I am from Cleveland. Recent sports media events have increased the relevance of this fact from Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“negligibleĂ˘â‚¬Âť to Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“immensely personal.Ă˘â‚¬Âť The impact of Lebron JamesĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers has devastated my home town. But, to understand this and its implications for our work here in Hubli, you must first understand what it means to be from Cleveland.
Cleveland, OH is the junkyard dog of cities. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s been deemed Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“The Mistake By the Lake.Ă˘â‚¬Âť It experiences roughly 300 cloudy days per year. Depression and obesity rates are unquestionably high. The cityĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s economic peak was in the 1930s (saw it on a PBS special), and it has subsequently suffered from sprawl and hosted serious racial unrest. It was the first city to enter default since the Depression. Even the mighty Cuyahoga River, dumping ground for the cityĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s industrial giants, famously caught fire in 1969. But, with a ragged tenacity, the people of Cleveland have hung on to an eerie sense of optimism about the city they call home. Although Cleveland has been plagued by a history of economic, media, and sports mishaps (read: The Drive), it was united by a single hope in 2003. That hope was 18-year-old Lebron James, first round draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers. IĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll spare you the details, but over the past seven years, he has become a symbol for the the city, brought the Cavs to four playoff appearances, one NBA Finals appearance, and brought some much-needed respect back to the city.
Most Clevelanders felt the stinging pain of rejection and anger at LebronĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s decision to play for the Miami Heat and the arrogance of his media spectacle. How could he turn on his own city? Where was the sense of legacy, of class and team play (see: the Jordan years). Where was the passion for a team victory over individual career advancement? Granted, he is now much more likely to get a ring with Wade and Bosh…but I firmly believe that not all victories are created equal.
My point is this: Disappointment comes in all forms; the strength of a team, of a community, lies in its ability to cope with change, manage expectations, and appropriately assess its long-term goals. And, while itĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s much easier to put individual interests ahead of team objectives, true success is measured through overall impact. An ideal victory is a situation in which the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. This doesnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t happen easily or quickly.
As a team, we have met with a host of unexpected and at times, unfortunate events. From the beginning, we have had to revise our focus. We expanded from initially documenting the DFĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s InnovatorĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Challenges and are now investigating the most deeply-rooted challenges in each of the FoundationĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s program areas. This has meant broadening the scope of our interviews and documentaries… long story short, more work for us. When it came time to actually begin our work, we encountered a healthy amount of red tape to navigate before obtaining our recording materials. We have also had to deal with a lag in our timeline for meeting and working with our web developers. We even lost a teammate for a week due to illness (thankfully, heĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s made a full recovery). So, how do we continue to recover from these setbacks? We stay calm, we revise our strategy, we communicate. We cut back on our expectations from others and focus on the work that sits in front of us. We remind ourselves that our team goals come first.
Malleability allows a team, a city, to move forward. Like Cleveland, we have to regroup, adapt, and remember that no success comes without some setbacks. We have to balance long-term outcomes with short-term decisions. WeĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll get there… we just have to stay positive, make smart decisions, and maintain that dawg-pound tenacity that defines us.