First Half: How I fell in love with football (and shocked everyone who knows me)
I remember the Carolina Panthers' 2015 season like I remember my first kiss — totally unexpected, completely thrilling 🥰 and terribly disappointing 😕, all at the same time.
Until 2014, my football knowledge was limited to Friday nights in high school (hang out with friends, ignore the game) and Andy Griffith's monologue, "What It Was, Was Football" (do yourself a favor and listen ).
My family wasn't sports-oriented, but I knew enough of the basics (tackle the other guys, get touchdowns) to enjoy Friday night games in high school, but obviously, the REAL purpose was hanging out with friends. Later in life, work took me to Colorado and California, where I had brief spurts of following the Broncos and 49ers — when they made it to the playoffs. Then I lost interest.
That's how I got sucked into watching the Panthers in 2014 — they started winning. Well, that and a promise I made to Susan to watch the games with her for one entire season. She's a huge fan and knows a LOT about football, so I had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable coach to point out all the nuances of the game she loved. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I started paying attention to play-calling, clock management, positions, and pocket protection. I learned the names of the players and followed their personal stories. I sent bad vibes to the other teams in our division and was ecstatic when they lost.
I was hooked. My family couldn't believe it. Susan started getting texts from my siblings: "JAN is watching football?? Does she have a fever??" "Who is that person who LOOKS like our sister, and what have you done to her?"
The Panthers started the season 14-0 that year. Week after week, the media outlets called them "the worst undefeated team ever," even while Carolina blew out its opponents. That only made me love them even more. They finished at 15-1, won the NFC South division title, and went to the Super Bowl. We were ecstatic – and very confident our team could be the champions. But that didn't happen. We watched in stunned disbelief as Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a 24-10 victory. It was heartbreaking.
But here's the funny thing. I heard myself saying, "We'll get 'em next year!" — and started counting down the days to the Combine, the NFL Draft, mini-camps, and preseason games. That's when I knew I was a true fan. And even though the Panthers basically tanked after 2015, I've followed every season since. I'm learning more about the fine points of the game — and the lessons extend far beyond Sunday afternoons. (see Part 2 below)
Psychologists say the five stages of a relationship are: Merge, Doubt and Denial, Disillusionment, the Decision, and Wholehearted Love. I'm now in wholehearted love, though the team I follow now is very different than the one that captured my heart six years ago.
I said goodbye to my favorite players (Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Jonathan Stewart, Thomas Davis, and others). We have a new owner, a new head coach, a new quarterback, and basically an entirely different team. I'm learning their names and celebrating their first win of the season. And yes, family, it's still a thrill.
The new season just started. The Panthers are 1-0. We'll get 'em this year.
Halftime: What is typography and why does it matter?
First, let's distinguish between typeface and font. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. A typeface is a collection of fonts; a font is a specific style or weight within a typeface family. For example, Helvetica is a typeface, but Helvetica Bold is a specific font in the Helvetica typeface family.
There are three basic categories of type:
Serif: A serif is the "foot" at the bottom of letters. Serif typefaces are more formal and traditional. Times New Roman is an example of serif type.
Sans serif: This typeface does not have a "foot" at the bottom of letters. These are more modern, bold, and great for eye-catching headlines.Arial is an example of sans serif type.
Decorative or display: Decorative fonts are best used in headlines and titles because they're harder to read in large blocks of text.
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type — it's much more than just picking a pretty font. Selecting the right typestyle for your website, logo, and communications can influence a reader's decision subconsciously. Learn more about font psychology ➝
Fonts have different personalities that communicate different messages. The shape, size, style, weight, and spacing of fonts create a mood. A good designer understands a font's personality and matches it with the personality of the brand. How to pick a brand font ➝
The choice of typography can make or break the effectiveness of your message. The most important consideration is readability. It doesn't matter if you're using the coolest font in the world — if someone can't read your message, it's pointless. Lots of factors contribute to readability, including kerning (the space between letters), leading (the space between lines), and font pairings (how fonts are combined). Size, style, color, and contrast also affect readability. Design fails: 10 times typography ruined the day ➝
Second Half: What football taught me about running a business
Offense scores points / Defense wins games
In football this made no sense to me — isn’t scoring points the entire purpose? Yes and no. There are two purposes: to score points + stop the other team from scoring points. In business, the “offense” is clearly defined: manage your systems; perfect your processes; place team members in positions where they will be successful; produce [at a high level] consistently. The defense wins games? Not so clearly defined is stopping the other team from scoring. And truthfully, we don’t work or train to stop other businesses — we work to improve our percentages of winning the big proposal; landing the big client; and carefully evaluate our losses (losing proposals; losing a client).
No one person wins anything
Tom Brady. Some people would tell you that he has won seven Super Bowls. But he wouldn’t. It’s true (ugh) that he has quarterbacked seven world championships, but he had to have a great line to protect him in the pocket; fast receivers that could catch the ball; powerful running backs; and his team had to have amazing defenses. He relies on every person doing their job well (ok, not “well” — almost perfectly well). And in case you don’t know by now, Tom Brady follows a ridiculous personal training and fitness regimen (beyond what the team requires). And all of that together has resulted in seven Super Bowl wins. We’re not hoisting any Lombardi trophies over here in the Pacific Northwest — but we don’t settle for tasks that are not completed with excellence. We’re accountable to the team; we watch out for every player (client and staff) and make every effort to put them in winning positions. We don’t do this alone.
Whoa. This sort of blew my mind. There is something called “competitive balance” in the NFL — teams with the least wins each season are given the first opportunity to select the highest-rated college players eligible to play professionally. What? The highest-rated college player coming into this season was Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback who set the Clemson record for career quarterback wins, losing only the 2020 National Championship and the 2021 Sugar Bowl. That’s a lot of winning, folks. This year? He’s the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars (arguably one of the worst teams in recent years) and after one regular-season game, he’s 0-1. The move from college football to the NFL is a giant one. (The NFL has chewed up and spit out many a great college player.)
There are lots of opportunities for businesses to compete these days. The playing field is pretty level, thanks to excellent digital tools and a growing appreciation for the value of remote work. We give little thought to competing with others — but we give a lot of thought to competing with ourselves and getting better every year. Size doesn't matter, either. We're a stronger, more competitive team with fewer people than we were when we had more staff. Just this week, we said, "You know what we are is consultants, right?" We've moved beyond basic admin tasks and now find ourselves in a position where we can speak with authority and coach other business owners in productivity, design, and digital optimization. That's a competitive balance we've proud of.