High School Football

It’s High School Football season… The smell of fall hinting in the air and an opportunity for young men to play a kids game under Friday Night Lights. Play tonight with passion and like it’s the last game of your life. It will go fast so enjoy every moment, every play, and every opportunity to be a great teammate. Ma

ke your coach proud with your play on the field, and your parents prouder with your celebration off it. High five the fans, listen to the band, get lost in the National Anthem and when the ball is kicked, play the game the way it was meant to be played.

Thinking About Food

 
After following very closely two Future of Food events in the past couple weeks led by the PulitzerPrize winning editor of the Washington Post, Mary Jordan, I’ve had my eyes opened to just how complex and how many people in our country are concerned with the issue of feeding a growing global population. While many Americans are unsure where their next meal is going to come from, thought leaders in the agriculture and political spaces are considering how America will help feed an expected 9 billion people by the year 2050.
 
In food insecure countries around the world, neither farmers nor government have the necessary land or water needed to support a growing population. Without proper land and water systems at their disposal, the likelihood of producing an ample amount of food to feed their people is grim. As a result, people tun to any means necessary to survive which which means increased violence and unrest. In areas like the Middle East, there has already been in influx of violence, protest and crime due to the hunger issue. Iran, North Korea and China, as they experience rapid population growth, area also developing weapons which may at some time be used to attain food from countries that have water systems and land needed to produce food.
 
As we think about the role of food in regard to national security, it’s also vital to look at the quality of food that is available. Just eating what’s available isn’t the answer. Our country has an obesity epidemic that costs us trillions in healthcare annually as a result of poor choices and limited access to healthy food. There are growing concerns from a nutritional standpoint as the weight of our nation increases, childhood obesity statistics grow and the number of people suffering from diabetes, hypertension and other weight related illnesses cost Americans an astronomical amount of their income in healthcare annually; we have to ask ourselves, where does the relief come from?
 
Today at the Future of Food event in Denver it was reported that nearly 40 percent of all the food produced in America is wasted. Either at production sites by manufacturers or consumption sites by people, we waste enough food to feed millions of hungry people. In fact, America wastes approximately one ton of food per hungry person in the world every year. As millions starve around the world every day, we have more than enough in our dumpsters to feed them a ton of food each… When you consider how wasteful and inefficient we are, it’s no wonder we’ve acquired the reputation we have with these countries.
 

If you think this topic is interesting, join the conversation on Twitter by using the hash tag #thinkfood  and weigh in with your opinion. There are three upcoming events led by Mary Jordan and the Washington Post before the 2012 election; starting on July 16th and concluding in October. If you care about the future of food, I challenge you to think about where it’s going to come from.

Who Decides?


I wrote an essay for a NY Times writing contest. I didn’t make the top five and have my piece featured in the Times, however I make an ethical case for why it’s ok to eat meat below.

The other morning while brushing my teeth I thought about your contest as I spit a mixture of bad breath and refreshing cool mint into the sink. It would take another minute or so of wakening and contemplation, but again after spitting, I realized that in order to answer your question, I would need to take a look back.

While inspecting my teeth and well before morning caffeine, I pondered my lack of elongated k9 incisors. It occurred to me that longer and sharper k9’s would surely aid the tearing and chewing of a poorly prepared New York strip, and certainly would be fun on Halloween, but I concluded the ones I have do the job just fine; minus the Halloween fun.

Later that morning during a grinding Chicago commute, I caught myself thinking back to the days of hunting and gathering and how much simpler life must have been. I thought about how those who were here before us lived off the land by gathering fruits and vegetables and catching fish and shell fish from streams. As the population of hunters and gathers grew, so did the need for leaders of communities to provide more food without moving all over the land like nomads. So they began to think with their primitive minds of ways they could accomplish this feat. They built tools and realized with these tools they could capture varieties of different food sources. They discovered they could roast their food over fire and that if they did these things, they could provide safety and health to a growing number of people and they could sustain their existence.

Those who came before us discovered that eating a variety of berries, roots, fish and animals from the plains meant they could enjoy the taste of food and that their lives were a little better with the addition of the new foods. Possibly the greatest lesson learned during this age, was that the smartest and most forward thinking of the hunters and gathers were the most respected throughout their land. When the people from the east hunted a new species on the plain and provided it to their community, no one in the west intruded or told them they were wrong. There was mutual respect for each other’s techniques, and neighbors desired to be educated about new food sources. Neighboring communities collaborated to find the best ways to hunt and prepare the catch as well as utilize the energy that the food source provided to them.

Neighbors have always disagreed with each other but through that disagreement, change, healthy discussion and compromise have led to the evolution of the world population. Neighbors for ages have sat at the negotiating table to discuss significant matters, and for ages, placed at the table was food and drink, shared as a sign of peace and nourishment so that leaders could think with clear minds, without hunger. As the leaders of today sit at the negotiating table to discuss a rapidly growing population and a scarce food supply, it seems ethical that all types of food be considered to compliment the feeding the world conversation.

We may personally disagree on taste and dietary preferences, but it’s our responsibility to think forward about all people and provide them with access to affordable and nutritious food. Foods of all tastes and cultural preferences should be available to them – responsibly, as they were available for us.

It’s in Indy

Ollie and Rudy are probably bellied up at a local saloon talking about Notre Dame Football and the Milan High Indians tonight. Rudy can remember sports before all this twittering and tweeters. And Ollie shot a basketball underhand in a varsity high school basketball game so his opinion isn’t highly valued from an athlete’s perspective; however he’s part of the conversation because he made the shot. Ollie’s equally important, if not more important to the conversation though because he’s, to use Dave Kerpen‘s motto, Likeable.

One Hundred Fifty million people in 232 different countries will tune-in to watch Super Bowl XLVI on television. More people than ever before will also be tweeting, posting and sharing their Super Digital Experience simultaneously during this Sunday’s game. The world-famous Super Bowl commercials will air and ten days later no one will be talking about them. But this year more so than ever, digital integration during the Super-expensive commercials will transpire. Ad agencies probably realized after millions of wasted dollars spent on commercials, that people are not buying their products because of commercials on television. Consumers buy for various reasons, but it’s rare that we would buy a thing because we saw it on television. It’s much more likely that we participate in a conversation with people similar to us, be moved to action by someone we trust and purchase a product or service that came recommended. So instead of pushing mediocre ad campaigns at consumers, ad agencies will serve as connectors and amplifiers of their intended audiences this year more than ever before.

The energy surrounding the game will become a constant build of marketing buzz as the top of the Indianapolis skyline becomes visible from Southbound I-65. A groundswell of chatter and excitement will build as fans purchase, participate and talk about it at every opportunity. I included. – The party last night, the hotel room, the players to watch, what she’s wearing, who is going to be there, what club is open late, where to eat… All captured by that simple yet most important character of the week. The hashtag (#).

The hash tag has changed the game of football as much as any rule change since they started wearing plastic helmets in 1939. Every player has the opportunity and responsibility if he chooses to accept it, to broadcast himself and promote his brand to his fans. Likewise, fans have a platform to say whatever they please for the entire world to see by simply placing a targeted hash tag before their comment. Brands, services, celebrities and basically everyone who’s in Indianapolis will be influenced in some way by the hash tag (#) this week. The Super Bowl Committee has even constructed a social media control center to serve as traffic directors for the most talked about player this week in Indy… the hash tag. #invizible_ink #NFL #superbowl #Indy

Pay It Forward


Today was a great reminder of why we should take time to be a servant.

Several times as a young man I recall trying to find my way as a long-shot-professional athlete, a graduate student, a newbie in my professional career… and the list goes on. Anyways, I felt completely lost and didn’t know whom to turn to for answers. So, I did what many of us do every day… I made mistakes. I failed. I entered situations underprepared.

But I also learned from those failures, embarrassments, and missed opportunities and used that knowledge to not only better myself; but when the right opportunity presented itself to help others: I recognized that I could make a difference. Earlier today I received a random email from a college senior whom I have been mentoring throughout his senior year. He played small college football and was an All-American linebacker at a pretty decent Division III school. The compelling element of our relationship is that I have still not even met him face to face. We communicate long distance and 100% digitally. Which maybe 15 years ago would be ridiculous, but today, it reminded me that sometimes we don’t even have to stand up to help someone.

I was paired with his father at a charity golf outing last spring and like every proud father, he bragged about his son. I took an instant liking to Adam’s father; and especially liked the fact that I was consistently longer off the tee than him. After a few cold ones and eigtheen holes, we were friends. He asked if he could pass my card along to his son and of course I encouraged him to do so. “I’d be happy to talk to Adam, I told him. “Who knows,” I told him, maybe I can help him prepare for the real world if football doesn’t work out.” – “I have plenty of experience in football not working out, and I’d be happy to talk to him.”

Six months later I received this email…

Hey Mark,

I’m just emailing you to catch you up on how things have been since we talked. Our season ended up 10-2 we made it to the second round of the playoffs. I went on to play in the Metrodome for the All-American bowl and that was a blast! Right before New Year’s I ran into a guy while shopping with my mom; I gave him the elevator speech (which you told me to prepare) and he took down my information. Long story short, today’s my first day at TransAmerica Personal Financial Advisors, I’ll be helping people spend and invest their money and I think I’m really gonna like this job. I just wanted to thank you for the time you spent with me giving advice. I hope all is well and that you’re having a great new year.

Pay it forward friends. It’s worth it.

Third Period English

When I was a junior in high school Mrs. Leis told our third period College-Prep English Class that who we are and who we become in this world is a result of the people around us. Of all the lessons and memories I have from high school and growing up in my small town, by far this has meant more to me and has guided me to become who I think God intended me to be more than anything else. I have been so blessed over the years to have lived the travels and experiences life has provided, and at every stop, I’ve thought about Mrs. Leis, standing in front of our class talking about the experience of losing her husband in a tragic plane crash and that no matter how long people are in your life, whether it be a moment, an hour, an evening or a lifetime; they leave a mark on you and you are different because you met them. So with that advice, perhaps we listen closer, care more and try harder because every day as Mrs. Leis reminded us, is as an opportunity to be significant to someone else.

I hold a special place and respect for the two football coaches who led the teams I played on and their staffs while at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, but it was in Mrs. Leis’s English class that I learned to express myself and found an identity. It was the encouragement and inspiration from Mrs. Leis to live life to its fullest and not look back that has me sitting in Chicago after traveling the country and literally the world as a professional athlete writing a blog post. I certainly didn’t think professional sports were in my future at that time, but in the back of my mind I thought that I could be a writer someday. Even if being a writer today means I’m blogging or getting a call from a friend to help find the right words for a resume or editing a letter, the fact of the matter is that no matter where I go or who I meet, Mrs. Leis instilled in me in me that I can be someone who leaves a mark on others. So in some self-indulging way, I think I need to write about it because someone may also read this post and be reminded of or moved to ask me about how amazing of an English teacher she was and continues to be.

Talking About Schema


I earned a minor in Psychology at the University of Findlay because I took 21 hours of it before deciding to major in English. As a result, I learned about “Schema” from Milton Peters, professor of my Psychology II class. He quoted Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development while speaking of Assimilation and Accommodation. During a Piaget discussion on the second floor of Old Main, we discussed Schema and the human behaviors associated with it. Fast forward 10 years and I’m sitting in a WOMMA conference breakout session, captivated by Steve Knox the CEO of Tremor, as he taught how schema related to WOM marketing.

To summarize the various definitions of the science; a schema is a mental structure we use to organize and simplify our knowledge of the world around us. We have schemas about ourselves, other people, technology, eating, exercising and in fact almost everything. For example, a child may first develop a schema for a dog. The child knows that a dog has fur, four legs and a tail. When the child encounters a cat for the first time, he might first call it a dog because it fits his schema of a dog; he sees an animal that has fur, four legs and a tail. Once the child is told that this is a different animal called a cat, he will modify his current schema for a dog and create a new schema for a cat.

During the session, Knox presented an image of the Miracle on the Hudson. Sully saved hundreds of lives that day and solidified schema-consideration as part of the marketing mix. When we look at this image we see something that disrupts our schema. We associate planes with the sky and not water so it’s something that we will remember and talk about. Would you be surprised to know that ten days after the Miracle on the Hudson there was a small aircraft crash that killed 14 people in upstate New York? I doubt any of us remember that plane crash because we weren’t talking about it. Unfortunately that story is true. To complete the analogy, when planes crash, schema allows us to know what happened to the passengers without having to see the wreck, although we can’t help but look. And we can’t help but look because a train wreck, like an air plane on the Hudson River with people standing on the wings is many degrees away from what we believe to be ordinary… and when it’s extraordinary, we talk about it.

Seventy-six percent of Americans talk about at least one brand every day according to a 2009 research study conducted by the Keller Fay Group. With three out of four consumers talking about brands, it’s essential that Brands give them something to talk about; and one certain way to ensure they are talking is to disrupt their schema.

Super Moments


It was January 1988 the first time the game made me emotional… It was 17 days into the new year, I was 10 years old and my fandom for the Cleveland Browns culminated at the moment Earnest Byner (# 44) took a handoff from Bernie Kosar. I was with uber sureness the Browns were going to score the game-tying touchdown in the AFC Championship Game, but to my dismay, followed by a 10 year old tear falling at disbelief; The Fumble.

Football has made me emotional numerous times for many different and unrelated reasons but most recently in Dallas at Super Bowl XLV. The National Anthem to be exact. I heard Christina messed up the lyrics but I was in my own world reminising the first time I heard the rendition wearing a New York Football Giants uniform and didn’t even notice she messed it up.

My most gratifying memory of playing football came the first time I suited up in an NFL uniform. The game was televised on ESPN and as the National Anthem played, I realized I made a life-long dream come true. It was a personal and special accomplishment, and to this day, when I hear the National Anthem I go back to that moment in New England and get goosebumps… No matter if it’s at a high school basketball game or the Super Bowl, it’s that particular sound of the game that takes me back.

This past Sunday I had the priviledge of attending SB XLV with a profound and distinguished group of people who crossed a variety of walks of life, but came together as football fans. I truly enjoyed every conversation I was a part of leading up to the game, and I had the opportunity to make new friends with some very cool people; but when the National Anthem played and the jets flew over the stadium; It was time for reading linebackers, picking up blitzes, and recognizing cover 2 defenses. After years of football film watching, it’s just how I watch a game. Everyone around me was excited, cheering, and anticipating the kickoff of Super Bowl XLV while I was imagining running down the field on the kickoff team, cognizant of staying in the correct pursuit lane, and wrecklessly looking to make the first tackle of Super Bowl XLV.

There are often indescribable experiences and personal moments that make a game memorable, a career definable, and a moment… a moment. These sports moments are experienced uniquely by an individual and often times, never spoke of; rather kept in a memory bank and recalled when a new experience triggers the sounds, sights and smells of a particular moment. The game is a ame of inches they say, but to me it’s a game of moments. A few special moments that made a career meaningful, and memorable.

It’s About People

In the midst of an aimless adventure to find the meaning of life, I stirred one winter morning after a sleepless night in Chicago to find myself stress-riddled and in search of the meaning of my existence… That’s a pretty deep intro for an Invizzible Ink blog post but looking back at my five month hiatus from blogging, I intrepidly realized that humans cannot pretend to be someone we are not. Me, I’m a writer. I have been since the fourth grade when I won my first writing contest. (Insert unabashed plug) Fast forward twenty years five months ago, I was adhering to the demanding challenge of working full time in Chicago and going to grad school full time in Ohio while keeping a ridiculous travel schedule and managing school and work projects; And usually between the hours of midnight and 3 am maintaining a decent marketing blog. The trick to accomplishing all these goals was simple; Two years of non-sleep week nights. Healthy? No. But certainly advantageous to the accomplishment of what I set out to do.

What I found to be true of this endeavor was that one cannot maintain that routine for much more than two years; at least I couldn’t. Something had to give. Unfortunately for Invizzible Ink, when I started my new job in Chicago, my writing was put on the back burner. Not by choice necessarily, but by default. Hobbies took a back seat; evenings and early mornings gave way to the furious pace of trying to get up to speed with senior and other experienced team members conducting business. It’s exciting and exhilarating to make decisions that affect national programs and millions of impressionable consumers, but soon I found that the core of Invizzible Ink; the marketing mind that defined my day-to-day professional career was lacking organic substance. There was something missing that balanced my holistic mind-operation. Austin Powers would diagnose as a loss of mojo. For me, my mojo is writing. And I wasn’t writing. I was tired and not inspired until finally I realized what was missing… I needed to bring back Ink!

So how does one lose their mojo anyway? Well, I don’t exactly know but I know how one gets it back. One returns to their utility. – The definition of one’s purpose for living and ambition to leave one’s mark on the world. I’m not sure if Webster or Wikipedia would agree with my definition of utility, but in Business Ethics class, our professor John Annarino taught us the meaning of utility and it stuck with me and resonated deeper than any other lesson I learned in two years of graduate studies. Why? Because it was humanized. It meant something that couldn’t be added or subtracted. It lived and breathed in each member of our class and was left for each of us to decide for ourselves how we would define our personal style to learn, lead others, and live life.

One’s utility is the most important aspect of business in my opinion. It serves as my personal guide to making decisions and dealing with relationships. I vowed after reading Good to Great by Jim Collins and receiving years of coaching from hard working volunteer football coaches that life is about people first. “First who, then what,” as Collins would say. As I would say, life is too short and opportunities to make a difference in society are too abundant, to not focus on people first before the subject. At the end of my day, I work with people and for people so why not direct my focus on people? – A widget has never generated a single emotion that motivated, encouraged, or taught me a lesson that made a difference in my life, however I could go on for pages about the people in my life that have made Invizzible Ink possible.

Speaking of people, I think we as humans seek and desire many forms of acceptance from our families, employers and significant others in our daily routines to make sense of our existence here on Earth. I believe when we sacrifice our personal passions for obligations beyond our control, we are moved from living-comfort, to a place of reaction. When the speed of the game gets too intense and we are not in control, we lose our ability to make concerted and logical decisions. We panic. Get ahead of ourselves and forget the basis of how we progressed ourselves to our current state of being. And how did we all get to where we are today? People helped us. – Granted many of us have individual talents and successes but collectively, there has always been some person somewhere who gave an opportunity, believed in us, sacrificed for us, or extended a hand to us in some way. It’s people, folks! It’s not the stuff in our lives, it’s the people that make our world what it is. And I feel sorry for those who don’t get that, but it’s also my utility to help them realize what they are missing.

Attitude Reflect Leadership, Captain

Attitude reflect leadership… So very true in sports as well as in business, family circles, and pretty much life in general. The first time I saw this movie I was a second-year player at the University of Findlay, and frankly the thought of never playing football again mixed with an emotion-enhancinig potion left me wiping tears from my face as I sat on my beer-stained college couch. If you haven’t seen this movie yet I find it incredibly unbelievable that you are finding the time to read this blog, but just in case my mother hasn’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it for her and give away the entire scene and ending. Ultimately though, one of the main characters, Bertier, doesn’t play in the most important game of his career. It’s heart-wrenching to follow the character through the entire movie and watch him as well as all the characters grow and become leaders in their community and school and then not to have the chance to paly the final game.

Bertier in many ways is the protagonist in this movie however he probably wouldn’t want to be considered above anyone or more important than any of his teammates. As one watches “Remember the Titans”, Gerry Bertier stands out as a true leader and captain and embraces it throughout this movie. He gives us multiple examples of his emotional intelligence as well as his passion: Two qualities I believe every leader must possess. Bertier’s passion is reflective in nearly every scene he is present, most noticeably when he is on the football field. He loves playing the game, and he loves his teammates, and he loves his coaches. He respects them and he leads them with a passion that only a captain can lead with.

In my opinion the greatest word in any language in any dictionary is passion. Every great leader has it and no person has ever been their best version of themself without having a passion for something that drives them. A person who is a leader demonstrates their leadership by showing others that passion through acting selfless for the betterment of a particular cause. When a leader begins caring more about being recognized and getting credit for contributing to a cause, the pureness of leading is lost and while their still may be passion, leadership is deduced and the organic reward and fulfillment of leading a cause fizzles. People see through self-righteousness and that passion is weakened.

The scene above where Julius and Bertier are having a conversation and Julius challenges Bertier is an epic moment in the movement that changed not only their friendship, but the team and the school and the entire community. It was in this moment that Bertier showed his true self. His true emotional intelligence was apparent as he handled the situation as a true captain should. When Julius challenged him, he collected himself and he thought about what his teammate was really saying before disagreeing with him. He considered his options and became open to making a difficult decision, and he made his decision because it needed to be made for the greater good. The look on Bertier’s face right at the end of the above scene is memorable because the look on his face as he hears Julius, is a look of surprise, but also a look of reality. In that particular moment I believe Bertier realized that he wasn’t doing everything he could for the football team and that he needed to do more. He needed to find a way to make them better because inside Bertier’s man-sized heart was a kid playing a game that he passionately wanted to win.

Bertier was a utilitarian throughout the movie and although the best interest of both the white and the black communities’ greater good was a risky and difficult leap to make, he took that leap by putting himself out on a limb. He took the chance and made himself vulnerable for the greater good of the team… And it gave me goose bumps after he called out the white full-back for not blocking for the black tailback. Bertier went back to his defense and turned to the other great leader on that defense Julius, and engaged him to lead with him. Bertier didn’t try to do it on his own. He knew, like all great leaders know, that it takes a team to accomplish great things. Bertier obviously knew that Julius was talented and knew that together they had endless potential as a defensive unit, but it was going to take everyone to accomplish what he truely was aiming for. Hence, he took a leap of faith and put himself out for the team. He showed a quality of many other great leaders; he demonstrated courage.

This scene is portrayed as a turning point in the film when the team finally came together and united as one team, instead of white and black. But it accomplished so much more from the aspect of understanding personalities and understanding leadership. Bertier taught the team to follow him. He lead by example and broke down the color barrier by doing what was right. As aspiring leaders in schools, businesses, families, and even politics… We can take a lesson from Gerry Bertier and earn the respect and trust of others by doing what is right. – I think they call it integrity.

Bertier’s integrity is apparent throughout the entire film but one scene that stands out in particular that really emphasizes his true self is the scene where he ended his relationship with his girlfriend. He obviously loved her because we heard him say so in the film, but he loved his team and he loved the game more. He was willing to let go of something that was comfortable for something that was compelling and that is an action of a leader with integrity. When his girlfriend wouldn’t shake Julius’s hand, Bertier had a decision to make and because he was a man with integrity; when given the ultimatum of Julius or her, he chose his team.

Attitude does in fact reflect leadership beyond sports. Poor and positive leadership alike, this movie is a great example of leadership carrying and burying a team. Similar to the leadership of a football team, the same goes in the C-Suite of a firm. If our bosses are complaining and disengagued about a program or event, it shouldn’t be a wonder why the program or event is only sub-par. However when an event is led with passion, it is followed with passion and greatness is accomplished.

As I reflect upon the movie yet another time and try to put myself in Bertier’s shoes as he’s watching his friends play in the state-championship game from a hospital bed, I can’t help but recall a cliche that every football player has heard; “Play every play as if it were your last.” When the weather is extreme hot or cold or the coach is yelling at you or you are having a crappy practice or you got a bad grade on a test or you got traded to a team in last place… no matter what the excuse might be… it is just that. It’s an excuse. The opportunity to play the game of football comes and goes and after it is gone, every football player can probably think back and remember a play here or a play there that they would like to have back… All of us besides Gerry Bertier.

I think the attitude he maintained through the finale of the the video was believable because he did in fact play every play as though it was his last. So when the time came that Gerry did in fact play his last play, he was able to accept it. He accepted that it was his time to move on and he celebrated the team’s victory with them from the hospital and wasn’t bitter or depressed about it because he knew that he had given his heart to them and to the game. Gerry Bertier knew in his heart that he played the game of football the way it was meant to be played. He played the game of football similarly to how he lived his life; with passion, with courage and with integrity.