Care To Make It Interesting?

You’ll be pleased to know that in just a few short weeks, my son Evan will graduate from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee (school motto: We’ve never heard of you either).

In addition to his academic work, key accomplishments include fronting a (now defunct) band, co-founding a nonprofit newspaper for the homeless and launching a (recently venture-funded) business.

He’s had a great run and, needless to say, we are quite proud.

But I have to tell you, the one thing about his college career that I expect to remember the longest, is that every week, during the winter, he drove south into Mississippi, to play intramural ice hockey.

That’s right, ice hockey in Mississippi. If there’s an oxymoron hall of fame somewhere, “Mississippi Ice Hockey” has got a prominent display in the lobby.

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The cost per season? Thirty dollars. And last year, when Evan began playing, he asked if I could pick up the tab.

It’s not a lot of money. But just handing over $30 seemed kind of dull. So I said, as I sometimes do, “Care to make it interesting?”

Then I proposed a simple metric: Instead of $30 up front, I’d pay him $2 for every goal he scored during the season.

He liked the concept, but not the number.

So after much negotiation and assurances from Evan that he wasn’t that good, we agreed on $7 per goal. And while I don’t mean to suggest that my own son bamboozled me, the season’s not even over and I’m already $42 in the hole.

But you know what, that’s what makes it fun. It’s not about the $30 or $42 or whatever. It’s about rolling the dice and seeing what happens.

To me, that’s much of what starting a business is all about: Getting in the game.

You launch a product … big success. You hold a webinar … nobody shows up. You send a proposal … the prospect disappears. You answer the phone … somebody wants to hire you out of the blue.

And on and on it goes, with every day bringing its own mix of ups and downs and in-betweens. You never know which will come when, but it sure is interesting.

A couple of years ago, I was a guest speaker on a panel, in front of a roomful of solo professionals. Someone raised her hand and asked how long it took for me to “become successful.”

The implication in her question was that there was some place you could reach where the ups and downs and risks would all go away.

I told her that I have just as much uncertainty in my professional life today as I had 10 years ago. The only difference is that today, I don’t worry about it anymore.

Because I finally realized that the uncertainty never goes away, and the daily ups and downs are a lot of what keeps it interesting.

Discussion questions:

  1. Where would you locate the Oxymoron Hall of Fame?
  1. Would you believe me if I told you that the name of Evan’s band was “Mississippi Ice Hockey?”
  1. It wasn’t.

Post your answers (and comments) below!

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24 thoughts on “Care To Make It Interesting?

  1. Michelle Morris

    Hey Michael-

    As always this is great. I’d set up the Oxymoron Hall of Fame in the parking lot of the Blue Buffalo restaurant in my hometown Aberdeen, SD. Sadly, I can’t do that because it no longer exists. The oxymoron is the huge concrete(?) statue of a blue buffalo which was deemed a “tourist attraction” by the people that published the free paper map of the state each year.

    Craziness. Obviously not a lot going on in Aberdeen….

    Congrats to your son– looks like a young man on the move!


  2. Sonja

    Thanks for another nice email/podcast and congrats on your son’s graduation! As a former Memphian (after growing up in Germany), I am pleased to learn Rhodes College made Memphis attractive enough for your son to located there. And, yes, ice hockey does exist in the Mid-South, just like barbecue is made in other parts of the country — though each region clearly has its own strengths :). Living — and playing ice hockey — in Memphis is extremely affordable. It’s one of the big benefits of living there, and one of the things I miss the most after relocating to the East Coast. Hopefully, your son had a good experience overall in Memphis. Living there taught me a lot about life and what’s important.
    I love your idea of paying per goal. Truly does keep it interesting. I will keep this in mind for my family. Best wishes to your son on the remainder of the season.
    Thanks again,

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Sonja!
      Thanks, he’s had a great time and made many connections in the community. He’s staying there post-graduation and trying to get his business cranking. I’m looking forward to getting down there again in a few weeks!

  3. Bruce Horwitz

    In honor of the creator and presumed first curator [you] I suggest Bald Head Island, NC as the home for hall of fame.

  4. Doug Johnson

    Michael, this was great! The Oxymoron Hall of Fame should be located on the same street as the Center for MILITARY INTELLIGENCE, the Office of POSTAL SERVICE, and the JUMBO SHRIMP Restaurant, which has to be down the block from the UNITED NATIONS, by the factory that makes PLASTIC GLASSES, and is down the street from where they give ACCURATE HOROSCOPES, that I think is near the DEATH VALLEY HEALTH CLINIC, and is by the Museum of MODERN HISTORY, which I think is near the custom products company that will give you an EXACT ESTIMATE. I think anywhere else would be inappropriate.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  5. Charles Alexander

    1. Normal, Kentucky
    2. No. No I would not.
    3. Ha! Told you so!

    The paper is very cool. We have a similar one in Nashville called The Contributor and it has helped several people get off the streets.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great answers, Charles.

      Interestingly, a visit to Nashville was the inspiration for the Memphis paper. Evan and his roommate were there one weekend, noticed The Contributor and wondered why Memphis didn’t have something similar (there’s one here in Boston as well). Next thing they knew they were working on it. The paper just had its second anniversary on Tuesday.

  6. Star Dargin

    Great post and comments from others!

    My son too played hockey in the south for a while, he was based in Nashville.
    I’ve attend southern hockey games, it’s such a different experience, nice and friendly and country music bands playing live everywhere.

    For the Oxymoron Hall of Fame, I’ll add:
    Paris, Maine
    Nothing, Arizona
    Boring, Maryland

    And the Redundant Hall of Fame:
    New York, New York

    thank you, thank you

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You’re welcome, you’re welcome! I’ll have to check out one of those games when i visit memphis next time!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Ken!
      Believe it or not, I had no idea there was a Florida, MA (thus proving your point, I suppose)! Excellent suggesting; thanks for writing.

  7. Jon Matthias

    It hardly seems any time at all since you were helping Evan pick his college. Where does the time go.

    There is a town called Moron in Mexico, with a convenience store called Oxxo (thank you Google!), so I’d locate it next to that.

    There’s a roadsign in England that points to the “Secret Nuclear Bunker”. That could be a second choice location 🙂

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I like a man who does his homework, John, well done!

      We could have another discussion about crazy signs. There used to be one at a gas station in my town that said, “Exit only. No exit.”

  8. Larry Heimlich

    1. Hill Valley

    2. Yes. If you can name your business “Blue Penguin Development,” Evan can name his band “Mississippi Ice Hockey.”

    3. Is that a question?

    Congrats to Evans. Congrats to his father for making me engage!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Larry!

      I love Hill Valley.

      And thanks about Evan.

      P.S. to everyone: If you want readers to engage, ask questions that everyone can answer, fairly easily.

  9. Sunni

    Great that you wrote about this, since so many us daydream about “When I finally get to X level, then life will be a lot easier.”

    Which is true in some ways and flat wrong in other ways. You hit the nail on the head about things still being and feeling uncertain at every level. That’s life, after all!


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