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.

4 tips to Listening in the Huddle


Twenty-One! Twenty-one!! Ok here we go: Explode to I-Buster right, lucy trade, 161 Y-shallow cross half back Ralfie, check, I-buster right, middle 27 bob-scissors on two…

Imagine you are in the huddle, it’s 3rd and goal with four seconds left to go in a tied playoff game and your team is down five points… Do you know what to do if the defense lines up in cover 1 but rolls to a cover 2 zone? What if they stay in Man? What if the Mike Linebacker blitzes? What if the strong safety blitzes? Do either of these plays have a built in “hot” route? – As you approach the line of scrimage and get into your stance you hear the quarterback make an “Omaha” call, what do you do now? – If you were an NFL tight-end, you would be required to process all of the previous information in less than six seconds. As an added variable, your team is the visitor and the home crowd is making so much noise you can actually feel the vibrations ringing in your helmet from the crowd.

– Plays called by NFL quarterbacks can be up to twenty words long. So as you might guess, it’s important to listen in the huddle. In business, like football, listening is a skill that requires some cognizant adherence in order to be great. We sometimes forget to listen or do a poor job of listening and the resulting outcome is undesirable. In comparison, if we would have done an exceptional job of listening, not only would our outcome have been favorable, but our ability to lead would be exemplified by creating an opportunity to help others understand. When you are in a huddle with time running off the game-clock you don’t have the luxury of asking questions or requesting the quarterback to recap what he just said; you do however, have to be prepared number one, and number two, you have to listen and have total concentration and focus in this situation.

Listening is a skill that separates many of us, and ultimately makes a leader special. As a manager, there are few actions you can demonstrate to your employees that will impact them personally more than being proactive in helping them accomplish their personal goals. Not only will your emplyees be impressed that you are willing to help them, but recalling the conversation in which you discussed goals with an employee will also show them you care. And if you show your employees that you care about them… Assuming you hired morally sound people, you can expect them to give you the same level of respect and do the extra little things it takes to be great. — At the end of the day, listening is about caring. If you care about people, you will listen to them and value what they have to say.

However, if you have a hard time paying attention and have a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder like I do, a few tips I picked up along the way that might help you out include:

1) Make Eye Contact-
Looking at the person talking while simultaneously reading their lips will help you retain information. Using your sense of sight and hearing together will also help improve information retention. (especially if you are playing on the road)

2) Recap confusing or uncertain lessons-
Restating what someone tells you allows you to process the information, restate the information in your own words, and open the dialogue back up in case you missed an element of what you were told. Also, hearing the information a second or third time will help you recall the information when you need it.

3) Ask Questions-
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please. First of all, there are very few places in business for shyness. Be accountable and ask questions in regard to information you are unclear about. It’s your responsibility to know what you need to know. It’s much more embarrassing to be the person on film running the wrong route or the person who brought the wrong presentation to the meeting.

4) Knock the chip off your shoulder-
Listening is about caring. Value the people around you and seek to learn from them at all cost. If you walk through your day believing you are too busy to talk to your employees then you are missing out on an invaluable education and almost guaranteeing that later when you are actually paying attention to a conversation, a previous topic will come up and you will be the one left in the dark. All because you didn’t think it important enough the first time… It’s hard to redeem yourself after this happens – It’s far better as well as utilitarian to simply care about your people and listen to what they have to say.