Play Ball!

On January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected the very first members: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. It was actually the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who were tasked with choosing the five greatest superstars of the game as the inaugural 1939 inductees.
According to a History.com article, the Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when plans were made to build a museum devoted to baseball and its 100-year history. A private organization based in Cooperstown, called the Clark Foundation, thought establishing the Baseball Hall of Fame in their city would help build back the area through tourism, as the nation emerged from the Great Depression.

Playing Double Time

What could you achieve if you didn’t place any limitations on yourself? Jazz pianist Art Tatum— called “the eighth wonder of the world” by Count Basie— is a perfect example of a man who knew no boundaries.

Though blind, Tatum expressed an interest in the piano as a youngster. He listened to the musical stylings of Fats Waller and Lee Sims on the radio for hours, hoping that someday he would be able to perform as well as they did. Of course, that meant he’d have to learn to play, but unfortunately, like many families in the 1920s, his had few resources to spend on music lessons.

As Tatum neared adolescence, he devised his own method for learning the instrument. He persuaded friends to escort him to a jazz club, where he was given permission to sit at the player piano.

As the music played, Tatum kept his fingers hovering lightly over the falling keys, feeling his way through the songs. He practiced late into the night, as often as he could, in spite of his age, his schoolwork, and his part-time job.

Learning to play piano in this manner was difficult, but not just because he was blind. What Tatum didn’t realize was that player piano rolls of that era were the result of two pianists playing together. He was learning to play with two hands what normally took four. As a result, he developed an incredible dexterity that enabled him to master the piano. Art Tatum’s strong will overshadowed any real or imagined challenges that could have prevented him from learning to play the piano.

At the age of 17, Tatum began playing professionally in a career that spanned decades. What began as a desire to sound like Fats Waller developed into a four-handed playing style that would astonish Waller and fellow musicians throughout the 20th century.

Bear With the Joke

A bear walked into an ice cream parlor, handed a $10 bill to the clerk, and asked for a hot fudge sundae.

Though the clerk thought this scenario was completely surreal, he also wondered if the bear truly knew the value of money or if he was simply mimicking human behavior. To test out this theory, he handed over a $1 bill as change when he served the bear his ice cream.

“You know, we don’t get many bears around here buying sundaes,” said the clerk.

“Ya think?” replied the bear. “Since when do sundaes cost $9?”

Zooming to Success

As working from home becomes the norm, encouraging employees to participate actively in online meetings isn’t always easy. The secret is providing the kind of leadership that’s crucial to getting everyone to join in. Consider these tips:

Break larger meetings into smaller ones with a focused topic. Assign each group a topic to discuss, then have one person serve as spokesperson in a larger meeting to keep things streamlined.

• Open with a very safe agenda topic. Stay away from problematic issues until people are warmed up and ready to speak freely.

• Don’t change gears too suddenly. You can’t turn discussions on and off instantly. Don’t get everyone talking, then silence them for a long speech in the middle of the meeting, as discussion isn’t likely to quickly start up again.

By the same token, don’t wait until you really need participation before encouraging it. Provide breaks and clear transitions, so employees know what to do.

• Use the right language. “Meeting” can sound dull and passive. Call it a “working session” or a seminar. Think of and refer to people in the room as participants, not employees or audience members.

We Get Back What We Put Out

It was a very cold day in January, the kind of cold that seeps into your bones until your toes are numb. However, the cold outside did not stop customers from passing through the corner store to pick up the usual random items that require quick stops on the way home: milk, a bundle of firewood, or a snack to hold them over until dinnertime.

Lora, the clerk, realized she was short on change in the till with several hours left until closing time, so she hurriedly walked across the street to trade some bills for change at the bank before it closed for the evening. As she dashed back across to her little store, Lora felt something at her ankles and looked down to see a scraggly little cat. She felt guilty, but had to shoo the cat away.

Later, counting out the till, she realized she was short a $20 bill. Lora realized she likely dropped the cash outside and with a deep sigh, added her own last $20 bill to the till so her employer wouldn’t dock her pay for the mistake.

Reluctantly, she put back the groceries she had planned on purchasing and closed the shop. Suddenly, she heard a meow— it was the scruffy little street cat from earlier. This time, he was curled up against the wall, barely out of the wind.

Lora decided it wouldn’t hurt to bring him home for one warm night, and scooped him up before she could change her mind. As she did so, the $20 bill fluttered down the street toward her. In that instant, Lora understood an age-old lesson: we get back what we put out.

She decided to use the $20 to purchase dinner for herself… and her new pet cat.