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.

Experience of a Lifetime

Have you ever recognized there are these intangible characteristics about special people who enter our lives that make it impossible to forget them? We all probably have someone in mind right now who fits into that “special” category. Could be someone we know personally or someone we’ve heard speak on television or in person; regardless, we agree there are special people who enter our lives at various times for various reasons. These people are for whatever reason timely and purposeful in our lives, and often they encourage us or perhaps just influence us to spend time in personal reflection. They spark internal thought processes we may not have been inclined to reach on our own and coincidentally, as a result of these thoughts we attain a rejuvenated view of ourselves.

One of those people in my opinion is Randy Pausch. If you have never seen his ‘Final Lecture’ I strongly encourage setting an hour aside and to give it a go. The man is an inspiration to many and he strived to help people become better at whatever it was they wanted to do. And he did it with a purpose, and a certian will to live that I can only describe as admirable.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” – Randy Pausch

This quote sums up plenty of experiences in my life and as a result, I am better equipped as a person, as an employee, and as a leader. I think its almost humorous that employers post some job postings and list “x” number of years as a requirement for a certain position and then disqualify candidates because of a lack of what they think experience is. Experience is not quantifiable in a sense of placing value on the number of years someone has been doing a job. Real experience is qualitative. It’s not what you do in those 5-7 years of work, it’s how you do it that tells the true story. I may not have 10 years of management experience but I’m the oldest of four siblings and my first job was watching my baby sister during the summers when my parents were working. I sacrificed many of bike rides with my friends, trips to the swimming pool, and neighborhood basketball games when everyone else was on summer vacation. But experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. Yea I wanted to do those things at the time, but I got something even better instead. So here’s a tip to my colleagues in human resources and hiring managers; Don’t think you know someone’s value based on their age and how many years they have been doing a job; they are obviously trying to advance themself from that position… Dig a little deeper and be creative in your approach. Not sure about you, but I would rather work with someone young and passionate about people and change, than someone with 15 years of leadership experience who is set in their ways. But that’s just me.

3 Tips to Solidify your Pro Athlete Endorsement

Finding the right athlete who stands above all the rest to endorse your product or brand can be a circuitous challenge if you do not have a proper strategy for aligning the right personality with the role. It’s important to have a clear outcome and goals defined first, before aligning an athlete with your brand. By creating a plan for your promotion strategy based on specific goals, a brand manager can use the Invizzible Ink Selection Model for choosing an athlete and be confident their project will produce a favorable return on investment. Setting goals may seem like an obvious statement, however marketers are sometimes captivated by the opportunity to work with an A-lister, that they miss their target audience. When this occurs, not only does the project result in an unfavorable outcome from an investment standpoint, but your brand suffers a set-back in a volatile economy. It makes far greater sense to understand your entire project and choose representation based on a desired outcome, not a desired athlete.

The Invizzible Ink Selection Model is a personalized and multifaceted marketing tool used by brands to ensure their goals are met. The foundation of the selection model was built on a number of essential marketing elements that have proven to increase brand awareness, resonance, and revenue. The formula itself is complex in its entirety, however many of the weights assigned to each variable are simply common sense understandings of the sports world and market. While experience has proven to be a leading variable for our brand, it’s not the only element with which we have to base our decisions. What we can share today are tips to consider when choosing the right athlete to be the ambassador of your brand. Remember: No strategy is aligned for success without a plan and specified goals…

1. Background Check… Not with the DMV either. Depending on your project, your brand may have a need for a grassroots ambassador, or a major Public Relations identity. In either case, its vital to the success of the campaign to have the right person in place. One way to ensure your brand has the right person in place is to do your homework. Researching candidate’s backgrounds, i.e. – college course of study, family, interests outside of sports are just a few criteria I research before recommending an athlete. For example, if your firm is looking for a sports figure to be the spokesperson for a national PR campaign, you probably don’t want someone uncomfortable in a public speaking role. Going to a search engine and doing some light stalking will produce a plethora of information valuable to gaining insight to a sports figure. An athlete with a communications degree, a broadcast journalism degree, or a similar course of study will position your brand with an interested and qualified athlete. When this happens, the believability of the athlete’s message is increased and brand resonance is attained. By putting the right people in the right places, as Jim Collins expalins in his book, Good to Great, a win-win scenerio is accomplished for both athlete and brand.

2. Does your Brand align with a foundation or charity? Many athletes today have their own foundation, 501 c3, or preferred charity and will align their interests or even passions with brands that support the same programs. Particularly to those brands or organizations looking to hire sports figures in your smaller markets, this bit of information may be a gold mine. If your organization can align itself with this type of athlete while being savvy and strategic, you may find yourself a partner as opposed to paying for a speaker.

3. Who are you getting? — A good teammate? Good in the locker room? Have they worked with other brands? — Brand managers in the sports industry need to know the answers to these questions before signing a deal. I’ve seen far too many examples of athletes showing up late or not showing up at all for an appearance on behalf of an organization or brand, that it literally ruined the event. Disappointed students at a school, fans holding jerseys to be signed at the mall, teams waiting in the locker room before taking the field… Seen it all and felt for all of them. At the end of the day, if your organization is going to align with an athletic figure… Remember, there is a person behind that figure. All-Pro linebackers do not equate to all-pro people. The kids at your local middle school would much rather meet a pro football player and hear his story of what it’s like to be a back-up and play special teams in the NFL, rather than be big-timed by the star and promised a reschedule.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Leadership Worthington (LW) is a not-for-profit organization in Worthington, Ohio that serves its community by developing its future leaders through leadership enhancement and focusing on and understanding the key issues facing their community. LW is facilitated by community professionals and designed for high school students in grades 10-12.
I had the opportunity and esteemed pleasure to deliver the keynote to the graduating class this past November at the request of the program’s coordinator. My tie to the Worthington community dates back to 2005 when I first moved to the Columbus area. I was rehabbing injuries following my last stint with the Giants, and felt I could bring an added something to the Columbus area by means of service. I ultimately became active in the Worthington School System by first substitute teaching and later taking a full time position as a teacher assistant in an elementary behavior classroom. I must have made a decent impression on a few key people in the district because they looked me up four years later and asked me to be a part of thier leadership program. (Thanks again Val!)

When addressing young people about any topic, it brings with it a responsibility to be relavent as well as insightful to the issues that face them; or you might as well count on them to tune you out. I chose the topics for the keynote specifically because of the relevance I found between my friends whom I mentioned, and my Business Ethics professor, John Annarino, Esq.

In my speech I mentioned my friends Mike and Zack and shared what I learned from them, but not mentioned in the keynote is Professor Annarino. It was in his class that I learned the most about being a leader and what it takes to be my best. It was from John that I learnd to find a balance between my heart and my mind when making decisions. He taught me to be contemplative and aware of who I am and what my utility is as a man, a leader, and legacy. — We learn many valuable lessons in books, but often times the most important lessons we learn, are learned through experience.

We know that every entity has some form of leadership and there are many adjectives we use to describe those leaders. Coincidentally, we can also compare the body of work which that entity produces to reflect to some extent the leadership that guides. Presidents of countries, CEO’s of corporations, principals of elementary schools, and coaches of sports teams all have a unifying quality that conjoin them. – They lead people by defining a mission and entrusting in their own personal vision for the greater good of their entity and its stakeholders.

Leaders who preserve a humble desire to learn from others are demonstrating more than learning and leadership qualities; they are setting the greatest example possible for their pupils. A leader who leads by example will always have the respect and approbation of their team. Too often leaders find themselves in a position to influence others and forget that they too are students and have something to learn. Malcom Gladwell said, “We learn by example and direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” This is very true in sports as well as business. As a back-up to Jeremy Shockey in New York, I had plenty of opportunity to learn by example. On film, on the field, in the weight room; It was like having another coach. In many ways, we all learned from each other. There are so many nuances to the game of football, especially in the trenches. The smallest tip to blocking a defensive end sometimes is the difference between scoring a touch-down or settling for a field goal attempt. For example, If I am watching Jeremy block a quick defensive end and see exactly how he takes his first step off the ball, I do not need to hear a word from a coach… I can see how to do it and will mirror his actions when I am in the same situation.

The same mirroring techniques can be used by managers in business, however they have to see the value of teaching their staff in a “do as I do, not do as I say” style. It’s easier for some managers to tell others what to do because they do not have the ability themselves to actually do the task. However, to optimally build your brand and your business; its imperative to have leaders on your team who care to show others how it’s done, as well as be able to explain to them why.

What is Invizzable Ink?

Invizzable Ink guides the evangelist’s favorite pen.

A product is only what people say it is… Regardless of what your CEO and board of directors want or expect; a brand in 2010 is only what people online and at the watercooler say it is. What’s being said online and at the watercooler about your brand is making or breaking your business; be sure of that. We call it “Buzz” – or in this this case, Invizzable Ink. Invizzable Ink writes the language of Word-of-Mouth marketing . It’s the buzz that surrounds your brand’s existance in society… It’s invisible to the eye but clearly seen at the watercooler. Invizzable Ink is organic matter that Brand Evangelists use to work.