By Scott Westerman
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Can a police department gain a positive national following by engaging on social media? Here’s the story of one that did.

I’m a huge fan of the Newport Beach, California, Police Department. Not only do they protect and serve their community with professionalism and class, they are best in class at telling their stories in an inspiring, engaging way. If you’re a Facebook user, I highly encourage you to follow them.

Beyond the usual safety messaging, they turn the typically mundane arrest recaps into some of the most engaging tales I’ve ever read. Here’s a recent example:

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Story time! Gather ‘round, folks, because we have a nice one for you today. A whole cast of characters, our favorite kind of crime (thwarted!), some weird conversation, and an observant officer… all the makings of another great “Arrested by NBPD”!

It all begins on a Tuesday, around 4:45 pm, with one of our faaaaavorite kinds of people: an active and engaged resident. We don’t actually know this guy, but we’ll imagine him as a beachy outdoorsman, the kind of guy who always has some sand on the floor of his pickup truck and tubes of sunscreen stashed *everywhere*. He’s got a gazillion friends (including all the lifeguards), but somehow he has even more boards: boogie boards, paddle boards, surf boards, body boards… and a couple skateboards for when the water is off-limits. A gentle aroma of surf wax and salty sea air seems to follow him wherever he goes. People in Minnesota would not know what to make of him.

So, Awesome Resident Guy (as we’ll dub him) gives us a call. He lives on 26th Street, he explains, but he’s not home at the moment. (Of course not! He’s probably at the beach, where he belongs!) He has a security camera, though, and that camera picked up some suspicious activity. It looked like a guy in dark clothing was trespassing at the property next door.

Thank you, Awesome Resident! You get back to the waves, and we’ll go check out the trespassing situation. ?

Officers head over to 26th Street and check out the neighbor’s property. It’s under construction, and encircled with a locked chain link fence. Hmmmm… this is not the kind of place anyone should just be wandering around. There doesn’t seem to be anyone lurking about the premises, though… at least, not any more.

Enter another type of faaaaaavorite person: an active and engaged non-resident. ? We imagine this guy as a bit of a teddy bear, big and burly with a winning smile and a gentle voice. He’s great with kids, everyone’s favorite uncle… and has a hidden talent as a baker. His oatmeal cookies are legendary. By day, he’s also a waste collector… an OBSERVANT waste collector.

You see, Awesome Baker Guy (as he shall henceforth be known) approaches the officer to report something out of the ordinary. A few minutes ago, as he was going about his business doing waste-collector-y things, he saw a guy in dark clothing and a baseball cap peel back a corner of that chain link fence and slip inside. Awesome Baker Guy thought it looked an awful lot like trespassing, so he called the guy over to the fence to ask what he was doing. The guy in the dark clothing protested (adamantly and convincingly) that he had permission to be there, but Awesome Baker Guy still didn’t have a good feeling about the whole thing. He snapped a picture of the guy on his phone, and watched him leave the area.

Our officer gets a copy of the photo and, after checking the area one more time, goes back to his regular patrols…

About a half hour later, a guy catches the officer’s eye. The guy’s walking along 32nd Street near Marcus Avenue… and he looks oddly familiar. Dark clothes, baseball cap… and a face that matches the photo from Awesome Baker Guy. Hmmmmm… ?

The officer stops Ball Cap Guy for a chat. It’s… it’s a strange chat. ?Here’s a fictionalized version, for your reading pleasure:

Officer: So, hey – were you inside that fenced and secured property on 26th Street?
Guy: Yeah. I have permission to be there.

Officer: From who?
Guy: Oh, some dude who was working there. He let me leave a bunch of my stuff there and I was just going to pick it up. I expected him to be there when I got back, but the place was deserted. Weird.

Officer: So, you just went in to get your stuff? But… No one saw you leave with anything…
Guy: Yeah, my stuff wasn’t there after all.

Officer: So… where was it?
Guy: At an apartment complex.

Officer: ?
Guy: With my bike.

Officer: ?
Guy: Behind Sancho’s Tacos.

(Editor’s note: I have so many questions here! Why did he think his stuff was on the property if it was at an apartment complex? Who is this worker? How is this even a plausible story?? The officer, thankfully, is a lot less flappable than your editor over here, so he goes with this instead…)

Officer: There is no apartment complex behind Sancho’s Tacos.
Guy: ? Huh. Really?

Officer: And why aren’t you riding your bike?
Guy: Because… because my feet hurt. ?

Officer: Uhhh… I gotta be honest, this is making no sense to me. Let’s go to something easier: Do you live around here?
Guy: Nope, I’m from Irvine. I’m just here to start a band with Hank.

Officer: Oh yeah? Do you play an instrument?
Guy: No… But I think I can talk Hank into it anyway.

Officer: ?

If this conversation had been allowed to continue, we’re not sure WHERE we’d end up… But things get cut short when the officer spots three syringes full of meth in the small pocket of Ball Cap Guy’s backpack. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Ball Cap Guy is off to jail for possession of the meth, and possession of the syringes. The property owner, when asked, confirms that he wants to prosecute Ball Cap Guy for trespassing too.

Luckily, the charges stop there. Through the teamwork of Awesome Resident Guy, Awesome Baker Guy, and our own observant and intrepid officer, there was no theft from the property on 26th Street. And THAT seems like a pretty happy ending to us. ????

We hope you have a lovely day, filled with surfing and/or oatmeal cookies.

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You have to admit that this is some of the most entertaining social media writing out there these days. So I did a little investigation of my own to discover the star behind the keyboard. She’s Jennifer Manzella, NBPD’s Press Press Information Officer. I’ve written love letters to her before in the Facebook comment section and she always writes back (the first rule of social media engagement is that you “engage”). This last story made me want to go one step further. Jennifer is always attributing fun and fascinating traits to the community members who help the cops do their jobs so well. I offered to make a donation to the charity of their choice if she would describe -me- as one of their engaged residents. Here’s what Jennifer wrote back:

 Your comment made our morning, Scott! No donation or compensation necessary… we’ll be happy to “write you up” in return for your awesomeness.

We don’t know Scott personally, but we imagine him as a kind-hearted soul who’s got that whole “listen twice as much as you talk” thing down pat. His neighbors find excuses to trim their hedges or linger over already-washed cars in their driveway, hoping that Scott will stop by to offer them sage advice on whatever is currently worrying them… and maybe give them one of his trademarked wink-and-smiles that somehow puts everyone at ease. He has a series of little-known talents (Pictionary, frisbee golf, and expert-level knot tying) and his favorite color is green (Panatone 567, to be exact).

Imagine a huge operation with a culture not typically associated with fun and friendliness doing something like that! And by the way, Panatone 567 is the officially sanctioned version of Green we use at Michigan State. She did her homework.

What are the lessons learned here, besides the fact that it’s much more fun to be an “awesome, engaged” citizen then to get caught with meth syringes doing bad stuff?

Treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the room. – We all crave meaningful human interaction and affirmation. I know a ton of cops since my alumni include some of the best in the nation. The best of them understand that -most- of the bad guys they encounter are human beings and deserve the same empathy and respect that the rest of us appreciate. Good cops deescalate the drama, neutralize the threat with as little force as necessary, and allow us to look behind the badge to get a sense for their humanity.

Be empathetic. Most of us are dealing with problems you know nothing about. – Many of the police officers I’ve had the honor of riding with are master psychologists. Preventing future trouble is just as important as defusing the current situation.  Like all of us, cops can be a positive force to guide a person in the right direction at a pivotal moment in their lives, when a step in the wrong direction could forever damage them. And most police officers do just that.

Judge any group by the good deeds of the many, not the misdeeds of the few. – Of course, the world does have its darker corners where predators seek prey and the “thin blue line” is all that stands between civilization and anarchy. We are forever grateful that there are men and women who are willing to risk their lives to protect us from these unfortunates. A cop’s survival often depends on snap judgements and they don’t always get it right. The continuum of police officers, just like every other profession, ranges from the exceptional to the ineffective. As a former Cable TV guy, (people everwhere seems to love to hate us), I learned that a few bad apples don’t have to spoil the bunch.

Act as the person you wish everyone else could become. – This is my personal interpretation of the Golden Rule. In every extended encounter, I usually get around to talking about the two magic questions I like to ask people: Where does it Hurt? And how can I help? I shared these with one of my favorite Spartan cops during a ride along and she ended up adding that second question to her lexicon. She reported, what I’ve known for a long time: “How can I help?” is one of the most powerful questions you can ask. Strive to be the most attentive friend people know, the best problem solver in the room and the most positive person in your circle. It won’t always be easy. None of us get it right every time. But consistent practice, creates productive habits that become the strong cables that anchor exceptional character.

Thank you, Jennifer, for teaching us how it’s done on a platform that too often is a place filled with screaming and yelling about fear, uncertainty and doubt. You represent the best we can be. And we need as many role models like you as we can find.

Feedback always welcome to Scott@Spartanology.com

 

 

Commencement is often defined as a “New Beginning”.

Hear the Conversation 9:02 – 9 mb mp3

If you’re about to graduate from Michigan State University, the next nine minutes can truly change your life.

Lisa Wiley Parker,  Senior Director of Alumni Engagement at the MSU Alumni Association joins Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations, Scott Westerman to talk about how Spartans acclimate and thrive in “the real world”.

If you are commencing, you probably in one of two camps: You’ve got a job or your are sweating the stress of seeking one.

For those still in seek mode, Lisa shares MSUAA’s secret formula that Spartans use to leverage LinkedIn’s advanced search to seek out and engage Spartans who work where you want to work.

Starting with a new firm in a new town comes wrapped in it’s on set of adventures. Lisa and Scott guide you to your most powerful resources for acclimation both in and out of the work place and take you through the tools available on the MSUAA website, alumni.msu.edu.

While the conversation is primarily directed toward new graduates, the program contains nuggets for any Spartan who is facing a relocation or reinvention.

Link: SpartansHelpingSpartans.com – The premiere website for alumni seeking to grow in skill and confidence in their chosen fields.

Link: Alumni.MSU.edu – The home of all things MSUAA with connections to local clubs and resources to help you polish your personal brand under the Spartan banner.

Link: MSUAA on LinkedIn – The home to 54,000 Spartans who converse about careers and life. (You must be a grad to join.)

 

Career Insurance

On November 6, 2017, in Monday Motivator, Spartanology, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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As shareholders of publicly traded companies, we expect the value of our portfolio to continue to increase over time. We terminate the relationship when it stops growing. If you’re not increasing the value of your personal brand every year, expect the same thing to happen to you.

Lately, several people I know have had to reassess their value propositions as the companies they worked for have evolved beyond their capabilities. It’s not that they were bad employees. In every case, they were dedicated, hardworking and loyal. They made the mistake of thinking that the work they did today would be good enough to help them keep their jobs tomorrow. Here are some ideas to help you build some of your own “career insurance”.

Look beyond the horizon to imagine what your company might look like tomorrow. Innovation, fresh competition and disruption are givens. Those who thrive try to imagine the future state and plan for it now.

Adapt. The technologies and work processes that were in place the day we were hired are guaranteed to be different tomorrow. Learning new skills and letting go of old paradigms are a natural part of human growth.

Have a Plan B. It’s easy to stay stuck in the same job, company, or relationship because the uncomfortable current reality feels preferable to the unknown. What would you do if you lost your job this week?

Think of your personal brand in the same way you think about your own investment portfolio. Is it continuing to appreciate? If not, what can you do as the CEO to increase the value proposition? Best in class leaders follow the processes that best in class companies use to protect shareholder value. They are always looking for new ways to augment it, embracing fresh knowledge, imagining the future and starting to create it now. They build contingency strategies and disaster recovery plans that don’t just ensure long term survival. They take the organization to the next level of excellence, productivity and innovation.

History tells us that great opportunity lies in the midst of even the most challenging times. Creating an attitude of inquisitive optimism is essential to take advantage of it. By the same token, the intransigent, fault finding, “we’ve always done it this way” impediments to inevitable change ultimately find themselves “between opportunities”.

As EPrize founder, Josh Linkner tells his team, “The company that puts us out of business should be us.” Work toward eliminating your current job by becoming the indispensable creator of your next one.

 

Therapeutic Gratitude

On July 23, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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I recently spent some time with Dacher Keltner, a perpetual student of the art and science of emotional wellbeing. He reminded me of one of its great prerequisites: Gratitude.

This came home to me in a powerful way the morning after. A brave friend who deals with clinical depression uses gratitude as a weapon to beat back the monster. “I’m really struggling with my anxiety and depression tonight,” she wrote to her Facebook family, “and even though asking for help is one of my least favorite things to do….here it goes. I need your help. And what makes me feel better is helping others, and making them feel good. So! Like this post, and I will tag you in a comment below and say something I admire about you. Let’s spread some positivity around, folks!”

The response was a shower of empathy and affection for her many positive qualities, not the least of which is courage. And it was an opportunity for her to ponder the beauty of her own existence and to write about the dimensions of these cherished friends that she’s grateful for.

Dacher invited us to do some deep breathing and to think about people we were grateful for. That was an easy exercise for me, my iWatch seems to know when I need to breathe and tells me to do so with regularity. I soon found myself texting a half dozen of these extraordinary people to let them know that when I closed my eyes to think about the good people in my life, theirs were among the faces I saw.

On the flip side, there are situations that trigger opposite emotions; memories of people who have hurt us, whom we have hurt and situations we wish we could have handled differently. These visceral bullets to the temple constrict our circulatory system, raise blood pressure to pour fuel into our fight or flight metabolism, and dump a generous shot of acid into our stomachs.

Spontaneously reliving of our disasters is a protective device left over from our hunter-gatherer days, when our higher brains were not quite so sophisticated. Manifesting empathy and forgiveness for all involved, especially ourselves, can be hard to do. But it’s a skill that can be learned through practice. Like the bubble meditation, we can encase dark past events in the protective shell of experiential wisdom and study them from the perspective of life experience for what they really are. Gratitude inevitably ensues.

Emerson wrote, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

I would add that even the bad things that befall us can include silver linings for which we can be grateful. It’s the darkness in the valleys of our lives that gives us an appreciation for the view from the summit of our achievements.

The next time you’re afraid, depressed, angry or uncertain, try injecting some gratitude into your attitude. It’s prescription with few unpleasant side effects. And it can be contagious!

 

Trusting Your Gut

On July 2, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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Have you ever had one of those nagging feelings that something just wasn’t right? Our subconscious has spent a lifetime filing and cataloging experience and perception. It can be a natural early warning system that’s worth listening to.

Dr. Susan Biali, who contributes to Psychology Today says that our first reactions are often prescient. “Be careful about glossing it over if it doesn’t make sense.”

Professional development coach, Hana Ayoub told Fast Company that your gut, “holds insights that aren’t immediately available to your conscious mind right now, but they’re all things that you’ve learned and felt. In the moment, we might not be readily able to access specific information, but our gut has it at the ready.”

Dr. Herbert Simon calls this “chunking”. Our mind stores knowledge in chunks. Over time, they are catalogued and pop up when we need them most, even though we may sometimes not know why.

Geil Browning, writing in Inc Magazine says that this kind of intuition can be sharpened. “It’s all about giving our brain more emotional information to work with through life experience to increase the probability of success for any given gut decision. Basically, the more we experience the more accurate our guts become.”

Remember when your parents told you to respect the advice of your elders. This is why that is often wise counsel.

In my experience, my best decisions have come from a combination of objective and subjective consideration. The process I use involves gathering all the objective information and feedback I can find and digesting it.  Then, I close my eyes and listen to what my heart is telling me to do. As M. Scott Peck writes in his classic, The Road Less Travelled, “If you suffer fully, you will make the right decision, although you may not know it at the time.”

But there isn’t always time for careful reflection. Life is fired at us point blank and we are sometimes forced to make decisions without the benefit of time for thought. This is where gut instinct is often most powerful.

Over time, you can learn the difference between the radar-like wisdom of intuition and the unrealistic fears that often block us from reaching beyond our self-imposed limitations. Taking calculated risks is a requirement for personal growth. The challenge is figuring out which voice is talking to you; your higher self or the dinosaur brain of irrational resistance.

“Listening to your instincts takes courage and practice,” Dr. Biali concludes. “After all, until you start paying attention to and acting on your instincts, you won’t have the opportunity to verify how accurate they are. In some cases, you may never find out what disaster it is that you averted.”

So the next time that little voice in your head is talking to you, it might make sense to listen.

 

By Scott Westerman
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Welcome home!

To live and work within walking distance of the sights and sounds of my formative years at Michigan State University constantly triggers a treasure trove of memories. I cherish every opportunity to tread amidst this ever evolving, living Time Machine, always pointing towards the future, but brilliantly reflecting riches of knowledge discovered along the way.

It’s a common experience we all share whenever we come home to campus. From the sweet aroma inside the MSU dairy store, to the silent splendor of the Spartan statue, to the laughing tumble of the Red Cedar as it dances along the rapids by the administration building, the sensations that abound across campus spur reminders of the people, places, events and attitudes that contributed to the unique individuals we have become.

From its inception, Michigan State University has been a living, breathing entity. And each of us has contributed to MSU’s life story. With the wisdom that comes from the seasoning of our years, we know that every story has its ups and downs, a mixture of progress and setbacks that are part and parcel of every authentic institution.

Having served the 500,000 strong Spartan alumni family for nearly 8 years, I can tell you that our land-grant vision of changing the world while helping each other define and pursue our individual definitions of happiness has never been stronger. Every day I cross paths with extraordinary Spartans who feed the world, alleviate suffering and model the behaviors of inquisitiveness, inclusiveness, and the tenacious work ethic that have always defined who we are.

We know that the road to achievement is filled with obstacles that would break the spirit of lesser souls. But Spartans will always push through to absolute victory.

We know that the greatness of our institution is defined by the goodness of the many and not the misdeeds of a few.

And we know that our fundamental dedication to advancing knowledge, solving the world’s toughest problems, standing up for the less fortunate and leaving a legacy for future generations is the essence of every Spartans will.

As you celebrate this half-century milestone in your Spartan lives, we who steward this great university salute you. You have defined Michigan State for your generation. And we couldn’t be prouder of that definition.

Thank you very much!

Scott Westerman is Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations and Executive Director of the Michigan State University Alumni Association.

 

It’s Never Too late

On June 26, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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I’ve been thinking about the number of people I know who have decided that purpose, passion and happiness are within their grasp and have chosen to do something about it.

It’s easy to throw obstacles in our way. We’re too old, too young, to inexperienced, to uneducated, too poor, to entrenched in our current reality. These are the voices of what American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker, Seth Godin calls “resistance”, that little troublemaker inside of our heads that is constantly telling us all the reasons we can’t have what we want.

The truth is that it’s never too late to rethink our priorities, to reorient our goals and to take steps in the direction of significant, positive life change.

Berkeley Breathed, the cartoonist who brought us Bloom County, says, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Whenever I see so called grown ups indulging their inner child at Disney World, I’m reminded that whatever age you are, whatever your past pain, you can rise above it and create the life you want.

“Don’t focus on what was taken away,” writes actress Drew Barrymore. “Find something to replace it, and acknowledge the blessing you have.”

There is a wonderful old maxim that gratitude turns grief into joy. And you always have something to be grateful for. Take some time to create your own gratitude list. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your outlook changes.

And speaking about chasing purpose and passion, American screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, says, “It’s never too late to become what you always wanted to be in the first place.”

Reed Hastings started Netflix at 37. J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series as a middle aged single mom. McDonalds, Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken were all founded by people in their 60s. FDR had his biggest political success after being debilitated by polio. Research tells us that people who marry later in life often have happier and more successful partnerships. At commencement this year, I shook the hand of a woman who was earning her undergraduate degree in her 70s.

What do all these people have in common? They made the decision that they could live life differently. They clearly articulated a goal and started down the road in it’s direction.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It is never too late to give up our prejudices.” I would add, especially those prejudices we have about our own limitations.

It’s never too late to apologize for something you’ve done wrong.

It’s never too late to say thank you, to tell someone you love that you care, to get healthier, to visit new places and expand your horizons.

And it’s always a good day to perform a random act of kindness.

“I’m convinced of this,” writes the prolific poet and philosopher Maya Angelou. “Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.”

Reinvention, adding new knowledge to your brain’s portfolio, investing in productive relationships while gently deprioritizing what no longer works for you will not be easy. It may have taken years to get where you are and anything truly worth earning requires significant personal investment.

But our brains have an infinite capacity to learn new things and the formula for success in every corner of your life can be applied at any age, in any situation. In time the law of cause and effect always prevails.

What’s stopping you from creating the life, the career, the friendships and the healthy outlook you’ve always dreamed of. Whatever it is, examine it closely. You’ll likely find that the voice of Resistance is all that’s stopping you from becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Resolve not to listen to that voice. Instead, paint a vivid picture of the person you want to be in your mind. And start now to act in that very role. Since practice makes perfect and repetition evolves into habit, you’ll eventually become that person.

Start today, right now. It’s never too late.

 

The Father Factor

On June 15, 2017, in The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
The “Real” Scott Westerman will be 92 on July 10th. I’m the third in a line that started with his dad back in 1895. I’ve always felt richly blessed to have been born into a family with a pair of extraordinary parents. And since Sunday is Father’s Day, decided to look back over a conversation I had with dad a couple of years back about what lessons he learned from his father. I present them here, not necessarily as recommendations, but solely for your consideration.

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Kindness & Respect

On February 26, 2017, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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I believe that we could mitigate our most challenging problems if we could inculcate two magic words into everything we do: Kindness and Respect

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On Leadership

On February 18, 2017, in Scott's Speeches, Spartanology, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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Why choose leadership? That was the question I spoke about this weekend to a conference of student leaders at Michigan State.

I decided early on to aspire to lead for one reason: I prefer to influence the course of my own destiny. “Build your own dreams,” writes the young Chicago born entrepreneur, Farrah Gray, “or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

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