One Green Blood's State of Mind

Monday Motivator: On Work

By Scott Westerman
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“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

This is what we celebrate on Labor Day, that American Work Ethic that defined our finest hours and made us the envy of the world. Repressed peoples came here for the opportunity to work and work hard. Even those who ended up on our shores by circumstance could rise above travails, paradigms and prejudice with dedicated effort.

The prize is today as it was then, to discover a rewarding craft and turn it into high art. As I learned while collecting discarded pop cans as an officer trainee in the Air Force, even the most mundane task can become a meditation in excellence. “Every job from the heart is, ultimately, of equal value,” writes Criss Jami. “The nurse injects the syringe; the writer slides the pen; the farmer plows the dirt; the comedian draws the laughter. Monetary income is the perfect deceiver of a man’s true worth.”

Directed energy has power. So make sure you know where you are pointing yours. Coach John Wooden articulates this perfectly. “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” First comes thought. How can I add value today? What can I do to make a difference? From thought comes direction. And energy applied in the direction of positive purpose moves the ball forward.

This is important because, no matter how insignificant it may seem, your work has meaning. As Robert Kennedy put it, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

So ponder your purpose, create a plan, and get out there and work. Forget the tired cliche, “don’t work too hard”. Work life balance is important. But when you are working, focus totally on your contributions. And work hard. Work with single minded tenacity and resilience, never taking your eye off of your goal. You won’t build a skyscraper in a day, perhaps not even in a lifetime. But your work can be the spark that ignites a meaningful life for someone else. And in the final analysis, that’s what we are here for.

“In the end,” concludes writer Julian Castro, “the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”

The fruits of your labor will either strengthen or poison those who follow you. So make your legacy a good one.

And work at it.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to Scott@spartanology.com

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Monday Motivator: Steve Schram’s 10 Keys to Success – Plus One

By Scott Westerman
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“You are here to make a difference, to either improve the world or worsen it. And whether or not you consciously choose to, you will accomplish one or the other.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

My fellow broadcasting enthusiast and MSU roommate, Steve Schram stood before a group of students in the auditorium at the Communication Arts & Sciences building. He was there to distill a lifetime of experience into ten keys to success. As we launch another freshman class into the Spartan experience, it’s appropriate to share his wisdom. It’s a cookbook for success, wherever you may be in your life’s journey.

“Lesson One: While you’re planning for the future. Savor the moment. The present. Relish the things that give you pleasure as often as you can.” This is what the perspective of time gives us “seasoned” people. It’s all too easy to worry about tomorrow and totally miss the gifts today has to give.

“Lesson Two. Friends Matter. They help sustain you in good times and in bad. They help make the world seem like a kinder gentler place.” If we’re lucky, we end up with only a few true friends. Less than five. These are the people who we would walk through fire for, who pick us up when we stumble, tell us the truth, even when it hurts, and stay by our side, even when we may have nothing to give in return. Cherish and nurture these relationships. Besides finding a soul mate, these will be the most important people in your life.

“Lesson Three. Find mentors and guides. People who care about you… people you admire and trust.” Everyone has a gift to give us. Even the knuckleheads. But there will be a rare few who will guide us in the right direction at exactly the right moment. Choose your mentors carefully. Model their behavior and heed their advice.

“Lesson four. Notice what you love doing. What engages you so deeply – it doesn’t feel like work.” This is your purpose, what you were put on earth to do. Seek it, live it, and work will blend into play, no obstacle will seem insurmountable and your body of work will be something you can be proud of.

“Lesson Five. Always write thank you notes. It shows character and class.” Sincere gratitude enriches both the recipient and the giver. Express it with class. Receive it with humility.

“Lesson six. Don’t shy away from plain old hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.” Nothing beats dedicated, focused effort. Sadly, it’s a rare commodity. That’s why there is so little competition on the extra mile.

“Lesson Seven. Be curious and listen. Listening is more important than talking. That is why we have two ears and just one mouth. If you listen… ask questions, people will tell you amazing and interesting things. And whole worlds open up.”

“Lesson Eight. Failure is one of life’s great gifts. Own it. Learn from it. Understanding how to cope with failure is key to success. Don’t make excuses. And whatever you do…don’t blame anyone else. Ever… Even if you could.” All achievement is based on a foundation of knowledge and experience. And there is no better teacher than those moments when things go wrong.

“Lesson nine. An echo of Lesson 4. Notice what you love doing and now do it the very best you can. Throw yourself at it with a vengeance.. I never planned my career. Mapped out where I wanted to land and by when. I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to lead media organizations eventually, and I’ve always been an optimist. I paid attention to what I was good at (and what I wasn’t good at.) I was obsessed with excellence and committed to perfecting my skills in every job I had. Was honest about what I didn’t know and learned from the really smart people around me.” This sums up Steve’s secret sauce. Purpose, passion and persistence. When these elements mix with an open mind and a grateful heart, anything is possible.

“Lesson Ten. Life, at its best, is a team sport…a shared experience. And for this reason, the people around you need to be part of the plan. A good mission in life is always about more than just you.” There is no greater joy than working with a group of like minded people in pursuit of a worthy goal. We become who we hang out with, so pick your team mates carefully. Help them succeed and you will too.

And here’s my addition. You earn your reputation every day. Just because you did something great yesterday doesn’t make you any more special today. We get stronger by following an exercise program that increases the resistance we face. The minute we stop pressing forward, that dream out there in the future can start to drift away from our grasp. Arrogance and complacency have destroyed some of the best and brightest. Avoid them like the plague. Exude magnanimity,  kindness and compassion. Avoid energy suckers. And if you feel you’re on the right track, keep doing the things you did to get you where you are.

Whether you’re chasing a degree, a career or a soul mate, the laws of cause and effect always apply. Try living Steve’s Ten (plus one) program for the next 60 days.

And watch what happens.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to Scott@spartanology.com

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Monday Motivator: What Robin Williams Taught Us

By Scott Westerman
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“Comedy is acting out optimism” ~ Robin Williams

All of us who were Robin Williams fans will remember our reaction when we first heard the news. Disbelief. Anger. Sadness. Confusion.

There were those who called the act, “selfish”. A Fox News commentator alluded to cowardice (he has since expressed regret for that remark). “How could he do that to his family,” was something else I heard. “He had everything.”

If you are saying those things, you don’t know depression. You have never been in the grip of a monster that turns your every rational thought into self loathing, painting an horrific picture of existence that screams for release. You don’t know the utter helplessness that comes from being unable to lift the veil of despondency from your being, to the point where ending it all feels like the only alternative.

Yes, it is possible to crawl out into the sunshine again. Many do. But all who are afflicted know that the darkness is always close by.

We say that the conclusion of life for an end stage cancer patient is a blessing. We curse the disease, admire the stoicism with which our loved one battled the monster, and the grace with which they faced the ultimate outcome.

Depression is no less dangerous and equally deadly. It is a “cancer of the soul” that transforms cogent thought into an abyss of utter hopelessness.

But there is a difference. Cancer has better PR. We know how things can turn out, but we rally around the patient with empathy. Even in cases where knowingly ingested carcinogens were the triggers, we don’t judge. We just love.

Not so with depression. Mental illness afflicts one in three. If it is revealed, its presence can derail careers. We expect our co-workers to act professional. When they don’t, we wonder why they can’t “get their act together.”

And therein lies the secret. We are all acting. The character we portray for the outside world has been honed to elicit positive feedback. “Don’t let em see you sweat,” is drummed into us from the start. And we’re good at it. So good that we assume that it is the so-called normal. Any crack in the armor is weakness. And we hate weaklings.

If we could develop Superman’s x-ray vision and peel away the facade, we would quickly see that everyone is suffering to some degree. Depression’s side effect is a mono focus on defeat and defects. They quietly beat us with the two by four of self detestation. Many self medicate to keep it all under the radar. Only an heroic few admit to it. And even then, it can still kill.

So what does Robin Williams teach us?

Humor is often a compensation for something that is eating us. With every gift comes an offsetting challenge. With every challenge comes a gift. Appreciate the gifted. Reach out to the challenged.

Depression is often hidden but it has warning signs. Be vigilant. Look for behavioral changes. And don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a helpful essay on “What to say (and not say) to someone with depression.” It shares the wisdom of  Lloyd Sederer, medical director of the New York State Office of Mental Health. Focus on observable, non-judgmental behaviors that can be confirmed by more than one person. Do not say “What’s the matter with you?” or “Don’t you know that if you miss work again today you could lose your job?”

It’s ok to say, “How can I help?”The depressed are often initially resistant or unsure. Assist in setting an appointment with a therapist. Offer a ride.

As with any dangerous disease, treatment may be hard to ride out, but it can work. Robin had the courage to seek treatment. Encouragement to stay the course on a treatment plan can be helpful.

Good friends don’t give up. After Christopher Reeve’s tragic accident, Robin was the first friend to offer positive energy. “[A]t an especially bleak moment,”Reeve wrote in his autobiography, Still Me, “the door flew flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist and that he had to examine me immediately… And for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”

Be up front about your concern. Don’t fear the, “have you thought about hurting yourself” question. The Mayo Clinic has helpful advice on how to approach this uncomfortable conversation.

Be willing to listen. Sometimes just being there as a listener is the most powerful help you can give. “Too often,” wrote Leo Buscaglia, “we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Reassure the person that you love them. Sometimes, that assurance, alone can be a shaft of sunlight in the darkness. As my friend Allegra Smith says, “Bad days don’t last forever. We are not defined by our shame, or failures or our shortcomings. You are an amalgamation of values and knowledge and experience and magic that compose an irreplaceable being.”

Come to think of it, Allegra’s wisdom is a useful tool for any of us who have to deal with a rough road along our life’s path.

And finally, Robin Williams teaches us that if the worst happens, don’t blame the victim and don’t blame yourself.

Psychotherapist, Kathy Hurley writes that, “There is nothing selfish about suicide…The truth is that many, many people face the very same struggle each and every day. Some will commit suicide. Some will attempt. And some will hang on for dear life. Most won’t be able to ask for the help that they need to overcome their mental illness.”

We are all “in character” a lot of the time. Everybody is hurting at some level. Some are just better at hiding it than are others. Our primary purpose on earth is to help alleviate suffering.

The best gift we can give to one another is compassion.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to Scott@spartanology.com

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Monday Motivator: Intention

By Scott Westerman
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“Care about the outcome.” 

It had taken weeks to orchestrate the call. Five participants from various silos within the corporation were on the line to hear my pitch for a sponsorship opportunity with our alumni association. I asked the question I always ask at the start of these conversations.

“Tell me about your community relations philosophy.”

A voice on the other end of the line said the following. I remember it well because it seared in to my brain.

“We are only interested in doing things that will get us more customers.” (more…)

Monday Motivator: The Watch

By Scott Westerman
Shinola SpartanListen to an audio version of this message.

“True friendship is the greatest gift you can give. “

The box was the square, brown, cardboard variety that regularly hatches small bits of electronics, pottery tools and paperbacks at our house. On top was an envelope that said, “Open this second.”

Colleen had the conspiratorial look in her eye that always told me she knew something I didn’t and was enjoying every minute of it. (more…)

Monday Motivator: Adapt!

By Scott Westerman
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“Free your mind from seeing yourself as you are, so you can see you might become”

You could see it in the eyes of everyone in attendance at the conference. The business was changing. Traditional revenue streams could no longer be counted upon. Speakers were saying that the very existence of the organizations who had paid for us to come here were in jeopardy. Disruption of the status quo was happening big time.

“The past is no longer a precursor of the future.”
“Those who thrive will focus on their strengths and adapt to globalization.”
“If you have a vested interest in growth, you have a vested interest in innovation.”
“Adapt.. or die.”

If you are connected to any established industry, my bet is that you have heard these very words sometime in the last year. All of the quotes I’ve mentioned came from a conference I attended dedicated to university advancement and alumni relations. But wherever you are and whatever you are doing right now, they fit your situation, both personally and professionally.

Let’s look at each of the three dimensions of life and do a gut check on your adaptability. (more…)

Monday Motivator: The Art of Becoming

By Scott Westerman
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“By fixating on the end product, I’d gone blind to the beauty of becoming” ~ Beth Kephart

It was a proud moment… watching my friend Leigh Graves Wolf defend her dissertation. That’s the last hurdle you clear before you earn your doctorate. Her passions parallel mine: technology, teaching and watching people discover and achieve their potential. Her presentation was relaxed, smooth and confident. There was an air of fun floating around the room. Her committee, the PHds who helped guide her to this point, sat with cheshire cat smiles. Not because she was nailing her last final exam. But because they knew the adventures she had along the way. (more…)

Monday Motivator: The Small Stuff

By Scott Westerman
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“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” – Mother Teresa

Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness and support can make all the difference.

Remember the book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff“? Richard Carlson‘s timeless tome reminds us that our in-box will never be empty. It’s easy to get caught up in minutia that distracts us from the things that most contribute to our happiness.  “The purpose of life isn’t to get it all done, but to enjoy each step on the journey.” Carlson writes.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s title makes it easy to think that you shouldn’t pay attention to detail. You should. Just be sure you’re paying attention to the right details. (more…)

Monday Motivator: What Casey Taught Us

By Scott Westerman
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“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” ~Casey Kasem

It’s a good bet that just about every rock jock who entered the business beginning in 1970 worked for Casey Kasem. At one time or another, we all ran the control board while Casey’s “American Top 40″ program documented the popular musical taste. I had the opportunity to spend time in person with Casey on a couple of occasions and he was every bit the self effacing gentleman the public saw.

I felt for Casey these past few months. The infighting with regard to his final wishes grabbed a paragraph in every obituary. That was unfortunate. But it doesn’t detract from what Casey taught us.

Here’s what he taught me: (more…)

Monday Motivator: The Father Factor

By Scott Westerman
The “Real” Scott Westerman will be 89 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 the father and mother I was dealt. And since Sunday was Father’s Day, I sat down to ask dad what lessons he learned from his father. I present them here, not necessarily as recommendations, but solely for your consideration. (more…)

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