Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about John Wooden

The greatest scorer in the history of NBA basketball in the United States. Kareem, formerly Lew Alcindor. An intelligent, very thoughtful person. On and off the basketball court.

He, like so many other players at UCLA – University of California Los Angeles – who played under coach John Wooden, was greatly influenced by Wooden

In this talk Abdul-Jabbar speaks about the great strengths of John Wooden. Not only in how he formed great basketball players and teams. But more importantly how he formed young men. And they were as players at UCLA young men between the ages of 18 and 22.

Why is this post listed under Germany instead of the USA? Because Wooden’s approach to coaching is more indicative of the German leadership logic than to the American.

Wooden did not coach his players during the game. He gave only some very general instructions. Instead, he allowed to apply what he had taught them during practice.

John Wooden always referred to himself as a basketball teacher. By the way, the official professional name for a soccer coach in the German Bundesliga is Fussball-Lehrer, literally soccer teacher.

An American in Berlin

German Feedback

“I started working for a German company a few years ago and was immediately excited to find that they had a culture of frequent feedback.

As the weeks went on, the feedback kept on coming. Very quickly, I began to see a pattern; it was almost entirely negative. All delivered amazingly well, with examples of how I’d fucked up alongside helpful guidance on how I might want to improve.

The onslaught continued; it was relentless. It became apparent to me that there was very little chance of me passing my probation period if this continued. So I buckled down, pushed myself to breaking point and put in those extra hours to save my job. But still, it kept continuing critical feedback, after critical feedback.

For the first time in my career, I was going to fail my probation period. There was no point in getting feedback on how I improve the situation. I was getting it daily. I was just shit.

So finally, my final probation review came around. Everything was excellent; the company was super happy with my progress and delivery. I passed my probation period with flying colours. But it had broken me. I was fried and burnt out.”

Feedback: Be a little German, Be a little American.

Americans Feedback

“I have recently started working in an entirely new industry, leading a small team. Shortly after joining, my team’s scope changed to a new problem space.

Again, this company had an active feedback culture and processes. Constant feedback was given to the team every two weeks from leadership. As we built the team and worked out how we were going to achieve our new goals, we got feedback all the time. And it was always positive.

This didn’t play well for me. I knew that there was no way that we could be that good, we were a team with little experience in what we were doing, how could we be doing that well? There must be areas for improvement.

As this continued, positive feedback began to feel more and more empty. I went hunting for critical feedback. Unfortunately, this manifested in me trying to find critical input for the team bellow me. I became overly focused on trying to find areas for improvement in the team.

The problem came to a head when one of my team said ‘I only get negative feedback from you, and I don’t know what to do about it.’ I was so focused on finding the negative areas that we could improve on, and I had not given any support for improvement. I had also failed to celebrate the positive.”

Say what you do. Do what you say.

“Say what you do and do what you say”, that’s the motto of German engineer, Norbert Rudat. I think 99.9% of Germans would agree with it.

But wait, wouldn’t everyone, from every culture, agree with it? Perhaps. But are other cultures as literal about it? And I don’t mean literal-minded, but instead meaning something literally as they say it.

For example, do Americans always mean exactly what they say? And do they always say exactly what they mean? What about other cultures: China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico?

Lieber Armin Laschet

Bitte nicht immer “wir müssen” sagen, sondern eher “wir werden alles unternehmen, dass wir … erreichen”. Mehr zupackend argumentieren, der klare Wille muss bei den Menschen ankommen. Danke.

Please don’t always say “we must”, but instead more like “we will do everything possible, so that we … achieve more.” Argue more dynamically. Get across clear determination and willpower. Thanks.

That was the advice given by a German professor for information security and data privacy. As a comment on an article in LinkedIn.

Armin Laschet, the Premier (think governor) of Germany’s most populous state, Northrhine Westphalia, is the Christian Democratic Union – CDU (think Adenauer, Kohl, Merkel) chancellor candidate in the September 2021 federal elections in Germany.

German compound words

This video is pure genius. It gives superb examples about how the German language enables one to communicate very complex emotions in just one word, typically a compound of two words.

Futterneid. Kummerspeck. Luftschloss. Lebensmüde. Schadenfreude. The list goes on and on. Talk to your German colleagues about this. You’ll love the conversation.

Mr. German man loves insurance

An American woman. Married to a German man. About how her husband, and his friends, are enthusiastic about insurance. And about how shocked they were to hear that she, and her American friends, never even heard of such kinds of insurance.

Warning ! This woman is a youtuber. And an American on top. So, she is more than a bit animated. And frankly, she could have made her points in about two minutes instead of seven and a half.

Begin watching at minute 5:00.

Mr. German Man is direct

An American woman. Married to a German man. How her husband is very direct. And about how Americans learn to be indirect, especially when giving negative feedback.

Warning ! This woman is a youtuber. And an American on top. So, she is more than a bit animated. And frankly, she could have made her points in about two minutes instead of seven and a half.

Watch the first three minutes.

Mr. German Man is deflationary

An American woman. About how her German husband is deflationary with scores. And how she is inflationary. Can’t separate the two.

Now this woman is a youtuber. And an American on top. So, she is more than a bit animated. And frankly, she could have made her points in about two minutes instead of seven and a half. But wait, it’s YouTube. And not a webinar.

Begin watching at minute 4:00.

July 2021 – Massive Flooding

Daylong torrential downpours in the western part of Germany during the third week of July in 2021 led to catastophes in several town. Homes were destroyed. Automobiles swept through the streets. Dozens were killed. Either unwilling to evacuate their homes as or doing so too late.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, on her final trip to Washington as head of the German government, during the official press conference with President Joe Biden, consoled the German population with guarantees of federal assistance.

Armin Laschet, the Premier (governor) of the State of Northrhine-Westphalia, and the chancellor-candidate of the governing party Christian Democrats (think Adenauer, Kohl, Merkel) in the September elections, was on-site in the town ravaged by the flooding.

Malu Dreyer, the Premier of the State Rheinland-Palatinate, of the SPD (Social Democrats), was also on the scene in the hard-hit town of her state. They, and the mayors of the towns, were interviewed extensively.

Interestingly, from the American perspective, none of these leaders – federal, state, local – gave the kinds of words of encouragement and motivation that their American counterparts would have given, and routinely give in such situations.

An American would expect: “Folks, this is a catastrophe. This is aweful. But you know what? We’re Germans. We know how to handle these kinds of situations. It was not long ago that we had to pick up the pieces after the Second World War. It took decades. We can do this ! We will do this ! Because we’re Germans. We know how to do this. So let’s get to work !”

Jesse Owens and Lutz Long

Berlin, 1936, the Olympic Games. The great American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens, wins the gold medal in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the 4×100 meter dash, as well as in the long jump.

What many people don’t know, however, is that the silver medalist in the long jump, the German Carl Ludwig “Lutz” Long, had given Owens the kind of advice that only a true colleague, and friend, would give.

Going into the 1936 games Long had been the reigning German champion and holder of the European record. The Nazi hierarchy – and the German people – had anticipated gold for Germany.

In the qualification round Owens had fouled twice in a row by stepping on the white board delineating the jump-off point. A third foul would have disqualified him. Jesse Owens would have failed to advance to the final round. The crowd, the millions listening by radio, and especially Owens himself, were unsettled.

After that second fault, Lutz Long walked over to his competitor and advised him to simply imagine the foul line to be located one foot closer than it actually was, saying that he just had to avoid fouling a third time, and that his third jump would easily be enough to advance to the next round.

Some sources claim that Long went so far as to lay down his white towel marketing where Owens should leap from, ensuring that he would not foul a third time.

Jesse Owens took the advice given to him by that German, advancing to the final round, and then setting a record which would hold for decades. Lutz Long took the silver.

Immediately after the medal ceremony, when Owens and Long stepped off the podium – and in full view of Adolf Hitler and many of the highest ranking National Socialist officials – Lutz Long, the German, smiled, shook hands with Owens, then hooked Jesse’s right arm into his left and proceeded to walk with him around the track, smiling, talking, congratulating.

1936. Tensions in Europe were very high. The German regime was espousing a crude racial theory. And in the United States, an African-American like Jesse Owens was treated as a second-class citizen, at best. With the world watching, and in conscious defiance of his own government, Lutz Long, a German, reached out to his archrival to give a small bit of helpful advice. Unsolicited.

Postscript: After the 1936 Olympic Games Jesse Owens was celebrated triumphantly in the U.S., only then to be forgotten for two decades, and to struggle financially, until the 1950s brought him a presidential appointment as American Ambassador of Goodwill by Dwight Eisenhower, and with it lucrative celebrity endorsements as well as a long, healthy, happy life.

Lutz Long, his German friend, died in battle against the Western Allies in Italy at the age of thirty. Fast forward the video above to 1:38 mins:

“You could melt down all of the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating for the twenty-four carat friendship I felt for Lutz Long at that moment.” Jesse Owens