I love the summer. I love it for a lot of reasons which include; getting inappropriately drunk in public during the day, eating embarrassing amounts of barbecued meat, and following the unpredictable and often baffling NBA free-agency circus.
Coupled with the NBA draft, the months of June and July are filled with teams throwing ridiculous amounts of money at fringe players and head-cases, leaving fans with questions like “why did the Brooklyn Nets pay Brook Lopez $60 million,” and “Is there a single alternate universe that exists where Landry Fields should ever be paid $20 million to play basketball?”
But lately I’ve been contemplating another question, one that I’ve always been curious about, but will unfortunately never be answered.
And that question is this:
What would it be like if our normal, run-of-the-mill professions operated like the NBA?
Try to imagine a world where getting hired for a new job was like signing a big-time NBA contract. I imagine it would go something like this:
After graduating college, your new high-profile agent (who may or may not have bought your mother a new house and you a brand new BMW prior to you even getting your degree) shops you around to different companies who are feverishly competing for you. You sit down with a number of different company presidents, vice presidents, and CEOs, but instead of them interviewing you, it’s you doing the interviewing: How productive can I be at this company? Are there other people around me that will enable me to perform at my highest level? Are we going to be ranked on the Fortune 500 this year? Exactly how much money are we talking about? Things like this.
After you’ve found the company that you and your high-profile agent agree is right for you (or is throwing the most money at you), the company subjects you to a gamut of drug and endurance tests. You think you can type 85 words a minute? Okay, let’s see it. Let’s see what happens when the office air-conditioning unit is broken and your desk chair doesn’t swivel. How well do you deal with adversity? You get the picture.
Finally, you’re ready to sign the contract. Big money, right out of college. You’re a hot-shot. $500,000 guaranteed over 5 years, plus a $60,000 signing bonus. You’re the talk of the office. For the first few weeks you’re tearing up the place, handing in reports left and right, taking charge of the copy machine, getting new clients on-board by the busload. People are coming by your office just to watch you work. “How does he do it?” they’ll ask. It’s fascinating.
But by mid-year you hit a slump. You start taking 2-hour lunches, you’ve fallen asleep on your keyboard more than once, and the reports stop flowing like Cristal at the BET Awards after-party. Your co-workers think you’ve hit the wall. The rookie wall.
But then you pick things up again, just in time for a late-year push. The Christmas party is a huge hit because you set it up, and had it catered by Nobu. Rookie of the Year? Maybe. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The next few years are much of the same thing. You’ve become a reliable, go-to guy. Congratulations. Other companies are waiting for your contract to expire so they can sign you as a free-agent. All of a sudden though, by Year 4, things start going downhill and you get caught in the janitor’s closet banging the quietly attractive blond from HR.
Now it’s getting kind of awkward to be around the office. There are rumors floating around that you may be traded. Realizing that you still have 2 years left on your contract and you can’t be fired, you start tanking reports left and right and calling in sick to sail your yacht around the harbor and do lines of coke off a dolphin. Now every morning you walk into the office you get dirty looks from all of your coworkers. Nobody even talks to you anymore and the VP has called you into his office several times to tell you that he still believes in your potential.
Meanwhile, you’re being implicated in a shooting at a Vegas strip club and throwing drinks in a girl’s face. All the pundits on MSNBC are talking about you and how nobody wants to pick up your lame-duck contract after it expires.
Soon the fifth and final year of your contract rolls around. The talk around the office is whether or not the company VP is going to sign you to a contract extension or release you into the free-agency market. Inside sources around the office seem to have exclusive information about what company is going to sign you after the year is over.
But then once the year begins, you’re working like a man possessed, averaging double-digits in reports-per-week, and being a solid task manager. Soon they’re talking about you like you’re a new person. Some co-workers shrug it off and say, “It’s just because he’s in a contract year”, but others can’t stop talking about how you’ve become a real “game manager.” “He really knows how to manage a game” they’ll say. But sure enough you’re working your ass off because you want that next big contract. And when the end of the year comes, you’ll get it. You’ll get that big contract with a lot of zeros because you understand what it takes to succeed….
…..always perform your best in a contract year.
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