By Scott Westerman

Where do life’s most exciting moments exist? We’ll tackle that one this week on the Pass it On Podcast.

We got an email at work this week warning us to stay away from the legendary Brody Square dining facility at Michigan State. There are several thousand Methodists on campus for the church’s annual convention and, as I found out when I ventured to Brody last night, the place was jammed.

So I took the email’s advice and went to Snyder Phillips tonight. As I was walking in, a collegue was walking out. “500 kids just came in there for dinner,” he said. “You’re about 5 minutes too late.”

I didn’t mind. MSU hosts youth leadership camps all summer and I love the energy the young people bring to campus. He was right, the lines were long, spirits were high. I heard a few kids start a chorus of happy birthday and before it was over the whole place was singing, even though most of them probably didn’t know who the honoree was.

I was sitting alone at a high table near the window digesting the last of my meal when an attractive young lady approached. “May I clear your tray for you?” she asked.

“Wow,” I answered. “That would be wonderful. What made you offer? Are you guys tasked with doing random acts of kindness this week?”

“No,” she said. “We’re supposed to do something outside of our comfort zone and I’m terrified of making conversation with strangers.”

And so began a 10 minute visit. She told me where she was from, where she thought she might go to college, “Some place small,” and that she thought she wanted to go to law school.

“You’ll get plenty of exposure to strangers on the other side of the courtroom,” I said. “I bet you’ll get over that fear pretty quickly.”

I was proud of her for feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And my tray made its way over to the dishwashing station thanks to her random act of kindness. I was in the middle of reading Don Gonyea’s piece on Gordie Howe and had my head down in my web browser when a second young lady dropped into the chair across from me. “Ok if I ask you a question?”

“Sure. Is this another ‘outside of your comfort zone assignment’?”

“Nope. I’m interested in asking people about their passion and you look like someone who isn’t part of our group.”

I told her that my greatest joy came from creating an environment where people could discover their life’s purpose and chase happiness, confessing that this was what we did every day at the MSU Alumni Association. “And what’s your passion?” I asked.

“I want to be a comedy writer, a psychologist and an actor,” she said.

We worked on that one for awhile. I talked about our plethora of Spartans in Hollywood and how she could study all three of those things at MSU. She admitted that she had her sights on Ann Arbor and I think I stunned her when I encouraged her to follow her heart. “I thought all MSU and UM people didn’t like each other,” she said.

“It’s true that there have been points in our history where the U of M tried to stand in the way of our progress,” I said. “But all of those people are long gone and I think most authentic Spartans and Wolverines would agree that both of our schools have to be great if our state is to be great.” I told her I was Ann Arbor born and had a ton of friends who were Wolverines. “I’m excited for your adventures,” I said finally. About one in eight kids will work in jobs that didn’t exist when they were born. You may well create a gig that links all of your interests. I bet you’ll be a success in whatever you decide to do.”

Outside SnyPniWalking outside into the warm summer evening, I saw about a hundred of their group in the circle chanting, laughing and generally having a great time being young. I pondered the good fortune that brought me home to MSU and was thankful again for the opportunity to live and work in a college town, chasing my passion in a job I never would have ever expected to have when I was a struggling Spartan dreaming of a radio career in the 1970s.

I thought about a lunch I had the day before with a college basketball coach who left his job to follow the love of his life, who coaches here and how we were brainstorming that, wherever you go, there can be opportunity, if you’re willing to work to create it.

And that’s our message for the week. Adventures await on the outside of your comfort zone. That’s the only place where forward progress truly happens. It comes wrapped in setbacks and failures and may not have a very clear roadmap. In fact, every important discovery happened in this place and some of your most important life moments await you, when you feel the fear and do it anyway.

Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!

 

By Scott Westerman
The “Real” Scott Westerman will be 91 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.

Make a difference for all the world – Grandpa was a distinguished music major at the University of Michigan, turned Methodist Missionary, turned distinguished Ohio pastor, turned electronics enthusiast. He and grandma worked the mission field in the darkest corners of the Bolivian Andes. As pastor of Grace Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio, he built an army of choirs totaling over 200 of the congregation’s 1400 members. He offered free voice lessons to every choir member who wanted them. I have a box of his sermons in my closet, each one succeeding in translating the often confusing chapter and verse into meaningful messages that inspired his parishioners to model the Golden Rule.

Give your all – Dad admits that he learned much from his father.. from a distance. Grandpa was always working. Both Dad and I have comforting memories of seeing the reflections of the car lights dancing across our bedroom walls late in the evening when our respective fathers came home. Grandpa’s dedication sometimes surpassed his physical stamina. One terrifying memory dad has was a Sunday when the pastor did not show up at church at the appointed time. When calls to the house went unanswered they rushed home to find him sleeping so deeply that he did not hear the phone, or respond to the loud pounding on the front door. It took two weeks for him to recover, but he was soon back at it.

Seek balance – Dad believes that it was the work load and not Grandpa’s milieu of childhood health issues that brought on his first heart attack, at age 45. To be sure, it did not ultimately stop him from grabbing life by the mane. He would have three more attacks before finally succumbing in his 80s.

Be inclusive – Both my father, and my own personal commitment to diversity have roots in grandpa’s courageous integration of the church boy scout troop, long before it was the common thing to do. And grandpa and grandma had a habit of adopting church members with disabilities and going the extra mile to help each get the most out of life.

Develop diverse interests – Grandpa was a musician, vocalist, a basketball, track, gymnastics, swimming and boxing enthusiast. In addition to his passion for fishing, he was a bird watcher, gardener and dog lover. Late in life, he developed an interest in electronics, building antennas for his shortwave receiver and recording television and radio programming for soldiers serving in Viet Nam.

Have faith – Grandpa’s was a Christian life, but like the Dali Lama, my own father would encourage you to seek your own spiritual path. Faith, whether it be in deity or the ordered mysteries of science is at once alluring and baffling, exuberant and frustrating. If you build your own foundation of faith it can keep you grounded through the strongest hurricanes, the harshest spotlight and the darkest night.

Be well read – Being up on current events and the latest literature was part of all our lives growing up. The things we discovered in newspapers and between the covers of good books danced through our minds, leaving notions that often sprouted like seeds into new and even more powerful ideas.

Get an education and seek to become a better person – Most of us are but a generation or two away from a time when college was the exception to the rule. In our parents and grandparents time, education meant drinking knowledge with a desert thirst, trying to fully understand and sometimes challenge what we were taught. Good grades a goal but were secondary to the desire for real comprehension. Those learning skills served our forefathers well as we recovered from the Great Depression, fought a World War and learned to make sense of things like the Iron Curtain. Having the courage to face any personal demons you may have will also teach your children that we are all imperfect, it’s ok to recognize it, and that life’s too short not to get help while you enjoy the ride.

Don’t do it all yourself – Both my grandfather and my dad were the first ones to admit that they could not have been effective parents without help. In our home, my mom was well prepared and totally dedicated to providing that help. But it went well beyond their union. They made sure that when we needed them, the right teachers appeared. They exposed us to a diverse array of role models (mostly good and a few bad) and had the courage to ultimately let us make our own choices. They empowered and supported our teachers to correct our self defeating behaviors soon after they occurred, nearly always in private unless a public lesson was a teachable moment.

Be joyful – Whenever I would call grandpa on the phone during my youth, he was -always- glad to hear from me. He was fascinated by new ideas. Even as the years slowed him down, he was always able to find a mother lode of silver lining surrounding every cloud. My own children report the same phenomenon when they call dad.

Be present and be who you are – My father harbors a not-so-secret regret. He attacked the other things on this list with such intensity that he feels he was not present enough in our lives. I disagree. There was never a key question I had that he didn’t patiently answer. There was never a major event in my life that he didn’t attend, and whenever and wherever he was, he always responded to my phone calls. In those times of rebellion that inevitably touch each generation, he was patient when he needed to be, firm when he had to be and was always true to his beliefs, even when they were not popular.

Ponder this list. How does it parallel some of the other success traits we’ve been discussing?

As you think about your relationship with the father figures in your life, how many of these dimensions define them?

And what if very few do?

I had an interesting conversation with a young woman this week. Her father is what some might describe as her “sperm donor”. His own challenges made it hard for him to be the dad she desperately wanted him to be. Despite this, she has grown into a caring, contributing, joyful and complex woman. I encouraged her to remember that he did at least one thing right, because the world is a better place with her in it.

And it wouldn’t have happened without him.

Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!

 

On Being the Change

On June 14, 2016, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
Begin every day asking yourself: What can I do today to make the world better than it is right now? What can I do to inspire the disaffected, the fearful, the ignorant and the hungry to manifest a brighter future? What act of kindness can I perform that might convince someone to choose a life of service instead of an act of self destruction? Once you’ve thoughtfully answered these questions, go beyond talking about it. Be the change and act.

BeTheChangePride

 

By Scott Westerman
In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Orlando this weekend, let’s revisit one of my most requested essays on action. I’ve updated it with some added insights that I hope will be helpful.

More Love and Less HateWhen the news about the senseless shootings in Orlando began to inundate Facebook today, a graphic quickly appeared. It was a beautifully created piece of art with the words “More Love. Less Hate” on a black background above a rainbow of hearts, the red one on the far left was broken. At the bottom was the hashtag #PrayForOrlando.

I remembered something that Pope Francis said about that. “Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action.. is a fruitless and incomplete prayer.”

In an era where we can instantly respond to anything with a few key strokes and the “send” button, give me the person who will actually do something.

It’s much harder to work on root causes, to personally engage to help solve the real problem. A few will. These are the rare souls who roll up their sleeves and put their own skin in the game. These are the dedicated few who have a different vision and are willing to work .. and keep working to make it real.

Most of us won’t do that.

We will opine about how horrible the situation is, heaping blame on the leader most popularly connected with it. But will we meet them face to face to call them out with logic? Will we offer another solution? Will we work, thoughtfully and diligently to inspire others to join us in action? Will we risk the slings and arrows that are likely to be fired our way the moment we do something visible and consequential? And will we stay the course when the heat is on?

Most of us won’t do that.

Our enemies thrive on apathy. They know that most anger dissipates the moment another distraction appears. They know that fear, uncertainty and doubt will keep the majority from taking a risk. They know that victory comes not always to the strongest or best, but to the person who is willing to keep going after everybody else has given up. They know the odds. And the odds say that you won’t invest enough energy to create meaningful, sustainable change.

You won’t go the distance.

We see this most clearly on election day. If we don’t like things as they are, we may vote to let someone else have a crack at it. The vast majority of us won’t vote at all. And 99.9% of those who do vote, leave it at that. The pendulum may swing from one ideology to another, but nothing really changes.

What’s currently boiling your blood? Hunger? Ignorance? Violence? Poverty? When was the last time you did something beyond a social media rant or a symbolic financial contribution to address it?

The challenges we face are complicated. It may feel like our enemies outnumber us. But just complaining about it is like throwing a dirt clod at a brick wall. You may get a moment’s satisfaction. You may even leave a small mark. But time and the elements quickly wash away all traces that you were ever there.

Sustained action, consistent commitment, is like a rushing river at the canyon’s base. At one time there was no canyon. But the quiet, unending pressure of something that may seem insubstantial, took on an immovable object and totally transformed it, to the point where the loudest voices simply echo off of the canyon walls and fade into obscurity.

And so it is with our love affair within the digital canyons of social media. We can rant all we want, but in a very short time, even the most eloquent words disappear in the downward spiral of the timeline.

To make change we must be the change. Prayer and contemplation are productive first steps. Complex problems require thoughtful consideration. But it means nothing unless it is followed with sustained action.

Meaningful change doesn’t happen in front of a computer screen, on a talk radio show or even in the darkest images of an attack ad. It happens when you turn off the cacophony of mind numbing distraction, focus, leave your comfort zone.. and do something.

I’ll leave you with this question: What actions will you take tomorrow to make the world better than it is today?

Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!

 

By Scott Westerman

This week some thoughts on Memorial Day and a look back on a speech I gave to the graduating class at Michigan State University’s Army ROTC graduation in 2013.

As I record this we’re preparing to celebrate Memorial Day in the United States. A time when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the American Dream. We live in an age where sacrifice, delayed gratification and honorable service are rare. Helicopter parents, entitlement and a me-first attitude seem to pervade our society. Kindness, respect and compassion for those who suffer are ingredients that are often missing from human character these days. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Colleen and I met for lunch on campus yesterday. We often do. It’s one of the great benefits of serving a great educational institution on a beautiful land-grant campus. Another great benefit is the MSU Dairy Store. We were enjoying summer weather yesterday and after lunch we saved room for our favorite flavors of Dairy Store ice cream. Coming out of Anthony Hall, I saw a young woman wrestling with the new fangled parking meters that accept credit cards in addition to coins. As is sometimes the case with technology, the device wasn’t accepting her card and I could see her frustration level rising.

Coming back from a trip to Ohio this weekend, I popped a $10 dollar bill into the change machine at a rest area, expecting some ones and a few quarters in return. Instead, a jackpot of coinage exploded out into my hands. 40 quarters, more than enough for the bottled water I wanted to buy.

I thought about that as I scooped up a few from the cup holder in my vehicle. “Here ya go,” I said to her. “I have a few more of these than I need.”

It turned out that she was heading into work at the Dairy Store, a student paying her own way the vast ocean of expense that causes so many of our kids to graduate with debt. My little random act of kindness made her smile. “You don’t have to do that,” she said.

“It’s an honor,” I answered. “When you’re a Spartan success story, pass it on.”

So our thought for today is this: Each of us, no matter what our situation, has something we can contribute to make it a better day for someone else. It doesn’t have to be monetary. In fact quality time is often exponentially more valuable than cash. Look around you and keep your radar tuned for ways to serve. You may never face the sacrifice that our police, fire, EMS and military routinely make, but you can be someone who can alleviate suffering and perhaps be the catalyst for positive change at a pivotal moment when someone else needs it most.

And now for this week’s two minute drill. It’s actually about an 8 minute drill but I hope you’ll find it useful. It’s a speech I gave to the 2013 graduating class at Michigan State’s Army ROTC commencement event. It happened to take place the day after the Boston Marathon bombing so that was on my mind. And it addresses many of the ideas we’ve been talking about on the podcast this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for the honor of spending time with the finest graduates of the best ROTC program in the nation. Normally my remarks are off-the-cuff. But tonight, with your permission, I’ll be working off of a script, because I want to say exactly what I mean.

When Col McDonald invited me to be with you tonight, I jumped at the opportunity. Because it gives me a chance to talk with heroes about heroism..

Yesterday morning, I was in one of those many meetings we where a lot gets discussed and little gets done. It was then that I felt my phone vibrating in my shirt pocket. Only a few family members and close friends know my cell contact information and getting a text at that time of the day is unusual. I recognized the number as a friend who I knew was running his first Boston Marathon. Here’s what it said.

“Explosions at the finish line in Boston. I’m ok. Doing what I can to help. Many heroes are here.”

I learned later that my friend was one those heroes. He ran toward the danger even before the smoke had cleared, so that lives could be saved, just as many of you will face danger, so that we can preserve, protect and defend our constitution and freedoms we hold dear.

There are only two things we can truly count on in today’s uncertain world. Evil will always exist. And there will always be brave men and women who will fight to defeat it.

This is a time for heroes.

Heroes like my friend Able Bazan, who spends his days as a Comcast technical supervisor and works another 40 hours during nights and weekends as a volunteer police officer. What makes Abel a hero is this: In more than a decade of police work, he has never lost his faith in humanity. Like the best cops, he has a sixth sense for danger. He neutralizes the threat. But he treats everyone he encounters as a human being, seeking outcomes that empower people in trouble to make better choices.

It is a time for Heroes like our Spartan brother Kevin Epling, who lost his son to suicide after he was a victim of bullying. Kevin goes where the bullies are and works to help individuals understand the root causes that foment hate and violence. Kevin personally engages to help raise the self esteem of the very people who feel compelled to hurt others.

It is a time for Heroes like my beautiful wife Colleen, who has twice faced down a cancer diagnosis that would have demoralized lesser individuals, teaching me every day about our capacity for courage and humor even in the face of extreme discomfort and death.

I’m here tonight because of the heroes in this room. All of you have parents and role models who inspired you to become the people you are today. Most gave you the opportunity to grow as a result of great personal sacrifice. We aren’t born with users manuals and every parent knows that it’s possible to do everything right and have things go wrong. You’ve made mistakes. And your mentors stuck with you anyway. They believed in you at times when others would have abandoned you. They loved you despite your imperfections. They inspired you to model a life of service to family and country, and supported your personal commitment to the warrior path that only a privileged few ever have the guts to attempt.

These people are heroes in every sense of the word. Parents, mentors and friends: if you are here in support of one of our cadets tonight, please stand so that we can recognize and thank you for your sacrifice.

And what about our exceptional graduating class of Spartan warriors. Each of you cadets have the capacity for heroism. You have studied the ways of heroes. You have learned from heroes. And because we become who we associate with, you are creating an environment where heroic behavior can become a reflexive second nature in everything that you do.

Loyalty, humility, the pursuit of excellence, service over self, love for family friends and country, and the courage to face an unpleasant current reality without losing faith that you will prevail. These are the qualities that we Spartans hold dear. These are the dimensions of heroism.

And this is a time for heroes.

We celebrate what we call “the greatest generation” with good reason. But I believe that you can be the greatest generation. You will live in a world where the bad guys never sleep, where it’s possible for cowards to kill and get away with it. You will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. By your example, you can inspire others to dream of a life where martyrdom doesn’t have to be an outcome. Your career can be a testament to the value of education, the value of respecting diversity and tolerance, while modeling the very behaviors you expect from others.

You can fight the root causes of violence: fear, uncertainty and doubt. You can elect, perhaps even become public servants who are committed to creating a future where everyone has access to a first class education, world class health care and the opportunity to pursue the american dream. You can roll up your sleeves and fully participate in eliminating the hunger, ignorance and the despair that pushes weak minds in the direction of demagogues.

In fact, this sort of heroism is the only way our nation can endure. As the great Jackie Robinson said, “Life is not a spectator sport.” It’s fired at us, point blank. And what you do, or choose not to do, will impact the next generation, for better or worse.

The challenge of heroism, then, is a choice you will be faced with every day. How you rise to that challenge will determine the quality of your character and the success that is your Spartan birthright.

Knowing many of you as I do, I have great faith in our future. We’re all a little scared of the unknown that lies ahead. That’s normal. But you are Spartan warriors. And “Spartan teams are never beaten”. Sometimes we don’t score enough points before the game clock runs out, but we always keep coming back to the field of battle until we prevail.

There will always be the Walmart types who will try to knock you down. These are the ways of those unfortunate people who want what you have, but would never commit to do the work to earn it. Through your Spartan actions and your Spartan example you will show the world what excellence and heroism truly means. And the world will stand in awe of the warriors who graduated from the finest ROTC program at the greatest school on the face of the earth.

Sadly, there will more senseless violence. And some of us will die while fighting for the values we hold dear. But as long as there are heroes, there is hope. Where there is hope, there are Spartans. And wherever there are Spartans, men and women of every circumstance will be inspired to dream of a better future. You, my friends, will help make that dream come true.

This is what Spartans do. This is why the MSU Alumni Association will always have your back. And this is why future generations will marvel at your accomplishments and say, “perhaps I can be a Spartan warrior, too.”

May God bless our American Dream. God bless you all and Go Green!

Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!

 

By Scott Westerman
Welcome to the first episode of my new “Pass It On” podcast. A weekly exploration of ideas and inspiration.

I had lunch this week with two of my Spartan alumni who hold the distinction of being the only husband and wife team, to my knowledge, to have been selected to serve on the Michigan State University Homecoming Court. At MSU, the Homecoming Court is anything but a beauty contest. It’s members are representative of the combination of academic excellence, leadership and selfless service that defines the best dimensions of the Spartan Spirit.

Miriam and Allah came to East Lansing from Saudi Arabia, and their love story parallels that of many college students. She reached out to him in his role as president of the Saudi Student Association for guidance on how to acclimate to a new country and the college culture. Over time they became close friends, and were engaged when Allah, three years her senior was preparing to graduate. He’s in human resources at Aramco and she hopes to some day run a non profit serving orphans.

We were celebrating Mriram’s forthcoming commencement over lunch at MSU’s Case Hall South Pointe dining facility when Allah have me a high compliment and a challenge. If you’ve followed my own MSU journey, you may know that my book, “The Spartan Life” has been in circulation among students and alumni for a little over 5 years now. Allah told me that it’s a resource he regularly returns to as he works through the challenges the corporate day to day. And he asked me why I didn’t dedicate a podcast to the ideas presented in that book and my most recent humble collection of essays which shares the same name as this podcast.

I hadn’t thought about that idea as I’m always more interested in studying the traits and habits of high performance people than I am talking about it. But I realized that, if you’re a podcast listener, you may be a lot like me. You enjoy consuming your content on your smart device, perhaps in your car or when you’re working out at the gym. And with so many things vying for your attention, you don’t have a lot of time.

So our weekly visits will hopefully be focused, to the point, useful and fun. As with everything in life, Pass It On is a work in progress, so I hope you’ll tell me how to make our time together most productive for you. You can write to me via scott@spartanology.com, tweet to me @MSUScottW or post a note on my Scott Westerman Facebook Page.

Ready to dig into this week’s show? Let’s do it.

AllisonThis past week, I spent some time with one of my favorite Spartan authors. She’s Allison Leotta, a writer that the critics are calling “The Female John Grisham” for her series of crime thrillers, the latest of which, “The Last Good Girl” is now available in bookstores and on line. Allison is a former federal sex crimes prosecutor in Washington DC and has seen more than her share of both victims and bad guys. Her writing touches a number of uncomfortable places that exist in our culture today. And it’s great writing. When I read Allison Leotta, Megan Abbot and John Grisham, I ride an emotional rollercoaster. But not for the reasons you might think. I love great writing. And when I get the opportunity to experience it, two things happen. On one hand they inspire me to want to try my hand at fiction. On the other, they express their art so well that I want to give it up. I’m my own harshest critic and can’t imagine putting together ten thousand words with such crisp, uniform beauty.

Allison writes a book a year. She spends 6 months researching it thoroughly. Then she outlines the story to give her a pathway to follow from start to finish. And then she begins writing, 2500 words a day, rain or shine, in good times and bad. And she does it with two young children in toe and a husband who’s own career as a federal prosecutor puts more than a few demands on the family’s time.

Every successful author has a system by which they create their art. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo wrote Sparticus in his bathtub. Hemingway wrote with intensity from 9AM until 2PM and then let it go, forgetting about the task at hand until the next morning and living the rest of his life to the fullest.

The message here is that there are many ways to get something done and everybody needs to find their own groove. Some of us work best with the pressure of a deadline upon us. Others require a muse to inspire them before they can begin to create. Whether it’s an exercise routine, your homework or tackling an assignment at the office, learn your own unique circadian rhythms, make a note of the routine and try your best to follow it.

And also be aware that nothing ever stays the same. What works for you this year, might not work in the next year, the next job or the next place you choose to live. Don’t be afraid to adapt, to try a new routine. Your secret sauce is always a recipe ripe for experimentation.

So our thought for the week is this: Approach life with a researchers intellect, an artists eye and an insatiable desire to be fully present in every possible moment. This is the essence of mindfulness practice. Here’s how Psychology Today defines it:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

You can read more about it in Ekhart Tolle’s powerful book, “The Power of Now” and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Wherever You Go, There You Are”.

I’ll put hot links to these resources in the blog at ScottWesterman.com

And now, let’s turn to this week’s Two Minute Drill. I’ll be closing every podcast with a two minute message in answer to a listener question. This week’s comes from one of my Spartan’s in California who works in a high pressure start up company. Silicon Valley is a big pond filled with big fish. No matter how smart you are, you’re probably not the smartest person in the room and your imperfections loom large. “How,” she asks, “can we deal with our inevitable imperfections in a pressure cooker environment.”

I love imperfection. It’s the one personality trait that we all share. And how we think about it can make all the difference.

Imperfection equals opportunity; opportunity to grow, opportunity to cultivate humility for yourself and patience for others, and the opportunity to imagine what treasures await along the road from good to great.

Nothing is perfect. That’s why the highest rating that a product can get from Consumer Reports magazine is acceptable. And acceptability is a relative thing, it all depends on perceptions and paradigms. It’s in everything and everyone. For someone who as acknowledged the inevitability of imperfection, the glass can be half full, not half empty. There are always things to love and things to learn.

The secret is how you coach yourself and others toward improvement. Remember that major change does not happen over night. It’s a game of inches, of two steps forward and one (and sometimes two or even three) steps backward. Relentlessly poke at the edges of your comfort zone. Think about the things you wish you could improve and start first by asking yourself if they really need improving.

Sometimes acceptable may be enough. Our world can be a constant push toward the next promotion, more money and more things. There’s nothing wrong with a definition of happiness that doesn’t require CEO status or a the body of a supermodel.

But beware of the unacceptable. We are often stuck in painful current realities because we lack the will to remove ourselves from the unacceptable. Are there any glaring imperfections that are holding you back? What can you do today to address them?

“Have no fear of perfection,” wrote the great artist Salvador Dalí. “you’ll never reach it.”

But don’t let the imperfect stop you from pondering how you might improve. The trick is knowing when to be patient and when to push. Listen to your heart, and you’ll know when to do what.

And consider the advice of the 21st century philosopher, Brené Brown: “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

And that’s episode number one of “Pass It On”, our weekly conversation about ideas and inspiration. I hope that paying it forward and passing it on will become a regular part of your life and that you will mindfully look for opportunities for random acts of kindness wherever your adventures may take you.

If you’re a visual learner and enjoy reading as much as I do, I invite you to check out my latest book that shares this podcast’s name. “Pass It On”. It’s a collection of essays on how to survive and thrive college, career and life. It’s available in paperback and for your Kindle at Amazon.com.

Add the Pass It on Podcast to your smart device via iTunes, Google or through my website, ScottWesterman.com. And send me your questions and feedback to scott@Spartaology.com. Have a terrific week. Be bold, be brave, never stop learning.. and pass it on!

 

By Scott Westerman

Today, I had the honor of presenting to an Interdisciplinary Forum on Aging Research. My topic was engaging alumni in the late afternoon of their Spartan Lives. Each of us had to keep it short: 5 minutes or less, which was just about perfect for my message. Here’s a video and the full text of my remarks.

As we enter the late afternoon of our lives, our thoughts increasingly turn to the legacy we hope to leave behind. Time seems to compress. Terms that used to apply to people on the periphery of our existence, words like cancer and death, strike closer and closer to home.

We start to take stock of the people, places, experiences and things that have been most important to us.

We focus on enduring friendships and may seek to reconnect with people from our past who may have drifted into our peripheral vision. What is truly important starts to clarify in our minds eye and we prioritize the time that remains accordingly.

It is in the midst of this ongoing process of being that we come to value our university experience, perhaps forging a deeper emotional connection to those things about our Spartan lives that, with the context of time, emerge as defining chapters of our personal narrative.

This is an important dimension of our world at the MSU Alumni Association. We’re always there, at traditional gatherings on football Saturdays, cross generational experiences like Grandparents University, unique overseas study tours targeted to this well seasoned demographic, and the ability to reconnect alumni with missing-in-action friends that even Facebook can’t find; these are a few of the ways we tend our flock, reinforcing the value a lifelong connection to Michigan State and to Spartans everywhere.

From the moment we arrived on campus, we were exposed to a set of values that define a Spartan’s Will: Exposure to new vistas of wisdom, a culture of community service and philanthropy that radiates outward from East Lansing to every corner of the world. And the high standards of personal accountability and performance that inevitably lead Spartans to the upper echelons of whatever enterprise with which they choose to align their personal brand.

With age comes a deeper respect for our past, acceptance of an uncertain future, and a heightened awareness of the importance of making the most of every present moment.

This drives an alumni engagement strategy that opens our doors wide to macro audiences, while continually focusing on micro segments, serving the unique interests and needs of small clusters of Spartans who are celebrating common milestones, struggling with similar challenges, and who are willing and able to share their knowledge with current and future students, doing what Spartans do best: taking stock of our abundance and passing it on.

Spartans naturally share some of the prosperity that Michigan State helped to make possible so that future generations might enjoy a Spartan life like ours. Just as we have encouraged Spartans to turn to their MSU family in time of need, we believe that paying it forward is an act that alumni will undertake willingly and generously when the time is right.

We see it every day, in the callused hands of the thousands of Spartans who participate in the Global Day of Service every Spring, in the words of accomplished graduates who return to the classroom to lecture about their adventures to the current generation of students, in the welcoming arms that are always extended to Spartans who find themselves transplanted to new jobs in new communities, and through the abundant conduit of financial investment that has become essential to offset the diminishing public support of higher education.

If we’ve done our job effectively, the Spartan spirit is one of the first things a young mind can perceive and a Spartan embrace will be part and parcel of every significant event from that moment on.

At the MSU Alumni Association, we believe that living the Spartan Life is a spiritual practice. And with the passage of time, our memories of the Spartan encounters we’ve had, the Spartan friendships we’ve enjoyed and the rich experiences that our MSU connections have made possible, emerge as some of the most meaningful and rewarding moments of our great adventure.

And the most enduring gift we can give to those who follow in our footsteps is to gather everything we’ve learned and everything we’ve earned, and pass it on.

 

To the Class of 2016

On April 25, 2016, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

Pass It On!Graduation is just around the corner! For another MSU class, the next chapter in their life’s adventure awaits. Here’s my annual commencement blessing. It’s the last thing a Spartan hears as a student and the first thing they hear as an alumnus.

On behalf of your fellow Spartans around the world, welcome to the MSU Alumni Family. Starting now, wherever your adventures may take you, there are 500,000 of us out there who stand ready to put you back on your feet when you may stumble, pull you back down to earth when you may fly too close to the sun, and raise you atop our shoulders to celebrate your inevitable success. These are the things that Spartans everywhere will do for you. And all we ask in return is this: When you achieve and succeed as all true Spartans Will, gather everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve earned… and pass it on.

 

Be Who You Are

On April 22, 2016, in in Memorium, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
Be Who You AreThe common theme we’re all talking about as we reminisce about The Artist we’ll always remember as Prince is that he defied convention.

He was born into a world of stereotypes. He knew he didn’t fit in. He created his own truth, based on a love for his art, the pursuit of excellence and an insistence on being who he was. He believed in himself, even when others didn’t. He stayed the course and became a legend.

Life isn’t easy even when you try to fit in. Most of us don’t have the courage to complicate it further by trying to break out of the labels others may use to constrict us because of what we look like, where we came from, or what we might have done in the past.

If we let it, this shrink wrapped existence can suffocate our creativity and ultimately our dreams. The lesson of Prince’s life is this: Be who you are.

Give lots of thought to your purpose.  “A strong spirit.” Prince was once quoted as saying, “transcends rules.” At the center of a strong spirit is a strong sense of purpose. Nobody was ever put on this earth to be ordinary. That’s a decision we make after we get here. Seek what gives your life meaning, define it as best you can and start to chase it.

Choose excellence. Whatever you decide to do, do it to the best of your current ability, constantly stretching beyond your limitations, remembering that all limitations are self imposed. “The key to longevity,” Prince once said about his art, “is to learn every aspect of music that you can.” Even when he achieved the fame he sought, he never stopped expanding his knowledge.

Surround yourself with good people. When pressed about his detractors, Prince said, “All these non-singing, non-dancing, wish-I-had-me-some-clothes fools who tell me my albums suck. Why should I pay any attention to them?” Energy suckers are an inevitability in every Rolodex. But you don’t have to let them dictate your direction. Prioritize people who care.

Never give up, never surrender. Jason Nesmith’s famous quote from the film Galaxy Quest paraphrases the original World War II challenge issued by Winston Churchill. To paraphrase 1985’s She’s Always In My Hair: “Whenever I feel like givin’ up. Whenever my sunshine turns to rain… (My dreams are) always there.” As long as you can breathe, you can fight for your dreams.

Enjoy the ride. There are no un-bumpy roads. Highs and lows will happen, no matter what road you choose. The quote most often attributed to Prince these days is this one: “Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” Be who you are. Be that best person you can be. Nobody can diminish you without your permission.  Strap yourself into the roller coaster of life and enjoy the ride.

 

 

The Art of Appreciation

On April 21, 2016, in Monday Motivator, by Scott Westerman

Originally posted on April 22, 2012

By Scott Westerman
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

There are too many complaints and too few compliments in today’s world. Nothing brightens someone’s day like an appreciative word.

Giving and receiving a compliment is an art. What you say must be both truthful and genuine. I know people who struggle with praise on both sides of the fence. For some, framing gratitude is hard. You may have grown up in a household where it was in short supply. The simple act of communicating esteem feels uncomfortable. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who feel that they must immediately short circuit praise with, “I was just lucky” or “I’m not really that great”. When you do this to all intents and purposes, you are insulting that person who complimented you.

Valorie Burton tells us that there are four simple guidelines for giving a powerful compliment:

1. Be Specific – Think about what it was that inspired you to complement them. “You did a great job organizing this weekend’s event. It’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into the details and it really showed.”

2. Acknowledge Their Character – Valorie says, “When complimenting an accomplishment, don’t just acknowledge what the person did.  Acknowledge who they had to be in order to accomplish it.  Point to a person’s character traits, such as perseverance, kindness, thoughtfulness, loyalty, humor, calmness, creativity or courage.” For example, “It took great courage and tenacity to do what you did. I admire that about you.”

3. Be Authentic – Develop the ability to see the good in others. Make eye contact. Speak from the heart. If you don’t really mean it, don’t say it.

4. Express Your Appreciation – Tell them how their actions impacted you. “What you did for my daughter really meant a lot to me. I’m proud of her and what you are teaching her will make her a better person.”

On the receiving end, LisaMarie Luccioni, writing in Psychology Today recommends using the time tested magic words that always work in any situation. Say, “Thank You!”

In many instances good things are the result of a the work of many. It’s ok to say, “Thanks very much. I work with an outstanding group of people and this was a real team effort.” Never disconfirm a compliment by diminishing it. And fight that urge to “out compliment” the other person. Avoid saying things like, “Thanks, but it was your leadership that really made it happen.”

And as you receive, also give. As G. B. Stern notes, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone”. If you receive praise on behalf of your team, make sure you pass it on.

Each of us knows someone who has made a significant difference in our lives. It’s easy to take them for granted. Don’t. Authentic appreciation is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give. It’s something that the recipient will always remember.

This week, be especially aware of someone who has helped you, helped someone else or has done a particularly good job. Practice the points in this message and tell them.

As the old saying goes, “Gratitude is the best attitude. ”

Have a great week!

Feedback welcome to Scott@Spartanology.com

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