Marty McCutchen is a long-time NBA referee – who recently was one of my favorite NBA podcasts with Zach Lowe.
Over the past few years, the player and referee relationship in the NBA has gotten more tense – with players thinking that referees have gotten worse and the refs thinking that players are acting less professional.
Objectively: refereeing is a tough job. It’s an incredibly stressful, complicated, and frenetic environment. There’s tons of opinions to be had, obscure rules and principles to reference and even if you could do a perfect job – someone would still think you’re trying to screw them.
To help mitigate some of the issues, the NBA has started releasing L2Ms or Last 2 minute reports where the head office reviews the last 2 minutes of the games and does and “after action” report of what calls the refs missed, what ones they got right and what ones they got wrong.
As Zach points out, nobody likes these – so he hasked:
Zach Lowe: Should the NBA have last two minute reports? Because there’s been a lot of … there’s been coaches, there’ve been players, they’ve been all over the place saying, “Why do we even have this? They don’t change the call, it just” … and the referee’s association obviously has publicly, I believe several times said, “We would prefer not to have this.” So why are we a) shaming the referees and b) making players feel frustrated that they got wronged when there’s nothing they can do about it. Should we still have them?
Monty McCutchen: I guess, for me, I know I’m repeating myself some here, but I believe these things to be true. That if we’re only going to judge people up against perfection then maybe some of those feelings you just articulated might bother. For me and when I worked, it did not bother me, personally, because I still met a view of excellence in my mind. Or I did not, in some cases, but I did know that whether it was put out in this excellent idea of transparency, that we live in a day and age in which we need to be transparent. That clouds and shrouds of doubt are allowed, then, to be interpreted in people’s own ideas and own biases and own prejudicial thoughts and by opening up that veil and saying, “No, here it is.”
You talked about this when you first brought this up, how overwhelmingly excellent we are, and…using the percentages you used, that met that standard of excellence, for sure. And when an L2M gets put out, and the only two plays that we miss are the only thing anyone talks about, then we’re missing the boat on all the other excellent decisions that were made within that time frame or within the timeframe of the overall game itself. And if we drive narrative towards this idea of were the referees excellent, we’ll keep working on the two we missed, or however many it might be in any given game.
If Marty focused on perfectionism, the refs would never make it on the court. Even if they called a game perfectly, someone would still be pissed – because that’s how sports work.
So he both recognizes that there will be mistakes and realizes they want to work on the things where they fell short, but he doesn’t stop them from being as excellent as they can be.
I was listening to this on my drive back from the gym and I had to pull over to write down this part of the podcast.
When people first start thinking about creating, they’re tempted to not create anything.
They’re waiting on perfection. They want everything to be perfect (but of course nothing is).
At some point (usually), they realize this. Then, they swing the other direction.
The motto “move fast, break things”, shipping MVP style products, worrying about getting it out the door, but not as concerned about quality.
The problem – is that if you do this too long – you get stuck shipping MVP level products. Without leveling up, you and your work don’t grow.
Excellence is the wisdom to know that while you can strive for perfection, you don’t let it paralyze you while knowing that “shipping” isn’t an excuse to lower your standards.
Train and execute with a standard of excellence. Keep yourself accountable to that standard and leave perfectionism for the talkers.
Here’s the tweet thread that inspired this blog post. If you’re not following me on twitter yet, you should @JoelRunyon.
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