball teams, (twelve summers ago… WOW, feeling kind of old right now) yet I can remember almost every out we recorded during this past summer’s Babe Ruth baseball championship  game and practically every win we had during our 20-1 championship season. I am passionate about baseball, love teaching and believe coaching with my best friend, Mike, is one of my major successes in life. Coaching is one of my passions. I remember the details. So, does that prove that passion does equal a perfect memory?

Maybe, or possibly it just proves that some things in life are easier to remember.

In 1989 I was in 5th grade, and yes, now I do feel really old. I am pretty sure we studied United States capitals that year. I am also positive that I heard the lyrics to the musical masterpiece above, Ice, Ice Baby during my eleven year old campaign. While I highly doubt I could name all 50 capitals, (who goes to New Hampshire, seriously) I am solid with the fact that you could turn the karaoke screen off and I would still kill that track like Vanilla himself.

So I can remember baseball games and white-guy raps. Pretty sure that helps with very little professional success, but it sure is fun on 90’s night at the bar. Whatever the case, I do know that I am going to work harder to make every watch battery customer or jewelry repair ticket as memorable as a baseball game I coached in 2005. If I manage to create that kind of passion at work I just might be able to make a few more “A-list” customers in 2011.