Harvey Mackay

Beating the Shot Clock of Life

When you are a youngster, you never think about tomorrow. You take tomorrow for granted, assuming you have an endless string of days ahead of you. In short, you put things off. You are not really aware of the shot clock of life.

As the years fly by, you begin to become more aware that there isn’t always going to be a tomorrow. You understand and appreciate today more than ever.

Having this mindset gives us a sense of urgency. We can’t continue to put off important things until tomorrow. We have to devote time to our goals and dreams today.

Perhaps the best example I can give of someone who won’t let the clock run down is my close personal friend Sid Hartman, who turns 100 on March 15. Sid, a legendary sportswriter, has been a mainstay in Minnesota sports for a span of eight decades. He is, in every sense of the word, a real buzzer-beater. By most human standards, Sid is in triple overtime.

Sid never played any of the games he writes about and never made it to college, much less journalism school. His success is rooted in pure doggedness.

He still writes a column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune three times a week, a job he’s had for 75 years. Plus he has commented on sports on WCCO Radio for 65 years, and broadcasts the “Sports Huddle” show every Sunday morning. He continues to build his immense network, which includes every athlete or team owner who’s ever been part of Minnesota sports, plus many national sports superstars and coaches. You don’t pass through the Twin Cities sports scene without getting to know Sid Hartman.

He owns the most important advantage of sports reporting: one of the biggest, most reliable networks of sports sources of any journalist in the country. Once you’re in Sid’s file, you don’t ever get cut. You’re in it for life.

Sid’s network is second to none. In my entire career, I have never once heard a successful person, like Sid, say he or she regretted putting time and energy into building a network of contacts. You must always have your antennae up. Never pass up an opportunity to meet new people. I call this “dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

I was privileged to co-chair huge events for Sid’s 85th and 90th birthday bashes, which brought in people like former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, University of Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, to name only a few.

And Sid fondly refers to all of them as “my close personal friend.” Sid Hartman is in a league by himself.

There are more than 7.6 billion people on the planet, and few work harder than Sid, even at his age. He reminds me of Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn, who was asked to give the commencement speech at his high school. He said, “My advice is to work half days every day. And it doesn’t matter which half -- the first 12 hours or the second 12 hours.”

Sid is also one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met. He is the only person I know who can follow you in a revolving door and still come out ahead of you. He hates to lose. Sid understands that competition is healthy. It keeps you sharp. It makes you better. Competition drives people to work harder and dig down deeper to deliver more than they ever thought they could.

Sid may never make it to the Baseball or Football Hall of Fame, but if they ever get around to a Close Personal Friends Hall of Fame, he’ll be the first one they call. Talent is a gift, but like many gifts, we often take it for granted. If Sid Hartman had applied equal energy, dedication and perseverance to any other career -- sales, for example -- I’m positive he would have achieved the same great success he attained as a sportswriter.

I’m not quite to Sid’s age yet, but I’m trying to maximize my shot clock before the game is over. Give me the person who uses 110% of what they’ve got, like Sid, and they’ll find a way to get the job done when no one else can.

Mackay’s Moral: Happy birthday, Sid, and many more!