Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

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We are…losing grasp on what is important

November 10, 2011

After all the events that transpired since the weekend and then the 10:00 news conference last night, I am, like many, saddened.

But not like most die-hard Penn State fans. Not like the ones who are crying foul that their beloved head coach has been treated so poorly by administration, media, and some fans; that he himself has faced a criminal act. No I am sad that people are placing a higher value on the game of football and a coach, than the true criminals who hurt and abused countless little boys in University facilities.

How can anyone lose sight that the real issue here isn’t an NCAA violation, it is the violation and vile acts against innocent children? Sure, I am bitter. I spent 35 years cheering for a man and program that up until last week I would have defended like my own. And the weight of feeling cheated and let down is crushing.

I can see why people can’t let go and acknowledge this was indeed the right thing to do. In a world that seems to get more violent, disgraceful, disgusting, and selfish every day; there was a man whose values rose above those acts; a man who single-handedly changed a game, a city, a University, and even a culture.

And it just that reason why I feel no sympathy or sadness for Joe. Had he truly been the man above, he would have used that idol status that so many in central PA and around the country anointed him, to do the right thing. To go above and beyond a protocol, to tirelessly defend those who can’t defend themselves, and selflessly, not selfishly put himself out there at all costs.

Everyone makes mistakes and ironically the biggest mistake this icon made, might be the best lesson he inadvertently taught. As a society, we all fail, when we sit idly by and hope someone else will make things better. All 6’5 and 230 of Mike McQueary could have been used to stop a stomach churning event and helped a little boy who God only knows how much he has suffered and sadly will probably always continue to do so. Instead he cowardly left, he left the facilities. He talked to his father and then to Joe and they left it up to someone else, who then left that repulsive excuse for a human, back into their facilities until last week.

I hope as a society we all take back responsibility, accountability, and respect in ourselves so that we feel empowered as individuals to make a difference and do the right thing, especially when those decisions and actions impact the world’s greatest gift, our children.

I’m not sure if I will watch this weekend. I so badly want to move on and cheer loudly for the 125 young men who want nothing more than to escape on the football field and do what they love. They have done nothing wrong. However, at this time cheering for a game seems wrong and almost inappropriate in light of what has happened. I’d rather cheer knowing that those guilty will never see the light of day again and for any victims who have overcome this. It is their strength, comfort, and peace I pray for.

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One love

April 19, 2011

My son turned one today and I am amazed at how fast the year has gone. This time last year, my wife went into labor, we believe, due to the smoked ribs my friend Tad made for us the night before. Jill headed home and I stayed for drinks. It didn’t hit me until the next day that it was the last time it would just be my wife, daughter, and me at our home.

Since the first time I saw his face until now he obviously has changed. He started out with jet-black greasy hair to now stick straight blonde hair like his mother. He is almost walking and is showing signs of his dad’s impatience, temper, and sense of humor (especially bathroom jokes.) And as he has changed, I am constantly changing and learning lessons too.

Just this past weekend, we had a baby shower for a fraternity brother and his wife expecting a son themselves here soon. And upon arriving at the party, hugs, handshakes, and hi-fives gave way to conversations, laughing, and advice for the new parents. I love those guys. They are really more family than friends, and we pick up quickly from the last time we saw each other, even if it was a year ago. So Cam, lesson one that I have learned is you will never be alone, never be lost, and never without a smile with great friends.

After the party we all went back and got our kids and brought them together at the expecting parents house. What a torturous thing to do for two people waiting to have their first child…fill their house with six kids all under the age of five. (No turning back now, Mr. and Mrs. Benson.) Within five minutes our daughters and sons were playing, laughing, and having a good time with each other. And for some, they just met. Our kids know no prejudice; they don’t care about money, religion, or politics. The girls like big girl shoes and candy necklaces, the boys popping balloons with their mouths and throwing things. Cam, lesson number two. Be open, honest, and respectful to each person you meet.  Don’t ever lose the gift of seeing people for what we really are…people.

And yesterday we had our big first birthday party. Family and friends joined us and watched as Cam decorated himself in cake and blue frosting. All the while, he just laughed, half-naked and all. Cam, here comes lesson three. Never take yourself too serious. I sure as hell don’t. I’m not perfect and never will be. That doesn’t stop me from trying to be great, rather knowing that mistakes are part of the game makes the score easier to tolerate when we don’t win. Keep smiling and give it all you have.

And the last lesson goes without saying. Your dad loves you and always will. You’ll never know how strong that love is until you have kids of your own; so for now trust me and thank you. Thank you for being my little man.

Happy birthday son.

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When one door closes, it’s good to have the master key to the rest of the house.

January 24, 2011

I had something happen to me for the first time in my life. I was given my walking papers due to re-structuring and re-focusing at work on November 30th. For more than twelve years in the ad agency business, I was always on the other side and learned early about survivor’s guilt, making myself marketable, and staying grounded, driven, and positive.

And yet this time it got me. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. I am not embarrassed or ashamed I was let go. I’d like to think my ego hasn’t grown so much that I can’t admit the truth. I simply didn’t have a specific PR foundation and background to warrant keeping a tenured advertising guy on staff. Kudos to my former boss for recognizing he and his agency needed to change and get back to their roots. I also appreciate the way in which I was let go. They did some things for me they didn’t have to and that took the stress out of these past seven weeks, especially over the holidays.

And in there lies the one thing they didn’t intend to give me, that was the greatest gift.

I spent more than six weeks at home with my two kids, my wife when she wasn’t at work, and friends and family, all over the holiday season.

I danced with my daughter in her room to songs we didn’t know, I was there to ride through the sleepless nights as my son got his first two teeth, I was able to help be Santa with my wife, and I grew an even deeper appreciation for the countless friends and family who reached out to me with support.

And now I am happily part of the team at The Momentum Group, a small, very cool shop in Broad Ripple doing some amazing things in the branding, digital, social, and traditional advertising space. I have certainly found a home.

So as I look back on my career already, one thing always rides true. No matter what, under any circumstances, sell yourself short by changing who you are, how you conduct yourself, and not treating others with respect. Because as I have just found out, sometimes the unexpected can turn into the greatest gift.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson


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Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

December 8, 2010

I finally saw Kenny Chesney’s Boys of Fall documentary last night after it sat unloved in DVR-land. I am an admitted football freak, but there was some great commentary from old coaches and players about life and striving to always reach the dream you had as a child.

The thing that stuck out to me the most was John Madden talking about making sure that you still find the fun in what you do. Once you have lost the joy in what we are doing, you lose the passion, fire, and desire to chase your dreams and goals.

I agree completely. Too often we get caught up in the stress and wear and tear of the daily grind to find the fun in what we do. I am not implying that every day should include uncontrolled laughter and high fives, but we should get enjoyment out of our work.

It also makes me realize how the culture of your work environment can either support and embrace an individual’s goals or completely demoralize and paralyze a person’s path to reach those same goals.

I am personally tired of a culture that simply looks for someone to blame, is blind with arrogance and self-indulgence, and limits other’s ambition by being complacent with their own situation.

I like this quote from James Dean. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

No one is going to stop me from continuing to reach toward my life’s goals and nothing other than myself will impact that drive. I’d rather die trying than lie dying wishing I would have done more.

 

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What the hell happened to my life?

October 28, 2010

It hit me the other day as I was watching my three-year old daughter at dance class, where in the world did my life go?

I seriously felt like I woke up from a coma, aged to 34, had two kids, a house, pets, and was at least happy to not be balding. I remember my mom telling me to wait until I had kids and then I’d know what it was like to have life move fast. It’s not that I didn’t believe her, it’s just I didn’t fully understand the truth in that statement.

One of my favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and there are so many great lines in that movie, yet one has always stuck out to me. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

In college I was able to realize this. My last semester I remember taking time in my fraternity to just watch the crowds, the parties, the pranks, the environment, and all of the things that I knew I had taken for granted and let it soak in. I could slow things down enough to go from participant to spectator and back again. Even at my wedding eight years ago I slipped to the back corner of the reception hall and simply viewed my life in action. I was able to recognize I would never be with that same group of people, at the same time, in the same moment, ever again.

And now, I can’t seem to find the time in the heat of the moment to slow things down. When I write, it obviously gives me time to reflect. When I get to work after dropping the kids off it is on my mind. But in general, I have let Ferris down. In a fast-paced life that only seems to be further accelerating I haven’t been taking a look around.

So maybe I should heed the advice of John Keating (Robin Williams) in another great 80’s movie, Dead Poets Society, “But If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

 

Maybe instead of looking around I just need to lean in and listen…

 

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Say it ain’t Joe

October 14, 2010

Joe Paterno has been a constant on the sideline at Penn State for 61 years. His life has been spent developing young men into community and business leaders, teachers, coaches, lawyers, and the list goes on. Oh and he has two national championships, five undefeated seasons, and countless All-Americans. He and his wife have donated more than a million dollars back to the University and he still preaches that you need to be good student first then focus on football.

And what I am going to say next might shock you. He should retire.

I’m not just saying this because Penn State is fielding an uncompetitive, boring, and flat out bad football team but because the team lacks leadership. I’m not faulting the players. The same man who used to grab a player’s facemask as they walked off the field, the same man who paced the sidelines barking out orders, and the same man who oozed confidence looks tired, old, and out of touch.

In all fairness I am obviously not at practices, team meetings, or locker room pep talks, but the team has no identity. If his main goal is still to give these kids the best chance at winning both in the classroom and on the field, he has lost the later. You don’t win 397 games with an attitude built around quitting, but it is time to hang up the black shoes.

Joe once said, “You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.”

Sadly, by holding Joe to his own expectations, this is not happening in Happy Valley any more.

I can’t help but think about the parallels in business. The maturing leaders of companies who have lost the pulse of their surroundings, the tenured lifer who is change resistant, and the executive comfortable with status quo. They become gatekeepers for growth and they do so in such a fashion that can literally tear down the walls around them.

I thankfully have only had to fire one person in my career. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, and yet it was the right thing to do. Sometimes the best decisions are the hardest and most unpopular ones. And time and time again those decisions aren’t made. Those businesses who change out of want are the ones creating the curve, the ones who change out of necessity, change because they can’t yet see the curve.

So Coach Paterno, thank you. For a kid who grew up in central Pennsylvania I have bought into the way you run a program. I agree being a good person always comes first, my kids will win and lose with class, and if I ever coach, you better believe we’ll treat our opponents with respect. But it is time. Impart your legacy on a new staff, let them take your foundation and build on it, and when 108,000+ fans cheer, “We are…Penn State” know you had a huge part of that tradition.

 

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What business can learn from athletics

September 23, 2010

I had the privilege to go to a luncheon yesterday put on by the Indiana Humanities Council. The topic was Sportsmanship, Competition and Civility in Athletics and the panel included Chairman Jim Leach, Bill Polian, Dr. Bernard Franklin, and Coach Beth K. Wilmeth.

The panel was asked a question by moderator Clark Kellogg about what one word each panelist would use to describe not only the civility in sports but business, politics, and life.

Chairman Leach went first with team. He used examples of Iowa football players who now play for the Colts and how their journeys weren’t always from point A to point B. His main focus was these players did what was asked of them to make the team better. What a concept for business. Instead of a group of individuals focused on their personal needs, get the team focused on collaborative and collective goals and move as a unit towards the end result.

Bill Polian was up next and picked respect. His examples were around the NFL’s decision to cut back on celebrations and taunting. He also eluded to the fact that after 60 minutes of physically beating on someone, the players leave with a tremendous amount of respect for their opponent, the game, and the product. One of my old bosses always used to stress that above all else you respect the position even if you struggle with the person. After working on numerous communications teams throughout my career this is so true. It takes every person in the agency, department, office, etc. to accomplish whatever goals are set in front of the team. When people start losing respect for each other, trust and the willingness to succeed are not far behind.

Coach Wilmeth was next with integrity. Her story was unique and very inspiring. Her volleyball team decided as a group to challenge themselves to be better, to impact people around them, and to leave a lasting impression. The team decided to call hand fouls at the net if the referees missed the call. In a society where winning is everything these women decided to do what was right, even if that meant it would cost them a win…and it did. Each day we go to work and hope that everyone is holding themselves accountable and responsible for their actions. Yet many times there are instances of pointing the finger, passing the blame or simply delegating work through to the next person. When did we get so far away from taking ownership and pride in our work, even if that means we sometimes have to admit mistakes? In most cases we can learn from them, move on, and become stronger.

And last but not least was Dr. Franklin. His word was character and how he felt it is a byproduct of your value system. I agree completely. I’m not sure why as a society we can spend so much time tearing someone down instead of building them back up. I also believe adversity shows someone’s true character. When the world around you is crumbling do you motivate or devastate, inspire or conspire, or lead instead of follow?

Most sports and businesses are a team concept. From top level management to the rookies, everyone has an active, responsible, and important part in achieving goals and upholding reputations.