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.
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…
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.
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.
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.