The Write Decision

Rashard Mendenhall

The recent Rashard Mendenhall retirement announcement brought me back to college. One of the hardest football decisions I ever had to make came during my red-shirt sophomore year at Findlay. In order to graduate on time I needed to take an English class that was only offered during the same time as football practice.

 As if it wasn’t hard enough to be a poem-writing tight-end at a football school, I was a poem-writing tight-end missing practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Needless to say I wasn’t seeing much playing time for that coach, but I understood and thought my playing time was fair that year considering the situation.

 I’ll never forget the conversation with the coach at the time. He’s no longer at the school and didn’t last long in that position, but before moving on, he spent plenty of time telling me what kind of player I was. He said something about me being a poor teammate and afraid to do the right thing for the team. To which I replied by hanging my head and just wanting to get the hell out of his office with a little dignity.

The response I offered him was that in order to graduate on time I would have to take this class, at this time, or stay another semester because this class was a requirement for my major. He didn’t seem to care much about my major. But then again, reading and writing poetry is not for everyone. One has to appreciate these things in order to understand them. What I understood though even then, was who I was. I was a pretty decent football player but I was also a passionate writer, assistant editor of The Envoy and team player off the field in my writing groups. I was a writer as much as I was a football player.

 The irony here is that my professors were my biggest fans on the field, did everything they could to be supportive of our team and generally just cared about me as a person. Rather than argue this point about equally being a writer and football player, I channeled it, and that sequence of events changed my mindset about writing. It motivated me to be a better writer and it gave me a reassuring sense of confidence that I was doing what was right.

I mean, this was college right? — Higher education; preparing for life’s journey through curriculum application and character development… Maybe at Alabama or Miami, football players do not miss practices for English class. Of course classes are offered more frequently to prevent that from occurring.

At the end of the day, college is about experiences, choices, getting an education and growing. I learned during that time; what is popular is not always easy. But more than anything, what I learned was having balance to my life was imperative.

When I read of Mendenhall’s retirement, I thought to myself, there is a true professional. Someone who has figured it out; someone on our team.

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.

Life Lessons mixed in Cognitive Psychology

I remember my first real teaching experience; Second grade at Brookside Elementary. I woke up that morning and had a purpose, a certain motivation to somehow make a difference. The darkness of the morning commute allowed for some anxiety as I sipped my coffee. The questions were floating around in my head as I paid close attention to road signs, cautiously driving to Brookside. Work at an elementary school – It always sounded like something I would enjoy and be good at but as for a career, how would I know until I tried it, right? My football career was up in the air after all the injuries and so I decided to try something different for a while; at least until I was healthy enough to go to another try-out.

After stumbling through my first day and finally walking all the students outside to their busses, one of the little girls returned to the hallway hysterical, crying and shaking. I remember being alarmed and thinking, what is the matter with this poor girl! Confused and not real sure what the acceptable gesture was for the situation, I kneeled down, embraced her in my arms a little and tried to talk to her. She had blurted out between wails that she lost her jacket. The school secretary heard the commotion and soon came and assisted me with this dilemma; which I greatly appreciated because it was helpful to have a motherly figure around at this point. I decided that I would go in search of the jacket and bring it to the bus. The girl calmed down a bit and was off to bus twenty-seven, and I off to find the blue jean jacket.
I only took a few steps though until I realized this poor girl was absolutely terrified to go home without her jacket; or any bad news for that matter. She was scared for her safety. Luckily, I found her jacket on a chair in the hall. I picked up my pace back to the bus to give her the jacket but she had turned back in search of the jacket as well and met me in the hall. When I neared the doors of the building she made eye contact with me and as I kneeled down to give her the jacket she hugged me very tightly, as though I had just saved her of something terrible. It was a hug fueled by terror; not the hug that you imagine from a sweet little second grader. She didn’t say a word, just hugged me and took off for bus twenty-seven.

Why do I still remember the tightness of her hug; the smell of her hair; the shaking of her shoulders, the color of her coat and the number of the bus she rode off in?

The answers to these questions much like the answers to questions floating around your marketing department brainstorming sessions are in an understanding of Sir Frederic Bartlett’s work in Cognitive Psychology. The simple answer, because my schema of hugging a sweet innocent girl was interrupted. I have a six year old niece who is an absolute sweetheart. I look forward to visiting her and anticipate her smile and hug when I pull in the driveway and see her peeking from the kitchen window. When we become accustomed to a certain reality and fundamentally believe something to be a certain way or we are used to having something a certain way, it is human nature that over time we will expect it. When that normalcy is interrupted we have an emotional reaction to it, which causes us to talk about it – or write about it in a blog using a translucent blue-shade of Invizzible Ink.

Much of marketing is about experiences and connecting those experiences with real life consumers. Consumers are human beings, breathing and warm and influenced by a variety of dynamics that they can touch and smell and see for themselves. Consumers want to experience your brand for themselves; they aren’t interested in what a stranger on television tells them about a product anymore. Consumers want to feel the terrified hug and smell the little girl’s hair. As advanced as media has become, they still haven’t brought me a product I can smell, taste, touch, or feel… Invizzable Ink –