Drink, Steal, Swear and Lie

On February 21, 2018, in The WestermaNation, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
I’ve been at a conference of my alumni peers this week. On the last evening, one of our valued colleagues announced her retirement, telling the crowd to “Drink, Steal, Swear and Lie”. I was a bit taken aback… until she explained..

Drink daily from the cup of knowledge. Never stop learning and you will never stop growing.

Steal moments from each day to add value to someone else’s life. You never know when you might end up being a life changer.

Swear that you will try to be a better person today than you were yesterday. Our past does not have to determine our future. That decision is ours.

And Lie down every night with thoughts of gratitude for the great gifts of good health, good friends and the blessings of family. For each of us in the alumni profession, that family includes each of you. And we lie down each night grateful for the honor of serving you.

May you drink, steal swear and lie with us, now and always!

 

Loss of innocence. Renewal of Resolve.

On February 11, 2018, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

Over the past weeks, I have communicated with hundreds of Michigan State University alumni in every corner of the world.

Out of those conversations, two common themes have emerged: A loss of innocence and a renewal of resolve. We found it hard to believe that something like this could happen here. But it has. It has become part of our history and we must own that. The most important question now is, “What will Spartans do?”

We will forever hold the survivors, all survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence, in our hearts. We will look inward and do what we need to do to get our own houses in order, to make this a safer, more vigilant, more compassionate world.

We will champion awareness, support, research and action. Inspired by the courage of brave women, we will focus our power in the direction of a profound, meaningful, lasting metamorphosis. We will transfigure anger into endeavor, realizing that redemption can emerge from the deepest sorrow and our setbacks can show us the way to extraordinary accomplishment. We will reclaim our inheritance and resolve, here and now, to personally contribute to the outcomes we expect.

These things will take time. The “what” and the “how” will continue to evolve. But we will never, ever forget the “why”. Through steadfast commitment and tenacious effort, Spartans Will again shine brightly; a beacon of hope in a world that sorely needs us.

 

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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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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
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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!

 

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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 some.

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
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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.

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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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On Leadership

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

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

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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