Gearing up for a night out with the boys to celebrate our short friend Ty’s last few weeks as a single man. He’s getting married in a few weeks and asked me to be one of his groomsmen. Of course I said yes and remember the Put-in-Bay toast that immediately commenced… Cherry Bomb.
Thirty-five of Ty’s friends rsvp’d that they would be at the Winking Lizard tonight at 8:00 p.m. to begin the night’s events. Ty is a great friend. He was my college roommate for three years and now he lives a few doors down the street with his fiance Cassie. I’ve known the couple for 10 years and consider them “time-trusted friends.” Coach Simrell, one of the three head coaches we had at Findlay during my career there, introduced that phrase to us. I remember joking about it at the time because we joked about everything in the locker room, but I think I know what Sim meant by time-trusted friends. I certainly have time-trusted friends in my life and I’m thinking about all of Ty’s friend’s who are celebrating with him tonight. Many of them are time-trusted friends.
The ah-hah moment for this blog came when I decided to use Invizzable-Ink as a tool to define business principles and key methods for success. As a result, I know that I would be remissed if I did not include healthy relationships as a key core value. Your business is only as strong as its people engaged in relationships working together to accomplish tasks. The depth of which an organization can accomplish tasks depends on its people and the relationships they manage. If they are surface relationships, you can expect about the same result from the body of work. When people are engaged in a trusting and freedom-given relationship, the abilities of both parties is maximized and the full potential of the relationship is reached.
My fist real mentor was my college strength coach. Cal Dietz helped me become the athlete I became on a number of platforms. The first platform was the wooden one I did power-cleans on in the University of Findlay weight room. I had no idea what I was doing and quite frankly I was lucky I didn’t hurt myself. But Cal saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He coached me, encouraged me, and developed the self-confidence I was lacking that ultimately led me to the NFL.
I’ll never forget the embarrassing first day of college football. For those that don’t know what testing day is, it’s the first day of the season that coaches can see the progress an athlete made in the off-season by having the athletes demonstrate various tests of strength and explosiveness. Players are tested on various strength tests such as the bench press and vertical jump. My first day as a skinny college athlete I did the 225lb bench press test zero reps. Yup, dropped the weight on my chest and couldn’t lift it. Good thing I could catch a football because that was the only thing that was impressive about me as a freshman at the University of Findlay.
It wasn’t until the following off-season when Cal came to the University of Findlay that I aspired to be the best football player I could be. He started by teaching me how to eat. That’s right; brought me to the dining hall and filled my plate with whole grain bread, deli-style turkey piled high – and I mean high, lots of vegetables, and two glasses of milk. I followed in his shadow as he explained why he was putting the different foods on my tray. “When you finish this tray, go back through the line and get the same thing again. If you need some ice cream to fill in the cracks that’s ok.” – I guess he wanted me to gain some weight. Which I did, the right way. Nutritious food with a little humor- I’ll always remember that moment as Cal’s first day of coaching me. From there it was all business in the weight room. I was always a good athlete because I was blessed with talent but Cal helped me become great.
I’ve had a lot of great coaches and teachers in my life but none quite like Cal. It takes a special person to find personal success in helping others achieve their goals. Cal certainly has his own goals, which is another skill I learned from him, but he always cared about his athletes reaching their full potential. In his mind, if his athletes weren’t reaching their full potential, he wasn’t doing his job to his fullest potential. He gave us everything he had everyday as our coach, and in return, we gave him everything we had. It was the epitome of team. And I loved being a part of it. He made me want to be better every time I was around him.
Cal will always be a dear friend and mentor. We talk about business ventures and philosophy when we have time and most recently we discussed the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the themes in Collin’s book is having the right people in the right positions for your organization. Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the NFL in me that has influenced me, or possibly jaded me, but this philosophy is not just a suggestion for managers to consider. If we do not have the right people in the right positions, a company will never be great. Just as Cal was the right person to help me, corporations have to find the same “right” people to ensure greatness. People are every company’s greatest resource and I completely believe a happy employee is one whom is passionate. Find employees who have a passion for your business and listen to them. Develop them into what they want to be and they will give you everything they have for your business. You may not bench-press 420 lbs when its all over, but you will have won the right way, with the right people on your team. – Thanks Cal for inspiring me to be great.
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 –
The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had the best day today. I met with a friend who works as a Physical Therapist for special needs students in a district near and much like my hometown.
For the past year the American Dairy Association has been after our goal of placing Fuel Up to Play60 kits in schools. A kit contains tools that a school can use as part of supporting a healthy lifestyle in their building. We accomplished our goal and have been a part of some wonderful events as a result. Somewhere in the hustle and balancing of grad school and work though, I lost touch with the part of my job that allows me to be a part of changing kid’s lives. I felt that emotion again today for the first time in a while and I was reminded again that God is good.
The topic of our conversation was Fuel Up to Play60, a program designed by the Dairy Council and the NFL to create healthy lifestyles in schools. A typical school meeting usually includes getting as many students as possible to sign the pledge and track their progress online because their school can win some great prizes if they win the competitions. But this meeting was different. This meeting was how the program could be used in a one-on-one teaching scenerio between my friend and the special kids she works with.
I’m proud of the success of Fuel Up to Play60 in Ohio but there is also something to be said for the people like my friend who are able to take this program and use it with special kids to improve their quality of life too. One of the boys my friend was telling me about was paralyzed in a car accident from his chest down but despite his challenges was still a pretty good athlete and a football fan. She believes he could compete in wheel chair sports if given the opportunity and feels the Fuel Up to Play60 program will be the ideal program to motivate him. I hope it is.
Our programs and brands can and will be talkable but the people who are talking about us is really what makes our programs and brands what they are. Consumers are the reasons we do what we do. They are ultimately the consumers of our passions. We owe it to them to be our best, to be honest, and to be what we say we are; even when the going gets tough. In return, we receive knowledge and understanding of who our consumers are, what they care about, and what they are passionate about. That seems like a pretty fair trade.
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.