On August 28, 1945, a man made a choice. He had to decide between doing what was conventional or doing what was right.
I recently saw the new movie “42” about this pivotal moment, and highly recommend it to you. It’s inspiring, and beautifully made, with outstanding performances from Harrison Ford as Rickey and Chadwick Boseman as Robinson.
And the message I kept returning to was the strength of character these two men showed.
Robinson, an educated UCLA man who had served as a Lieutenant in World War II, had to take the abuse heaped upon him and not react – because an angry reaction might doom integration of baseball.
Rickey, a die-hard baseball fan and hard-nosed business man, had to hold on to his vision of a future where baseball was integrated despite the intense opposition he faced.
Why did they do such a hard thing?
They did it because sometimes you just have to do what’s right.
Despite the backlash, threats and challenges, Robinson and Rickey knew that doing the right thing always pays off.
Today, business is all about analytics, metrics and utilization rates. If the numbers line up nice and neat, the bean counters and money people say we can go with something. If they don’t line up, we tweak and tweak the algorithm until the metrics say, “go”. This clean and clinical approach has led to dying department stores with no staff to run the cash registers, and venture-funded companies whose harried employees each do the work of four people – all in the name of “efficiency”.
But service with heart is not always efficient.
The value of excellent performance based in integrity can’t be calculated.
And deep personal connection can’t be quantified.
Sure, Branch Rickey thought that the popularity of the Negro leagues meant that African-American spectators might flock to big league parks to see integrated baseball. But something else – something ineffable – drove him.
“I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball,” Rickey said about his decision.
See, he just needed to the right thing.
And that right there is the essence of character.
In your own life and work, you may not be able to do something as big as Branch Rickey did, but I know there’s something you can do. You know it, too. Doesn’t matter what the metrics might say to do.
Your heart knows.
Just like Robinson and Rickey, sometimes you just have to do what’s right.