One Green Blood's State of Mind

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.

The box turned out to reveal another box, this one smaller and darker, which, in turn produced a third wooden box, carefully wrapped in white tissue paper with a golden foil logo on it that said, “Shinola“.

I knew then what was inside. Or so I thought. Shinola is the resurrection of a classic American brand that is creating products and jobs in a city that is, itself, in reinvention. Among Shinola’s carefully limited product line are wristwatches. They are assembled in Detroit by people who craft the tiny springs and gears into a pulsating harmonious whole, symbolic of the Motor City’s past, present and future.

Shinola makes one that is just my style, a Green face with big White numbers, a silver case and a light brown leather strap. Perfect for any occasion in a Spartan Life. While many Shinola timepieces have been sold, they are still rare enough that the people who have them feel a special camaraderie. Wearing a Shinola watch is a statement: I believe in Detroit, our state and the resiliency that has always defined us. Wearing the Green and White version tells the world that you are a Spartan who intends be a contributor to Michigan’s renaissance, and not a spectator.

The Shinola people send a personalized note with every watch. The calligraphy said that this was a gift from my Spartan Family. “Thanks for all you do for all of us.”

Colleen handed me the “open me second” envelope, a card signed by 17 people who have inspired me, stretched me and have made my special calling richly rewarding. Each of them had helped crowd-fund this singular gift.

I put the watch on my right wrist and thought about the adventures we shared. Some of the names on the card I have known since the day they were born. Others were friendships bonded as a result of my work. All held a special place in my heart.

When I look at the watch, I see a six year old drawing a weather map on a chalkboard, now fully blooming as a senior executive in a company he helped shape. I see the excitement in the eyes of teachers sharing the treasures of their experience so that others might see what they have seen and know what they have known. I see young people wrestling with the sometimes painful twists and turns that come from playing the cards you are dealt as best as you can, entrepreneurs who turn ethereal conceptuality into profitable reality while walking well beyond their comfort zones, and generous souls who feel the fear and chase their dreams anyway – challenging long held paradigms in the process. I see couples forging lifelong partnerships, adventurers who can live out of a suitcase and ply their passion wherever opportunity may exist. I see authors, educators, evangelists, executives, public servants, and parents. People for whom the next steps are sure and less confident individuals who are still in pursuit of their life’s purpose.

And I realized that the greatest gift these 17 people had given me is not what is ticking on my wrist. It’s the privilege of sharing their journeys, with all their imperfection, uncertainty and anticipation.

The world sees most  of us in costume. These exceptional people chose to let me see their authentic selves and allowed me access to their hearts and minds in their most vulnerable moments. These are the most valuable, fragile and intensely personal gifts a person can give.

I turned the watch toward the west, capturing the setting sun in its crystal, reflecting the dancing light on the pictures of my family that sit on our fireplace mantle.

This is our assignment: Reflect the positive energy you receive in the direction of those who need it most. In time, it will invariably multiply and further enrich others.

And if you’re lucky, you will be allowed to witness it.

This is karma, the law of cause and effect in action.

If you decide to walk this path, you will discover that your best moments are not about you at all. They reveal themselves in the act of giving your time, talent and treasure.

People who don’t know the backstory will admire my watch for its colors. Some may recognize its symbolism, representing what a struggling city can become. When I look at it I will think about the 17 extraordinary souls who let me come along for the ride, where we have traveled and what we have become in the process.

Most of all, I will feel gratitude.. gratitude for the gift of friendship that they have given me and gratitude for the journey we will continue to share.. together.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to Scott@spartanology.com

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Monday Motivator: Adapt!

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

“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
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“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.

Colleen and I felt the same sensation earlier this summer when we had the honor of witnessing the marriage of two young people we know well. The joy of that moment was made that much richer because we had watched their love grow and mature through the highs and lows that are the inevitable elements of every meaningful relationship.

Like Leigh’s PHd., marriage is a recognition of something that already exists.

The river of life is most richly enjoyed when seen in full relief and context. The rapids, the shallows, the jagged rocks and the fish swimming around your feet. All of these elements mix to create the Technicolor mural which defines a life.

People who only look at the finished product miss the best part. They haven’t seen the paint selection, the brush strokes and the sections that were painted over and over again until repeated practice and discovery made an imperfect, yet deeply meaningful work of art.

These are the joys in which the people who practice mindfulness revel. Washing the dishes can have the power of a walk through Yosemite at sunset. If you allow yourself to feel the water cascading over your fingers. If you can focus your senses on the marvelous micro movements of each muscle and their coordination with sight, sound and smell, sponging dinner’s remnants from a dirty plate can have as much significance as a well performed Mozart piano concerto.

I could identify with the pleasure Leigh’s dissertation committee felt that day, just as I could fully feel the love that our newly married friends felt for each other as they exchanged their vows, oblivious to everything except one another.

In both cases, I had witnessed their art of becoming. And that made the moment of recognition exponentially more powerful.

What are you doing right now? What is happening around you, inside of you as you consider this message? If you quiet the cacophony of thoughts that constantly fight for your attention, what does this moment feel like?

One of my mentors once told me to, “Think things through. And then put those thoughts away and focus totally on the now. Your subconscious mind will do the homework and you won’t miss the treasures that live in the moment.”

Great accomplishment is the sum of thousands of moments and the lessons that come with them. This is the art of becoming. As you pursue your dreams, don’t forget to enjoy the trip. The treasure isn’t at the end of the rainbow. It’s what you experience along the way.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to Scott@spartanology.com

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Monday Motivator: The Small Stuff

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

“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…)

Monday Motivator: Who is responsible?

By Scott Westerman
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“The person who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.”— Lou Holtz

The blame game. We all love to play it. It is the essence of the blood sport we call “politics”. It’s the easy way out for those who won’t roll up their sleeves and contribute to a solution.

We love to get on the “accept it now and complain about it later” plan. But there is never any real return on that investment. To paraphrase Doug Larson, “The reason people blame things on others is that there’s only one other choice.” (more…)

Net Neutrality – A Complicated Issue

By Scott Westerman
I enjoy watching “Last Week Tonight  - With John Oliver”. Leave it to HBO to take the Daily Show Concept and put it on steroids. John’s piece on Net Neutrality was particularly piercing and contributed to crashing the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

The Net Neutrality issue is a complicated one. (more…)

Monday Motivator: Undivided Attention

By Scott Westerman

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Maya Angelou

Listen to an audio version of this message.

I just finished 10 days “off the grid”. I didn’t look at my social media accounts, avoided all but the most urgent emails and tried to focus on face time; one on one interaction with some of the people who are most important to me. That took me back to some thoughts I wrote down last year about Undivided Attention.

It was the highest complement I could receive. Whenever I have the privilege of speaking with a large group, I always love feedback. “Texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and Emailing are encouraged. Share what resonates with others.” At the conclusion of my time with an amazing group of student government members from across the State of Michigan, one of the kids in the front row said, “I know you told us we could text. I almost always do it. But for me, this was quality time. It deserved my undivided attention.”

It’s easy to lose focus in a relationship. Our distractions are many. Our allotted time is often too brief. It’s easy to let your mind jump ahead to what’s next on your schedule, or ponder a pressing problem.

Fight it. (more…)

Monday Motivator: Do Your Homework

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

“Every medium has a point of view. Challenge it.”

In the coming weeks the political campaign season will be kicking in. We will again be inundated by half truths, scary sound bytes and unsubstantiated charges, all designed to generate fear, uncertainty and doubt about some candidate’s opponent. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent to try and convince us NOT to vote for someone else.

By the same token, we are daily bombarded with messages designed to get us to do something, buy something, like something, hate something. The more shocking the images, the more lurid the charges, the better.

When you find the little voice inside your head saying, “Wow! I can’t believe what I just saw,” listen to it.

Challenge everything. But be willing to do your homework. The world is complicated. The issues we face don’t have easy solutions. If they did, we would have already figured them out. We all bring our prejudices and self interests to the table, too. Preconceived notions about how things “should” be can easily dominate our own thinking.

Do your homework. (more…)

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